Home organization can be super overwhelming and stressful, especially when you live with more than just yourself. Here are my ten ways to keep a calmer, low-stress household.
First things first. I had a professor nun in college who would always start class by saying, “If you’re hungry, get yourself a snack, if you’re tired, please go rest and if you’re ready to learn, let’s get started”.
If you’ve got your basic needs met, things are easier. If you are a tired mom, carrying babes from room to room, stepping over clothes and toys, nursing and potty training at the same time? Rest assured, sister, I have been in those very same shoes.
If would had told me to go rest and take a nap in these wild and chaotic days, I would have laughed in your face. But sometimes, when I actually could rest for a second, it gave my brain a minute. I suppose in some way, if I quieted my feet, I could convince my brain to slow down too.
This was never a beautiful photograph of me and my four children laying in bed together while I nursed the baby and the eldest read stories to the younger ones. Nope, I’m talking living room full of unfolded laundry, me sharing a recliner with the baby and the next youngest, with probably some form of a little show’ that I would put on the tele for the older girls- while we ‘rested’.
Then and only then could I generate a good list in my head. Sometimes that list was accomplishable in one day and sometimes, it just became the little things I would need to do just to get to see the countertop again.
There have been different seasons of life with having four kids, running a dairy farm, and keeping our home organized. We have lived mostly out of survival for the past 10 years. Taking care of the dishes, laundry, and picking up, just to keep our home picked up and cleaned enough to get by and stay sane.
Blessed mother, you can only do so much, so please try not to compare yourself, your home, or your kids to anyone else. Mothering is hard! Keeping it all together WHILE mothering is even harder. I hope that you will find a least one takeaway to make your time in this season, easier!
This rule began to happen once we moved to the farm. Not sure why that made a difference, but we had two small girls at that time and I was doing my best to stay on top of things.
This might look like, one kid straightens or puts away the shoes. Make beds, pick up clothes on the floor, and start a load of laundry. Someone will put all the dishes from the counters and table into the dishwasher or empty the dishwasher if it’s clean. One might fold the blankets on the couch or straighten the pillows. Me? I usually am the one to flush the toilet, wipe the toothpaste out of the sink, close the closet doors, turn off the lights, and lock the doors.
It seems like when we are getting ready to go somewhere, it’s always at least a little exciting. So there might be just a slight more adrenaline or dopamine going through our brains. It’s just the right amount to motivate the kids to contribute to this fifteen-minute activity. And if everyone’s doing it, the task seems more fun and team-like.
In my head, I always pretend, someone might be coming home with us or might stop over while we’re gone and I want them to see a fair representation of how we live and care for our home.
When we come home, I’ll sometimes exclaim, “Man, it feels nice to come home to a nice tidy house, doesn’t it?” This message will be engrained in my kids’ heads, I’m almost sure of it.
Does this mean that our home has been deep cleaned, no, ma’am! BUT, it FEELS clean which inspires the deep cleaning to happen more occasionally. It FEELS good, which makes everyone feel less stressed out, more welcomed, and causes less drudgery when entering into our home from the chaos and stresses of the outside world.
Our home is our refuge, but we must treat it like the space that we do genuinely value.
The items that we choose to bring into our home have a significant role in either creating clutter or benefiting our family in some way, shape, or form. Home organization isn’t about perfection. It’s about efficiency, reducing stress, and clutter, saving time and money, and improving your overall quality of life.
You should be able to envision the item in multiple spaces in your home and multiple different ways. Items like my main baskets and a couple of old pitchers. These items look beautiful on their own if they happen to be in the thrift store dump basket but also at the farmers market to display my sheep hides, and carry my produce in. Instead of using a Christmas tree skirt, this basket is what we set our Christmas Tree in I also use that basket to carry my CornBags in. The kids will also use them to carry their laundry to their rooms as they are smaller and more manageable than my average-sized laundry baskets. I love to fill my unique water pitchers with water to compliment all of my beautiful floral bouquets at the farmers market, on our kitchen table, or just on the picnic table outside.
Resist the urge to impulse buy. Sometimes you see an item that looks cute in the store, but were you looking for it, to begin with? This can be hard if you happen to be in Target the day they are restocking the dollar sections, believe me. But ask yourself will this add value, does it have a home in your house or will it cause stress later on? I’m notorious for saying to my family, if it doesn’t have a home (a storage space) it doesn’t get to live here.
