This is Emily’s final post on our Homemaking Your Way series. Catch up on previous posts here.
If you have been following our Homemaking Your Way posts, you know by now how I am wired (weird?). Like many of you, I feel most relaxed and operate best in clean, organized spaces.
I originally titled this post as Top Ten Tips, but that didn’t really seem to fit as these are just homemaking habits that work well in my own home with my personality. Top Ten Quirks probably would have fit the best. These are just a handful of ways I keep my home running smoothly and my sanity within normal ranges. Maybe some of these will work for you.
So here’s my Top 10 List, in no particular order:
- Clean up the house before going to bed. I operate on coffee in the morning so that is my first stop when my feet hit the floor. If I am tripping over toys or digging through dirty dishes, it starts the day off all wrong. I am in a funk. My kids soon follow. It’s worse if we have to get out the door in a hurry.
However, if I wake up to a clean-ish house, I can focus on making breakfast and cuddling kids and getting dressed. The house is destroyed about five minutes later, but that’s ok. It starts out clean, and for me that makes all the difference in the world.
- Make beds and wipe down counters everyday. If the surfaces in my home are clean and relatively cleared of clutter, I can deal with just about anything the day throws at me. Seriously. The blender can explode. My husband can work late. It can rain… again. Five minutes ago, my one-year old dumped out a box of chocolate pudding mix. He was covered from head to toe, but my countertops were clean so everything was cool.
- Deal with paper clutter quickly. Ugh. Paper clutter sucks the life out of me. So I sort mail as soon as it comes in. This does not take long. Bills are stacked in one pile, and junk mail is tossed or shredded immediately. If I deal with paper as it arrives, it takes very little time. If I let it stack up, it becomes a separate job. I have enough jobs right now.
Every now and then we get a real piece of mail. You remember those? Letters and cards with actual handwritten words in them! I love real mail. However, I don’t collect it. I read it, enjoy it, prop it up or stick it on the fridge for a day or two. Then I toss it.
Here’s an idea I plan to use once my kids start bringing home bulkier art projects: Keep/frame the true masterpieces and take digital pictures of some of the other priceless work of art (before eventually tossing). Collect and compile these pictures into a Shutterfly-type photo book.
- Teach kids to pick up toys before moving on to another activity. This is a work in progress in our home, but I think it’s important to teach kids the connection between work and play. Namely, when they are done playing, it creates work for someone else to clean up. I would rather have the someone else be them.
- Set a timer. Play music. Make a game out of a chore. I do not have a dishwasher, and I love to cook. This is a bad combination. When I am faced with a sinkful of dishes (like three times a day), I set the timer for 20 minutes and race the clock to see if I can knock it out before the buzzer. It taps into my competitive spirit and makes tedious jobs go by faster.
- Go through closets 1-2 times a year. Get rid of anything that is not loved and used. I keep a running Goodwill bag and garage sale box. As soon as they are full, they are dropped off or taped up.
- Work & play while the kids are awake. Rest when the kids rest. This is the advice everyone gives to young mothers, right? Well, I just started putting it into practice a few months ago. At first I felt really, really lazy. Now I just feel really smart. While the kids sleep, I usually kick back on the couch. I read or write or nap or catch up on phone calls/emails. When the kids wake up rested and ready to run, I am too.
I try to do the same thing at the end of the day. While my husband puts the kids to bed, I power clean. I do dinner dishes, clean the floor, and put away clothes & toys. About 20 minutes after the kids are down for the night, I clock out. I know this would not work for everyone, but I’d encourage you to set a consistent time to stop for the day. Give yourself a chance to rest and recharge.
A mother’s (and others) work is never done, but all jobs allow for break times. It’s the law. At least in my house.
- Never walk around empty-handed. Picking things up is not really a separate job for me because I just do it as I walk through the house during the course of a normal day. I am constantly picking up and putting things away so they don’t pile up as easily. If clutter collects quickly in your home, challenge yourself to always have your hands full as you move between the bedrooms and bathrooms and kitchen.
If you have older kids and are always tripping over their junk, here’s something my parents did with my siblings and I that was amazingly effective: The Saturday Box. If we consistently left our personal stuff (running shoes) out in public zones (living room), it was confiscated and put in a box. Items that were needed before Saturday (algebra textbook) could be bought for a small fee. All other items were returned on Saturday when we had to put them away.
- Don’t attach sentiment to objects that have not earned it. I talked about this in my toy post, but it could also apply to clothing or art projects or dishes. Try to be strict with yourself: Do you really, truly love/need ________ or is it just taking up space in your home?
- Cut yourself some slack. Do what works well for you and your family. I normally hate clutter, but my husband and I share a weakness for books. We own hundreds and collect more every chance we get. Do we need more? No. But it is something we love, and we are totally cool with that.
I also hate dusting shelves, ironing clothes, and washing windows. I only do these tasks a couple times a year if that, and I haven’t lost sleep over it yet.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a tiny apartment or a starter place or your dream house, your home should be a place of comfort and security. It should be where you laugh and relax and live and share time with those you love. Not where you feel guilty over piles of laundry or dusty shelves or feel embarrassed over hand-me-down couches and mismatched towels. Figure out what it takes to create a home that your family loves and keep it that way. It doesn’t matter what the rest of us do. It’s your home.
