I’ve had many, many people walk through the door of our home and ask this very question, “Does it always look this way?” Sometimes it’s, “Is your house always this clean?” It’s rare, though, that someone comes by for an impromptu or mid-week visit and doesn’t ask about the state of our home.
The answer, by and large, is yes. Yes, it usually looks this way. Yes, it’s usually tidy (clean and tidy are very different things). Yes, it’s relatively easy to keep it this way. But, most importantly, we are able to live and love here without walking on pins and needles for it to be perfect!
A few simple principles will go a long way.
Make a walk-through part of your nightly habit:
A what? A walk-through. This was the biggest step for me. This turned it all around. Each night, we (yes, we, Mr. Gray helps with this) go through and get everything back in its place, or very close to it. Toys, books, dishes, computers, art supplies, whatever it is, it gets put away. If Mr. Gray is working on a painting or project, he leaves them like they are when he gets to a good stopping point, but they are contained and approximately where they belong. Dishes don’t get left in the sink, clothes don’t get left on the floor, pillows on the couch are straightened, or whatever it may be. This takes a total time of about ten minutes–maybe (it wouldn’t top fifteen, even without Mr. Gray’s help). Going to bed with a tidy house lets me start fresh each morning. Clean slate.
Get rid of it! If you have even one area that you allow to be cluttered, it will become toxic and take up more space over time. You do not need every back issue of whatever-magazine-is-your-go-to. Tear out the important pages, stick them in a file, and then recycle, re-gift, re-purpose, or otherwise dispose of the bulk of the magazine. Clutter will always make your house look messier. The more of it you have, the harder it is for your home to look tidy.
Have a plan:
We have a toddling one year old and a dog with almost as many toys. Our living room looks a lot like a mobile one year old and his dog lives here. I’m okay with that. I do not follow Baby Gray around picking things up behind him. Rather, the living room is pretty much a free for all (as far as playing and toys are concerned) throughout the day. It is where he spends the bulk of his time. We clean up the living room at the end of the day when we are winding down for his bed time.
However, he has specific toys for each room (and storage in each space) to keep from stringing toys all over the house each day. If we play in his room, he plays with those toys, and we clean up when we leave. I sing the same clean up song, and he helps (yes, really) me put the toys away before we leave the room. Same goes for our bedroom. He has a box of toys that stays in my closet. He gets it out when I open my closet, plays, and then helps me clean up when we are done in the bedroom.
Being organized helps with your planning. If everything has a place (because you don’t have clutter anymore, remember?) then your plan mostly involves which rooms need to be picked up when. How often do you want to follow your toddler (teen, spouse, tween) around asking him or her to put things away? Which battles are worth fighting?
Let your kids help:
As I said above, Baby Gray already helps put things away. When I start singing the clean up song, he brings me toys to put away (sometimes he gets side tracked, he’s one, but he is mostly helpful during clean up time). When we take off his clothes for dinner and bath time, he puts them in the laundry hamper. He thinks that is the most fun ever! Start your kiddos early, and you won’t have to retrain them later.
Clean as you cook:
I can’t stress this enough. If you rinse the dishes as you cook and put things away as you go, you do not need a cleaning crew to clean up after dinner. Most evenings when I serve dinner, all that is out are the dishes we are eating from and the food on the stove. Everything else has already been taken care of. That way, all you have to do after you eat is wash a few things, store the leftovers, and clean the counters. Easy peasy!
Don’t expect perfection:
Let me tell you how long it took me to get to this conclusion: forever. Things don’t have to be perfect. Look at my italicized words above: mostly, approximately, etc. Those are great words. If things are just about where they need to be, it takes seconds to finish it up when it’s really time to take things further than tidy.
If you want your home to be warm, welcoming, inviting, and full of joy for the Lord, live there! He lives there, too! Don’t worry if it doesn’t look like a home in a magazine–people don’t live in those homes! Sometimes they’re not even homes, they’re sets, staged for photos! Do not be discouraged. Live there, have fun there, experience joy there.