Keeping Things Tidy

I was cleaning up yesterday and thought that maybe you would be interested in our current method of keeping things tidy.

Please note, I didn’t say clean, I said tidy.  

My big joke when I give people a tour of our new house and all the upgrades, alterations, decorations we’ve done in each room, is when we get to the guest/kids bathroom.  After pointing out the unfortunate glass window that is between the shower and toilet (so, what, someone can sit on the pot and watch someone else shower?), I love to say, “We haven’t done anything in here.  Including clean.”

It makes me laugh.  I feel witty.  I don’t think anyone else has ever laughed at the pun yet, but that doesn’t deter me.  I laugh.  Every time.

(I have cleaned the bathroom since we moved in.  Don’t worry.  In case you were worried.)

At our old house, we had the brilliant basket system in place.  But in this house, we actually get to use the dining table, so I don’t have a good place for the baskets.

Also, the layout of our little home is so perfect.  It is small enough for everything to be close by, but spacious enough to not be crowded.

Still, managing the ever-present mess is an ongoing, everlasting, important job.

For today’s purposes, I’ll divide my Keeping Things Tidy Plan into three parts: house set up, routines, and emergency methods.

House set-up

We have beds and clothes in the bedrooms.  Bedrooms are for sleeping, and dressing, and dreaming.  Also for storing the girl’s collection of china dolls out of harm’s (that would be Levi and Kiri’s) way.

Toys, books, etc., are all in the extra bedroom (known as the “front room”).  This is an important mess manager.  I have a set of baskets where toys are sorted by type: kitchen, dolls, doll clothes, balls and instruments, legos and blocks, etc.  It’s organized enough to be easy to find what you’re looking for, but not so fastidious as to make it difficult to put things away with ease.


The kids play in our main living space so they are supposed to choose their toys for the day, bring them out to the living room in the morning, and put them away in the afternoon.

This part of the plan hasn’t been terribly consistent this summer, what with my sister Liana and Kiri sharing space in the front room.  Liana moved to the dorm this morning (our first chick to leave our nest!  we’re feeling a little blue and also very excited for her), so I have some work to do to get everything set up properly.

During the day, our main living area is an active play, learning, dancing, ball playing, dreaming space.  Which is a nice way of saying that it’s messy and it’s okay.  (Up to a point.  I definitely have a Mess Threshold.)

Mid-afternoon we clean up from the day.  I used to do it at the end of the day, but everyone (including Mommy) is tired and grumpy and hungry and there can be lots of exasperation and arguments and tears.  So now we do it mid-afternoon while we’re still reasonably energetic.  The rest of the day is either spent outside or doing what we call Rotations (specific learning programs on the ipad, computer, and iPod).  I.e., no mess making.

We’ve gotten to the point where cleaning up can be a place for arguments (Mommy, she’s not helping!).  Usually it’s easier to assign geographic areas than try to decide who played with what or keep an eye on work equality.  Sometimes it’s easiest to take five minutes to sweep it all into a pile and then divide the pile up between the kids.

Emergency Method

Sometimes a typhoon comes through the house and there is a need for a Serious Clean-Up Effort.  (How can utter chaos happen so quickly?  I’ll never know.)

Here’s my emergency, call-in-the-coast-guard method of cleaning up the house.

1. We put every itty bitty thing that is out of place into a pile on the floor.  Sometimes I use the large dust mop to sweep up all things on the floor.  It works really well.  Sometimes this job in and of itself is so gigantic that we make the pile and leave the sorting until the next day.

2. Sort the pile into laundry baskets, according to room. Sometimes this job is a one-day effort.

3. Put away the things in the baskets.  This is the easiest and quickest step.


And there you have it!

*I suppose I should add one more important item, which is clutter control.  Any time we start to feel that we are consistently spending more time cleaning up than playing, I declutter the toy collection.  Toys and stuff seem to be like bacteria in a petri dish, they multiply and form colonies.


7 thoughts on “Keeping Things Tidy

  1. Aaaaah. Sounds like you don’t have problems with tape and creative electronic devices built from wires and legos and magneatos and broken radios and and and…. =) All that stuff gets dumped into a box in the garage.

    I certainly have a mess threshold too. Lower than Tim’s. 😉

  2. I need to try the pile it up routine. Maybe clean up would go more quickly. I do use the dump it all in a basket and take it from room to room. That really helps. When my mess threshold is reached I think I’m gonna scream. I don’t think my family has one.

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  4. Oh goody, Randall – sometimes when I write about this stuff I wonder if any one besides me is interested. Hopefully you’ll find some of it helpful as your own little family grows.

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