Keeping up with House Organization and Cleaning

Updated on March 30, 2011
M.H. asks from Madison, WI
13 answers

When it comes to keeping our house organized and clean, I find that I'm always having to pick up from the same areas in the house (mostly our downstairs-living rooms, kitchen, etc) and I never get the opportunity to move on to new projects in the upstairs part of our house. So my upstairs never gets organized and clean. I'm always stuck in the downstairs area cleaning and organizing all the new things (papers from school, projects from school, crafts from places we go, etc) that CONSTANTLY come into our house. It seems neverending. Sometimes I just finally say, 'I give up' and going to the library or shopping or a coffee shop, where everything is organized and clean, becomes much more appealing. :-)

Any suggestions on how to get and keep things organized? I do notice that all the household members bring things into our house and then it's me that has to find a spot for them. Our kids are under the age of 7 though, so they're not really at the age yet to just take care of their own things. But maybe there are some age appropriate things I could have them do that might help me.
I know of the flylady system, but that in itself seems overwhelming to me to have to put that system in place. It looks like a great thing though. But I think I need some very simple, quick rules to follow.

Also, I don't think organizing in an already chaotic environment comes natural to me....can you tell? :-)
I'm much better at walking into a new area and creating an organized space. But walking into a chaotic space and trying to get it organized just makes me want to turn around and walk away.

Thanks for any suggestions!!

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Minneapolis on

Get the actual Fly Lady book "Sink Reflections". It made my life much more pleasant. I need to read it again!

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answers from Colorado Springs on

If you want to try the Flylady thing, it's easier than it looks. The amount of e-mails you can get from the site is overwhelming, but the system itself isn't bad. The main points are: 1) you don't have to do a thing PERFECTLY to do it at all; 2) work in baby steps (they tell you how to work with a timer); 3) make your objective to keep a happy house rather than a spotless one. So give it a try if you want to.

Important things can be organized. Clutter simply can't be. Making clutter is one of a child's job descriptions. Did I say a child? I'm a packrat by nature (if there weren't packrats, there wouldn't be museums and lovely antique shops, right?), so I absolutely have to declutter - not just organize - on a regular basis.

Do I really need that many pairs of shoes, even though they're perfectly wearable and I spent good money on them? Do I need all those books? Do my children need all the books, all the toys - or, at least, do they need them ALL out and available at the same time? (My children are grown, but I run into the same question when my grandchildren come to visit.)

I find that if I can look at the things in my house as if they weren't MY things or MY house, I can decide whether they're really worthwhile, whether I ought to store them (in my VERY LIMITED storage area), or whether somebody else might need and appreciate them more than I do.

When my older granddaughters come to visit (two of them under eight), I try to make it easy for them to keep some semblance of order. They know where to put their dirty clothes, and they have a laundry basket for their clean clothes since "their room" doesn't have closet space. At certain times, I give them a five-minute race (by the timer) to put toys away and get their things as orderly as they can. They like to try to beat the clock. Sometimes they don't get everything accomplished, but what they don't get this time they'll get next time.

Hope this helps a bit.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Davenport on

My kids are 2 and 4, and they help keep the place organized, so under 7 can definitely help too...YOU figure out what things are causeing the repeated chaos in the areas you get stuck doing over and over and put something in place to help, and then have the kids do it. After a while it will become a good habit and they will learn to do it themselves. For example, we have a child height coat rack/hooks on the wall, and a shoe pocket organizer on the inside of our coat closet door. When we come in from outside, they are to take off coats and shoes and immediately put them where they go, sometimes they do it alone, aometimes they need a reminder, but it gets done every time.

As for papers and stuff, I don't have that yet, as no-one goes to school yet. But some suggestions are to get a large Art portfolio for each kid, and have them decide what to keep and what not to ( of course, you as mom have veto power) and put the stuff in the portfolio every day....these are more thin than a box, so you can slide them behind a couch or desk against the wall, and pull them out every day after school to put stuff away. Also, to get rid of some of the paper art project clutter,without "throwing them away", help the child send them in the mail to Grandparents/Godparents as little gifts!

As for toys, ask them to choose some every month to give to kids who don't have any toys and take thses to goodwill or a homeless shelter. If they are really nice and you have a consignment store in your area, take toys/shoes/clothes that you don't need anymore, to a store and make some money back on them! About once a month we do that, and I throw out/purge the crappy little happy meal toys etc. that seem to pile up so fast ( or keep them in the car for car-riding only toys, purging occassionally).

Kitchen clutter around here is usually too much snacky stuff sitting on the counter...we got a nice looking basket and put all the little stuff like chips, raisins, fruit snacks and granola bars in the basket, then actually put it up on top of the fridge - out of sight out of mind, so we don't eat as many snacks, and it frees up more counter space.

