Wednesday, May 27, 2015

How to get, and stay, organized (even when you have a small person living in your house)

A very dear friend came over with her 2 girls the other day, and asked me how we keep our house so organized.  I looked around, wondering whose house she was looking at, but realized we are pretty organized, if you just don't peek into some easily ignored corners...  So, here are my rules for keeping all our stuff from overwhelming our house.

Rule 1 - Have a PLACE for EVERYTHING
The still-messy bits of my house are the places that don't have a real, proper place in my home.  Random piles of credit card offers that need to be shredded are the bane of my personal existence, but I'm sure you have some blind spots, too.  Find them and figure out a better place for them (like the trash, perhaps).

Rule 2 - Make sure EVERYONE knows where that place is

so that you can enact

Rule 3 - EVERYONE is expected to help keep things tidy
Everyone lives here, so everyone helps out.  We don't do a chore-reward system for the Kiddo, but have always expected him to help clean up his stuff (with age/ability appropriate expectations, naturally).  When he was small, he could do big motor-skill things like put his own books back onto the shelf; now he's older and likes to help by doing the wood cleaning, and is absolutely expected to put his action figures in a drawer and pick up his legos so they don't get sucked up by the vacuum. VERY MONTESSORI. MUCH INDEPENDENCE. RESPONSIBILITY LIFE SKILLS WOW.  If a chore chart works for your family, keep it up!  I'll just be over here, envious of your ability to keep up with that...

Rule 4 - Motivation is KEY
Nothing motivates me to clean everything up (and keep it that way) like visitors.  If you're like me, it's a win-win-win scenario - you get to hang out with your favorite people, at your own house so you don't even have to drive, and your house stays lovely.

Rule 5 - Start with a CORNER
Like most kids, I had a terrible time keeping my room clean.  I would get overwhelmed really quickly, and want to give up.  My wise mother gave me a bit of advice that works every time my messes (in cleaning and in life) get too out of control: start with a corner.  When that's done, do another corner.  Repeat a few times and you're all set.  Nothing says you have to get everything organized in a day or even a month.  Pick your most frustrating problem area (anyone else stepping on legos?), try something to fix it, and move on.

 Rule 6 - CHANGE is OK
You don't always get it right the first time, and nothing will derail your organization like storage solutions that don't actually fit your storage needs.  We tried a bunch of bins for the kiddo's toys, but anything we ever tried that uses opaque containers just serves to make the kiddo not play with it.  It's out of sight-out of mind for the little one all of us.  So they're not always the prettiest, but we discovered that clear storage solutions are the best choice if we have any hope of keeping toys played with and also put away later.  Even better if they're out completely in the open.

attempt #1, not great

attempt #2, much better

Rule 7 - Know where YOU are
Have some reasonable expectations for organizational levels depending on your own unique living situation.  Are you studying for a big test?  You may want to live with papers everywhere for a little while.  Do you have a newly-mobile toddler?  Toys are going to be everywhere.  (Full disclosure, this rule was added after I spent the afternoon watching videos from the Kiddo's babyhood, when it looked like a tornado hit the toy box, but we were having such a great time).  Sometimes, you really, truly have more important things to do instead of organizing.  Find a good middle road and try to enjoy where you are in the moment.

Anyone else have great ideas to keep chaos at bay?