I have been accused of several things in my life. Some gracious—others not. But a consistent offender is being a little obnoxious when it comes to being tidy. I host a Friday night Bible study and on one particular occasion, one of the members was cooking for us as I was feverishly cleaning behind her. “I’m not even done yet!” she said. “But…you dropped onion on the floor,” was my sheepish reply.
It’s true. I was like that even as a kid. My cousin is still traumatized from having to clean the Barbie mansion before we could play with it (and after). I mean, you can play with my toys, just put them up afterward. What’s wrong with that? I digress.
But here’s the secret. Looks are deceiving. I strive for surface-level tidy. I’m no Marie Kondo, and there are still stuffed cabinets, an overabundance of Christmas décor, and too much scrapping supplies. Buckle up, buttercup. I’m going to let you into the inner sanctum of the tidy illusion. It’s not overly time-consuming and you will not be required to make your own cleaning solution from rainwater and the tail of a unicorn.
1. Make Your Trips Count
We live in a two-story home. I don’t know about you, but there are only so many steps I need on the Fitbit. I try to always make those steps count. If dish towels need to be put in the laundry, they come with me upstairs. If the bathroom trash needs to be emptied, it goes with me downstairs (and outside, follow-through is important). This is true even if you’re blessed with one glorious level. If you’re going from one end to the other, you know there’s something that needs to be put away or dropped off in another room along the way—take it with you.
2. Multiply Your Time
You’d be surprised at what you can accomplish in 60 seconds. Microwaving leftovers? Rinse the dishes. Making toast? Wipe down a counter. Waiting for the iron to heat up? Put away sewing supplies. You get the idea. Instead of staring at the microwave as if it will make your cup of dehydrated noodles cook faster, make use of your time. Fill in the gaps with small tasks and you’ll be surprised by how much it helps out.
3. Be Flexible
It’s likely that things in your house have homes of their own. Bins are our friends! But be a tad flexible. If you have a toy room with bins for blocks, books, and trucks, they don’t all necessarily need to be color-coordinated (unless you’re dealing with sensory issues). As long as items get picked up and put in a “home,” call it a win.
4. Attack with Attachments
Vacuum attachments aren’t just for decoration—they are lifesavers! Bonus points if you also have an easily portable hand vac. When you already have that puppy out, pull off the attachment and give the couch a quick once-over or edge around the bookcase. This doesn’t have to be all of the time, but even this extra step a few times a month will save you a ton in dust bunnies. Especially if you have pets.
5. Box It Up
I keep a box, usually in our master closet, and toss in anything we no longer need or that doesn’t fit. It’s Tuesday morning and you attempt to put on a sweater that doesn’t have a prayer of fitting and honestly hasn’t been in fashion for three years? It goes in the box. It isn’t a big box (we’re not trying to take up more room here}. Generally, a copy paper box or fruit box from H.E.B. (they’re pretty generous with their boxes if you’re ever in need). This goes for anything you come across that you don’t need. When the box gets full—and here’s the trick to this one—take it to a donation center. Yes, I know. The trauma. But for this one to work, the box does, in fact, have to leave your home.
6. Laundry Toss
This one can be tricky, especially if you are particular with colors and whites. Since our laundry room is by our bedrooms, I’ll ask that laundry just gets thrown directly into the washer. Yep. Strip down in the hallway? Sure! Fine by me. As long as the clothes get in there. When it’s full, I wash it. It prevents my making hamper trips and it becomes a bit of a basketball challenge making it into the machine.
7. Molehills Not Mountains
A lot of people “hate cleaning” because we avoid it. When we avoid going through the mail, folding the clothes, or doing the dishes, the pile of course grows and becomes overwhelming. Try to tackle tasks while they are at a reasonable size and won’t take up too much time. When our bed, sitting chair, dresser, and dog bed are all covered in clothes that need to be folded or the stove is coated with remnants of the last 18 dinners, it’s really no mystery that we want to avoid it altogether and hide in a glass (or bottle) of Pinot Grigio.
8. Better Than It Was
As moms, we have a keen eye for when something’s off. A blanket needs to be folded, the pillows on the couch aren’t right, that cup needs to be picked up. Do it. When you leave a room, just do one thing. Fix one, pick up one thing. sanity.
Do you have a tidy hack? Let me know!