There are a few family items that we have in our home because they have stories and stories are the best! I love giving some of the items that we were gifted from family, a facelift to help them fit in a little better with our decor. When I was a kid, my grandma had this little wooden kitty on the way up to her cold attic. I repainted it and it now fits in like Flynn.
It’s even better when an item can be functional and looks cute! For example, our Vintage Inspired Forged scissors and ball of twine hang near our kitchen and get used all the time! Sometimes it’s for a flower bouquet or wrapping a quick gift before we head out the door. My RockBlocks are also something that has a dual function. I love the texture they have when all together on our counter and it’s funny how many times we will have company and they end up building a tower with the RockBlocks.
If an item doesn’t fall into any of these categories then you must undeniably LOVE it! Some objects just bring us happiness and it’s perfectly fine to have some items like that too!
Once Christmas is over and the decorations are put away it always seems like a natural time to declutter and deep clean. Springtime also brings on the urge for a fresh start! I tend to refrain from making the kids follow suit, but instead, I start cleaning and organizing our main spaces, my bedroom, and exalt with great joy how good my clutter-free spaces feel! They naturally want to feel the same and start in their rooms.
Your time is money and when you spend your days picking an item up, that item has now cost you money and honestly energy, too. We always have a donation basket in our laundry room and anything that I have to touch/ pick up more than 3-4 times, either go there or in the trash. Eliminating unnecessary things from your home allows you the kind of stress-free mind space that you deserve!
“Organization isn’t about perfection. It’s about efficiency, reducing stress and clutter, saving time and money, and improving your overall quality of life”
At the end of a big organizing day, I feel even more inspired to cook or bake. A clean space gives me energy and fills my bucket and the kitchen counter appears ready for the next floury mess! It seems like the ducks do feel like they are in a row when a nice hot loaf of sourdough, or chocolate chip cookies to celebrate survival!
Every time I go to decorate for a season or a holiday I do a quick evaluation of what I’ve got and what I don’t feel fits anymore. Those items go straight to the thrift store basket. It seems every year I end up putting up less and less decor. A few years ago I purchased nice clear bins for all of my holiday decorations and vowed that I would use 1 bin per season (2 for Christmas time). Be sure to measure your storage space before you purchase. The first ones I bought ended up being too tall for my storage shelves.
This might seem obvious, but our kids outgrow clothes at lightning speed and there’s no need to spend time washing, folding, and putting away clothing that no longer fits or is loved. The minute someone outgrows something, it either goes to the next child in line or out the door to our nieces and nephews.
These extra clothes make great spares for Grandma and Grandpa’s house too. I just keep a basket in the kids’ rooms for clothing that they outgrow. And if you live in the northern regions as we do, don’t forget to go through that winter gear. Coats, hats, and gloves can easily find a new home at your local women’s shelter.
Another thing I like to do, especially with the little ones is to keep one pile in their closet of clothes that they will soon grow into. Just in case of an overnight growth spurt and suddenly NOTHING fits right in the morning. You laugh, but it happens!
A few years ago, I did an overhaul on our closet, removing anything I hadn’t worn last year or that didn’t make me feel amazing when I put it on and also upgrading our closet to wooden hangers. I loved creating a capsule wardrobe for myself keeping key pieces to mix and match with. Yep, it was an upgrade from our mismatched plastic hangers but it made the clothes that did get to stay in the closet, so much more deserving of space there. We generally do a once-per-year evaluation of our clothing.
With living on a farm, we have such a myriad of clothing. It seems that over the years, we have accumulated more farm working clothes than we do good clothes. But regardless we need to go through and decide what fits the best and what deserves a space in our little closet.
Do you know that water bottle that your kids caught at the parade 2 years ago and the coffee mug from the corn seed company? Move them, babies, on! Make space. You know you don’t have to fill up your cabinets to be happy. Try keeping this space open for random things you don’t want hanging out on your counter, like your toaster, that mail pile, blender, coffee maker, etc.