Whether you were nodding or shaking your head as you read this list, hopefully you will find something that will work in your own home. Or share your own tips! I have loved reading your comments throughout this series. It has given me much to think about and many new things to try.
Leave a comment! What are the some of the housekeeping quirks that would be on your Top Ten list?
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Will you marry me?
My husband thinks I’m nuts. I do every single thing on your list. I NEVER walk around empty handed! We had 6 kids at home, but we are now down to 4…YAY!.
The photobook of art projects is a fantastic idea!!!! I feel bad throwing away these projects, but my son rips them up pretty consistently. I would love to have a reference of them that I would actually look at vs. just putting them in a box.
Great post Emily! If only I could leave the things I hate doing for the once or twice a year category! But I don’t think washing the floor, laundry in general and washing dishes by hand could only be done twice a year.
Thank you for this series. I have really enjoyed reading it.
For me a messy house gets so overwhelming that I just want to sit down with a bag of M&M’s and a long Masterpiece Mini-Series and pretend I am somewhere else, but knowing this avoidance will not help me feel underwhelmed I always strive for another tactic. I find a shelf or a small area of my house and organize and clean it to perfection. Once this is done I feel more relaxed and able to tackle the bigger jobs in the house.
Another thing is being overwhelmed by job vs. time. Cleaning the kitchen completly will take an extended amount of time and I only have 20 min. and I feel like it is pointless. If I aim for just loading the dishwasher I find that there are at least one or two more jobs I can finish beyond doing the dishes. This accomplishes two things. Number one, I did not waste 20 minutes because the job I wanted to do was too long. Number two, I feel great because I have exceeded my goal, and this encourages me to keep working and striving to keep the house clean.
These tips are not for the women who house work comes easily. These tips are for the working mother and the overwhelmed mother that hate housework and have to find ways to trick ourselves into getting it done. There are a few of us out there.
B. Abbott says
Loved the list. I am a list person so it was fun reading yours and noticing we are much alike except the clean kitchen counters. I have BIG kids here and they often are up later than I, lol. It doesn’t bother me to wake up to a lightly messy kitchen (but the living room is another matter) and I really, really enjoy my early mornings before anyone else is up to clean house.
Tip #1: Never unload the dryer unless you fold it right away…in fact, leave the door open and fold as you empty!
Tip #2: Spend 20 min in the yard/garden. You need the Vitamin D rays anyway and your yard will love you.
Tip #3: Keeping the car clean. Always pick up extra things in the car whenever you come inside. Whenever you gas up, there is usually a trash can by the pump – throw out trash as you wait. If the youngun’s are with you, hand them a wet wipe, they LOVE to wipe things!
Thank you for sharing.
Unlike many of the above gals, I’m unfortunately NOT like you in the “clean house before bed” department 🙂 But you INSPIRE me to do better at being at taking care of my home & family! THANKS FOR YOUR HEART & tips!
I have LOVED this series and have a very similar mentality about my home and implement many of these same steps to keep me sane. I am not a nice person when my house isn’t the way I like it. I also have made an effort to learn/master something I have always wanted to be good at so that performing that task makes me feel good about myself. For instance this last year I was just so tired of looking at the wadded up mess that had become my linen closet that I vowed to learn how to fold a fitted sheet. There were several false starts but I finally got my linen closet neat and orderly and now every time I get something out of it the sight of everything neatly folded and categorized makes me happy.
Your series reminded me that there are other moms just like me out there! Thanks!
I wonder if you could be my long lost twin!!! I feel exactly the same way about waking up to a clean house. (My husband has been unemployed off and on for several years now, so it is harder to get the house spotless before going to bed because he is home and stays up late and makes messes) . If I come home from work on Friday (my cleaning day) and the chores seem overwhelming, I just start with the kitchen and clean every surface and I feel better!
I get buried with ‘Things I will do later”. So my tip is if it takes 2 mins. or less just do it NOW & cross it off because a pile of 2 mins really ads up if you leave them all for later.
I would add one thing to your running goodwill post. You need to also have a running list attached. If you are donating and deducting items on your tax return. But if you are a consistent donated you NEED to have a list of each item & how many. And value of each item and grand total. List separated by date and filed in your hard copy of your tax return. And if you need a spread sheet. I can send you one
Prog. Regs. Requirement in audit situation
Shellie, I would love to have the spreadsheet. My email is email@example.com. Thanks so much in advance!
i love your list. i feel overwhelmed by my house right now, but i know if i put some of your ideas into practice, then it would really feel like home.
I feel the same way about house keeping – Thanks for putting it into words .
LOVE the whole list. the empty hand thing is super true, and the one thing I do without thinking about it (from the days when i waited tables, the managers had a strick no empty hand when coming/going throught the kitchen doors).
I’ve really loved this series. Thank you!!
oh wow, #9 is so true! this happens to me all the time, I have been working on it to try and clear out some clutter! it’s not easy sometimes!!
Bill D says
Love your points. At the end of #3 about the art projects, my wife will use them for making cards. She says stampin’ up is her therapy from stress. lol She will use the art pieces for making borders and with all the funky colors, they work well. Thanks for all the posts. I’m new to couponing.
You and I would get along great! I do almost all the same things, especially cleaning up before bed. Not only do you feel better when you wake up, if someone stops by unexpectedly, you aren’t apologizing for such a messy house!