Recently someone asked me how we keep our home tidy with se7en+1 kids… and the secret is where ten folk (and that’s all of us) are gathered together in a two bed roomed home then there is only one way to keep it tidy and that is to go on a very long vacation… which is never going to happen. Really never going to happen. So we have to come up with another plan, because we actually live in our home.
Before we dive in I need to say that our house is not naturally tidy or that messy… we have a level of tidiness and it isn’t insane either way. I guess there comes a time when you know your tidiness comfort zone. And we mostly keep it there. Of course there are times when it goes crazy and there are other times it appears under control. There are certain areas that we like to have tidy and other areas, which are not mine to control, that we can only ever dream of having tidy!!!
Se7en + 1 Tips to Having a Perfectly Tidy Home.
- Sustaining Perfection:
- Lose the Stuff:
- Everything Has a Place:
- If it isn’t Loved it is Gone:
- If they Can Pack Out, they can Pack Back:
- Stop the Madness:
- A Time and a Place for Tidying:
- I am not Chief Finder of All Things Missing:
A couple of years ago our house was on the market… we had estate agents dropping in before breakfast, at dinner time, and during bath time. The house had to be perfect every moment of every day. We quickly learnt the difference between “show house tidy” and tidy enough. Show house tidy requires a level of depth of tidiness that goes way beyond stuffing everything in a drawer when the doorbell rings. Turns out potential buyers open drawers, peek in closets. We lived at an unnatural level of tidiness for a very long time. We quickly learnt you just have to get rid of the stuff.
The easiest way to keep a house tidy is to lose the stuff… really get rid of all the extra stuff. And I really mean get rid of everything… If you are keeping stuff for a rainy day then use it or lose it, if you are saving things for “just in case” get rid of that too. If you have kitchen cupboards filled with goodies that you never use then give them away. If you have shelves stuffed with potential projects, then box them up and give them to a friend. There is no thing too big or small that can’t be gotten rid of. Just lose the extra stuff. I know I might be a little extreme and we have nothing extra in our house… but the inconvenience of occasionally not having an extra towel, for example, is worth it. The point is that the things we love and think are absolutley essential to life right now are not quite the same even six months from now – so there is always stuff to get rid of. Make it a habit to get rid of stuff… a bag a week, an item a day… ten items a day. Whatever… get rid of stuff. Of course if there is something that you love then keep it and collect it. Our kids are of an age to enjoy board games… we have dozens on one shelf in one room. As they outgrow them we filter them out… but they love them and we keep them. It isn’t always easy to get rid of stuff… to part with things you thought were loved or you even once loved yourself. Save up those grumpy days, and we all have them, and instead of wasting your energy on snarling at everyone… grab a bag and discard stuff. Never waste a bad mood by feeling sorry for yourself, grab a bag and get rid of stuff. The feeling of satisfaction at cleared space afterwards will blow that mood away.
With the things you have left make sure that everything has a place. We keep like things together… all shoes in one spot, all toys in one spot, all gear in one spot, all the games in one spot, all stationary in one spot… you get the idea. We really have zones where folk do things… we read in the lounge, there are books on the lounge table. We do not play in the lounge and you will not find toys in there. Similarly we don’t read in the kitchen… so we don’t have books there. So we have zones for everything… LEGO belongs in the bedroom, toys on the stoop, library books in the library zone. Also, it isn’t enough to store like things together… you need like things together where you use them. It is no good having a drawer filled with gardening things in the kitchen, if you always need them out the front door… figure out where you use things and then see of you can store them right there.
If you ave ever seen a child treasure something, they love it and they nurture it and they care for it. If they don’t love it then you will find it jammed at the back of the closet or just left abandoned. It is quite easy to spot the things that you and your kids don’t love – you simply can’t be bothered to put them away – and that is a “Yay, more stuff to get rid of” situation. Make sure you are selective about the things that you want your children to love – before you bring them into the house. We don’t buy “multi-millions of pieces type toys,” we hate tidying them up. In fact we don’t buy any toys, which don’t match
the types of toys we already have… in fact, to be honest, we don’t buy any toys at all, our kids have quite enough.