These things seem to accumulate and need to be gone through from time to time. Maybe you loved that saying on that barn board one time in your life, but maybe a blank wall for a while might give you new inspiration. While you’re at it, stop in your storage area and grab anything art/decor-related that no longer brings you joy and inspiration. For the art projects that the kids are too proud of to let go, I simply let them help me take a photo of it, and then recycle it. We will then add it to our family yearbook that I make at the end of each year. They get to page through all their favorite art projects they like, this way!
How many blankets do you need and when was the last time you even touched that bin of old blankets in your storage room? We donated a bunch of our old blankets and sheets to an animal shelter a couple of years ago. They love making beds for animals in need and we love knowing that someone is benefiting from our decluttering decisions. We do keep a few old sheets around for garage spray painting projects and the kids’ outdoor fort-making! However, since we got this cool inflatable tent for Christmas last year, we keep fewer sheets for this purpose.
I just recently got rid of a cupboard full of puzzles, books, and games. I told my husband I probably spent 20 hours, or more, of my life the past six years returning pieces of puzzles and games to their boxes only to find out that the pieces weren’t all there. So really no one was playing with them. If you think about that in money terms, and I pay myself only $10 an hour, those stupid things cost me $200 to own, plus the actual cost of them. Toys and items that contain lots of pieces are worth getting rid of. Trying to keep all the pieces together. Then making sure it is all picked up can be stressful for not only the adults in the household but just plain overwhelming for kids.
In our household, the children understand well, that if they pick up their toys, books, and craft supplies, they get to keep them. On the flip side, if I have to pick them up, I get to keep them. Those special toys, books, and items may be earned back. But many times, they go straight to the thrift sale basket and they don’t return.
When we first started doing this, I was nervous that the kids would be upset. Turns out they were so relieved! They had been overwhelmed by too much, too. That weekend, we did a major decluttering of toys. Remaining in the house is a bookshelf of books, a toy box that has legos, some tractors, instruments, and some Barbies. We also have a dresser of dress-up clothes, which between dressing up, the instruments, and our basement swings, are their favorite things. A few of the wooden toys that I have made for them, and a few puzzles, remain, too.
When was the last time you read those books from high school or college? Ugh, I know I had creative writing and poetry books that I thought, oh maybe someday the kids would enjoy these. Chances are, they won’t be interested and they are taking up precious real estate in your bookshelf.
My husband has a lengthy farm magazine collection. These magazines are extra large and take up more space than a normal magazine. This is one area where we struggle. He loves to be able to go through them at a leisurely pace. But the problem is- when you’re a farmer there is not a ton of leisurely time. After the magazines reach 1 year old, I toss them out and tell him that there will be more relevant agriculture news coming in the mail next month.
Last year at this time I did a major kitchen cupboard cleaning. I took everything out, and washed the cupboards out with my homemade cleaner. Then I only put back in what we use often. This meant moving my plastic containers into a much smaller cupboard as we used much less of it, now.
I love using Pyrex storage containers because they are durable glass that can be safely microwaved. I even enjoy using them as a serving dish. Our kids like using these, too. When we have leftovers, we’ll put individual servings in these bowls. The kids can simply heat up the Pyrex bowl and eat right out of it. Saving on extra dishes.
Storing containers with their lids also saves on searching through the cupboard.
Waffle makers, breakfast sandwich makers, blenders. They all sound wonderful when you receive them as a gift or find them at an after-holiday sale. But how often are you using these appliances? Do you make homemade waffles weekly? Then it might be something to keep around, as long as it has a home. We got a magic bullet as a wedding gift and used it a handful of times. It has lots of pieces and it wasn’t bringing me joy washing it and trying to store all of its parts together. I now, enjoy a space in my cupboard. It is empty. Nothing comes tumbling out when I open the door.
Outdated spices aka tasteless spices need to go. You deserve fresh spices. They generally lose taste after 6 months/ 1 year. Now would be a good time to make a list of the ones you use most and pick up some fresh ones and also remove the ones you haven’t used. I like to organize my spices so that the ones I use most often are in the front and the ones I use less, toward the back.
Aspirin, ibuprofen, and Benedryl all expire. Twice a year, I go through and organize medicines, vitamins, etc so to make sure things are too far expired. I bet you can find something in your medicine cabinet that is from 2016. I’m always shocked, but that’s why we do it as often as we do.
“Clutter smothers, Simplicity breathes”- Terry Guillemetes
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DAILY INSPIRATION ON THE GRAM @hearty.sol
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