Good morning, friends! I am sorry for not posting the past few days. There was a lot going on, between taking my husband to the hospital for being ill and dealing with two crazy kids. So glad to be able to sit down with you, enjoy a hot cup of tea and relax as we chat.
Today, I wanted to talk with you about organizing the house. Now don’t get me wrong; we all have days when we want to keep the curtains closed, lest a neighbor or door-to-door salesman get a glimpse of the extremely localized tornado that swept through our house. I’m not talking about those days; I am meaning everyday living. The main reason to keep your house in decent shape, besides, knowing where stuff is, not having to shove an unexpected guest out of the door, or telling your husband he can’t bring home his boss for dinner, but actually for safety reasons. At least once a week I read stories about elderly people who injure themselves and the emergency services were unable to bring in their stretcher, or were unable to locate the victim through the mounds of stuff. A scary thought: what if your home had an emergency? Can emergency crews easily gain access to all parts of your home? If a fire were to start, could you easily access all parts of the home to put out the little fire, before it turned into roaring, all-consuming flames?
So today, a little bit at a time, we are going to get our house in order. We aren’t going to take a whole weekend and do it, because most of us would get burned out by lunchtime on Saturday. So, a little nibble here, a little nibble there, a big old chomp another time and voila! The furnace repair guy can just show up, without our requesting 48 hours notice while we throw everything into huge Tupperware and hide it.
We can start with your choice of rooms, but it’s actually going to be 30 minutes per day for the main room we selected, and fifteen additional minutes for each other room. The average house has about five rooms, so about 90 minutes a day, TOTAL. Not all at once, but ten minutes in the morning before the kids get up for school; ten minutes while they eat breakfast (put your coffee in a “to go” mug and start the washing machine); fifteen minutes while they are changing out of their school clothes, after school; five minutes while they wash their hands before dinner; ten minutes while they fight over whose turn it is to clean the cat litterbox or walk the dog; ten minutes while the family gets ready for bed, and maybe the last fifteen minutes after the kids are in their room reading before bed. Get a small basket and get into the habit of carrying it around with you. As you travel, room to room throughout the day, items that you find that are in the wrong room, toss into the basket and carry it around until you reach the correct room and put it away. Warn the kids that if you see the same item three times out of it’s proper room, it’s gone for good, then carry through on the threat. My kids have been warned repeatedly that I don’t want toys on the kitchen table. Over and over, as they would reach for a toy, they would knock over their glass, or the toy would hit the corner of their plate, flipping the plate over and onto the floor. Now, when I find toys on the table, I just toss them into a black plastic garbage bag in my closet. When it is halfway full, pull it out and donate it to a charity. Don’t open the bag and peek what’s inside, or else you are liable to start pulling stuff out. Just realize that once it’s in “THE BLACK HOLE” it will never escape. Make it a point that for every item of clothing you purchase, you take three items out of your closet or drawer and donate it. Some friends like to have a trading game, in which they clean out their closets and kids’ toyboxes and swap those items with another friend for something else. That doesn’t really help to get RID of the clutter, but REPLACES the clutter. The purpose is to rid ourselves of it.
So today, I spent 15 minutes clearing the dishwasher and putting the dishes away and re-loading the dishwasher. I cleared off the table for ten minutes. I spent ten minutes wiping out the bathroom sink and sink counter; living room gets the tile floor swept and lightly mopped and putting everyone’s shoes into their bin. So, the living room received it’s fifteen minutes of attention and is done for today. I spent 10 minutes making the bed and clearing dirty tissues off the side of the nightstand, then five minutes pulling laundry to be washed out of the basket. Master bedroom is done. (This was while I was gabbing on the phone to a credit card company asking if due to being on time with my payments, they would reduce my APR.) Next I got the kids up and their breakfast was ready, while I pulled dirty laundry from their room. Break up an argument over who has more icing on their strudel, and back to bringing laundry down to the laundry room. Comfort my daughter, Beaker, when her brother, YumYum tells her that we are taking her back to the hospital and trade her in for a toddler that doesn’t cry as much, then back to cleaning. As I walk around, I see items and put them back into the places they belong. I wash, dry and put away three dishes as I wait for the water to boil for my tea. Put the tea in a “to-go mug and sip it as I run the sweeper in the kitchen. Little things like this can knock off a lot of housework. Before bed, I try to do the things that I didn’t manage for the day: run the washing machine if I have a full load; set the timer for the dishwasher if I have a full load; check my ice cube tray in the automatic cube maker. If the tray is full, I pull it out (I do this once a week) and dump the ice cubes into my planter trays. Overnight the ice melts and waters the plants. Wipe off the table and make sure the coffee pot is filled and ready. If I have run out of milk, I use the dried milk and make a half-gallon and let it chill overnight. I add a dash of vanilla, so no one recognizes it’s not regular milk. Reconstituted milk is much cheaper than regular milk; easy to keep and with a dash of vanilla, your family won’t know the difference.
When you look at a job you must do, you want to make it manageable, not overwhelming. If you open your mail near the recycling container, you can eliminate some paper clutter by preventing it from entering the house. Open the circulars (or don’t even open them. We are really tight for money right now, so I don’t open the circulars from K-Mart or other stores, because often I’ll want to run out and purchase stuff. Little things like this can make the jobs much easier on weekends.
I went to the dollar store and bought my kids their own small broom, foxtail and dustpan. They picked out their own and are responsible for it. Now, each morning, they know they are each responsible for sweeping up small messes. Beaker sweeps the dust bunnies that collect behind the bedroom door and Yums sweeps along the edge of the banister. When they finish those chores, they are allowed to throw a cup of birdseed out for the birds or put dry cat food out for the stray cat I feed, outside.
Most of all, when you have little ones helping, even if they make their bed sloppy, don’t go behind them and re-do it. By praising them, they will want to help more. How would you feel if you helped a co-worker file a bunch of papers and they pulled out all of the papers you did and re-filed them? Or if you helped them by putting a stack of invoices in order and they sighed loudly and said to another person, “Well, I guess I have to put this in order MYSELF?” Would you want to help that person again? But if you praise your child or spouse, “Awesome! I was getting ready to do that and you already finished it for me! You did it better than I could!” the child will be happy to help you with something else. Your partner or spouse will say, “Well, it wasn’t really hard and it didn’t take me long to do.” Organizing your house will show you where repairs need to be made on your house as well as help you repair any tiny fissures in your relationships by encouraging others.
Have you made someone smile today? Given a person a compliment? Told another driver to go, despite it being your turn, at the stop sign? Did you tell the barista at the coffee shop that she did your coffee, perfect? Did you greet a co-worker in the parking lot and hold the door open for them as you both walked in? Wave a dog-walker across the street he was attempting to cross? How about wave to a bunch of little kids looking out the back window of their schoolbus? What did you do, to make someone feel good about themselves today? Until next time, remember we are all living on this planet for a reason, whether we are tall or small. Peace!