Mostly Mess Free House Picking Up Method

I’m dying to share my new Mostly Mess Free House Picking Up Method.  (That will never make a book title).

As you might (or might not) remember, I made a late and rather vague New Year’s Resolution to be more methodical.  Immediately I stumbled onto a brilliant idea.  But I wanted to wait until it proved itself to be a brilliant method before yelping enthusiastically about it on the internets.

It’s almost four months later.  It’s a habit.  It’s still brilliant.  It’s time for some enthusiastic yelping.

Messes Drive Me Nuts

I am a person who always prefers clutter-free to clean.  I will spend my time picking up and putting away before scrubbing or vacuuming.  Always.  Having things neat and orderly in the house makes me feel that I am neat and orderly.  And as odd as that sounds when admitted out loud, it’s true, and I suspect it’s fairly common.

<Enter children>

Okay, so that isn’t exactly representative…I was not necessarily (or not at all) a neat freak in my childhood or college years.  Ask my mom.  Ask my college roommate.  Ask my husband.

Children did not come into my neat and orderly life and mess it up.  Rather (and ironically) having children has changed me into a more neat and orderly person…having children who then make messes.  Large messes.

I think it’s good for spiritual growth.

But on to The Method.

First step to less mess :: LESS STUFF

Declutter!  Decluttering is all the rage in the mommy blog world right now, so I’m sure you can find plenty of inspiration out there, if needed.

But there are things that are very important to us, emotionally and developmentally, and should not be decluttered to the point of elimination.  Dolls, stuffed animals, “doodads”, legos and blocks, dress up stuff, play kitchen stuff, BOOKS!, etc.

Eventually, all that important stuff got organized into baskets and tucked into one room in the house.  A “stuff room”.  Books, crafts, toys.  All those things that are not daily use items are here. And this worked great…until a small someone would get in for 10 minutes of unsupervised havoc-wreaking.  When it’s all in one place, the potential for havoc is immense.

Second step to less mess :: LOCK IT UP

Can anybody say “bungee cords”?

We spent several hours at the beginning of the year attaching child safety locks to cupboards and drawers (all the while wondering why we didn’t do this three years ago when we moved in).  And, lacking an lock on the door to the “stuff room” (known here at home as “the front room) and the loft with my sewing stuff and play kitchen, I bungeed the door/gate.

And it’s been brilliant. These two steps have literally reduced our daily mess by about half. 

It seems so severe to say that we lock up their toys.  Like I’m Miss Minchin from The Little Princess, with my keys and pursy mouth.  Haha.  But it’s not like that at all, I assure you.  It is a life of grace and joy.

I do look forward to a time when things can sit calmly on open shelves in between uses, but that time has not yet arrived for our family.  And being that August will bring another pair of adventurous hands, it probably won’t happen for another three or four years.

The girls are able to get into most of the things I’ve ‘locked up’, but the fact that they have to circumnavigate the locking system makes them think twice before trying.   It becomes somewhat of a domestic crime (breaking and entering!) to get into locked places without permission.  

Third step to less mess :: ONLY GET OUT A FEW TOYS AT A TIME

Every day, the kids choose what they want to play with, and we retrieve it from the front room.  If, at any (convenient) time they decide they want to play with something else, then we pack up the current toys, return them to their place, and get new toys.

There is always a basket of books in the living room…the books get rotated as desired.

Nobody is deprived here.

Of course, I’ve had to make an internal commitment to bypass the way of ease…”sure, go get it yourself”…and make the effort to go (cheerfully) unlock the room and supervise the toy switcharoo.  And sometimes it’s a pain.  That bungee makes me tired sometimes.  But it’s so worth it.

The living room still does not look clean most of the time, but it’s a play room.  And it’s always five minutes away from being picked up.  Five minutes of the kids picking it up.  Two minutes if a parent helps.  There is rarely more than about 15 things on the floor.  I can handle that.  I feel no anxiety about messes of this proportion.

