Thursday, September 22, 2016

Cutting the Clutter

I’ve had more than one person tell me that they imagine my house is always clean.  This is not true.  We have a 3 year old.  A 3 year old who we are desperately trying to teach to clean up after himself but a 3 year old who is not really getting that lesson.  The other day I was threatening to take away a few of his favorite (but not lemur, none of us have the strength for that battle) stuffed animals because of a quiet time mess when he offered himself instead: “Take me Mommy.  I go in the attic with beep beep.” (Beep beep is the infrared heater that somehow Matt talked me into.  We use it to heat our upstairs at night during the winter and turn the whole house heat lower.  He assured me this is saving money…Luke calls it Beep beep because it goes “beep beep” when you turn it on.  He really likes it for some reason.  And it’s currently stored in the attic.)  Don’t worry social workers and people of the internet, we are not locking our son in the attic (but some of his stuffed animals have met that temporary punishment).  The point -  our house is not always clean.  Exhibit 1:

But while Luke may exert his own path of destruction from time to time, most of the time our house is pretty clean or at least less than 10 minutes away from it.  I still follow this same basic schedule for keeping it dust/fingerprint clean but that’s only half the battle.  The other, and probably bigger half, is clutter.  Just feeling like your house isn’t overtaken by stuff, that the mail pile isn’t going to fall over all the kitchen floor anytime soon.  That part we do pretty ok on, especially when Luke is asleep.  I know I can process and function just a little bit better as a wife, mom, and human when my house is relatively clean.  Here's how we (I) do it:
Make the bed, every day – Our bed gets made every single day.  That happened when we both worked 8-5, when I was working 50+ hours a week during tax seasons, and both times I was on crutches.  Our bed is just made every morning.  Even though we don’t spend a lot of time in our room besides sleeping, just coming up the stairs and seeing the bed made is a big difference.  Starting the day by keeping things a little neater is like getting up on the right side of the clutter.  Plus, getting back in a made bed at night is much better than one with crumbled sheets and blankets. 

Keep surfaces clear - We try not to store or really put anything on the kitchen counters, (my) desk, or the dining table besides things that will be dealt with soon like the stack of library books to return the next time we leave the house.  Obviously we store some things on our kitchen counters but I really try to keep it at a minimum for long-term and very few short-term things.

Take care of mail/paperwork immediately – Admittedly we don’t have a lot of this with no school papers coming home yet but what does come in the house is handled almost immediately.  I usually go through the mail next to the recycle bin and toss in most of it.  I have a box on my desk for receipts and bills that I handle once a week.  I pull shopping receipts out of my purse almost as soon as we get home and add them to the box.  We have designated spaces for magazines.  Wedding/shower/party invites are usually hung up until the event passes.  It is super rare that any mail even touches the kitchen counter.

Unsubscribe from mail lists – everyone knows how to do this with e-mails but I’ve also called over 50 places to get taken off their paper mail list too.  The phone calls just took a few minutes each and only one argued with me (I never liked you, Comcast).  Now we have much less mail to even deal with!  Definitely worth the time.

Take care of dirty dishes – Almost immediately after eating or baking dishes are either done by hand or stacked in the dishwasher.  They don’t sit around (dirty) for long. (Although our dishwasher has been open for the last 12 hours so the clean dishes can dry, I hate drying dishes out of the dishwasher but also refuse to use the heat dry because it seems like an energy waste.  So the dishwasher sits open until they dry.  Which is the cheapest option!)

End each night “clean” - We have Luke pick up his toys before/after quiet time and bed every night, both in his room and downstairs.  Since his main play space is also our main living space, I hate to have his stuff sit out.  Waking up to a clean house is much more relaxing and starts my day on a better note!

Have less stuff – I’m continually working on this.  Luke’s doesn’t have a ton of toys which makes it easy to keep what he does have pretty cleaned up.  I don’t tend to buy things for myself that could end up being clutter so really it’s just keeping his stuff under control (Matt’s basement workshop and office are a whole other story…I mostly ignore those...and try to clean up at least his office once a month.)

“A place for everything and everything in it’s place” - pretty much my motto.  Also, you save time by not having to look for things if you know they are back in their proper space!

Our house is never perfectly clean and there is always some amount of mess, somewhere (Hopefully mostly limited to the basement...).  If you look close at the below picture you may notice porch furniture in the back corner...where it has been for the last....6 weeks.  BUT...a few minutes here and there, and gradually teaching Luke to pick up his stuff (he will get that lesson at some point...right??) and I get to enjoy a picked up house for more hours in the day than not.  And that's how I like it. 

Bonus Reading via Babble: I'm a Happier Mom When my House is Clean

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