If you’re a naturally messy person, does that say anything about your faith walk?
A reader asked me this question recently:
I grew up with a mom who was an excellent homemaker. She kept the house neat and clean at all times, had dinner on the table at a decent hour, always kept up with the laundry, and still managed to homeschool 9 children. And then there’s me. I hate housekeeping, and my husband and I are very tolerant of mess. Currently there are clothes all over our bedroom floor, our bed is unmade, the laundry my husband only recently folded still needs to be put away, and the dishwasher needs to be emptied and the dirty dishes loaded. It doesn’t really bother me, except for the nagging guilt that I’m somehow a failure because I don’t keep a clean house. I work a couple hours every day, and I have a newborn, but, technically, I have enough time and energy to get housework done. I often choose not to, because I’d rather spend my baby’s naptime writing or reading, and I’d rather spend evenings with my family instead of cleaning. I’m not frittering my time away; I’m just choosing to do other things that bring more meaning to my life, and getting to the housework later….sometimes several days or weeks later. What does this say about me? Am I lazy, undisciplined person, or is it possible to just be messy and have different priorities and not have it reflect poorly on my character?
That’s a great question! I’m not a naturally clean person at all. In fact, my house is a ton cleaner since my mom moved in two years ago! She actually washes the floors (why did I always forget to wash the floors)?
And I’m someone who tended to prioritize other things with my kids as well. We always had projects on the go that were scattered around the house, and I always made a point of doing an outing with my girls everyday (even when they were babies). I never, ever stayed home just so I could clean. So I get it. I really do.
At the same time, I do think that having a super messy house can end up being far more stressful than we may realize.
We had to get super organized when my mother moved in, because all of a sudden we had two of everything, and way more stuff than my house could handle. So I had to do a huge purge. What I ended up doing was figuring out a place for everything in my house, and now I can always find anything. Even if the house isn’t super tidy (because I have knitting lying around), I know where things are. It makes a big difference in how my house “feels”.
I also believe that it’s important to teach kids how to clean. It’s hard growing up in a really messy house, and they may not get the skills that they’ll need in life.
No one has to keep a picture perfect home, but we are called to be hospitable and to let others into our lives. When your house is always messy, you will feel stressed, and you’ll tend to cocoon because others can’t see how you live. So, no, you don’t have to have a cleaning schedule and be perfectly organized, but you do need to get to the point where you can find things and no one has to fear getting a communicable disease in your bathroom!
In fact, that’s the balance I tried to find in my book To Love, Honor and Vacuum, which has the ebook version on sale for just $1.99 this week! And everything I’m about to say is in that book, too.
So here are 10 tips to help messy moms become more organized. None of this is about sticking to a schedule or learning to love cleaning or anything. They’re simple things that take almost no time but will help you feel more organized.
And no one has to do all 10, either! Remember my Top 10 Tuesday philosophy: try to identify 2-3 that may bring huge dividends to you, and do those.
1. Pick Your One Thing that Helps you Feel Like You’ve Accomplished Something
For me it’s making my bed everyday.
Rebecca (who is also a little bit messy!) says she has to have a clean bathroom and a clean coffee/tea station.
For others it’s doing the dishes every night. Choose one thing that you will make sure always, always gets done.
2. Add One Thing to Your Morning Routine
Similar to the one above, but this time you’re choosing something for a specific time of day. And your husband can pick one thing, too! Keith always empties the dishwasher in the morning. I tend to pick up everything on the floor of my bedroom. Other people swear by putting on a load of laundry (we can’t do that here in Ontario because electricity is expensive in the morning!) The point is to put something easy and quick into your morning routine.
3. Turn Cleaning into Playing with Your Kids
I always prioritized time with my kids, too. I didn’t want to do housework; I wanted to spend time with them.
The solution? Combine the two! When they were 3 and 1 I’d let them lie on the bed while I made it, throwing the sheet up in the air and covering them with it. It meant that making the bed took a good 15 minutes while they were laughing, but it got done, and the girls felt like I had spent undivided attention time with them (which also meant they were more likely to leave me alone later!)
Other things we did as they got older: We folded laundry together. When they were 2 and 3 they folded the facecloths and dishcloths into fourths while I folded everything else. Eventually they did the towels into sixths. They loved it.
