Tips For Mastering A Messy Home

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Living AreaLiving a clutter free and bare-bones minimized possessions lifestyle would be great and easy to manage in single or adult couple dwellings–but here are some practical tips for mess-free family sized living:

  1. Regularly Junk Hunt: Race through the house and grab 27 items to throw away. Then race again, this time picking up 27 things to give away. Doing this regularly really works on keeping the “stuff” level down!
  2. Create Necessary Storage Solutions: This one’s a no-brainer–if you don’t have a place to put something (or a bunch of different somethings), of course it’s going to pile up in places that just add chaos. It can simply be a matter of creating an inbox for incoming mail, magazine holders to contain magazines, a bookshelf to hold your books or setting up a recycling center. The rule of thumb is to create spaces for “like items”…you won’t need to think twice about where to put something (as well as where to find it).
  3. Choose Effective Storage Solutions: Having a place to put stuff isn’t the whole answer–you also need to find ways to maximize your space without overpowering it. Use drawer dividers, choose CD file boxes instead of large CD racks (my gosh I’m a recent convert to this and I *love* the space I’m saving!), place storage cubicle shelving in a spare room closet (another recent addition I’ve tried that makes a huge difference). Think outside the box to find ways to organize your things in the most efficient (and hopefully space saving) manner. The less packed and crowded your living space is, the easier it is to manage.
  4. Running Out of Room: If your storage solutions are adequate but they’re getting packed, it’s time to sort and toss–not go bigger. Going bigger just makes more room for more stuff to manage (ie. clutter), so when your bookshelf gets too full and there’s no room for anymore books, it’s time to purge. If the toybox doesn’t close–give away what’s no longer played with. Closets, cupboards & drawers bulging? You know what to do–get rid of stuff!
  5. Use Found Minutes: Pull out a junk drawer to sort and organize while on the telephone or while watching television, tackle 5 minute jobs while waiting for dinner to cook.
  6. Purge Closets & Dressers Seasonally: Before adding any new clothes for the upcoming season, pack up the clothes that are too worn, outgrown, outdated and give them away. Pull linens and towels that are worn out before adding new. If you do this each Spring and Fall, your closets will always be in good shape.
  7. Purge While You Tidy Up: One of the rooms my family spends the most time in is our living room–and it’s one of our tidiest areas in our home! Clutter control takes 5 minutes since everything is put away when the room is wiped down each night.
  8. Test The “Must Haves” With The “Wannabes”: Transfer things like all your kitchen gadgets to a box. When you use one, put it back into a drawer or onto a shelf. After a month or two, pack up what’s still in the box to give away (watch for seasonal needs). You can do this with all sorts of things: toys, clothing, tupperware, etc.
  9. Stop Impulse Buying: Pretty much the biggest culprit to a cluttered mess, we just accumulate too much stuff! Try practicing a Wish List to help break the impulse buys. Less stuff coming into the home = less stuff to organize. This practice can be life changing.
  10. Develop New Habits For Yourself: If things are out of control on a daily basis, it’s time to develop new habits for yourself–that’s it, no big drama. Regularly master one new rule for cleaning and organization. After you’ve successfully implemented it into your daily schedule and do it faithfully each day, choose another one to add to your routine. FlyLady suggests cleaning your kitchen sink every night to keep your motivation up, or you can try 10 minute daily chunks of time for refrigerator cleaning, or choose one room that has to be picked up and wiped down nightly. Find new ways that are workable for you to manage the hot spots and encourage the rest of the family to join in. Even if you’re pretty good at keeping things under control, watch for new tips and methods to implement into your daily management routine–your household will just get more efficient and less messy as time goes on.

Easy Time Savers

(First published June 3, 2008)

  1. Keep the dishwasher open and fill with dirty dishes as you cook. Have a sink full of hot soapy water to hold the hand wash items so they can soak and be easily washed. If you don’t have a dishwasher, wipe the dishes by hand while you’re waiting for the meal to cook. No more “ugh” big stacks of dishes waiting for you after dinner.
  2. Sort the silverware as you fill the dishwasher, each type of utensil getting its own slot in the utensil holder (forks, knives, spoons). Makes the job a lot quicker when putting dishes away.
  3. Do a quick wipe inside the oven while doing the dishes, wiping up any spills and splatters (the oven should have cooled down enough by then). Your oven won’t need as many deep cleaning jobs and will never be nasty again!
  4. Make sure all dishes in the dishwasher are put away nightly, this allows you to fill the dishwasher with dirty dishes throughout the next day instead of building stacks in the sink and on the counters. Kiddos can learn to put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher at a young age, let them help.
  5. Wipe down the inside of the microwave nightly, saves a big job down the road.
  6. Each day wipe down the bathroom sink, toilet and spray the inside of the shower with cleaner, empty the bathroom trash into the main trash. Your bathroom will sparkle throughout the week!
  7. Place door mats at all entrances, they help hold much of the dirt from shoes rather than getting tracked inside. Better yet–have everyone remove outdoor footwear at the door.
  8. Bulk cook–even if that means just cooking twice the amount needed for today’s meal. Freeze the other portion and you have a meal ready to go when you need it. Also try preparing mixes ahead of time in bulk as well as slow cooking.
  9. Assign one day a week for errands, and stick to it. Even quick trips spread throughout the week will eat up travel and preparation time that can be better utilized elsewhere. Consider paying your bills online or through the mail as well as shopping online (even if it costs a little more). When considering fuel costs and the amount of travel time, sometimes paying $5 more for a purchase is well worth it.
  10. If you can’t manage the time to keep up with the laundry each day, do at least two full loads of laundry per day. A simple plan of doing one load in the morning and one load at night will work without being a burden–and that ceiling high pile of laundry at the end of the week will be 10 to 12 loads smaller!

