I dream of clean

I have a dream.  (In fairness, I have many dreams.  I’m just talking about one right now.  And in silliness, I’m sharing a bananapants dream about my mom shooting monopoly pieces in her forehead on IG.  Anyone else having all the crazy dreams these days?)

Anywho, I have a dream.  A dream where we live in a home that contains only beautiful and useful possessions.  We have the right amount of stuff, and all of the stuff has a place to live.  We have systems in place to maintain our stuff.  Because we have the right amount of stuff and systems in place, it doesn’t take too long to tidy up and to clean.

The end.

It seems simple and yet completely out of reach.

I had thought that moving would be a catalyst to start over and try again.  But that’s probably not happening for a bit, and I don’t want to wait.  Now that we are home ALLLLL the time and we are cleaning everything ourselves, I really really don’t want to wait.

Let’s unpack the steps a bit here.


We had naturally been doing this before our planned move, but we still have a ways to go.  One issue here is that it is hard to get stuff to the right people in our semi-lockdown world.  Also, because we are all home all the time on top of the stuff, it is hard to clear things out.  Nothing more fun than making a pile and having the toddler immediately dismantle it.  I’m also dealing with low energy on my part, and particularly low energy when I’m technically alone.  Believe it or not, but 9:00 pm is not a great time to get after it.  Lulz.

But we’ve had some success lately.  A friend called for baby stuff for someone in need, and I was glad to clear much of that stuff.  I cleared a few books for a lending library that is being developed.  It all felt good to do.  Baby steps.

Finding a Home for everything

I was listening to the Organize365 podcast (this episode), and I realized that this step is where we can particularly struggle.  Decluttering isn’t always easy, but we can do it.  It feels good.  But it’s not enough.  If we don’t organize the stuff that remains, everything will just fall apart again.

I have a few surfaces that I can’t seem to clear, and I’ve realized that much of that is because the objects don’t have a place.  They are part of projects that need to be completed or systems that need to be created.

We have some systems that work well.  For years, I’ve had a sewing box.  Anytime I need to do something sewing-related, I know exactly where I need to go for all my stuff.  Same for wrapping paper.  I’ve recently created an office supplies box.  All office supplies belong here.  It has been great for knowing where to find the extra tape at all times.

One thing we need for sure is to get a better art creation system/situation for the kids.  We had a beloved art cart that worked for a long time, but both distance learning and Arthur being able to reach everything in the cart have made it fall apart.  I want something that is convenient for the older kids to create, but is also far from toddler clutches.  But gathering all the things, sorting them, forcing them into a better system . . . Hopefully, it will happen one of these days, but it has felt bigger than I can tackle now.

Efficient systems to maintain

Then, this is the dream.  Figuring out systems so that we can all work together to stay on top of stuff.  And that staying on top of it doesn’t take forever.  I’m still trying to figure out a rhythm here.  I know some people have a daily tidying session.  Honestly, stuff on the floor or an epic blanket fort doesn’t bother me for a few days, but then I get cranky when we need to vacuum or have a dance party and stuff is everywhere.  But a weekly tidy leaves so much stuff that it seems overwhelming.  I don’t know.  Still working on this.

(I should have a daily moment to undo some of Arthur’s antics.  Right now we have TV remotes, measuring cups, things pulled out of the recycling and goodness only knows what else all over the house.)

I know very little about cleaning, but I do know that (1) having the right tools, (2) doing it regularly, and (3) having clear surfaces makes it much easier and therefore more likely to get done.  I’m more likely to tackle the bathrooms if I know they don’t have weeks of grime covering them.  I’m more likely to clean the kitchen counters when they are clear of crap.  I’m more likely to mop when we have a working swiffer (which we don’t at the moment.)  (We got reusable pads and figured out how to refill the cartridge for environmental friendliness.)

