You Can Have Your Cake and Eat it Too

I don't like to houseclean. I would much rather read a book, learn something new, or be with my husband or kids. On the other hand, I love a clean, organized home that is also beautifully decorated. I suppose this is a bad combination, but over the years, these desires have driven me to find ways to have my cake and eat it, too. Here are some organizational tips I learned from various people and places:

If you have a lot of possessions, your home can't stay neat and organized unless you are willing to spend a lot of time keeping it so. I am not willing to do this, so I ruthlessly purge on a regular basis.

The more decorations you have, the more you have to dust. Think: Decorations = Time. I choose a few, well-placed decorations and give away those that we are getting tired of looking at.

We clean up after ourselves as much as possible and share equally in the housework. We begin this training when a child is two years old by teaching her to clean up her toys as soon as she wants to do something else. A three year old learns to make his own bed using a simple small comforter; a four year old can dress herself, comb her hair, brush her teeth and clean her room daily, dust and run errands throughout the house. Five year olds also empty trash cans, put away silverware, set a table, etc…An eight year old can learn to cook. A ten year old can clean an entire kitchen and a 13 year old can run a household with very little help. Not only this, they can do it cheerfully, achieving self-confidence, all the while developing a servant's heart. Think: Mothers who are maids raise lazy children.

We have a bath schedule posted in the bathroom. An older child and a younger child take baths on the same night. It is the older child's responsibility to help the younger child wash her hair, dress, clean up the bathroom, etc…

Younger children need to SEE a chore chart. Use charts that require the child to check off what he has accomplished. A child graduates from the use of chore charts when he displays maturity in this area. If he graduates, but shows signs of forgetfulness, he needs 'remedial coursework' a la chore chart again.

I cook with a different child helper each night. The other children clean the kitchen afterwards.

Cereal bowls and plastic cups are on a kid-level shelf.

"How to clean the kitchen" is posted up in the kitchen.

Throughout the day, we have five minute 'room rescues.' Everyone pitches in to tidy up a room.

If my children don't play with a toy for several months, we give it away. We keep toys at a minimum in our house. Also, most of our toys are creative so that they will interest several ages for many years. (Legos, blocks, puzzles, games, Playmobils, paper, markers, leather, yarn, cloth)

I use wicker baskets for large toys and plastic boxes to hold toys with small parts.

We have a shoe cubby by the door where everyday shoes are kept. No shoes are worn in the house; only slippers. It saves the carpets.

A cleaning routine is essential: The children have small, daily chores before lessons, and then afterwards, we quick clean the house on Mondays and Fridays for 30 minutes. On T, W, TH, we deep clean a particular room for just 20 minutes. On Saturdays, we work outside and play. On Sundays, we don't clean at all, just cook and clean up after ourselves.

Have a place for EVERYTHING and teach it to the children. Furthermore, make sure it is easily accessible. If your schoolroom cupboard is stuffed full, when a child gets something out and later replaces it, it's not really his fault if he leaves it rather messy. It needs to be organized with everything in stackable boxes. (We use old 1/2 gallon ice cream tubs, labeled with a marker)

In the winter, I buy seven pairs of socks for each child of a single dark color; in the summer, I buy white. (except for one or two fancy pairs) We all love this because there is no need for a mismatched sock bag. One daughter has all navy blue; one child has black, or a different brand of black, etc…

Kids don’t need a lot of stuff. I have learned that the more they have, the less they enjoy. I suppress the urge to buy and wait for special occasions. I give each of my children a medium plastic box that slides under their bed or fits in their closet. This is where they keep their personal, valued possessions that aren't nice enough to set out on a dresser. (Junk to us; treasure to them- pocketknife, ball and jacks, favorite marbles, favorite rock, etc…) When the box begins to overflow, purge time arrives. The child must get rid of something old to make way for something new. They protest at first, but are always grateful afterwards and laugh at themselves for keeping something so long. I never force them to get rid of something- unless it is green and smells strange. When they are ready to part with it, they will.

My children also have a minimal amount of clothing. We don't go over this amount. This helps SO much in staying organized. One child simply does NOT need 8 pairs of jeans and 15 shirts. I wrote down a summer and winter list for a boy and a girl and refer to this each season when buying clothes.

I also do not buy books on a whim, but plan carefully. If a book does not make at least a B grade, it is removed from our shelves and given away. I would rather have fewer books of high quality than beautiful shelves of inferior books. We only choose what we consider the "Cream of the Crop." That said, we still have thousands of books in our home. :- 0

Every bed in our home has two sets of sheets and no more. The second set of sheet is under the top mattress of each bed for easy access.

We keep a calendar in the kitchen. Appointments, special days and meals are jotted in. We also keep a running grocery list on the refrigerator.

I keep a pocketsize, small steno flip pad and pencil with me in my pocket wherever I roam within the house. Anything that pops in my head goes on this pad. One side is my TO BUY side. The other side of the pad says, TO DO. If a blog post pops in my head, I jot it down; if I realize we are low on glue, I jot it down.

If you invest the time needed to get organized, you will save time in the end and will have achieved a much happier, peaceful home.

one step at a time...

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