Over the years, I've heard several comments that have stuck with me about my house.
One friend once said to me--wow! Your cupboards are really cluttered (I had open kitchen cabinets then and still do.)
Another friend remarked after I had talked about how hard I try to keep my house picked up, "Well, I guess it's not messy." Her tone reflected that she didn't think it was that neat.
Then, tonight, a friend of mine asked me how I keep my house so clean.
What?! My house? The other comments are what rattle around in my brain.
Organization is a thing that I puzzle about--a lot. I get flustered if there are too many piles around. I had a friend a long time tell me (she had 5 kids) that with each child, she had to adjust her expectations of how she could keep her home and what she needed to get done.
I realized early on in my marriage that my husband and I were raised in very different homes. I think many of us could say that about our marriages. My mom worked full-time and didn't have a lot of energy when she got home. She got done what had to be done. We vacuumed and dusted when needed. I remember my dad thundering if everything wasn't picked up when he got home. All of our toys stayed in our rooms. My husband's home was similar, but different. There were only two children in my home growing up, but six were in my husband's family. His mom homeschooled and stayed home with her children. She didn't like to have extra things around. Their home was filled with what they needed. And she loved (and still loves) to clean. Her home was very clean.
I remember when my husband and I first got married. I was working full-time, just as he was. On weekdays, we'd come home, cook dinner together, clean up, get ready for the next day, and then go to bed and do it all over again the next day. Saturday mornings found me up 2 hours before my husband dusting, cleaning the bathrooms, sweeping/mopping and vacuuming the main room (after he woke up). Life changed when I switched to working part-time.
My husband and I've been married now 11 years and have 3 kids plus my mom now living with us. I've noticed a few things along the way and also noticed that I've developed some habits to help me cope.
Cleaning was a difficult thing for both my husband and I to adjust to. We had to meet in the middle. My husband has adjusted and so have I. I don't clean as much as his mom, but I clean more than my mom did when I was growing up (except for the past few months).
My favorite hobby of garage saling does not help with keeping an uncluttered house. I've had to let go of a lot of things for sake of less clutter. Early in our marriage, I got rid of A LOT of things. As my husband has grown accustomed to my garage saling and my desire to have what we need when we need it (instead of having to run out and pay a high price), it has grown easier for us.
What I've found helps:
1) Push in chairs--desk, dining, any chairs
2) Close cupboards and drawers
3) Keep kitchen counters as clear as possible (even if it means that clutter goes in a set drawer where it can't be seen)
4) Sweep the kitchen
5) A light vacuum is more appealing to use than a heavy one. We have an Oreck which is a huge blessing. I've had it 3 years now and it's worked far better than any of my other vacuums that we've had.
6) If you have stainless appliances, Norwex cloths are the easiest way to clean them (though they're quite expensive).
7) We keep our children's toys in their rooms. They can bring toys out to the living room during the day (now that they're older), but they must go back in before Daddy gets home from work. When they were little, we kept a basket in the living or family room for them. We try to keep the house from being taken over by toys.
8) Less is more. We love books, so we naturally have a lot of clutter. I noticed that if books are laying horizontal on top of other books, a bookcase immediately looks cluttered. So, I try to keep the books all standing up!
9) Vacuuming and sweeping is more noticeable than dusting. So, I vacuum/sweep before I dust. And if I don't have time to mop, I don't mind using a rag to clean a spot off the floor.
10) I have a special broom to help with Molly's hair (our golden retriever) that helps a ton! I also use a defurminator during the time she sheds most.
11) It isn't the clutter that people notice about your home, it's you. Do you live in your house? If a home is spotless, it's actually harder to feel comfortable for fear of spilling something.
12) Let go. One way that having children has grown me is that it has helped me let go of my things. If something broke, I used to get so upset (the hormones from nursing didn't help!). Now, I remind myself that it's just a thing. It's not okay to break things, but getting angry solves nothing. I try to make my home kid proof so that my kids will be comfortable and so will others. I keep outlet covers on the outlets for two reasons. a. They make the outlets look better when the outlet is a different color from the plate and b. they keep children safer.
13) Adjust your possessions to the space you have. Smaller spaces get cluttered really fast.
14) Pick up as you go. As I'm cooking, I put things away. I am always making the most of my trips to and from the refrigerator or counter. This does involve multi-tasking. When I'm ready to sit down to dinner, my kitchen isn't super cluttered and I don't feel cluttered.
15) Find what makes you most feel cluttered and take care of that space. Hooks on walls help, as do shoe racks. For me, I can't handle dishes in the sink. I'd rather have a neat pile next to the sink. But, dishes in the sink for some reason totally make me feel cluttered.
What I've noticed is that everything is for a time--it isn't forever. It's getting easier to keep my home picked up now that my girls can pick up their rooms.
My son is learning and he's getting better too. Some of the responsibility lies with me, though. I have to hold them responsible. It's often easier to tell myself that I can do it quicker. But, if they can do it--even if it takes them longer--it saves me work.
Two last thoughts...
1) I once read a book by Vicky Carauna called The Organized Homeschooler (I don't recommend it). She was quite critical of women who don't keep their homes organized. She also has a husband who is extremely organized. I think I know more husbands who don't pick up than do. If you don't have a husband who picks up, it's easy to become bitter or resentful. But, that's not good for anyone. Instead, we need to do what we can and be responsible for ourselves. Many of the moms of our husbands thought they were doing the best thing by doing everything for their sons. There was the idea it is woman's work to take care of their home, not the man's. But, juggling work, children, and home-- It can be very difficult! We have the opportunity to raise our sons to pick up and help with what needs to be done. We can raise them so that they will be a blessing and a help to their future wives.
Eli will tell me no that he doesn't want to set the table at times. I respond by asking if he wants to eat dinner? If he wants me to do my job, then he needs to do his. I find that he likes to have a job he can do like emptying the bathroom trash. He also only likes to do the part of the job that he likes.
2) Homeschooling at the Speed of Light by Marilyn Rockett tells a much more gracious story of organization (which is definitely necessary in homeschooling). I liked what she had to say. She had 4 boys who she homeschooled all the way through. She made an observation that stuck with me. It's easy to keep a home clean when you don't live in it! If you're not there all day, there isn't time to make a mess. So, when you are home all day with your kids, your home is going to get messy! It's just a part of life.
PS remember people care about you, not whether there's a pile of papers on the counter.
PPS if you're looking for ideas about what children can do to help around the home and how to help them with the skills they need for live, I love Christine Field's book Life Skills for Kids. It has a great chart of age appropriate chores that I've used over the years.