Fourth step to less mess :: A BASKET PER ROOM

In the past, I have routinely spent two or three hours on a Sunday, puttering around the house putting away all those little itty bitty things that walk from here to there.  Hair ties, toothbrushes, a doll bootie, a spoon, a lonely lego, etc., etc., etc.   The resident little people are like messy kleptomaniacs…always picking up stuff they have no use for and depositing it somewhere where it does not belong.  I do not find stuff-returning to be an enjoyable or profitable investment of three hours on a weekend.

But during the week, it’s such a pain to pick something up and then go put it where it belongs. You can make a hundred trips to three bedrooms over the course of a day.

Now, we don’t use our dining table regularly (whoever thought carpet in a dining room was a good idea obviously did not have children).  And it sits right in the middle of everything…right in the path between the two hubs of the home, the living room and the kitchen.

So here is the kicker, the cherry on top of the proverbial frosting ::

I put four baskets on the table :: one for our bedroom, the kids’ bedroom, the front room, and the loft.

During the course of the day, if I find something that isn’t where it belongs, I drop it in the appropriate basket.  The baskets get full every day or day-and-a-half, and it takes me 15, maybe 20 minutes to put it all away.  Making only four trips.  Not fifty seven.

It works like a charm.

I have not been overwhelmed by MESS in our home for over three months.  Which says something, I think.

And I have been so faithful, and it has become such an ingrained habit, that I am going to celebrate by not only writing this post, but also by investing in matching baskets for the table.  IKEA, anyone?


Let me know if you try the soon-to-be-famous, cumbersomely named, Mostly Mess Free House Picking Up Method.

Granted, the few people I’ve raved to about it have been less than enthused (perhaps because they do not exist in this interesting time of life called “many small children”).

But, as they say, “Hooked on Phonics worked for me!”


4 thoughts on “Mostly Mess Free House Picking Up Method

  1. LOVE this. I’ve been doing similar things…but still do a lot of moving things from where they got carried off to to where they belong. Hairbrush. Toothbrush. Random cords.

    Very good description of it all — I’m so glad it’s working for you!!! What a difference it makes!!

  2. Leilani,

    You could definitely make ‘your second million’ with your book. However: It definitely must have another chapter – if not a sequel – for organizing octogenarians who from birth (at least from marriage) have been pack-rats. Fortunately two moves to and from India, as well as a major move from Guam to Sri-Lanka and back to CA necessitated returning ‘home’ with essentially just flight baggage.

    Anyone who wants decorative brass stools, candle sticks, wall hangings, lamps, etc., an ebony elephant bridge, numerous brass or carved wood knick-knacks, doo-dads, whatcha-ma-call-its, etc. from India, Sri Lanka, and China let me know. I have lots and lots (boxes full) of the ‘etc.’. Dolls? – Brace yourself! You will soon be ‘gifted’. Books – walls of book cases – even in the front bathroom.

    The last 25 years in one house have been disastrous! ALL of Bob’s hopelessly outdated audio-visual equipment. (even several computers) Unknown thousands of 35mm slides that go back to China in WWII. (Recently Gpa cleaned out a part of his office by putting stacks of slides in boxed carousel trays in ‘my’ front bedroom closet.) There are boxes of VHS tapes of Hope Channel programs that have been shared on a regular basis with the shut-ins Gpa visits. I think the last VHS player recently expired. NOW – what to do with all those tapes?

    Lest you think Gpa is alone in this addiction, I have several drawers full as well as several file boxes full of fabric. – some pieces we bought in CA to make something for baby Leilani! Should I live long enough this will be sewn into quilts for the homeless. Presently my serger is critical if not expired – even Liana can’t fix it.. Of course Patti’s serger sits primly beside mine and I have her permission to use it. (A poor excuse is better than none) Yarn. I’ll never have either enough or get all those projects done.

    Can’t bear to just throw it into the landfill – You are still Guamanian enough to understand that what was once the Ordot ‘landfill’ is now referred to as “Mt. Ordot”. Deep breath. Mt. LamLam is still the highest mountain on the island.

    Definitely, it will have to be a sequel.

    Much love, Gma

  3. Pingback: Front Room Reveal! (Because that sounds like I’m a blog groupie) « spinning in my teacup

  4. Pingback: Keeping Things Tidy | spinning in my teacup

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