8 Simple Habits for an Organized Home
With three small kids, an open floor plan, and a playroom right in the middle of that open floor plan, keeping our home organized can feel like a daunting task. Between the never-ending art projects, the magnetic tile creations that must be “saved”, and the fact that every member of my family insists on wearing clean clothes every day, it’s hard to stay on top of everything. Simple habits can go a long way to help us control the clutter and stay organized.
Now, don’t get me wrong. If you stopped by unannounced in the middle of the day, our house is not going to look pristine. There’s a lot of living going on in our main living areas, and I don’t chase my kids around all day cleaning up after them. However, with ten minutes notice, we can usually have things looking good enough – and in this stage of life, “good enough” is all I can hope for!
Here are the simple habits that we stick to (or try to!) for an organized home.
1. Keep the Clutter Out
The easiest way to keep the house organized is simply to have less stuff that needs organizing. I’d describe myself as a wannabe-minimalist. Stark, clutter-free spaces are not my reality right now, but I do like to keep “stuff” to a minimum.
It helps that our family is quickly outgrowing our current space, so we’re forced to be selective about what we allow in. When I’m buying something, I will consider where it’s going to go before I purchase it. If there’s not a space for it, I don’t buy it.
Don’t allow clutter into your house. Be choosy when you’re shopping, and consider where an item will live before you bring it home. Declutter items in your home regularly. If something is worn, broken, or rarely used, get rid of it. The less stuff you have, the less time and energy you’ll spend organizing it.
2. Give Everything a Home
Once you’ve decided to bring an item into your house, give it a home. You can’t put an item away if you don’t have a place to put it. Without a permanent space to “live” you will end up moving items around constantly.
Designate a spot for trouble items. Keys, mail, wallets, purses, backpacks, bags, and chargers all need a home base. Eliminate drop zones and put them in their designated place right away. Establish a routine when you walk in the door for every member of the family to follow.
3. Create a System to Return Items to Their Proper Home
One of the biggest challenges in our house is simply returning items back to their proper home. The number of items that need to be relocated each day is ridiculous – toys, clothes, paperwork, books, etc.
The rule in our house is that you don’t go up or down the stairs empty handed. Either you’re carrying a baby, or you’re carrying stuff (or both!). We have designated spots at the top and bottom of our stairs for items needing to be returned to another floor. When we pick up those items, they go right to their proper home. This happens throughout the day, and we try to take a couple of minutes after the kids are in bed to make sure everything has been put away properly.
4. Do It Now & Finish the Job
I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. These two simple rules have a huge impact on the overall organization and tidiness of our household. The rules are simple: if a task takes less than two minutes, do it now. And, if you start a task, finish the job that you started. Taking the time to complete small tasks eliminates much of the clutter that accumulates during the day, and means that you don’t have to spend your entire evening finishing the jobs that pile up during the day.
Related: Sanity Savers: Do It Now
5. Make the Bed
There were many, many years where I didn’t do this (sorry Mom!). I thought it was a waste of time, because it was just going to be messed up again the following night. Once we started making our bed regularly, I was surprised by the difference it makes. Making the bed sets the tone for the day, and for the room. The room instantly looks more organized and calm, and we start our day the same way.
6. Do One Load of Laundry
The volume of laundry generated by my family is astounding. Doing laundry once a week is no longer an option. Instead, we try to throw in at least one load every night. That load is not always folded and put away by the end of the night, but staying on top of it prevents the job from becoming overwhelming. Folding laundry is an easy task for my husband and I to do when we’re watching TV at the end of the night.
7. Get the Kids to Clean Up the Toys
This is a non-negotiable for us because – as I mentioned – our playroom is smack-dab in the middle of our house. Since we are not willing to look at a mess of toys all day every day, the toys need to be cleaned up.
I don’t hound them constantly on this. Generally, we try to clean up one thing before we move on to the next activity, but it’s not a hard and fast rule. If they’re playing with something on and off throughout the day, we won’t make them clean it up until they’re done playing for the day.
Our kids understand that they’re responsible for cleaning up their toys, and as a result, they tend to keep things under control. Very rarely is the entire playroom dumped, because they’ve realized that cleaning it up is not nearly as much fun. I hope that by making this their responsibility from a young age, they’re learning the importance of taking care of their belongings and their living space.
8. Keep the Kitchen Clean
Just like making the bed sets the tone for the day, cleaning the kitchen at the end of the night sets the tone for the following day. Coming downstairs to a mess from the day before means you’re playing catch up before the day has even begun.
Take an extra 5-10 minutes at the end of the day to wash the dinner dishes, start the dishwasher, wipe the counters, and sweep the floor. Some nights this is harder than others (believe me, I know!), but we make an effort to do this every night. Your future self will thank you!
Life with young children is busy and unpredictable. For us, trying to keep things perfectly organized is an exercise in futility. However, by focusing on these simple habits we’re able to keep our house relatively clutter-free and organized, which is the best we can hope for right now!