Almost from the day Gracie was born, I knew that in order to manage a household with two small children, organization was going to be key. It has taken me several years to figure out what kinds of organization systems work for our family, and I continue to add to and adjust how we keep our house as the needs of our family changes. But today I thought I would share just a few every day tips and tricks we use around our house to keep ourselves relatively neat and orderly.
The Laundry Monster – Laundry has always been an issue with me. Mostly because I am not very good at starting and stopping a chore, and that’s how laundry goes. But inevitably, I forget that I’ve started the laundry until about 9:00 at night when it’s too late to get any more loads done. Such a pain. Also, since I have such an aversion to laundry, I tend to procrastinate doing it step by step. I’ll wash a few loads, but then never manage to fold things and put them away. In the past year or so, though, I have helped myself through this little crisis by changing one simple thing.
I now fold all the laundry on my bed. This does two things. First, it keeps the laundry front and center in my mind. There is the folded laundry on my bed – OH! That reminds me! I need to go move the next load over! It also keeps me from procrastinating for too long. I can’t go to bed until all the laundry has been put away. No more saying, “I’ll put it away tomorrow.” I have to do it, or I can’t get into my bed. It’s very simple. This one little change has made a drastic difference in how I do the laundry in our house, and no one has had to go without clean underwear around here in quite a while!
Command Central – Without a doubt, the one thing that has made the biggest change in our household clutter has been my desk. We had constant kitchen counter clutter in our house. It was ridiculous. And it wasn’t just the kitchen counters, either. There were piles of mail and art projects and bills and magazines all over the place. And it DROVE ME INSANE!
What we needed and wanted was an office, but we didn’t have one. We had a guest bedroom upstairs, but we used our guest bedroom often for company and we didn’t want to get rid of it for an office. One weekend, though, we had a stroke of genius. We decided to get rid of our queen sized bed and instead brought in a pull out sofa bed. With the extra space, we were able to finally add a desk. Now, our office can become a guest room when we need it by pulling out the sofa bed, and we get the relief of having a real home office on a daily basis.
In our office, my desk has become Command Central for our house. Every night, I collect everything off our counters and tables around our house and deposit them into one giant mess of a stack of papers on my desk. Then, every other day or so, I sit down and go through my desk and clean and sort everything. Bills have a place in the desk. Magazines get put in my magazine basket. And I deal with any paperwork or projects for our family (ex. school picture orders, notes and calendar dates for upcoming events, RSVP’s for invitations, etc.). It is unrealistic for us to try to keep everything put away on a daily basis. We just don’t have time (though I certainly tried with this little project a year ago). But having a Command Central that is out of the traffic flow of our household saves my sanity. Everything is in one place, waiting for me, and my kitchen counters and table tops are clear again!
Put It Where You Need It – This is a lesson I continue to learn, both at work and at school. The best example are plastic grocery bags in our house. I save grocery bags from every other trip to the grocery store (when I forget to use my reusable bags, which is quite often…) and then I recycle the bags from all the in between trips. This keeps me from having too many stuck around. We use plastic bags mainly for two purposes: as trash bags in our bathroom trash cans and as doggy pick up bags when we go on walks. I used to keep plastic trash bags under my kitchen sink because… well, I don’t really know. That’s where my mom kept them when I was little, and I just sort of assumed that’s where those bags went.
But a few months ago, Chris had this brilliant little idea. He moved the grocery bags from up under the kitchen sink (we in our house is just a black hole for things we save but never use) and put them in the top of our linen closet upstairs, closer to the bathrooms. Now, it was super simple to change the trash cans upstairs, and because the bags are closer to where we actually use them, I find myself using them more often. Bathroom trashcans overflow much less often when the supplies I need are close at hand. I even took this a step further and started keeping some of the grocery bags in our dog box where we keep Molly’s leash. Now, whenever we go for a walk, I can just grab a bag when I get her leash.
Whether it’s grocery bags or whatever, keeping what you use on a daily basis close to where you use it is a real time saver and helps keep me organized.
Storing in Bulk – I love buying in bulk, but it is so hard to store it all! I have found, though, that unpacking what I buy in bulk and storing it in a ready-to-use manner has helped tremendously. No more of that plastic wrapping taking up space and making things look messy and sloppy. No more wrestling to get toilet paper out of the giant plastic wrapping while the toddler yells from the bathroom, “I MADE A BIG POOP!” Instead, the things we need are easy to reach and much easier to store without their original packaging. Plus, the kids are even able to grab things for us when we need them because things are easily accessible. And isn’t that why we had children? To fetch us things we are too lazy to get ourselves????
Monitoring Kids Toys – The best thing we’ve done for the kids toys was to create our toy closet. I’ve blogged about this before several times (here and here), but it continues to be a great way for us to keep the tornado of kids toys manageable. Anything that has multiple parts or needs adult supervision goes into this closet, and the kids are only able to take out one game at a time. We keep our board games in here, puzzles, balls, arts and crafts, instruments, PlayDoh, and other similar things. The kids love being able to get things out of the game closet. They think the toys in there are so special, and I love it because it keeps us from having hundreds of little pieces of things all over the house.
Art Storage – Last summer, I made this file folder box to collect all the keepsake art work I wanted to save for the kids. It has been AWESOME. Each folder has one of their names on it and a year in school from now up until their senior year of high school. Every day when they come home from school, they bring so much artwork with them! It goes up onto my desk until I have time to sit through and sort it all. Usually, I toss their coloring papers and homework stuff. But I do like to keep some of the nicer pieces of their artwork as keepsakes, and rather than just have it laying around somewhere, I have these file folders to store it in. It takes two seconds and the memories are safe and sound until I need them one day.
Hide and Seek – A big trick we use in our living room is hiding the junk. It’s not that our house has any less toys or crap in it than anyone else’s house, but we have gotten pretty creative about storing that stuff in places that don’t traditionally seem like toy or junk storage. Take our entertainment center for example. It has all these drawers in it, presumably for entertainment accessories or cables or something technical. At least, that’s what we kept in them before we had kids. Now? Those drawers hold toys. In fact, I just made two of the drawers “coloring drawers” for the kids. Each kid got one drawer to hold all their coloring books and a box of crayons.
We also use the drawers in our coffee table to hold tissues, charging cords, and Bean’s LeapFrog and all those accessories. We can still get to them daily because we use all those things often, but they are out of sight when someone walks into the room.
We even have toy boxes in the living room, but they aren’t traditional looking toy boxes. Instead, I bought them from HomeGoods, and they look like they are furniture. This toy box is constantly in use, and has been since Bean was a baby. But not many people know that it is a toy box at all!
Block the Clutter Corners – Lastly, keeping plants in the house helps to keep things looking more clean and organized than it really is. I don’t know why this happens, but it does. In those places that tended to acquire crap, I plopped a plant down. Now, not only can we not clutter up those places, but the plants add a bit of life and greenery to those corners of our house. Physically removing those clutter hiding places is key to keeping piles from forming.
(I have a third plant, but she was wilty and not feeling well today…)
If you come to our house on any given day, it might be a mess. We have two little kids, and this is their home. We don’t want our house to look like a magazine (which is good because it doesn’t!). We want it to be lived in and loved and useful. Using little tricks and tips along the way helps us keep our house neat and tidy MOST of the time, even when life is hectic and messy!