So yeah.  I’m trying to make small steps of progress toward the dream without doing that thing where I get frustrated/overwhelmed and make sweeping pronouncements about throwing all of our stuff in the trash.  This is not helpful/enjoyable for anyone.  I’m trying to focus on getting everyone on board with new systems that work instead of just decluttering.  We shall see.

Any advice?

How tidy is tidy enough?

I’ve been seeing some buzz about a book:  Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and OrganizingModern Mrs. Darcy covered it; she’s a fan of the folding method.  Laura Vanderkam suggested not cleaning up can be a more useful philosophy.  Nicole and Maggie mention an earlier post questioning the wisdom of raising children to feel stressed out by clutter.

I love a good organizing book, but I haven’t read Kondo’s book yet.  I may.  We’ll see.

As I try to assimilate our lovely Christmas gifts into our home, I’ve been thinking about stuff.  And cleaning.  New year, new start, right?

For me, there are two separate issues here.  Tidying involves moving around things.  Cleaning involves removal of dirt and grime.

On the tidying front, we did a lot of “de-owning” before our move to Italy.  I read Joshua Becker’s Clutterfree with Kids an at opportune time.  He stresses de-owning possessions over organizing them.  If you are organizing things, it is just a shell game.  You are still spending energy on cleaning, maintaining, and housing the things.  It is better to just get ride of them entirely than to be beholden to your things.

I like this idea.  We really don’t need that much stuff.  I rotate toys to keep from being overwhelmed by them.  I’ve embraced minimalist dressing and should really purge my closet again.  James cut back on clothes and has expressed enjoyment at having a well curated closet full of things he likes.  We still have more stuff than we need, but I like the idea of only keeping around things you need and like.  Kondo suggests you should not keep things unless they “spark joy.”  I get that.

On the cleaning front, I’m all over the place.  We still don’t have any cleaning help.  In the early days here, I had a daily schedule together.  I cleaned about 20 minutes a day, and I felt like we were on top of things.  Then life happened.  We spent more time seeing friends and getting out of the house.  This is a good thing, but it made chores harder.  I refuse to do chores when the kids are napping.  The chore window feels limited.

I’ve also let it go.  Kitchen and bathrooms get special attention.  I find that doing a little bit daily or weekly makes a big difference.  If I clean the bathrooms once a week, I can do it in 15 minutes.  (Does not include floors.  Or mirrors.)  If I wait, the stuck on grime starts to feel insurmountable.  I really need to work on the floors more.  The baby is not yet crawling, but the kids live on the floor.  But I don’t need to vacuum every day.  My general cleaning philosophy is to be clean enough that things are sanitary and you wouldn’t shy away from an unexpected guest.

And for me, this is where tidying and cleaning intersect.  I think cleaning is easier to do if things are generally tidy.  Right now I really need to vacuum the rug, but the kids toys are all over it.  Kitchen counters are a lot easier to wipe if they are clutter free.  I think my more militant cleaning schedule worked in the early days because all of our stuff hadn’t shown up yet.

I’m still trying to find my groove.  I came across this cleaning schedule printable while reading this awesomely interesting article on following Pinterest’s most popular for a week.

So I decided to do it as well.  Without further adieu, let me present my own cleaning schedule printable for your consumption:

Cleaning Schedule-1

Nothing on here is mandatory, as you would know by the current state of my floors.  ABL – always be laundrying is an important tenet.  Our one floor dwelling has made laundry much easier.  I don’t really mind laundry except the putting clothes away part, which I suppose is sort of like saying that you don’t mind marathons except the running part.

And please don’t think I’m doing this alone.  James does 99% of the after dinner clean-up, trash/recycling removal, and more.

But as you can see, a lot doesn’t get done.  Dusting is rare.  I haven’t cleaned any ceiling blades or windows.  This is mostly working for us for now.  At least until our next change in schedule anyway!  Mac already seems to be dropping his morning nap . . .

Do you have a cleaning schedule?  I’d love to hear!  What is your mess tolerance?  Have you noticed a correlation between amount of stuff and ease of cleaning?