Cleaning House: An Overview

1. Declutter
Whenever the mood hits, I do a room by room declutter. (I have also done my 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge during Lent when I've had the time.)  I have a trash bag for junk, and a garbage bag for Goodwill.  For closets, I usually have the kids help me determine what no longer fits, or what they might never wear.

The reason I do this:

I find the kids and I don't miss all that stuff that accumulates. (And if I think they might miss something,  I put a "KEEP FOR AWHILE" garbage bag in my attic/basement (hidden) and see if a whole 6 months go by without them asking for it.)  Birthday parties and Christmas and hand-me-downs too...every mom knows how that adds up.  If I can pair these things down to what we really use it is so much easier to keep things orderly in our home.  The kids can put away their toys easier, they play with the things they really love more, and their rooms and our living areas can be kept neat and clean without so many things.

I do the same for myself in all the areas of the house-weed out what we don't use/love/need.

If I don't love it and use it, and it's just taking up space, I get rid of it.

For example, in the kitchen most especially...every small gadget I don't use, bowl, tupperware, etc...how many spatulas does anyone need?  I try not to use the "I might use it one day" excuse...if I don't use it, I get rid of it.

Once I really cleaned the clutter out the first time, I was so much more careful about what I brought into our house. Having less, and having our possessions organized makes me much more conscious of buying habits.  It not only saves me time cleaning, but it saves me money as well.

2. Toys
The older kids keep all their special 'no share' toys/games etc in their rooms in designated spots. I have a toy cupboard (linen closet) upstairs for all the games, stuffed animals, and "extra" stuff. In the kids rooms, they each have a little trunk where they keep their little gadgets and gizmos that are important to them. I have a cabinet in my living room with a few toys and baskets for blocks, Legos, etc for Andrew and the baby. I don't keep toys any place else, because that's just more cleaning up. So I guess "there is a place for everything, everything in it's place."

3. Catch-All
I have a dresser with baskets in my kitchen, labeled with each child's name, for all the childs's stuff I find lying around that has to go up to their rooms. Papers, drawings, sticks, stones...you name it...if they leave it lying around, I throw it in their baskets and they know if they left it somewhere around the house that's where it will be. I've seen people do this with those baskets that fit on the stairs too, or in their cubbies in a mudroom. That way I don't have to be running up and down stairs to "straighten".

4. Maintain
With that said, I do constantly pick up, put away, etc....I don't realize how much I do, until I get sick or pregnant or both, because then, in a day or two there are little things everywhere.

5. Fast and Efficient Routine
If I need to do a BIG straighten, I always start in our bedroom, because it's just a habit, and it's the farthest corner of the house. As I go I throw everything that's not supposed to be there into the next room and so forth and so forth, working my way through the house. I try to go fast and not get distracted. The key is to not get side tracked and not to leave the room you are supposed to be straightening until it's finished.

Cleaning is really about how you set up your house:
1. In every bathroom I have windex, paper towels and a toilet brush. I love clorox wipes also. That's all I really need. Maybe some powder cleanser for the bathtub once in a while with a green scrubbie pad. I keep all that in each bathroom in a little basket under the sink. That way the kids can get to it easy for chores and so can I.

2. Whenever I get a chance, and I see something needs it, I can just whip out my supplies and it takes minutes.  (I usually use a few clorox wipes every day in each bath to keep the sinks, toilet and floor clean.)

3. A good vacuum is the best. I use a Dyson now but there are other good brands also.  That thing saves me so much time. Vacuuming makes everything look and feel cleaner, if that's all you get a chance to do. It's really easy to use the attachments too, so I put on the brush attachment and use that for the molding and corners, and even furniture. I use it in the bathrooms and kitchen too...easier than a broom and dustpan.

4. On and off through the years I've hung a piece of paper on the fridge with jobs assigned to each child on a Saturday.  This has helped when I feel like I can't get caught up.

5. Every night, before I go to bed, I usually straighten up the downstairs quickly.

I put a photo on my blog a long time ago of my laundry room and how I have it set up. This saves me TONS of time. I do a little laundry almost every single day. That way I'm never spending hours on it. I bought a big basket for Jeff and I and little ones for each kid, labeled with their names. I fold the clothes right out of the dryer and throw them in each basket depending on whose is whose. Every Friday or Saturday I will make the kids go down and get their baskets and hang up and put away all their clothes.

Simplicity is the key and once you have it set up, you will find it makes your life so much easier.

And with all that said, my house is not always perfectly cleaned and straightened but this system seems to make my life easier and my house cleaner.


Need gift ideas?
Here's a list of our favorite, most-played with, carefully selected, delivered-to-your-doorstep, Mom-approved toys.

And here are our favorite games.
Here are some great teen gift ideas.
By age and interest here.


Most Valuable Collection in Our House

Who'd have thought an entire post about Lego's would be blog-worthy?
One of my most favorite bloggers ever, Rachel from Testosterhome (5 boys!), asked about Lego storage, and I had this post in the unpublished archives...thought I'd bring out for all to see what my daily challenges consist of.
Matt's been Lego-gifted since he was a toddler. He can put together a box faster than anyone. Loves them.
Anyways, his collection has taken over his room and after buying hundreds of dollars worth of shelves, I decided to go a different route. I bought this table last year at Kmart and I painted it and covered it with green flannel. I added another tier (made from plywood and 2x4's) just last week, and for around 20 buckaroos, (to add another book case it would have been $340), he had tons of room to set up his train track and Lego City gear. It's definitely not the "look" of cutting edge decorating, but hey, it works for him. And matches enough for me.
It's also pretty darn functional.
This way we can also keep these:

AWAY! (at least for awhile?)
And here are the containers (from Target and Stacks and Stacks) that work really well: (and no, they don't stay perfectly organized, but do help to avoid the intense Stepping-On-Lego's-In-The-Night-Resulting-In-Intense-Foot-Pain Epidemic.)