If your family are big enough to unpack things then they are big enough to pack them back. If your kids are big enough to be creating crafty projects, then they are also quite big enough to keep their crafty things in a special place for crafty things. I think it all comes down to treasuring things… nothing like new markers to know that you want all the lids on and in the right spot in the packet… and then those dried out fuzzy markers, well there is very little love and it is nearly impossible to put them away. the secret is really if there is no love just lose it. We have a little kids cooking spot in the corner of our kitchen… it is an all time enduring favourite. For teeny tiny people the joy of a toy like this is unpacking… when we had teeny tiny little folk we would put many of the bits and pieces away and just keep a handful of things to unpack and put back. Once they had mastered the putting back-ness of a few things then we would progress to more.
One or two of my kids are superb “players” they live in the world of play… for them packing up is actually just an extension of the never-ending game. The day begins with a clean slate, they unpack one or two things… then one or two more… they may start with a few mini-figures and you blink and the whole world is unpacked and an integral part of the game. One summer in a moment of extreme mothering frustration, I declared a zero toys week. We gathered our toys up and put them in the garage. I made a discovery that we all believe, but just follow through on… the fewer the toys the more they play. At the end of the week nobody was missing anything or asked for anything and so they remained in the garage the entire summer. I know it sounds extreme… but our kids were really perfectly happy to play with things that they had made from the recycling box. Now we have a toy zone, the toys belong all together in the toy spot, they are played with there and packed away there. By limiting the number of toys they can’t get into the cycle of mad unpacking… they rather use the toys they have more intentionally.
There are times every given day when our house is a complete and utter disaster… when we are busy with school we unpack and unpack and unpack… but before we start the next meal, which is generally lunch, everything gets tidied away. After lunch everyone heads for a piece of the couch and reads… before they dash off and play they get to put their books away. And again before dinner, surfaces are cleared, books put back on the shelves and well things are tidied. Fresh laundry is packed away on shelves as part of the folding process and dirty laundry is popped into the washer… even the smallest child is quite able to pop laundry into the washer. This really only takes a minute or two – we are not spending all our free time locked in a cycle of tidiness… but consistency seems to be key. If we leave it for a meal or two, or a day or two then it is almost impossible to get it back together again…
And the se7en + 1th thing…
Just because I am the mother person in our home doesn’t mean that I am the chief tidy upper or that it is by any means my responsibility to know where everything is. I do see it as my responsibility to get rid of things that are not loved. And so if things are left lying around or are not returned to their zone then I will see it as an object unloved and therefore we don’t need it. I will take all things that have been left lying around and put them on the kitchen table for a while, but if they are not claimed or rescued before the next meal – we can’t possibly eat with stuff on the table, then those things will be gone forever. Certain things like hair accessories… might linger for longer, but I just stopped buying them ever… turns out they have their favourite few and the ones that are lying around are really not loved. I know somethings you have paid for, somethings they have asked for… but if they no longer like something well enough to put it away then somebody else could be putting it to good use. And… if you think my theory is slightly insane… I will just say that LEGO is never ever left lying around. Clearly it is well loved and they keep it where it belongs. The horrors of the consequences that a min-figure might feel unloved or abandoned is just unimaginable.
In a nutshell, tidying up is a team sport, we all do it. It really helps if you get rid of everything that isn’t loved and have a routine of tidying away… pick a trigger in your day (ours is meal times) and tidy up for a couple of minutes then. The rest of the time we play as hard as we can and live as much as we can in our space. I have to add that tidiness is not cleanliness. Cleanliness in a house that is filled with beach lovers and hikers… that is a whole ‘nother blog post all together. Just to say it is impossible to tidy and clean at the same time. We have a massive clean once a week… and the rest of the time, apart from cleaning the bathroom and the kitchen, we pretty much just work on keeping it all tidy enough.