Nothing is more fun than leaving a house with 86,000 disorganized toys only to return with 86,000 new Christmas toys. With this in mind, I set out to de-clutter our house before the Christmas aftermath re-cluttered it up. Along the way I discovered that it’s possible to take a giant leap toward a more organized home in a single day. If you’re brave, here’s how to do it.
STEP ONE: TACKLE THE TOYS
Plan ahead–gather a variety of storage containers (I mostly use empty household containers). Then start bright and early–immediately after breakfast, gather all your cluttered toy boxes and dump them into one giant pile. The kids love this! They will find toys they forgot even existed. While they’re occupied reuniting, get busy sorting. The goal is simple: categorize as many toys as possible into the various containers, particularly small toys. At the end, there will always be a collection of rather large, miscellaneous toys that can go in a big, open container. But put the smaller containers up high and only let kids play with one or two at a time. This will keep the toys fresh and the play room organized.
STEP TWO: SORT THE CLOTHES
Because kids grow so rapidly, if you’re like me, every six months you need to sort through their clothes. So once the toys were tidy downstairs, I tackled the dressers in the very same fashion–dump and sort. The goal is to have a tidy, up-to-date dresser for each child, as well as a few organized storage containers of clothes in off-sizes. In our house there are four places you will find kids’ clothing: the largest clothes are in Aubrey’s dresser. When she outgrows something, it goes into a storage container for Heidi. When Heidi is able to wear it, it goes into Heidi’s dresser. When Heidi outgrows it, it’s relegated to the final storage container, either to give away or save for baby #3. It would be worthwhile to note that if you don’t sort your own clothes seasonally, now might be a good time to start. Get rid of the clothes you never wear, and put off-season clothes in storage (unless you’re blessed with a massive closet!)
For me, this was as far as I went with the kids. By the time steps one and two were complete, they were ready for a nap. And so was I. But I tucked them into bed, put on my big-girl panties, and kept on trucking!
STEP THREE: CONQUER THE KITCHEN
Close your eyes, Mom. Every time she visits, my mother sorts out my pantry, and for some reason, about ten minutes after she leaves, it always looks like this again. When I absolutely cannot stand it a second longer, I know it’s time to organize. So, a couple tips I learned from my mom:
1. Consolidate! Get rid of all the gigantic boxes with 2 granola bars left in them. Delegate a large tupperware to be the “snack spot” and throw all those bulky boxes away.
2. Strategize: if you have small kids who will likely disobey you and sneak into the pantry, which items would you most HATE to see sprinkled all over the floor? Put these up high! Also, think logically about how often you use various items, and as my mother would say, “Make it functional.”
3. Don’t be a pack rat in the name of frugality–nobody likes crusty hot chocolate mix. If in doubt–throw it away!
4. Have a wet rag handy, and wipe down surfaces as you go. Trust me, they need it. The same goes for a broom when you can finally see the floor again.
Once your pantry is organized, (ahhhhh…), it’s time to take on the fridge–my least favorite duty. A true deep clean would necessitate throwing out all the junk, organizing what’s left, and wiping everything down. When you’re done, if you have any gumption left, consider what else may be a problem area in your kitchen–overflowing tupperware drawer with no matching lids? Mile deep junk drawer? Stuffed-to-the-gills recipe box disaster? Choose the worst area, and get busy. For me it was the junk drawer, and let me just tell you, it was truly mortifying. If the very thought of undertaking such a task depresses you (as it did me), try popping in a movie while you work–if the kids are still napping it’ll feel like a treat!
STEP FOUR: CATER TO YOUR FAMILY
I know you’re losing stamina, so am I. Here is the final step–take stock of the possible improvements you could make in the rest of your home. If you’re really gutsy, make a list. Disarrayed Christmas decorations in the attic? Disheveled laundry room? Engorged filing cabinet? Now before you burst into tears, consider which one project would bless your family the most. Does the study desk, piled to the ceiling with papers, discourage your husband every single day? Is there a particular room your family spends significant time in? Choose the one task that will give you the most bang for your buck…or joy for your labor, and get to it. (You will likely find yourself more excited about completing this task as you envision the way it will bless your family!) Save the other items on your list for another day. You can complete one project each week for the next month, and find yourself in a thoroughly organized home in the new year.
STEP FIVE: CELEBRATE!
Growing up, whenever spring-cleaning-day rolled around, my mom would promise us ice-cream when everything was done. Now that I’m an adult, I realize the sheer joy of having an organized home is more rewarding than all the Haagen-Daz in the world! But go ahead and treat your kids. Go to the park (if it’s still light out!), bake some brownies, pop in a special movie…do something fun. It’s a great message to send them: as a family we work together and we enjoy the benefits together.
- Be ready to troubleshoot. At some point or another you will discover that as you have been neatly packing storage containers of clothes, the baby has been unpacking them behind you. Wince, grimace, squeeze your eyes shut, and then release the big breath you’ve been holding. Everything is going to be okay. Put the clothes back in their categories and this time stash them up high.
- Be realistic. Guaranteed your kids will wake up from their nap bright-eyed and bushy-tailed around the time you’re ready to fall into a coma. At this juncture, edit your ambitions. Aim to arrive at step five as quickly as possible, and consider making the “reward” going out for dinner when Daddy gets home.
- Be prepared for it to get worse before it gets better. Inevitably, at some point you will glance around your kitchen, and it will look something like this:
Resist the urge to cry. Instead, fuel your overwhelming disillusionment into staunch resolve to throw away as much as possible. Then, when your kitchen looks like this…
…snap a picture and blog about it ;)