The state of my house has a direct relationship with my level of stress. If my house is messy and out of order, then life feels even more chaotic. If my house is neat and tidy, then I feel like I’ve got everything under control.
With four young kids, trying to work from home and life in general, it’s hard to keep on top of things. Clutter just seems to have a natural way of building up, and taking over the house.
Every now and then I need to go on a clean out blitz of the toys and the notes and the piling up of all the things that start driving me crazy.
We recently had a major declutter and our house has never looked better. I’m now determined to keep control of the chaos by following a regular routine.
Here are some tips to help you do the same:
Do you really need it? Like, really?
Ask yourself this question about EVERYTHING. I have to admit that I have mild hoarder tendencies because, you know, we might need it again one day, and it doesn’t really take up that much space. If you find yourself umming and aahing about the same things every clean up, it’s time for them to go. It’s actually good practice to ask this about everything you buy – do you really need to buy it in the first place?
Free to good homes
If you’re feeling sentimental remember the things you’re getting rid of aren’t lost forever. Find them a new and more appreciative home. Do a Vinnie’s run; ask if your local GP is in need of new toys for their waiting room. Pass the best stuff onto a friend, or a distant cousin. Donate to charity. Post items on local Buy, Swap and Sell Facebook pages to see if someone else is in need. Like they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. You can also make a few extra dollars and sell your stuff on eBay or Gumtree.
Go room by room
For me, decluttering works best as a process. I systematically go room by room. Otherwise, it would be too easy to get overwhelmed and give up. Start with your main living room for an instant sense of achievement. Warning: That doesn’t mean throwing everything into the spare room!
Our house is open-plan so there are four rooms that need to be neat before our house looks in order: the kitchen, dining room and two living rooms. This is easier said than done, thanks to toys and washing and random bits and pieces taking over on a daily basis. This is where regular decluttering is important.
Everything in its place, and a place for everything
I find that clutter starts becoming an issue when things don’t have their own place, so assign a home to as many things as possible, including paperwork and cords and other random objects.
Storage is key and in an ideal scenario you would have unlimited storage options to keep things hidden away until you needed them.
Every family has a few big and bulky items that are particularly hard to store, and infrequently used. Think Christmas trees, suitcases, the booster seat that the next occupant isn’t quite ready for. These are things that need to be tucked away out of view. Think under the house, under the stairs, the furthest reaches of the cupboard. If you aren’t lucky enough to have large storage spaces, invest in some storage tubs and stack them in the garage.
Toys, toys and more toys
There never seems to be enough space for toys. Especially with my tribe! I have been accumulating toys over the years with wave after wave of birthdays and Christmas, plus hand-me-downs from friends and family.
Now that I am ‘done’ I have finally started letting go of baby toys. Even with my older boys there are toys that really don’t engage them. Time for those toys to go too.
The best thing for toys you want to hold on to is to invest in some shelving and decide whether toys will be kept in a living room or in your children’s bedrooms.
This is a great shelving unit I picked up from IKEA.
I keep all the little toys in the boxes and have the bigger things on display. I also keep all the bits and pieces relevant to one specific play theme in Howard’s Storage World tubs. This system is great for toy rotation and packing up at the close of play.
I also like to rotate toys every few days to revive their interest in the toys we have.
Keep a clutter bucket
I like to go to bed in a tidy house. There’s not much point tidying throughout the day with the kids at home (it’s like shovelling in a snowstorm!). Everytime I pick up something that belongs somewhere else it goes into the clutter bucket until I have time to put it away. If things end up staying in the clutter bucket, its time is nearly up!
Involve the whole family
Tidying up and clearing out is not an activity everyone is going to enjoy, but try to encourage your kids to help you keep on top of things. My three-year-old has a developed a lovely habit of packing things up once he’s finished playing, while putting everything back in the basket is part of the fun for my one-year-old.
Packing up one activity before starting the next is a great routine to entrench in your kids’ play habits.
It’s a good idea to get the kids to sort through their own room and create a pile of things they no longer need. Maybe you need to set an incentive to get things done – pocket money works for my older two, while my three-year-old is happy with a Gummy Bear!
File the paperwork
With school notes, bills and other bits and pieces coming in everyday, it’s important to have a filing system so you not only keep on top of everything, but you keep it looking tidy as well. I like the old school “in” and “out” trays.
Kids artwork goes on display for a while then is put away for safekeeping or we scan it for posterity.
Keep on top of it
Prevention, as they say, is better than a cure. Once you have gone through a major declutter it helps to keep on top of it on a daily basis. Remember – if it takes less than 15 minutes, it’s not really housework. Keep on top of the washing and don’t let the dishes pile up.
Plan a major clean out every new season. It really is good for the soul!
Is your home full of clutter? How do you try and keep it under control?