Growing up, I was very messy.
My room was always a nightmare. Barbie dolls were numerous and spread out all over, clothes were piled on top of my bed. And I fancied myself an artist, so the entire room was filled with modeling clay, markers, paints, and paper.
Disaster that it was, I loved spending time in my tiny space with bright pink shag carpet and orange “flower power” wallpaper left over from decades before.
But the mess was a constant source of contention with my parents. And things were always getting lost in the black hole that was my room. Dishes, silverware, cosmetics, homework: anything that dared pass through the door was destined to be lost.
After moving out at age 18, my mess followed me.
While I was somewhat better when I had a roommate, I still could never find anything. I then married a tidy person when I was fairly young who couldn’t stand my messy tendencies. But despite his tidiness he was always losing things. We were a pretty bad combination.
Finally, in our mid-30’s with a child, we have our act together most of the time. Even with three pets and a three-year-old, the house is almost always picked up and we rarely lose important things anymore.
Here are some things that I found helpful in my journey from messy to tidy.
1. Find a designated place for important things and keep them there.
For example, if you lose your wallet or keys all the time, find a place to always put those things until it becomes a habit.
Also, designate areas with other “alike things,” in a place that makes sense. For example, we keep our over-the-counter medications in the closet by the bathroom, but our vitamins in the kitchen. Also, for a scraped knee, we always went to the kitchen sink. So I moved all first aid supplies into a kitchen cabinet.
2. Put toys away when they are not in use.
When your kid is done playing with one thing, try to get them to pick it up before moving on to the next thing (I know what you are thinking, I said try). By keeping the toys manageable, you avoid an hour-long toy cleaning fiasco at the end of the day.
3. Find a problem area and use an organizational tool to help.
We had a really hard time organizing our mail. It always ended up in the kitchen and inevitably found its way into the junk drawer. This led to overdue bills and inability to find important papers.
So, I bought a organizing folder system online and hung it up in the kitchen. Every time I found a piece of stray paper, I pop it in there and then sort it every 1-2 weeks. This keeps all the papers in one spot and I can’t ignore it too long, or it will become overloaded and fall off the wall!
Whether it’s your junk drawer, craft supplies, or medicine cabinet, there are so may organizing tools to help tidy up!
4. Accept the level of organizing that you can maintain long-term.
If it’s not possible to maintain a completely organized house with a perfectly labeled spot for everything, then don’t aspire for that. You will only make yourself sad.
Your house is meant to be a living space. The pictures in magazines, Pinterest, and on HGTV are not realistic for everyday life. Unless it gives you joy and you know you can maintain it for the long run, don’t do it.
Closets, panties, and drawers are both your private business and your friend. They can hold a lot of random crap until you’re ready to sort it. Our house is very tidy but our closets and junk drawers are a nightmare, but there is no shame in my game. Also, if you don’t touch a closet for awhile, it probably means you don’t need whatever is in there.
5. Get a robotic vacuum (or a dog).
I received a robot vacuum as a gift for Christmas last year and it is has been so useful. We live in a four-level house with three long-haired pets. I give that bad boy a tour of all four levels on the regular. Truly the greatest invention since the automobile, in my opinion!
Even though they can make a mess themselves, I believe a dog is a must-have also. Whatever food is on the floor goes directly into the dog. It’s pretty much a win-win because the dog is nourished, and the floor is clean(ish).
6. Prioritize 2-3 tidying that are tasks important and do those things daily or weekly.
I have a “bare minimum” rule for almost everything in my life. So the bare minimum for my tidiness is keeping things off of the floor. If I am so physically tired that I can’t function, I at least make sure everything is up off the floor (mostly so the robot vacuum doesn’t get stuck).
I also hate smudges and crumbs, so wiping down the kitchen table, counters, and other flat surfaces and mirrors routinely is a priority for me.
On the flipside, I have stopped organizing socks. I don’t like it, so I don’t do it. It isn’t hurting anyone and it is really just one less thing to care about so I can free up my mind for more important things, such as frequent surface smudge removal.
For more simples organizing ideas, see 21 Little Tidying Tasks Professional Organizers Do Every Single Day.
Don’t Expect Perfection
Lastly, if you can’t do any of these things or don’t want to: don’t. It’s very likely that nobody cares what your living space looks like but you. And it isn’t worth your sanity or self-esteem to be striving for perfection in your home.
Just lower your standards. The most important things are that a house is sanitary, everyone has clean clothes, clean dishes to eat off, and can find the things you need. Everything else can simply be shoved in a closet and sprayed with a little Febreeze, it’s totally fine.