You and I both know how challenging it can be to keep our homes neat and tidy on a daily basis. With all the activity and life that takes place in our homes, it’s just a given.
And while I’d love to have a pristine home day in and day out – thank you mainstream media for my home insecurities 😉 – I know I can’t achieve that at this point in my life. I have other priorities that trump this. BUT I will settle for having it be clean enough for right now, so our family can function better and not have to trip over something every couple of steps we take.
So, if you’re in the same boat as I am, try doing these three things before you head to bed. I know, I know, you’re probably thinking, “Great, yet another thing to add to my list of things to do – and in this case, three!” I ask that you just give it a try. It will make a remarkable difference in helping you keep the mess at bay in your homes.
You might resist it when you’re starting out – especially on nights when you’ve already imprinted onto your couch – but just find the willpower to give it a go each night for a week. You’ll notice a huge difference in your space. And you don’t have to do this all by yourself – nudge your husband for some help and get the little ones to pitch in! Thank you Mr. Happiness in Between for doing the dishes at night!
Not only will it keep your house neater (it won’t be perfect, but it’ll be tidier), you’ll notice the day-to-day operations in your home will run more smoothly as well. Plus, both your mornings and evenings will be less frantic, as you wake up and come home to a better-kept space. You’ll also free up some mental energy to use on your other more important priorities because you’re less likely to internally nag yourself about those piles of stuff around you that need to be picked up.
So, let’s get to it!
1. Do the Dishes
My family eats dinner at home most of the time. Having a clear workspace and an empty kitchen sink really helps make dinner prep go quicker. Sometimes… let’s not kid ourselves… often times, we’re not in the mood to cook at the end of a long day at work, so why not make it easier for ourselves so we’re less likely to give in to take out.
If you leave dirty dishes at night and don’t get to clean them the next morning, they sit there until you get home and have to make dinner. I was a repeat offender of this and let me tell you – it’s a pain, pain, pain! You either have to navigate your way around those piles, or restack them around so you have some workspace to cook. Or you have to clean FIRST before cooking and by the time you’re done cleaning, you throw in the towel and order take out instead. Because there’s no way you’re gonna mess up what you just cleaned!
In addition, it’s so much easier to wash any dirty dishes and ultimately keep your kitchen area clean when you don’t already have a pile of dishes waiting for you. There’s something about leaving a dirty dish in your sink – it seems to act like a magnet and sucks other dishes to it. And before you know it, you have a huge pile of dirty dishes smiling at you. That smiling pile is also harder to clean when food’s dried up on them. So do the dishes before you go to bed!
Now, IF the kids will let you (and that’s a big IF), take care of your dishes right after dinner. They’ll be easier to clean and you can run your dishwasher right after (if you have one) so it’s ready to be unloaded before you go to bed. Whether you have a dishwasher or not, wash your dishes and put them away (instead of leaving them to dry) before you go to bed.
You’ll love it in the morning! You’ll get up, see clear counters and have a much easier time preparing yourself some breakfast. Plus, you can easily put those dirty breakfast dishes in the dishwasher instead of having to leave them in your sink because clean dishes are occupying it. It’s one less thing for you to have to do in the morning – or in the evening when you get home from work. So even if you’re short on time in the morning, breakfast clean up is also a breeze.
2. Return Things Where They Belong
My husband and I have our daughter return her toys and craft supplies after she uses them and before she takes out more stuff. This helps her (when she actually does it) clean up more easily in the end. Unfortunately, I too, am guilty of not always putting things back where they belong at times – I get sidetracked or become unsure of what I want to do with something, and I end up leaving things where I was using them.
We live in a small space. Just a day or two of not picking stuff up leaves our place a total chaos – or it feels that way to me. And no matter how diligent we are about returning things after use, things still get left out of place. It’s just the way it goes (for us at least). We may get sidetracked and forget to, we get lazy, or worse yet, we don’t know where to put them (that’s a whole ‘nother story).
So before going to bed, take a few minutes every night returning things you see that are out of place to where they belong. Doing this will help keep your home tidier and feel less like a tornado just went by. Remember, we are not going for perfection. We are simply going for functional.
If you see the remote control for your TV is in another room – something that always happens in our household – bring it back to where your TV actually is. Drinking glasses and coffee mugs that have found their way in bedrooms need to go back into the kitchen. Dirty clothes left on the floor (drives me nuts!) go in laundry hampers. Stuff that have made their way into your home that have been left by your entrance, like lunch bags, school letters and mail – move them to where they need to be. Just keep an eye out for things that are out of place – return them home.
And if you feel like your house is in total disarray and you instead need an entire day (or weekend) to get things in order, don’t stress! Start slow and do a little each night. Set the timer on your phone for 10 or 15 minutes. Put away what you can in those 10-15 minutes. When time’s up, stop. You can continue to put more away the next night. We’re busy and we have a limited amount of time. Do what you can – even in small spurts. 10-15 minutes each night can add up and you won’t feel like you’ve spent an entire day putting things away.
Remember – we’re going for functional!
By making this a part of your routine, you’ll have things in place more regularly and your space will feel clearer and less cluttered – because it will be! As an added bonus to this, it’ll be easier to vacuum, sweep and dust when you only have a few minutes to spare because you won’t have an obstacle course to get through, as you do these things. Isn’t it a lot less motivating to wipe down your coffee table when it’s piled with stuff or sweep the floors when you have to move things around first?
3. Straighten Up Your Main Living Space
Last, but not the least, let’s not forget the finishing touch! What is the area that gets the most traffic in your home? The most lived in space? Just pick one – it’s my gift to you J I know you’ve got other things to do. For us, this is the living room. Because of how much time we spend in it, we should also spend a little extra time organizing it.
After putting stuff away, take a few minutes to straighten things up a little in this area. Heck, if you’re feeling up to it, straighten two of your most lived in spaces. J Since you’ve already returned things to where they belong, this really shouldn’t take too long. Adjust your coasters, fold your throw, straighten up your picture frames, move your lamp a little to the left and whatever little touches you need to make to freshen and cozy up your space. Simply perrrtify it a bit.
That’s it! Now, you can sink into your warm sheets and get yourself some shuteye. (You’re gonna have to get these done at some point anyway, why not take care of them before things are in a disastrous state.) And when you wake up the next morning, you’ll love the open and clear surfaces with things placed where they belong. It’s really quite relaxing and calming. For me, I don’t get that instant reflex of “Oh crap, look at all this stuff I need to clean up and the day hasn’t even begun.”
By doing these three simple things – clean your dishes, return things and straighten up – you will definitely notice your home is less messy and more manageable. These are small actions that really add up when done each day. By making this a part of your routine, you might even be inspired to do some more cleaning given how much easier it would be to vacuum at a moment’s notice.
It might not be super easy at first, especially on nights when you are just beat. But hopefully, it will eventually become automatic and you won’t need to think about it. You will have a neater home, a calmer start to your day and an easier time cooking dinner in the evening. Most of all, you won’t keep wasting mental energy on the mess you have in front of you. Instead you can focus that freed up energy to accomplish your other, more important priorities.