You’re busy, life is overwhelming and toys are everywhere. The remnants of last night’s dinner are staring at you from the stovetop and you are tripping over your ‘floordrobe.’ (Yup — that wardrobe you’re storing on the floor of your bedroom.) Then you remember you have guests coming over tomorrow. Your anxiety kicks up as you face off with another marathon cleaning session, cursing yourself for letting it get this way.
We’ve all been there. Maintaining a clean and organized home, especially with kids, can feel like a gargantuan and often unattainable task. Spring cleaning and home organization has reached a fever pitch this year with the release of Marie Kondo’s popular Netflix series, Tidying Up. You’ve certainly heard comments about the joy brought by an inanimate object, and have seen too many Instagram pictures of folded clothing. But how can the average busy family manage it all?
Home cleaning and organization experts recommend a variety of methods, but a common theme among them all is to stay on top of it as you go. A few simple changes can make your space instantly more manageable.
Put it away, not down
When you are finished with an item, immediately place it in its designated location. And yes, everything should have a proper place. Marie Kondo is known for saying that “clutter is caused by a failure to return things to where they belong. Therefore, storage should reduce the effort needed to put things away, not the effort needed to get them out.”
Focus on one room at a time
Whether you tackle cleaning throughout the week or set aside one day to get it all done, move systematically through the house from room to room. Many experts recommend setting a cleaning schedule and sticking to it. For example, clean the living room every Wednesday, or tackle bathrooms on Mondays. This doesn’t need to be a deep cleaning, but rather ensure clutter is cleared and surfaces are cleaned.
Do small things daily
Make your bed, clean as you cook, sweep the kitchen, and clear off counters and sinks before bed. If you ever see a task that takes less than 60 seconds, do it right away. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, affirms that tackling those small tasks immediately can make a big impact. She writes: “One nice thing about the ‘one-minute rule’ is that I don’t have to think about priorities. I do anything that presents itself, right away, as long as I can do it in a minute.”
Utilize the 20/10 rule
Rachel Hoffman, author of Unf*uck Your Habitat: You’re Better Than Your Mess, recommends cleaning in short bursts. Concentrate solely on cleaning for 20 minutes, and then give yourself a 10-minute break to check your phone, go on a walk or have a coffee.
As parents, the greatest challenge is staying on top of the ever-growing pile of toys. Audra Cottrell, an organizing professional in Indianapolis, loves helping parents tackle kid clutter. Most parents wouldn’t exclaim that their kids’ bedrooms or playrooms spark joy, but with a few easy steps, they can create a space that is functional and clean.
First, Cottrell suggests purging those unused or broken toys. If your children are old enough, engage them in the process of selecting toys to donate or sell.
Next, create activity zones. Think of how your children will use the space. You may want to consider areas for art, blocks, reading, large motor play and dress up. Consider the ideal placement in the room for those activities and set up zones that encourage specific play in those areas.
Lastly, select easy-to-use storage systems for toys that encourage your child to be an active participant in the clean-up process.
With some simple changes, those small, insignificant responsibilities accumulate into an hour of extra work accomplished. And before you know it, that extra anxiety you’re carrying around about getting your house in order is much more manageable for you and your family. And when all else fails — invest in a robot vacuum!