10 Secrets To Rewarding Homemaking

(First published August 11, 2008)

  1. Know: You are a Home Manager, not a slave, martyr or responder to chaos. Each day is a fresh start with new things to accomplish and feel pride for.
  2. Realize: Actively managing your dwelling is one way to nurture your family and their environment. There will be positive reflections: a more harmonious household, a little more eagerness attending to chores, more appreciation and gratitude.
  3. Be Proactive: It’s easy to get sucked into despair (and resentment) when things are in constant shambles. Keep on top of chores daily if possible and work in chunks of time on busy days.
  4. Establish Routines: Remember Mondays for laundry, Tuesdays for Ironing, Thursdays for Shopping, etc.? Routines work and work well! Schedule routines that will serve your household best.
  5. Clean As You Go: Pick up and clean as you go, this makes less “piles” of work waiting to be done.
  6. Appreciate: The shabbiest of houses can be more comfortable and welcoming than gilded mansions. Neat & tidy will always shine bright–appreciate where you live and what it has to offer.
  7. Daily Treat: Each day do an unexpected nice thing for someone in the family (like having coffee ready in the morning or make a favorite dessert).
  8. Delegate: Three people each doing a ten minute cleaning chunk accomplishes 30 minutes of tidying in 10 easy minutes, good managers are good delegators. Choosing tasks that compliment a person’s ability as well as personality and preference will go a long way.
  9. Entertain Regularly: Years ago women would hold weekly bridge parties and afternoon teas. Socializing was looked forward to and friendships flourished, but you also made darn sure everything was presentable. This is a great technique to regularly “force” a well-kept house. You could entertain a few friends for an afternoon tea, a weekend bbq, or have family visit for a few days.
  10. Be Kind: Gruff, impatient, bitter, biting words and attitude will undo and damage all that you accomplished with the above. Enjoy serving your family, your space and yourself–your job as a home manager will be more rewarding and successful.

The strength of a nation is in the intelligent and well-ordered homes of the peoples. Mrs. Sigourney

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Published: June 9, 2008
Updated: September 6, 2012

What Readers Are Saying:
7 Comments to “Tips For Mastering A Messy Home”
  1. Burgandy says:

    My favorite found minutes are the ones waiting for the microwave, its amazing how many dishes you can unload or reload while waiting for that little beep.

  2. Organization freak says:

    put all things that clutter up a room in a box. put box in a place where anyone can see it. Make a dtae, if the items in the box aren’t used for 1 month and are not seasonal, throw or give away.

  3. Kimberly says:

    I live by the motto- “Never leave a room without picking something up”. Its amazing how much time you save just by picking up something in a room that doesnt belong!

  4. Dina says:

    Always keep a box or bag in the garage or closet for all the stuff you are sending off to the thrift store (or your favorite charity). That way you can add to it as you come across something you are ready to get rid of. I also keep a bag hanging in the laundry room to add outgrown children’s clothes that are going to a niece.

  5. Jeanne @ Fine Grind says:

    I love the found minutes idea – I need to do that more. I tend to just stand and stare out the window (lol) while I’m waiting for coffee to perk, etc. Great tip!

  6. Teresa says:

    I have two children – 8 yrs and 4 yrs – and a two story house with their rooms being downstairs and living and master downstairs. Their items get brought downstairs and scattered throughout the house. I tried making a rule to put all things who’s homes are upstairs on the steps, then it would (I thought) be easy enough to take a handful upstairs when it’s sleep time. Boy, I was wrong. My 8 yr old does pretty good, but my 4 yr old has trouble carrying things and climbing stairs, my husband thinks he’s immune, and it’s typically left for me to put away….and I procrastinate until the bottom 6 steps are full. Then, when I go upstairs, I’m double wammied to see that the upstairs has absolutely no organization (out of sight, out of mind). Please help!!! I’m going clutter-crazy!

  7. LIsa says:

    If the items aren’t too heavy, you could see if a small backpack would work for each child. Take it out when they are about to go upstairs and have a scavenger hunt to find 5-10 items to bring up with them and put away. For other stuff, you could try one of those stair baskets with a handle on it…once it’s full to the rim, it has to be taken up. That might help keep it contained. Upstairs you could try one of those toy organizers with plastic bins from Target. (You could maybe even have one upstairs and one downstairs.) We try to encourage our 4-year old to take only one bin into the living room at a time or to limit how many toys are out. We have hardwood floors, so we discovered that getting a soft area rug for his room also encouraged him to play in there more often too.


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