Thursday, January 29, 2009

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, 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, 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.


  1. Great tips Sarah! I do alot of what you mentioned - I make my kids do their Saturday chores, keep the supplies in each bathroom and I have one of those stair basket things. I need to get better at getting rid of stuff. It just accumulates so fast!

    Great post!


    PS - I hope you're keeping warm!

  2. I love this post. Sometimes I just feel completely overwhelmed by all the stuff lying around (hardly any of it's mine BTW).
    Thanks for the tips, I'll definitely implement some.

  3. I was just feeling completely sick looking around my house at all the stuff that needs to go. Thank you for a wonderful post. I plan on using some of your great ideas right now.


  4. I have been checking out your blog for a little while now. First time posting. It is great! These are some wonderful ideas. Thanks for the tips.

  5. these are great tips. i will be implementing a few of them pronto.
    i hate having too much stuff at my house, too. thanks!

  6. Hi Sarah, when we were at mom's
    talking about getting rid of everything and cleaning out my attic. I never thought about cleaning out my kitchen. That sounds great & I know Katelyn will be in for that one. I have so much junk in my kitchen that we don't even use now I'm excited to start. The garbage men are going to love me again.

  7. I love that idea about having a basket for each kid to take upstairs. I will have to try that. This was a great post, thanks.

  8. Great ideas!

    I strive for that line between showroom perfect and organized. I don't want my family to feel that they can't have their things out, but I think they all agree that it's more fun to play in a straightened up room than in a pigsty. My oldest thanks me every time I help him really straighten up and organize his room.

  9. We think alike! I am the same way about how I keep my house clean. My friends always ask, how it is always so clean or picked up. It is a daily task that I have to do. It might not always be the cleanest, but I know the toys are always picked up, laundry is done and put away and the kitchen is free of dirty dishes.
    I love having a clean house.
    Thanks for sharing your ideas and tips.

    Melissa Gruber

  10. Hi Sarah,
    GREAT TIPS!!! I already do several of the ones you mentioned and it really does make our homes so much easier to live in. I really liked your laundry room idea. I am going to go and buy some baskets today!!

  11. Sarah...that was great! Great ideas and I follow a lot of them too and get comments all the time about not having a house of masking...seriously! I just can't stand STUFF...especially in our smaller house.

    But I have been thinking about blogging about laundry...because it is the thing I hate most...but really have a handle on. I do the same thing you do. ONE LOAD PER DAY! whether it needs to be done or not. it keeps it completely manageable and not a burden.

    Nice job!

    AND don't you ever stop bloggin. You would rip the book right out of my hands!

  12. Thanks so much for posting this. I think some of us are naturally good at this stuff, and some of us (like me!) aren't.

    I think it's great when those who have it together share their system. It helps.

    And my mom used to do the timer/Queen of England thing, too, when we were kids! The Queen will never know what an impact she has had on the American homemaker! lol

  13. I really need a better laundry system. I like that each person has their own laundry basket.

  14. You and I sound a lot a like. We do the garbage bag round up regularly, and I seldom buy clothes or toys (they get only educational/multi-purpose stuff from me on their b-days and Christmas, but family gives junk). And, I already do the Windex in every bathroom trick. Guests think I am strange, but with four kids, it really helps.

    I have a basket for every kid in the laundry room, but I never thought about having a basket for every kid's misc. cr*p laying around the house. I am going to buy baskets this weekend.


  15. I really like your tips, thanks for sharing!

  16. Great tips. I need to implement some of them, seriously.

  17. Ah! You are a girl like me! (We have four of those little monkeys..) The only 'problem' overhere is my dh..he is like a hamster. He always wants to 'keep' things 'in case of..'. I can handle the kids' stuff and my own, the bathroom and the kitchen, the living and so on, but the garage and the attic are terrible full. Clean and orginised but so full! How on earth can I make my love to trow it out on the garbage?! Sometimes I do trow away things sneeky, but he is so sad if he discovers, or (even worse) runs trough the whole attic for days to find his lost treasures... I just never go to the attic, that is the only solution.
    My mom also used the garbage bag methode. She always went trough our bedrooms after the schoolholydays and I never knew until she told me! Great system!!

  18. Ha HA, I've been asked to organize people houses too but like you, I would throw so much away/donate...I'd probably leave emotional scars behind that they would need therapy.

  19. I've never seen your blog before but this house cleaning blog post rocks! You go girl!

  20. Thanks for so many great ideas. I'm making a list of things I need to get/find now to make this work for our home.

  21. My friend just showed me another post on your blog recently, and now I have added you to my feed! I love all of your wisdom and style!! Love IT! Anyway, I am really struggling with feeling overwhelmed with my house and it is just a bitty thing. I am going to do the "Black Bag Cleanout" this week!

