Despite popular belief, being a stay-at-home parent isn’t all bon-bons and soap operas. First of all, the television is controlled by two very opinionated three-year-olds. Watching anything that doesn’t start with ‘Mickey’ and end with ‘Mouse’ is likely to trigger the next World War. Secondly, if you’ve been in a home with multiple children under 5 at one time, you’ve realized that your humble, once semi-organized abode becomes a messy one in no time flat. Who has time to eat anything when you’re busy picking up after the “destruction duo” and making sure they don’t ride the dog (ensuring that the mess will travel faster than on foot)?
Believe it or not, there are some secrets to staying organized in a chaotic household. I can’t guarantee that you catch up on Days of our Lives, but at least it’ll give you a moment to catch your breath and have a bite to eat. (Pro Tip: Save the chocolates for when the kids go to bed).
When it comes to organizing, it goes without saying that it’s easier when you have less space (and obviously, less stuff, too). I have to believe there is something to this whole “tiny house” craze. It’s appealing, but I have a little trouble imagining my wife, twin toddlers, and our 70-pound dog in a space just slightly larger than our current Master bathroom. It makes my head hurt. The thing that we can all learn from the 10’s of people all jumping on the “tiny house” bandwagon is that they’ve all had to downsize from where they were residing before. A LOT.
While I don’t recommend heading to Home Depot and starting your build tomorrow, I can get on board with some of the great ways they use to downsize their households and get organized. Following some of these tips can make your home more organized, and less cluttered.
1. The first rule in decluttering is to do it in steps.
Looking at a 2400 sq. foot home and saying you want to get organized is great, but can be a bit daunting. Realize that it’s not going to happen in an afternoon (especially with kids around). Pick one room or problem area and focus your attention there. A bathroom cabinet perhaps, or the pantry. Remember, you didn’t amass everything in 24 hours, so understand that it will take more than a day to go through and get it all in order.
2. Take on one shelf at a time. Being super busy, I like the “One Shelf Method.”
It starts by cleaning off one shelf. It can be a shelf in the pantry, or closet. Even a kitchen shelf. Spend 5 minutes and organize just that space. When your 5 minutes is up, take a break and then start on the next shelf, bin, or counter. You won’t realize it until the end, but 5-minute “sprints” of cleaning are far more effective than a whole house “marathon”.
3. Establish a home for everything.
Although we didn’t always follow the golden rule growing up, my parents tried teaching us kids the “place for everything, and everything in its place” mentality.
4. Question yourself.
When you are trying to organize your space, make sure to ask yourself these questions:
- Do I really need this?
- Have I used it in the last year?
- Is there someone else who could use this more?
- Will I miss this if I don’t have it?
- If I do happen to need it in the future, can I replace it easily and inexpensively?
5. Think about others.
Don’t keep things just because they are too good to throw away. There are plenty of organizations that would love to help you get organized by taking your donated items. Is your closet full of clothes you don’t wear or that don’t fit? Think about giving them to an organization that provides clothes for people going on job interviews. There are plenty of places that will take gently used items, or if they’re in little more mony in your pocket, consider consigning or selling them through ebay or craiglist.
6. Don’t be afraid to purge.
Decluttering is so much more than just organizing the clutter you have. The biggest part is getting rid of the clutter and that’s not going to happen without really buckling down and throwing stuff away.
7. Enlist help from the kids.
It’s very important to teach your children to pick up after themselves. Not only will it make your job easier, it will put them on the right track when they are old enough to have their own home. The first step is to, of course, lead by example. Have them start with something easy, like putting their shoes away every time they take them off. Then graduate to toys and books. You can buy inexpensive bin racks for toys and mark clearly on the side what each one is for. Then make a game out of matching the item with the proper bin.
Once you’ve cleaned an area, stop and take it in. Really examine what an organized space looks like what you see? Of course you do! Start thinking of that look as the new “normal” and then be excited whenever you get the next space done.