When they were 3 I’d give them a spray bottle with water and a cloth, and when I cleaned the kitchen, they would “clean” the kitchen cabinets. Hey, it’s hard to clean near the floor! They’d actually help, and they loved it. When I was doing dishes, I often filled one sink with soapy water for them and had them stand on a stool and do all the plastic stuff.
4. Use a Timer
She says she’d rather spend her time doing something else, so she doesn’t have time to clean. But honestly–cleaning doesn’t take that much time. It really doesn’t. Set a timer for 10 minutes twice a day and see how much you can get done! Tidy during one of those periods, and vacuum and dust or mop in the other. You’ll find it doesn’t take nearly the time you think it does.
5. Fold Laundry While Watching TV
I always did this–I fold and iron (yes, I still iron) in front of the TV. If you watch on an iPad or laptop computer, you can also carry it around with you and use your screen time to tidy, dust, or do dishes.
6. Use All Your Phone/FaceTime time to Clean
Every morning around 9:15 I have my shower and get dressed and clean my room (and make my bed!) And 95% of that time I’m talking to one or the other daughter. If a friend phones during the day, too, I immediately stop whatever I am doing, get up, and do the dishes or do laundry or dust. Every time I’m on the phone I clean. You can get so much done!
7. Make Use of Washcloths and Facecloths!
I keep a Norwex cleaning cloth right in my shower, and whenever I have a shower I also wipe off the surfaces, scrub the floor, or clean off any dust that’s accumulated. It takes no extra time, and I’m there anyway (and I always like the excuse to stay under hot water for longer).
And every time I have a facecloth that’s wet that I need to put in the laundry, I do a quick wipe of surfaces or floors. Sure, it won’t get things perfectly clean, but it keeps the dust away while you’re waiting for your bigger clean.
8. Choose Furniture with Storage
Why do things often get untidy? Because we don’t have a place for them! When you’re buying furniture, choose ones with drawers. Our coffee table has drawers. Rebecca’s dining room table has drawers that they keep little things like quick snacks, extra cutlery, and salt shakers in. Then choose what particularly you will put in each item of furniture.
9. Store Things in the Room You Will Be in When You’re Finished with It
Here’s something I learned from Marie Kondo’s The Magic of Tidying Up! When you’re deciding where to put something, stick it where you will put it away, not necessarily where you will be when you first need it. Why? Because if you need something you will walk to get it. But when you’re finished with something, your tendency is to put it down where you are.
For instance, rather than keeping all of your cleaning products under your kitchen sink, keep your toilet bowl cleaner under the bathroom sink. If you have more than one bathroom to clean, it’s okay to have to walk to get it. But then you can store it under the sink of the last bathroom you cleaned.
10. Use Fewer Dishes
You can serve things in the pot it was cooked in (as long as you have heat protectors on your table!). Kitchens are one of the places that get out of hand really quickly because dishes seem to pile up faster than you use them!
When Rebecca and Connor moved into their current apartment, they lost about half the kitchen counter space they had in their previous one. So Rebecca decided, “We’re just not going to use many dishes.” They only kept four bowls, 2 small plates, 2 dinner plates, and 2 mugs in their kitchen. Everything else was stored away for when guests came over. She started making more slow cooker meals and fewer meals that required a main, a side, AND a salad. Their dishes were cut in half and it made cleaning the kitchen go by quicker (which made it more likely to get done in a timely manner).
Pinpointing where your biggest issues are with cleaning can be helpful because it shows you where you need to downsize. Throw out the 5 million tupperware containers you use for the kids’ lunches and get each of them a lunch box with sections for different foods that they have to wash every night. Go through everyone’s clothes and only keep the necessities if laundry is an issue. If it’s craft supplies being strewn all over the house, organize them into project bags and put everything you’re not currently using away in a closet to be taken out later.
Figure out the bottleneck and then do what you can to fix it.
I understand being messy.
I understand saying, “I’d rather spend my life on other things.” But mess is stress in the long run. It actually wastes time because you can’t find things. It costs money because the kitchen can be too messy to cook. And it leads to a feeling of chaos in your home.
And clean does not have to take that much time! So just try a few of these things, and see if they make a difference.
But the real key to it all? Change the way you think about housework and your purpose! It’s so freeing. And it’s the focus of To Love, Honor and Vacuum (the book!). And it’s on for just $1.99 this week–so don’t miss it!
Find To Love, Honor and Vacuum on Amazon right here! Or look for it at your own ebook seller.
Tell me: do you have any life hacks to keep the house less messy? Let’s talk in the comments!