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How to be Tidy

Last year I gifted my mother and mother-in-law the book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. Basically, it breaks down the Japanese method of decluttering and organizing. Marie Kondo now has a Netflix show where she reorganizes people’s homes. This got me thinking that this will be my year of being tidier, in the hopes of being more organized and having less mess. Full disclosure: I did not read this book and have only seen one-half episode of the show, so I am not advocating Kondo’s tactics, but instead trying out some common-sense life hacks.

A very simple tidy habit to adopt starts right when you wake up, by making the bed. This may seem like a no-brainer, but in the rush of a weekday morning, or a lazy Saturday, many times the bed stays unmade and is yet another “mess” with which one has to contend. A tidy bed bodes well for a good start to your day. To make it easier, simplify your bedding. Maybe you don’t need a top sheet, or downsize the number of decorative pillows. Also, get the kids involved and make it part of the morning routine that everyone pulls up and smooths out the covers on their beds. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does need to happen.

Next up, tidy as you go. Again, this may seem obvious, but it’s always a good reminder to clean up your current space/activity before moving on to the next. This is especially key for kids. We have to clean up the toys we’re playing with before we get out new ones. We have to put away things before we go outside or have lunch. For adults, it’s more about putting things away before they pile up. So, put your coat and bag in the closet when you get home. Put your clothes away, or in the hamper, when you undress. Place dirty dishes directly in the dishwasher, or even clean and dry them, instead of letting them stack up in the sink. Granted, you may not have the time to wash dishes and clean the kitchen directly after dinner, but taking that next small step to put things away and wipe things up creates the habit of tidying up throughout your day.

Speaking of habits, one that I’ve come to develop is never leaving a room empty handed. This means that, as you move from one room, or more importantly from one floor to another, you do a quick scan and see if there’s anything you can take with you that belongs where you are going. My home has three stories, so we are big advocates of leaving things by/on the stairs and never going up or down empty handed. Moving piles of clothes, papers, boxes, etc. from one floor to the next is just the start; you also have to put things away as you travel around your home. So, take only what you have time to put away and you know where it goes. Of course, there are exceptions. I’m not entirely sure how my husband organizes his closet, but when I see his necktie on the banister to go upstairs, I still take it with me when I’m headed up and leave it by his closet to put away as he sees fit. Same for my handbags or the kids’ toys. We may not know where those things go, but having them closer to their final destination gets on the path of a tidier space.

Keep cleaning realistic. Sure, I’d love to scrub out every cupboard, iron every button-down shirt, and Shop-Vac all the cobwebs in the basement, but there are only so many hours in the day. Making a list to prioritize chores will focus you and ensure what NEEDS to be cleaned gets cleaned. My running to-do list consists of three categories. First are the daily tasks of washing dishes and picking up toys. Second are the weekly items like laundry and vacuuming. Third are those bigger/seasonal projects, such as washing windows and reorganizing storage spaces. All three are on the white board in the kitchen as a daily and weekly checklist. For those once-a-year type of projects, we make a big deal of wiping them off once accomplished. Let me tell you, it feels so great to erase “rake leaves” once we are done for the season.

While Prioritizing lists will help you focus on keeping your home tidy, you also have to find balance and accept that nothing will ever be 100% clean. We live on a world made of dirt, after all, and trying to keep every surface spotless and ever tchotchke perfectly placed will just suck up your time and energy. Speaking of balance and energy, remember you are not the only person qualified to clean your house. Get the entire family involved with a nightly 15-minute clean up routine. Put a timer on, stick with your top priorities, and make it a teaching time for your kids to learn how to clean and keep a space tidy. This can be before bed, or right after dinner, whatever works best for your family. The key is to share the responsibility of having a clean home.

For larger-scale clean up, like reorganizing and overall decluttering, you need to commit the time and energy to see things through. We’ve all had grand plans of getting our homes in order and then have things fizzle out halfway through when the amount of stuff becomes overwhelming. Don’t go it alone, find a method to guide you, whether it’s from a book like Marie Kondo’s or by Googling “6 Week Decluttering Challenge” and have a goal. For my home, I really want to get all of the toys corralled into one area, get rid of all the paperwork, and finally get family photos framed and hung on the walls. That last bit is key, because it’s my reward, a way to show off my hard work and reminds me that a tidy home is a happy home, and don’t we all want that?

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