    I have a couple of questions for you:
    1. What do you do with all of the papers and mail that come into your home?
    2. Do you ever save your things for garage sales/ebay etc... Or do you always donate? Just curious on that one.

    Thanks for sharing!

  22. I love this cleaning post! I have been unmotivated all week and this has cured me. I'm now looking forward for tomorrow! i even have a notebook! Yipee!!! One thing we do that saves me is "massive clean" Sunday night I clean the kitchen and the rest of the family goes through each room in the house and cleans up all the clutter that has accumulated over the weekend ( I'm not the one who made the mess). Monday morning comes and I am left with a semi-clean house that I just need to vacuum and mop instead of being a slave! It's great.

  23. You are an inspration to all moms ( me in particular) that feels hopeless in the cleaning department. I only have three children and here you are with six and a firm grip on my household! I found your blog 6 months ago. Since then, I have managed to take back control of my household. Its a long way from being easy but it is well managed. Thank you for the extra motivation!

  24. Ah, I wish you lived close by and could guide me for a while. I'm so hopeless at housework and organization. Which is pretty scary considering I have six kids. The messes they can make . . . .

  25. Great Sarah! My Dyson IS the best thing ever bought!

  26. This is just FABULOUS! We live on an Air Force base in Japan and I have three kids with a SMALL house. I am constantly having to do the black garbage bag thing! I love your little cleaning station for the bathrooms. I am always going up and down the stairs to grab what I need. Going to go and read the rest of your blog now!!!

  27. What are the Saturday jobs for your kids? I've been trying to get some sort of chore system set up with my kids (6 and 4), but nothing seems to stick!

  28. GREAT Tips!!! I'm stealing all of it!!!!

  29. Greetings from Norway! I'm a mom of five kids and my cleaning/organizing system is just the same... down to the bakets in the laundry room :)

  30. Great post. I love the simple idea of putting cleaner and a brush in each bathroom. By not having that in there, I easily procrastinate bathroom cleaning.. yikes!

  31. Oh my. I found this post right on schedule. I was cleaning the boys room for the umpteenth time today. I have just been so stressed trying to keep things just so. We will definitely be going to a very small amount of toys and clothes, as well as mommy's things.

  32. I think we were separated at birth! We do things exactly the same, my friends think I must be crazy clean freak that spends tons of time cleaning, they don't believe me when I tell them it's all in how you maintain things and the system you set up :-)

  33. Great Cleaning idea! Saving for future reference! What a great idea! Pinning for future reference!

  34. I love your ideas! I feel like I could actually incorporate some of this in our house, unlike other blogs where I just feel overwhelmed and inadequate. I'm starting with cleaning supplies in all the bathrooms and small laundry baskets for the kids!

  35. Hi, Sarah!

    I am so inspired by your blog. You have encouraged me so much over the years. I have 9 children and am constantly re-evaluating our "systems", etc. I've been inspired often by your simple-r :) ways. They are right up my alley. I'm still a pen and paper gal, too. Anyway, I thought (am almost sure) that I've read on here before your review of your Dyson vacuum. I've searched today and can't find anything, but a few mentions of it. I am in need of a new one and would love to know which one you have and if you still love it after having it for a while.
    Thank you so much for your time.


    Oh, and your sweet little girl is adorable...all your children are!

  36. Lovely ideas & tips! I like the way to organize a house....thanks for sharing! Cleaning Service

  37. Love your tips. Count with a new follower.

  38. Whenever I need some motivation to "purge" my house, I come over here and read this. Then, I go like a bat-outa-hell and get rid of stuff. Embarrassing how many times I've been here, but it works! Thank you, Sarah:)

  39. Great post! I'm especially intrigued by the idea of primarily using Windex for the bathrooms. Do you know if it can be used as a disinfectant?

  40. I found you on Pinterest, I'm hooked!

  41. Thanks for all the great tips! I find myself overwhelmed by all of our clutter and could definitely benefit from all of these! Thanks again!

  42. This is awesome! I do most of this already but it's so encouraging to know I'm not the only one. My husband always rolls his eyes when I clean messes right away, but it works so well; if I wait til "later," later will have its own messes to clean up too. We have several pets, including a parrot, and they make a crazy mess, but when the house is simple and the cleaning supplies are always available, it's quick to deal with it all. I'm glad I'm not the only one who tortures her family (unless I can do it so no one notices!) by throwing stuff away every couple months :) Thanks for the encouragement! And your kitchen looks lovely.