So here it finally is, my first spring cleaning post! My blogging schedule is just as haphazard as everything else I do, so it is fitting that my spring cleaning post lags a solid month or two behind everyone else's and implementation of this plan will run well into the first month of summer.
I have finally figured out what almost, kind of, works for me sometimes and might just work for other people because it is more about figuring out yourself than following someone else’s plan. Guessing you have picked up on my lack of confidence in this post, I am going to begin with a ‘my advice likely won’t work’ disclaimer. Please be aware that this advice comes from a woman whose children’s bedrooms currently look like this:
As you can see, on a scale of 1-10 my ability to keep a house clean is negative one. However, most of my advice concerns getting a house clean, which I do much better due to the ample practice seven children provides. Every year, I start cleaning the kids' bedrooms during the last month of school and then they help me with the rest of the house once school is out. This may sound backward, but decluttering kid rooms is best done without the hoarder, I mean child, present. Keep these tips in mind when you tackle a whole house cleaning overhaul.
Pick your own neurosis, but only ONE.
Mine is laundry. I have an excellent routine, and I make sure that whatever else I am cleaning does not interfere with that. In other words, don’t mess up something you are already doing well, in an attempt to do something else better. However, if you’re unlike me, and there is more than one thing you keep up with well, just pick the one that supplies you with the most ‘sane’ feeling. After all, cleaning is mostly about maintaining sanity. Weeks that I fail to complete my usual laundry routine are not pretty weeks for anybody!
Don’t be afraid to make a gigantic mess when you are cleaning.
For example, if the entire contents of my closet are on my bed, I have motivation to keep working. I have emptied the entire contents of my sewing room and storage room into the adjacent rooms and then completely started over organizing. Each project took about a month, but those rooms were beautiful for awhile after that! If this sounds completely horrifying to you, go check out the fly lady. She would be horrified too, so maybe she would be perfect for you. Also, be prepared for your husband to have a strong dislike for this method. I remind mine that he is welcome to take over anytime and that pretty well ends the conversation. It appears that my house gets messier and messier as I clean because I pile things to get rid of or take to other parts of the house, out in the open as much as possible in order to reduce the chance they get tucked away somewhere and forgotten.
Use large totes or boxes to throw things into as you go to avoid getting distracted.
There needs to be a place to put absolutely everything right near the area you are working. Running stuff all over the place is a gigantic waste of time and very distracting. I know that if I run something to the car and then come back in, I will completely forget what I was doing.
My Cleaning Totes
Things That Belong to Others
What ends up in mine? Grandma's endless supply of Tupperware because my family is the garbage disposal of left over holiday food, softball uniforms that were supposed to be turned in 10 months ago, baby paraphenalia I borrowed that the baby has outgrown, the toddler pants I borrowed from a friend because I had an inadequately packed diaper bag, and the five things the last kid who spent the night left behind.
Things That Belong on a Different Floor
This is very important because if I send a child to take something upstairs, they will not return for an hour and then when I finally go hunt them down, I won’t return for an hour, and then a different child will have disappeared, and well, you get the picture. Mommy ends up angry.
Things to Sell or Donate
I am considering renting a u-haul to replace this tote. I struggle to fight the good fight against sentimentality and the what-if-I-need-that scenarios, but we all have to try.
Missing Parts, Pieces, and Mates
This tub started when I found 7 mateless shoes in my storage room and this year I am extending it to include mateless gloves, pieces of toys, battery covers, and any other stuff I know goes to a something that I can’t currently find. Why the special mention of battery covers, you ask? I honestly don't know, but they are everywhere! And, yes, the batteries too.
Crap I Can't Decide What to do With
Secretly I also use it for stuff I just don’t feel like dealing with properly right at that moment, but don’t tell my kids. I don't let them get away with that. This is a brand new idea this year and I am loving it so far. I used it when I cleaned my office. As you saw in the picture, the name was slightly altered. A child took offense to some of its contents being referred to as crap. You know what I used to do with things when I couldn’t decide where to put them? First, I wasted time thinking about what to do with them. Then, I stuck them in a random place that was all neat and tidy before I stuffed some random junk there. If this sounds like you, I highly suggest a crap box. The real beauty of it is; it can just stay in there if you never decide. Just guard it well so a toddler doesn't dump it out and refill it with blocks and then freak out when you dump out those blocks. Or does that stuff just happen at my house?
Now, here are my two tips for my renewed effort to keep the house clean (er) when we finish the big spring cleaning project this year:
Figure out what you (and your kids) actually do day-to-day that makes the mess and work with it.
I used to buy lidded basket to hide stuff because they are much prettier than open baskets. The problem is no one in this house, including myself, will take the two seconds to open a basket. Result?
Pretty basket with a pile of crap on top of it. Those baskets are mostly being converted to longer term storage purposes rather than day to day use. I am resigning myself to piles of shoes, which is less irritating than piles of shoes on top of baskets. Now I am going to think about the places where we tend to throw stuff and create a mess and think of a solution that we might be more likely to use. For example, there are usually jackets and bags mixed into the aforementioned pile of shoes, so I am putting up more hooks. Amazingly, four of six children who are old enough, will put stuff on the hook instead of on the floor under the hook. Those are excellent odds here. I tried to limit the hooks because I would rather the kids each keep only one bag and jacket on one hook and take extras to their bedrooms. Hahahaha, I know, like I said, more hooks.
Don’t lie to yourself about changing habits.
I have insisted to myself for fifteen years that I am going to start putting my shoes away properly, but I've been lying to myself. I could also tell myself that I am going to make the kids tidy up the basement every single week, but I would be lying to myself. I could vow to hunt down every child every time they threw a something on the floor that didn't belong and make them pick it up right away, but I would be lying to myself. My new plan for my closet is an open shoe basket just outside for the most-worn shoes. I finally realized it is just stupid to line my shoes up neatly on the floor of my closet twice a year just so they can end up in a pile in front of it within two weeks.
Pick a very teensy, tiny simple habit to change and schedule it.
I am terrible at changing habits, but I know it is possible. Instead of lying to myself about changing a whole slew of them, I am carefully contemplating one to change. I haven't come up with it yet; I will keep you posted. When I do I am going to use my phone to remind me to keep it up.
I know you are wondering how and when I am going to implement all this. That is next week's post, well, my next post anyway. I have 17 days to finish cleaning all the bedrooms. In the meantime, what habits are you lying to yourself about? Do you have any habit change suggestions for me?
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I am the mother of seven children ranging from teens to a toddler, living out in the middle of nowhere, USA. I aim to hone the craft of giving advice without pretending to have this whole mom thing figured out. I am Christian, but not the really nice kind that is good at it. I am also conservative, but I promise not to be in your face with political agendas very often. I like to infuse humor into my writing, so don't freak out if you are offended or appalled by what you read here. There is a very fine line between serious advice and sarcastic hyperbole.