Step 1: Get Organized and Have the Right Tools
Have a plan. Make a realistic list of what you want to accomplish and stick to it. Also, make sure you have what you need in terms of equipment before you start: vacuum with extra bags, cleaning products, cloths, gas for the lawn mower, sharpened clippers for the hedges… whatever is on your list of things to tackle, make a secondary list of the tools you will need to get the job done. There’s nothing more distracting than having to stop everything to make a trip to the local supply store. Start with that, armed with your to do list, and you’ll save yourself a lot of time and delay.
Step 2: Start With Decluttering
There are two things that contribute to clutter. Number one is the fact that we often don’t put things in the right place — which is because we often don’t have a ‘right place’ for it. Two, we have too much stuff. This becomes patently obvious when you discover boxes in the basement of things that you never unpacked, from two moves ago!
There are four areas of the house that are typical clutter zones:
For the kids bedrooms, see the tips below on how to ‘get everyone involved’. The mud room and garage are places where everyone tends to drop things on their way to another part of the house. So go back to the plan in Step 1 and figure out where everything is going to go. If everything has a place and everyone knows what those homes are, in time, fewer things will get dropped in the middle of the room.
You can add storage items to your mudroom or entrance way to make even the smallest space more efficient: Baskets for mittens and hats, racks for shoes and boots, hooks for bags. The garage or shed would benefit from the same treatment: hooks for shovels and rakes, metal storage racks with buckets for odds and ends.
As to the dining room? Make a new rule: anyone who dumps stuff on the dining table will find it in the garbage in short order (if it’s homework, you may just want to hide it away for a day or two!) The whole family will learn quickly enough!
Step 3: Get Everyone Involved
Speaking of learning, there are kids out there (somewhere) who are super efficient and keep their toys properly organized in color coded boxes, neatly stacked in the playroom. Okay… now back to reality. No kids do that, but they can learn to. They can learn that every toy, book and article of clothing has a home and that home is not the living room sofa.
If your kids are little, print a picture of whatever needs to go in which box, shelf or basket and tape it to the front of the receptacle, so they learn where everything goes. Cooperation is best achieved with a little incentive: the good stuff like video games or tablet time need to be dependent on having a tidy room and the prompt removal of toys from the common areas at the end of a day of playing…
Are you living with a tiny hoarder? It might be time for some ninja stealth action when they are out of the house and clear some of the toys from their rooms. Tip? Don’t throw the toys out right away. Store them in the basement or garage in a plain box for a month before tossing them, just in case it turns out you tossed out something they had their hearts set on keeping. Don’t worry: you’ll hear about it soon enough!
Step 4: Big Items Get Done First
The sense of achievement you’ll feel if you get a few of the big things out of the way make the rest of the smaller tasks easier.
- Flipping and cleaning the mattresses (Tip: Throw some baking soda on your mattress and leave it for a few hours before vacuuming it of. It will neutralize any odors. You can also drag it outside for some sunlight, which has the same effect, but it’s not always a practical option!)
- Steam cleaning the carpets (Need an easy fix for dents made by heavy furniture in the carpet fibers? Put an ice cube in each dent and let it melt. When it has melted and the area is dampened, take a cloth and blot the excess water and iron the area, again with a towel over top. Once the area is dry, you’ll be able to fluff up your carpet fibers so they look as good as new!)
- Emptying and cleaning out the refrigerator or freezer
Once some of these bigger chores are done, reorganizing the junk drawer in the kitchen won’t seem daunting at all.
Step 5: Inside and Out
Don’t forget to look beyond the walls of the house to the garden areas. Stand on the sidewalk or in front of your house and look at it: does it look like you could put it on the market to sell it? No? Time to add to the list from Step 1. Whether it’s a coat of fresh paint or a spray wash, fixing shutters or hanging baskets, trimming the bushes or raking up the leaves from last fall, there’s always plenty to do outside. This is another great area to get the kids involved, since they benefit from a breath of fresh air too! No job seems quite as bad with the sun shining on your head!