I don't always succeed, but i try to make the kids clean up one mess of toys types before getting out another, especially things with multiple pieces...or if I walk in from doing something else, and there is a huge mess on the floor, I set a timer for 10 minutes and we all clean up together....they have a toy bin shelf, rather than one large toy box, so they we can somewhat categorize the little stuff - legos in this box, bouncy balls in this one - and the boxes can be removed and taken to the location of the mess, to make cleanup easier.

Flylady is a daunting system to put in place all at once, but it is great and it works! If you would get her book and read it, it advocates don't start with everything, you start by shining your kitchen sink, and then it spreads little by little outwards through the house..... ( beginner baby steps page) Gives you a list of something new to do each day.

Another thing is that you do have kids, it is never going to be "perfect" so you have to let go of the perfectionism "all or nothing" type approach, just do something for 15 minutes each day, and you will get more and more done!

Good Luck!


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

about every 3 weeks i break my house up into 7 areas and each day clean an area top to bottom... i mean fan blades, base boards and everything in between! seems to work for me and in between those heavy cleaning days, i just straighten up! I save the bigger projects( kitchen, master) for weekend days, so my husband can watch our one year old for a couple hours. good luck



answers from Cedar Rapids on

Hi, I just wanted to add a tip I've heard to help with kids artwork. You can take a digital photo of the project and keep that instead of say holding onto a macaroni art masterpiece. :)

As for that never-ending flow of other paper clutter, IVe been working on figuring out a system for my house too. I really try to recycle junkmail as it comes, but some of it I have the best of intentions of looking at later, which is where i run into problems as i most likely dont take time later and it just piles up. What I'm thinking is that I'm going to get some sort of basket or bin for each member of my family to put our respective 'stuff' in. I have a feeling I'm going to be the one filling the baskets, but as long as the work of sorting them is divided I think i'm ok with saying this is for my husband or daughter or myself to sort out. And I'm a firm believer of start them early on giving children responsibilities within reason and possibly with guidance. My almost 4year old Loves to 'help' recycle by picking up papers i've sorted into a big pile on the living room floor. :) You can see this look of pride on her face that shows how important she feels that she's able to Help M. or Daddy with something.

I'm really trying to learn to LET GO of some of the junk I hold onto
because even if it's in great shape and still useful or informative, if I don't use it, it's hurting my life instead of helping it! And life's too short too live like that!

Well, I hope some of those ideas can help you with your organization!
Good luck!
holding me back from the freedom of only having



answers from Rapid City on

Try You can sign up for daily emails and she gives you small jobs to do each day. The idea is you set a timer for 15 minutes (or whatever) and do your cleaning, and when the timer is done, you are done. Even if the job isn't finished, you stop and do the rest another day. You also learn to clean quickly, put out "hot spots" (areas where clutter acumulates), and teach your kids to help through small detailed blessings of your home. I love it! She also is great for people like us because if you miss a job, it doesn't matter, you don't beat yourself up over it or feel like a "failure", you just do the next job and move on.



answers from Tulsa on

Each family member has a box now for all the junk they keep. If it is overflowing, they need to sort it. I pick and laminate school papers.
I have a huge box for them so I can save the art projects.
We donate stuffed animals to poor kids that the police have to remove from homes or help during wrecks and fires. Surprisingly she keeps accumulating more &^&^*$$$^&()_) from parties, carnivals, and family.
I also had to ground everyone from leaving last Saturday to help me. It was dramatic and horrible, but I sat by butt down and read and watched tv while they slllllloooooowwwwwllllly cleaned and put things away. We argued. I hated it, but I am not the maid and my family needs to listen and put things away each night so it is not a mess. A place for everything and everything in its place. Of course I could have done it all myself, but I would be resentful as I don't have the energy or desire to do it.
Flylady is a good site.



answers from San Francisco on

very simple start -- i have two hooks where the kids' backpacks are hung. Under them is a bin for recycling, and next to it is a bookshelf where each kid has a shelf. When the backpacks come in, it's their job to put the lunch box in the kitchen for cleaning out, then we pull out papers and IMMEDIATELY copy down important dates on my desk calendar, recycle what I can, and put homework pages they will need on their shelf. I pretty much toss most art projects that come home, and save a folder of very special things to sort at the end of the school year, when I save a couple and scan some before tossing. The aim is to cut down on the stuff that gets left in piles -- I check my mail and sort it outside next to the recycling bin, half the stuff doesn't even make into the house.



answers from Harrisburg on

To help first of all - focus on one spot at a time. Clear away ALL of the "junk" in that spot and only put back what you need. Have 3 bags or box ready. One for trash, one for treasure and one for charity.

Get 2 or 3 plastic bins and label them. One for school work, One for bills, etc Show your little ones where to put their school papers, where to put their shoes and let THEM begin to help organize. If they don't have a home for anything they will dump it anywhere.

