Raise your hand if you have a pile of clean but rapidly wrinkling laundry on either the sofa or your bed.
Or maybe it’s a stack of mail on the counter, overflowing onto the stovetop.
Or how about the teacup you left on the table by the chair you were sitting in while grading your child’s paper.
Today’s organizing tip is SO EASY and takes so little time, but we all neglect it occasionally. The problem is that neglecting it causes problems real fast.
Here is how to conquer clutter: clean up the current task immediately after you finish it.
[Note: DO NOT say to yourself “Well, duh, everyone knows that” and close this page. Read on, even if you think you've got this one covered. Just humor me, ok? And then at the end of the post, we'll talk. :-) ]
When you are done grading the test, take your empty teacup to the kitchen and put it in the dishwasher.
Sort through the mail when you get it — throw away what you don’t need and put what you will need later somewhere specific. We discussed this in detail yesterday on Day 10 — turns out the mail is a great example of today's tip, also. :-)
FOLD THE LAUNDRY as soon as it comes out of the dryer. And sort it into piles by whose it is. Get the kids to come retrieve theirs and put yours and your husband’s away. Or better yet — and this is what I do and I’ll never go back — have a designated spot (or a bin) for each person on a shelf right by the dryer and sort it into those spots as you fold it. Then they can come get it whenever they are ready, or during chore time, or whatever. You can see pictures of that here: How to Do Laundry.
Any other job that anyone starts, they should clean up right after they are done.
The kids should put all their school
The son should straighten up the bathroom counter right after he has brushed his teeth and put in his contacts. A quick wipe-down with a towel is also a great idea. And picking up his shower towel from the floor, rather than leaving it there and walking away, would also be lovely, wouldn't it? Not that I speak from experience, or anything.
The daughters should hang up all those clothes they tried on and rejected before deciding on today's outfit. I want to be able to see the carpet, thank you very much.
Guess what? You will have a much more clutter-free house if you do this. And it breaks the work up into very manageable portions, because you do a little bit at a time.
No more running around each night dealing with everything that everyone left behind. No more Sunday evening pick-up sessions. No more frantic rummaging through the laundry pile to find a clean bra.
Another example: clean all trash out of the car when you get home. That ride’s hamburger wrappers and drink cups should get removed before you grab the groceries or whatever else needs to go in the house. If you keep a trash can in the garage, this becomes a very quick and easy process.
Though it might be difficult to enforce the rest of the family to do this faithfully (one word: teens), you can make a habit to do it for yourself. It takes only moments. And even your part makes a HUGE difference, not only in the cleanliness of the house, but in your joy throughout the day.
OK, but what if you get interrupted and can't finish what you are doing? Because getting interrupted is probably the main characteristic of homeschool mom life; am I right? :-)
Here is reality: I'd love to come up with some super-solution that will deal quickly and easily (and with practically no effort) with ALL of your clutter and address EVERY situation that comes up. But the truth is that preventing clutter takes work and discipline over the long haul.
OF COURSE you might get interrupted and have to leave something for awhile. If you come back to it later, no harm done. Then you can clean it up either when you finish it or when you are done working for that day.
The problem comes in when we leave stuff lying in the same place for days. That towel that got thrown out of the bathroom onto the hallway floor and then is walked past by all members of the family for the next week. The stack of grading that has been sitting on the side table since last Wednesday. The toothbrush on the bathroom counter. The dirty kitchen knives laying (lying? My middle-aged brain is struggling with that one today) next to the sink (which normally don't get put into the dishwasher because they need to be hand-washed, so instead they lay/lie there until you have to use one of them again, which you then quickly wash and proceed to chop your veggies with). (But of course I've never done that.)
If we make a habit of cleaning up the small things IMMEDIATELY after we are finished with them, the entire clutter load becomes MUCH lighter. The house looks just that much cleaner. Your brain is that much less overwhelmed, because it doesn't see piles everywhere that should be dealt with but right now you just can't. even.
Again, it's the cumulative effect we're going for. All of these organizing tips might seem kinda silly in and of themselves (hey peeps that wanted to stop reading at the beginning, this is our talk time now :-) ), or you might think they are no-brainers: “Yea, I already do that.” Or “Sheesh, Annie, I thought you would come up with something more original.”
The point, however, is for you to pick and choose which of these 31 strategies will make a difference for you. And when you put several of them together in your life, you start to see some positive change going on.
But also, sometimes it's the no-brainers that we need the reminders about, because we've let them slide. Or we need to re-think about how to do them BETTER. Or we thought we were doing them, but when we go through our day with them fresh in our mind, we realize we were not.
So pick up your stuff right after you're done with it, y'all. Or think about how you can make it happen more consistently. Don't leave things lying/laying around to be dealt with later. You WILL see how much easier it makes life when you do so.
“Clean up, clean up; everybody do your share! Clean up, clean up; everybody, everywhere.” Because it's fun to implant a song in your head that won't go away for the rest of the day. Muahaha… :-)