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If the view from your home happens to be something like cluttered counters, toys scattered all over the floor, half-opened boxes in the foyer, and a half-finished science experiment on the dining room table… I want to encourage you that there is hope!
With a bit of effort up front, you can have a tidy home. And once you get there, maintaining it can be easier than you ever imagined.
Before you jump in, download the free worksheet to help you implement these steps in your own home.
How to Keep Your Home Tidy
1. Everything Has A Place
And everyone knows where that place is. This is the foundational principle behind keeping anything tidy. When everything has a place, and everyone who uses said “thing” knows where it goes, there should never be a reason why it is out of its place for too long.
(With the exception of young children, of course… we don’t start really pushing this concept on them till they are around 4-5. They learn to clean up after themselves earlier, but the expectations are far less strict and they generally receive lots of help.)
Getting to the point where “Everything Has a Place” will take time. If you are reading this, I’m assuming that right now, everything doesn’t have a place. Once you get there, tidying your entire home should never take more than a half hour.
Doesn’t that sound like a dream!?!
If you are working towards decluttering and organizing your home, I suggest starting in one room, finishing that completely, and then moving throughout the house. This will give you the satisfaction of having entire rooms or areas of your home completed and will establish some momentum to help you get through the rest.
I also suggest using my method of prioritizing described in this post on productivity.
As you are organizing, try to leave open space as much as possible. For example, an open drawer in the bathroom, an open shelf or cube on a book shelf, an empty cabinet in your kitchen, or a few open inches in your closet. This way, when you bring something new into your home, it is easy to find a place for it.
Many people suggest to get rid of something each time you bring something new home, but I don’t do well with this method. I just used mental capacity to make a decision and purchase something, so I don’t have the additional energy needed to decide what I now have to get rid of. In this scenario, the newly purchased item then sits out without a home, and I don’t end up getting rid of something else at all.
2. Regular Pick-Ups
With kids (and husbands), things don’t generally stay the way they are supposed to for long. Even with the older ones, who are still learning to fight their built in drive to create chaos, need consistent reminders on how to pick up after themselves.
The one way I have found to combat this issue is to do frequent quick pick-ups throughout the day. I like to tie these pick-ups to something that we will be doing no matter what – Eating!
We do a quick pick up before each meal.
I actually will make them do a pick up before snacks as well, but this is a little more flexible. Although it is done on a regular basis, they generally still need to be reminded. I guess I have not put much emphases on requiring them to do it on their own yet… maybe when they are a little older.
As your kids grow older, it is essential that they are doing these quick pick-ups and you are not running around picking up after them. You will also need to make sure to either supervise the process or inspect the results. With any sort of child training, I suggest starting with supervision and working your way towards inspection once you know and trust their process.
3. One Bin Rule
This helps with keeping the quick pick-ups mentioned above sufficient enough to actually accomplish the job completely. If given the opportunity, my kids would bring out every single toy we own… all at once.
I am not a minimalist, so we do have a variety of toys and could easily have a disaster on our hands if everything got dumped on the floor at once. It could possibly take up to a full day to get everything back in its place.
At this point, the quick pick-ups are not going to cut it.
We established the “one bin rule” to help solve this problem. We try to store all similar toys in a bin that makes sense for them. This means that for every new toy purchased, a new bin has to be purchased as well. (if it does not go with an existing toy that has a bin already)
It also means that there has to be a spot on the shelf for it. (I’ll admit that at this point, we don’t bring a lot of new toys into the house.)
In addition to the bins, we have a few other areas throughout the house that contain toys. There is a toy box, a basket under the bench at the foot of our bed, and each of the kids has a few spots for their own personal belongings. For the purpose of this rule, each one of these items is individually considered a “bin”.
As you have probably guessed, the rule is that they are only allowed to have one “bin” out at a time. If they want to play with something else or do something else, they have to pick up and put away the contents of the bin they currently have out first.
There is a little flexibility on whether the one bin rule applies to the family as a whole or each child individually. It really depends on what they are doing. I just pay attention to what is going on and let them know if they are pushing it with the bin limit. The older ones will generally ask if they can take something else out if someone already has one bin out.
4. Sweep Method
I’m not going to promise that implementing these ideas will mean that things are always going to stay perfect. There will be projects that are done or meals that are cooked that are just going to end in a larger mess than normal.
When you are faced with a mess that could easily be considered overwhelming, I suggest using my sweep method.
I find I use this method most in the kitchen, so I will use that as an example.
When my kitchen is a disaster, I start at one corner and work my way through “sweeping” my way across the room.
I generally pick the corner of my kitchen with the smallest piece of counter space. I work at cleaning that up entirely – remove anything that doesn’t belong, clean, and re-place the items that go there.
Once that spot is done, I move over to the spot next to it (my stove). Remove, clean, re-place, and move on. I do this all in order but generally, skip over the sink until the end.
This method breaks the job down into small manageable tasks that are not overwhelming. As you look at what you’ve done, it provides a sense of satisfaction and the momentum needed to get through the entire job.
5. Develop Good Habits
Establishing good habits can make all the difference in the world. If you work on just one habit at a time, something that once seemed impossible can come together like a piece of cake.
Here are some habits to help ensure a tidy home:
- put it where it goes right away / don’t take short cuts
- if it takes less than two minutes, do it right away
- set a timer to stay on track
- order your daily routine intentionally
- establish an evening routine that includes a final pick up so you have a tidy home to wake up to
- make sure to always review work your kids have done
- use this methodology elsewhere (i.e. in your car – clean it out after every trip!)
Don’t forget to grab the free worksheet, 5 Steps to Keeping a Tidy Home here.
If you think you would benefit from some more detailed instruction, organization ideas, and accountability to get your house back in order, consider joining my free Take Back Your House Challenge.