So your first step is to get some storage or organizing bins or whatever to organize with, then clear the spot of ALL the clutter and only put back what you need. Then find a home for everything.

Hope that helps.


answers from Rochester on

I am not really "naturally" organized, but I LOVE organizing and cleaning other people's spaces! (Weird, I know!)

I periodically get fed up with my house and walk through it with my camera taking pictures of everything--the computer closet shelves, my kitchen counters, my bookshelves, my stairwell (which is usually buried under things that have to go up or down stairs), etc. Once I sit down at the computer and look at photos of my home, it is easier for me to think, "Oh, this would help that area because I could put all of that in it," or something like that.

Right before I had my third baby I left work (about a week before my due date) and spent all my "free" time when my husband was home cleaning and organizing our upstairs. Like you, ours is NEVER clean because the downstairs requires so much maintenance. I spent a lot of money at Wal Mart on storage tubs (a lot for me--not really that much), but I brought my closet and closet shelf measurements with me, as well as lists of what I wanted to store in each closet. That helped me buy bins and drawers that would maximize the space and be completely useful. I can't say how exciting it was to get the kids' outgrown or off-season clothes out of garbage bags in our bedroom and into a storage bin at the top of their closet.

Target has inexpensive cloth storage cubes which I bought for toy storage (my kids are even younger, so they don't "help" well), but that might work to get one for everyone--if it comes through your door, unless it belongs on a coat hook or a shoe rack, it goes in the bin. My mom used to have an odd sock basket and every weekend we sorted and matched socks while we watched a movie or something--you could have a bin sorting party. (Of course, you might want to leaf through it in case they are school papers that need to be signed.)

I wish my house were immaculately organized, but I think Controlled Chaos is more my natural style and nothing else would stay the way I try to make it. So for me, drawers that can be junked, but still shut, or baskets of disorganized mail (but ONLY mail) work best. I bought some smaller lidded bins (shoe-size I think) for things like batteries and cords/cables, another one for all my screwdrivers, hammer, nails, tacks, screws, and child-proofing extras. Seeing those things contained and stacked and "put away" makes me feel better and I know where to find them.

In high school, we were told that one definition of a weed is "any plant growing where you do not want it to grow." If you follow that, you can decide that you are raising thistles or dandelions, or that your Tiger Lilies are infesting your flower beds. Once you set your own standard in your home, whatever that may be (and be realistic) you can keep it organized, you might just have to change the way you look at it. I'm still working on it of course. Good luck! Make it fun, though, and buy a few little things that will inspire you, even if it is just a pretty magazine holder or something. =)

[Oh, and one of my easiest "starting" tactics is to take a laundry basket or empty box and dump EVERYTHING into it from one area (such as a table surface, shelf, floor space, etc) and then sit down and sort it all--it can't leave the basket unless it is put away, thrown away, given away, etc. Otherwise, if I just pick things up one at a time I see no progress and something takes its place--this way I can clear the space, clean it, organize it, and then put some things back, but only after I've looked them over. If I get busy, I put the basket aside somewhere safe until I can get to it.]



answers from Rochester on

We had the same issue. We have 3 kids age 7, 3, and 4m. We finaly decided the only way to get and keep the house cleen was to get rid of things. I bet we took half the stuff in our house to goodwill! It felt great and there are always more stuff that will keep coming in so we have a box that keeps getting filled with stuff to get rid of! For scool papers I keep the really need projects and the other stuff I throw. I can not keep everything they do for all three kids. I have a box with each there names on it and each year I put maybe 20 small things in the box that they did. I lable there age or grade on it so we will always remember when they did it. good luck!



answers from Portland on

I like to rearrange my living room and re decorate all the time but it,s almost impossible some times. I think it,s sort of an OCD thing. Cause If I dont do it I cant stand it. And I dont want to live like that.,in a mess. Sometimes I,ll say forget it too, but I dont I get back to it and catch up on the cleaning. Just try to do the upstairs first then downstairs so that it does get a turn thats what I do. We have to quit being so hard on ourselves. We are perfect when we have company we want everyone to enjoy what we see, a nice clean and lovely home. We Im sorry I keep saying we, BUT I also like to entertain but when they get here I keep looking around for messes that I might have overlooked and wipeing spots here and there. Well I gotta go. Im gonna go get to my routine now. Good luck to ya.



answers from Pittsburgh on

I like flylady too.
It's easier than you think to follow her program.

Other thoughts that help me.
Start on the opposite floor than usual when you clean.
Decrease "crapola" by pitching junk mail immediately into the recycle bin when it comes in the door--I try not to set it down, thinking I'll go through that later....go thru backpacks as soon as the kids come home & try not to just pile stuff up. If I do--I at least go through it every week.

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