Last week was a doozey (that’s a word, right?) We had some serious life changes happen and my over-thinking brain had a field day with it. As a mom those days when you feel stressed and overloaded, it seems there is just no time to process your own emotions. Often we find we are too busy tending to everyone else’s needs; trying to keep up with cooking, cleaning, work, friendships and the kid’s schedules. Chances are something falls by the wayside, and in my case it’s usually cleaning and reading. Letting the cleaning slide is no huge deal; except for the fact that if I am living in a messy, cluttered house it only adds to my stress. My frustrations with life only peak when I see my counters covered in dried food, 18 water glasses (seriously, it’s like the house in Signs up in here) and half finished art projects scattered everywhere. Not to mention the dirt on the carpet, crumbs on the kitchen floor and somehow everything is sticky and stinky. It feels like I’m failing. If anyone out there is raising their hands and shouting “AMEN SISTER!” Let me share with you how to spend less time cleaning your house with these household organization hacks.
So yesterday, I finally got to it. I couldn’t stand looking at the clutter any longer. It takes me even longer to start cleaning because I anticipate the insane amount of time and effort it will take to get everything clean. Most of the time leading up to cleaning was spent feeling sorry for myself. Finally, I started picking up, making beds, vacuuming and working through dishes. About 20 minutes later I realized, I was done. Kitchen, dinning room, living room, bedroom, hallway and bathrooms all cleaned up. How did I spend so much time panicking and stressing over something that only took a measly 20 minutes? Oh yeah, it’s because it used to take me 3 hours! As you probably know by now, our big downsize changed my family’s life dramatically. We are happier, more financially stable and we spend less time tending to a house and more time living our lives. It’s great. More than just that, I had to rethink organization when we downsized. Getting all our stuff into a smaller space took strategy and serious organization skills.
If you’re a mom you know what I’m talking about. More than anything, I spend my time picking up the trail of goodies left behind by my kids. The little ones it’s Legos, crafts and socks. The older one it’s sports bras, socks and all the dishes that get put where she sees fit. I often daydream of going to her house when she’s a grown up and I offer to help with the dishes. In my fantasy I spray them off without the use of soap or a sponge and then I call it a day. Not before I take a sopping wet rag and drag it across her kitchen table; leaving behind streaks and the illusion that I made an effort. Somedays teenagers feel tougher than toddlers. They’re old enough, more capable, yet do less and want more credit. Where was I? Oh yeah, the toys. Toy organization is every mom’s biggest struggle. Finding a good way to let our kids play without having the whole house trashed at the end of the day. Well, chances are you have made some of the same toy organization mistakes I’ve made; thus finding yourself in a house drowning in Legos and Barbies.
First thing’s first. Clear out those toys that don’t get played with. Sometimes I give my kids a garbage bag and have them go through their stuff. They usually do a good job and they feel proud. Then I send them to the neighbor’s house and get down to business. Whatever I know I haven’t seen littering the living room floor in the last year, I toss it in the bag. If I know it’s not getting used and won’t be missed then it goes in the bag. Occasionally they start hunting for certain toys that didn’t make the cut and I humor them by helping them look even though I know the outcome. When it comes down to it, this is your house. Take it back. The less toys your kids have, the more they will be required to use their imaginations. More often than not my kids spend time playing with our recycling than they do with actual toys. I love it.
When they want to give toys away, I encourage it. I don’t worry about how much the toy cost or who bought it for them. I see it as a way of teaching them selflessness and giving. It’s hard for grown adults to let go of their possessions; if my children are able to let go of material items and put their thoughts toward giving to others, who am I to stop them?
I have organized our games into two different areas. The games better suited for adults are up high and out of reach so I don’t have Scrabble letters scattered around my house, never to be seen again. Kid friendly games I have stored in the living room out of site. They still have to ask to play with them. I want my kids to be independent and in so many ways they are, but games need to be asked about first. Mainly because a lot of those games have small pieces that they will use in other play and so they get lost in the shuffle. I have had to get rid of games like Frozen Trouble because playing with the Elsa pieces was so exciting, they eventually all disappeared. No Elsa, no game, money down the drain.
My kids love, love, love making stuff. Mostly my son. That’s why I started saving certain recycling items (egg cartons, coffee canisters) and putting them aside for him. I let him use a hot glue gun to come up with his own inventions out of all the recycling before it eventually makes its way to the curb. Encouraging their creativity is huge, so I used to let them have free reign. I preferred waking up finding them painting or playing play dough instead of watching cartoons. Then I realized I didn’t like waking up to paper scraps on the floor, glue covered kitchen tables or marker on the floor. Naturally, like any cool mom. I decided to limit the fun.
I set aside one shelf in our kitchen that they could access whenever they wanted. It’s just coloring books, crayons, markers and stamps. Stuff that is easy to clean up when it’s time to clear the table.
Below that, I saved a shelf for our homeschool stuff. In here are my mortal enemies: scissors, glue and one hole punches.
Because we have downsized so much, I was able to put all their towels under their bathroom sink which freed up space in our hall closet. Here I have different crafts organized into different bins. Play dough. Paint. Construction paper, string and buttons. These are all things they need to ask permission to have. This means I actually have to get off my butt and get this stuff for them. It also means they are forced to be held accountable and clean up when they are done.
Last, every mother’s nightmare: Legos. Again, I used to have Legos in the toy room with a Lego table for them to play with. Well, I swear those little guys come alive at night, Toy Story style because they are always, always, always all over the place. They don’t stay in the toy room; ever. Now each of my kiddos have their own Lego bin conveniently stored at the tops of their closets. Just like crafts, they need to ask for help to get these down and they go back up at the end of the night.
These methods of out of site organization work like magic, I tell ya. Especially when it comes to out of site toy organization. I used to have toys in nice easy-access bins for my kids. All that meant was easy messes being made. Taking the time to organize and store everything in bins that are out of view and reach has been a huge time saver. Yeah, now I have to take 30 seconds to help them get what they want; but I prefer that over an additional 30 minutes cleaning up at the end of the day.
For some ideas on how to deal with your clutter, check out my post, 3/33 Downsize Challenge.