5 Minutes in the Life of An Escaped Baby Convict

Watch me squeeze my huge head through a 2" opening.
By smashing my face against the mesh. Only hurts for a sec.
See, not so bad! Especially when you have a Superman onesie on.
I pretty much always escape unnoticed. I attribute it to my skill, but I think it might have more to do with birth order.
Toliet...now flushed...and flushed...and flushed again.
Erector set pieces...dangerous small parts. Second only to the toliet.
Costumes. OH, look...
A Mafia-style hat. Couldn't be more perfect.
Inserting erector set pieces into sister's dollhouse.
Toilet paper.
Hunting for end-of-crime-spree-snack in garbage.
All good things must come to an end.


Cold Day, Warm Fort

Andrew and I built this fort one day. Because I'm such a good, fun mom.

Actually, it's because I wanted an excuse to lie down, with a pillow, in a dark, cozy place. And act like I wasn't sleeping. Just resting my eyes. It was heaven for a few moments.

I almost got to the point of dozing...except for that little critter above, who kept on crawling all over my face, and except for the constant wrecking and rebuilding that went on by Andrew, sending large cushions crashing into my head.


Hey, It's Like That Boy In 'A Christmas Story'


What A Sweet Heart!

After dinner one evening, I was craving something sweet in a BAD way. We had nothing I could steal and/or scrounge anywhere in the house. I was desperate!
Then Abbey walked in the door after a Youth Group meeting. She had won Bingo! I ripped them out of her hands and ahhhh! My sugar fix...
What? A New Year's Resolution I made? I have NO idea what you're talking about.


Snow Ice Cream

BIG bowl of snow (the recipe called for 8 cups, but I used twice that!)
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla
Stir together and place in paper cupcake holders.
Use sprinkles or chocolate chips to decorate the tops.
Put in popsicle sticks.
Place in freezer till sticks are stuck.


ER Visit #1, 2009, And Yes, We Are Counting!

Matthew, Bottom of Foot, Sliver from Wood Floor, Too Deep for Do-It-Yourself-Removal.
Trust me, I Tried.
Time in ER-1 hour. (New Record!)
No School Pass-1 day.
No Gym Pass-1 week.


The Sky Is Falling!


A Year In Pictures....2008 Revisited

New baby=Napping father
Up all night with baby.
Wait a second, that was me up all night!

Growing, building, melting, in no particular order.

Isaac makes his Confirmation.
Andrew makes me play outside...making a cold, puppy dog face at the back door.

Jeff gets the great idea to go to Slade, Kentucky instead of Hilton Head, SC.
It snows here.
We go, out of desperation and cabin fever.
I crawl out of that small hole, with a 4 month old baby strapped to my chest, and bats chasing me.
I tell Jeff he now owes me a second home, not just a vacation, in Hilton Head.
Matt turns 9.
And makes his First Communion.

Abbey runs track and becomes a bona fide ballerina.
Andrew perfects two wheels.
Isaac turns 14.
Isaac graduates from grade school.
Patrick grows and grows.

We leave for Hilton Head the day after school gets out.
We swim in the bath water- ocean everyday for hours and hours.
No one throws up on me there or back.
It's one of the best vacations ever.

Summer break going full swing.
Mom organizes the garage into giant mudroom.
Dad figures out how to use the drill and HELPS!
Proud of him.
Isaac gets his first paycheck.
Abbey breaks her toe.
Matt teaches Patrick to sit up.
He crawls shorty thereafter.
Grandpa hooks us up with a great front yard swing.
Jeff turns 42.
Andrew turns 5.
Jeff takes the 3 older kids white water rafting in West Virginia.
I try to not have nightmares, imagining my children standing on the edges of cliffs.
Isaac starts high school!
Matt practices soccer and fishing.
Mom and Dad travel to California for a romantic getaway.
With the baby.
Abbey turns 12.
Kids start school.
Mom cries when the bus pulls up.
Tears of sorrow...no, joy.
Surprise the kids with an amusement park one day.
Jeff and I are both amused...that we didn't hurl into garbage cans after being dragged on every roller coaster imaginable.
I go on a Snoopy rollercoaster 7 times in a row. No kidding.
Kids start cross country.
Andrew kicks butt...coming in third to last almost every time.
Amuses the crowds with smiles and high fives.
That might have been the problem.
Decide on a pirate theme for home made costumes.
Eat 73,546 calories...all in snack size candy bars.
Play outside in beautiful weather all month long.
Patrick loves his food...keeps on growing....and walking!
Raking fall leaves, and then right into snow.
Sledding at Grammy's and Grandpa's.
Isaac loves high school and surviving the work load.
I am so happy.
Isaac plays basketball. Jeff coaches.
Abbey dances her heart out in 4 numbers at her recital.
Abbey throws a Christmas party.
Patrick turns one.
Mom cries.
But has to stop crying in order to bake, wrap, shop, cook, clean, and decorate.
Christmas goes off with a bang.
Mom collapses in exhaustion.
Is carted away to a spa to recover for weeks.
Not really.
The busiest year of my life.
But the best,
so far.
Thanks to KAMI for this cute idea!


Vitamin C

Patrick with his new favorite thing...an orange he snuck out of the bottom of the fridge when someone opened it. He'll put a hole in it with his little teeth and then walk around sucking on it for hours. He leaves pieces of the peel in a trail behind him.
And has a major temper tantrum if I try to take it away.
So I don't.