It probably comes as no surprise to any of you that I’m fairly organized. I work for the The Container Store (The Original Storage and Organization Store), after all. A clean home with some empty spaces is what feeds my soul and keeps me sane.
You may think that I spend hours each day cleaning and organizing, but the truth is I’ve got it down to a pretty efficient system. I do a few small tasks each day. Alone they don’t seem like much or take a lot of effort. However when you add them all up over a course of the week, you end up with a home that runs smoothly and is always open to visitors. I thought I would share with you the things I do that keep my home tidy and organized. Whether you make one or all of them a part of your routine, I guarantee you’ll see a difference in your home.
1. If it takes less than 2 minutes, go ahead and do it.
No matter where I am in the house, if I see a task that will take less than 2 minutes to complete, I do it then and there. Hanging up a towel, putting clothes in the hamper, setting a bowl in the dishwasher, signing the permission slip … you get the idea. Say I did 10 things throughout the day as I noticed them. It wouldn’t feel as if I were doing anything out of the ordinary. We probably glance at our phones for more than 2 minutes at least that many times and don’t think twice about it! But if you ignore these tiny tasks and save them until you can’t ignore them anymore, you’re suddenly faced with 20 minutes or more of work. Looking at a chunk of time like that makes it easy to throw up your hands and say you’ll do it later, which you’ll just dread even more.
Confession: I’m the only one in the house that practices this particular habit. I’m trying really hard to instill this philosophy in the kids, as it truly makes life easier.
2. Have a daily and weekly routine.
I have housekeeping tasks that I do both daily and weekly. Yours will probably be different, but the key is finding a rhythm that works with your lifestyle and schedule. Mine looks like this:
- Daily: Put away clothes. Wash dishes. Empty backpacks and lunches. Tidy up at end of the day.
- Monday: Laundry.
- Tuesday: Laundry. Make a meal plan for the week and organize grocery list and coupons.
- Wednesday: Laundry. Grocery store and other errands.
- Thursday: Laundry. Vacuum and sweep. Clean one bathroom.
- Friday: Laundry. Thoroughly clean one “zone” of the house.
- Saturday: Finish up any tasks that didn’t get completed during the week.
- Sunday: Go through inbox and check calendar for upcoming week.
Does it seem like a lot? Because it really isn’t. Other than the zone cleaning and errands, I would estimate that none of the other tasks take more than 30 minutes out of my day. It helps me stay focused and not get overwhelmed by the responsibilities that come along with keeping a home.
Confession: Oftentimes life gets in the way and I’m not able to thoroughly clean as I would like. But because I’m always keeping up with the laundry, tidying up at the end of each day, and sweeping once a week, my house almost always looks picked up. Could it use a good dusting? Are there fingerprints on the doors and windows? Do my floors need mopped? Yes, but I don’t notice those things at other people’s houses and you won’t notice them at mine, either.
3. Make a pretty basket your friend.
I keep a pretty basket upstairs and another one downstairs. Other than looking pretty, its only purpose is to corral things that belong somewhere else. When I have a few minutes or the basket is getting full, I simply walk through the house and put the items where they belong. It keeps things from getting piled up throughout the house and it can easily be moved out of sight if company comes. I also keep cute plastic bins in the laundry room/mud room to corral shoes, as well as another basket by the garage door to hold things that need to go in the car or out of the house, such as library books or store returns.
Confession: Acquiring pretty baskets becomes addictive when you work at The Container Store. Can’t. Stop. Buying. Baskets.
4. Find a paper system that works.
This took me FOREVER, but once I stumbled upon a system that work it changed my life. I used to have papers strewn throughout the kitchen and home office, with school stuff mixed with bills and random stuff I saved to read later. Here’s what works for me:
- Sort paper as soon as it comes in the house.
- When sorting, it goes in one of 3 places: kitchen inbox, office inbox, or recycle bin.
- If any paperwork needs action in the next few days, I either handle it then or place it on my desk so I don’t forget about it or lose it.
- Once a week I sit down and go through my inboxes and deal with whatever is in there.
Confession: It’s impossible to describe my method for dealing with paperwork in one paragraph of one post, so I’ll be doing a separate post on that. LUCKY YOU. Seriously, though, getting this aspect of home life under control affected my organization and peace of mind in so many ways.
5. Let things go.
It’s impossible to stay on top of it all, all the time. We’re usually juggling parenting, work, relationships, homekeeping, and self-care. Most of the time, by following a system that works for us, we can manage to keep all these things in check. But throw in a vacation, an illness, a holiday, a big deadline … something’s gotta give. It’s okay to drop a few balls. In fact, the number one reason I try to keep to an organized schedule is so that when the craziness rolls around (and it always does), I can let things go and not worry that I’ll be digging myself out from under the rubble in a few days or weeks.
Confession: The first thing I let go when things get out of whack is cleaning. You can go miles on a picked up, but not clean house, for weeks without anyone really noticing.
6. Menu plan.
This is so integral both to keeping our budget in check and keeping our evenings running smoothly. I could devote a post to this, but honestly there are so many other bloggers before me that have covered it. You’re sure to find some guidance that works with your lifestyle. Making a menu plan doesn’t mean you have to turn yourself into a gourmet cook … you’re just planning for how your family eats and taking your realistic schedule into consideration.
Confession: We veer off the menu plan from time to time. Don’t think that because you’ve deemed Wednesday meatloaf day that you’re beholden to it. We swap days, we improvise, and some days you just want to go out. (See #5) But again, by having a plan in place, you’re setting yourself up for success most nights of the week.
7. Keep up with laundry.
I know I’ll have my dissenters out there. I hear ya, laundry haters. Why do something you hate nearly every day of the week, when you could just save it for one crappy day? It goes back to #1. It might take me 3 minutes to start a load, 3 minutes to switch it over, and 15 minutes to fold it and put it all away. So for less than 30 minutes, interspersed throughout the day, I can get a tedious task done. I’d much rather do that than spending 2 or 3 hours on a weekend catching up on laundry. Other perks of keeping up with laundry every day? Everyone always has what they want to wear available. You also save money in the long run, as you lessen the chance something will get ruined from sitting soiled in the hamper for 5 or 6 days.
Confession: I sometimes use laundry as an excuse to procrastinate, especially when I have a deadline looming. I know, something’s wrong with me.
8. Start small.
If only I had taken this nugget into consideration when I started this post! But seriously … it’s the same advice I give people when they shop at The Container Store. Trying to tackle your whole home or your entire household organizational system at once is a recipe for failure. If you’d never run a day in your life, you wouldn’t sign up for a marathon. You’d start small. Take a few days and keep notes of the things you encounter throughout the day that make you feel disorganized. Look over your list and pick the one thing that bothers you the most. Tackle that, and give it at least 3 weeks. Once you feel like you have that area of your life under control, move on to the next.
Confession: It’s taken me years to get into a groove that works for me, and as life circumstances change I find I have to readjust and change what keeps our home running smoothly. Please don’t spend an evening on Pinterest pinning 100 organizational tips and then beat yourself up a few days later when the floor is sticky, there’s nothing for dinner, and you can’t find any of the overdue library books. Be gentle and give yourself time to figure it out.
Now that I’ve bared all, I have to know – what are some of your favorite routines and rituals for keeping your home organized?