Once every couple months, I do a "black garbage bag" clean-out. This is the best way to start with the "program" and just about my favorite thing on earth to do. I use black garbage bags because I don't want the kids or Jeff to see what I'm throwing away/giving to Goodwill, OR they might all of a sudden decide they just LOVE something they haven't seen for years and/or never touched before in their lives. Once I do this once or twice I start to see a difference and I love my house again. (I do sometimes ask the older kids to do this with me in their rooms...esp. with clothes or if I'm not sure if the "use" something...but this is mostly done when no one is aware.)
The reason I do this:
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING - THE LESS STUFF I HAVE THE EASIER IT IS TO KEEP MY HOUSE CLEANED AND STRAIGHTENED.
The kids don't miss it. And if I think they might, 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. I don't really buy the kids a lot, but birthday parties and Christmas and with 5 kids...you know how that adds up. So, we don't have a ton of clothes, toys, crap, because it's just too much work to keep it all organized.
If I don't LOVE it and use it, and it's just taking up space, I get rid of it.
ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING.
In the kitchen most especially...every appliance I don't use, bowl, tupperware, etc...how many spatulas does anyone need?...and I don't use the "I might use it one day" excuse...if I don't use it OFTEN, get rid of it. If I miss it terribly, and I regret getting rid of it so bad and mourn for it's loss, then I buy another one but I think that has only happened once.
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 (only a few), 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."
I have a dresser with baskets in my kitchen, labeled with each kid's name, for all the kid's crap I find lying around that has to go up to their rooms. Papers, drawings, Game Boy games, 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 if you are so lucky to have a great mudroom. That way I don't have to be running up and down to "straighten".
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 is STUFF everywhere! No one else does it but me. Or if I ask someone to.
5. Fast and Efficient
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 super fast and spazzy and act like I have a timer set and I will explode when it goes off, and/or the Queen of England just called and said she'll be stopping over in 10 minutes. Yes, that sounds really immature but I swear it works. The key is to not get side tracked and not to leave the room you are supposed to be straightening until it's done.
Cleaning is really about how you set up your house:
1. In every bathroom I have have windex, paper towels and a toilet brush. That's all you really need. Maybe some powder cleanser for the bathtub once in a while with a green scrubbie thing. 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. Keep it really simple.
2. Whenever I get a chance, and I see something needs it, I can just whip out my supplies and it takes minutes.
3. A good vacuum. I use a Dyson but there are other good brands too. I tell people it's the best thing I ever bought in my life. Which is pretty sad, but it's the truth. That thing saves me so much time. First, it sucks the living hell out of everything. 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 attachement and use that for the molding and corners, and even furniture! when I notice they need it. I use in the bathrooms and kitchen too...easier than a broom and dustpan.
4. I make my kids to Saturday jobs. I had to "teach" them how to do a lot of stuff and yes, usually the boys do it less-than-best, but at least it's help. When I don't make them do their Sat. job, I find I'm a lot more crabby during the week because I feel like I'm just a servant in my own house, and I am resentful of everyone. So EVEN if I think the house is pretty clean and the jobs aren't really necessary I still hang that list on the fridge. For God's sake, it takes them maybe 20 minutes AT THE MOST, where it would take me hours! They can work for 20 minutes! Every little bit helps.
5. Every night, before I go to bed, I usually straighten up the downstairs real quick.
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.