Monday, April 16, 2007

The Streamlined Home

Some families have a problem with housekeeping because they cannot see any progress from one end of the day to the next. They may start out picking up and cleaning everything but by the end of the day, everything is a mess again. I tried an experiment regarding this, during the weekend. I first observed the things that I was having to pick up every day, or all day, over and over. Then I looked around to see how many magazines, books, papers, and projects were on every surface, including the kitchen cabinet tops, the tables, and other surfaces like mantels, tops of bookshelves, piano, and so forth. Then I observed the floor. It was not bare, but strewn with things that had been temporarily set down, and managed to remain there permanently.

(By the way, the small photos you see here are from the home decorating section of Butterick patterns online.)

My daughter and I decided to end her frustration with books and papers, which seemed to dominate her home, by putting them all in a book room. Every single item that was a book or a paper, including the telephone directory, was put in this special book room. When I say room, I'm not saying that a person needs to sacrifice an entire room for this, but at least have a section of a room where all the papers and books go, no matter what.

The only paper that was left out was a shopping list, a message pad for the phone, and the small church directory, where she also writes her other favorite numbers.

We decided that nothing was to be put on a surface or table unless it was beautiful and gave us peace. No clutter, therefore, would be allowed, and because putting things down, here and there, or not putting things back after using them, can be a type of addiction, we made a rule that at the end of the day every surface had to be clean.

The three rooms we streamlined were: the kitchen, the dining room, and the living room. If we could maintain these three rooms throughout the weekend, then we would move on to the bedrooms and bathrooms.

After all tables and tops of things were cleared, we arranged pots and vases of flowers and greeenery, picking our bouquets from her own yard. She had tulips, rosemary, heather, hyacinths and ferns, all which made splended bouquets. We put them in various jugs and glassware that made wonderful vases. We searched through her fabric collection and found pieces that matched the bouquets, to fold and place under them.

Another rule we made was that the floors had to be plain and uncluttered. Nothing could rest on the floors except the furniture. Children could not come in and play with a dozen tinker toys for awhile and then abandon them and let the mess lie there for days and days, only to add to it more messes in the form of leggo or bridge building. With a baby in the house, it was important that we not trip over anything, so toys and shoes all had a box they were kept in.

At the end of the weekend, we were pleased that there was no longer the problem of having the same mess twice in the day. The paper problem seemed to have been conquered. However we knew that we could never again allow even a receipt or a piece of mail to be temporarily put down on a surface if we were to ever get control of our homes. Her mother in law provided her with a wall shelf that held keys, mail, wallets, cellphones, lists, etc. and this was most helpful.

I phoned my daughter a few days later and pretended to be the house inspector. I asked her three questions:

1. Are your floors bare? (no clutter, no toys, no shoes, no papers)

2. Are your surfaces bare except for the vases we placed there?

3. Are you maintaining those three rooms we cleaned?

I found that not only had she EASILY maintained those three rooms, but that the success she was having, gave her the energy and enthusiasm to tackle the other rooms, and enjoy doing it as well.

When you have been sitting somewhere, make sure when you leave that area that you pick up after yourself. Don't leave a magazine or book or a blanket and a pillow and your shoes and socks, a potato chip bag and a can of pop lying there. Remove the evidence!

Two other important things had to be established: The laundry had to be caught up, and we had to see the floor of the laundry room, and the dishes had to be done.

If, after cleaning the kitchen, someone wanted to use a cup and get a drink, and then set it aside to drink from again during the day, I suggested that if the sink were clean, she put the cup inside the bare sink. That way, it does not become clutter and will be out of sight. When you have a family of 6, that type of thing can become an eyesore.

During the day, even while relaxing, she could sweep her eyes around those three rooms every now and then and look for "culprits" or things out of line. You almost have to be a fanatic, at first, when you begin to have new habits. Later, though, you will be on automatic pilot.

You won't even be aware that you are maintaining your home, if you develop these habits. You don't need to constantly remind everyone that you are working, and gasp in exhaustion when you do. You just develop these automatic habits, and the family will follow. The young ones will have to be told what you are doing, so they can follow along, but you will eliminate the need to lecture in frustration, over a messy house, if you will make these habits part of you.

Now let me tell you why I don't think you need pens and papers and such in every room and all over the place. You don't need all your books out. You don't need your peanut butter and bread out. You don't need any thing to be convenient because this will only encourage sloth. Human beings are supposed to be different than animals at a trough. Trough living means that everything is just poured out there and no one has to open a door and bring out a cup, or get out ingredients to make sandwiches and then put them back. It is like grazing, when we leave everything to be convenient. Civilized living is not built on convenience but inconvience, in a lot of cases. We might think it is okay to have post it notes all over the place but it would be better to have one spot to go and look for our information. So, while I was negotiating some neat-nik changes in my daughter's house, we were also trying to train ourselves to get things out and put things back, which greatly distinguishes us from creatures of lower living .

Finally, to give you a real lift, here is a charming thing to make with almost no money. Since I've seen this, I've changed my basket-giving techniques to almost all home made.


Anonymous said...

I liked this post a lot and got some new ideas about my paper problems. My mom came to stay with us for a week after I had my fifth child last month, and she also helped me get some messy areas under control (mainly the childrens' bedrooms and their bathroom.) She also checks in with me to see how we are maintaining those areas, and I even email her pictures of our gleaming tubs and neat closets. Thank Heavens for mothers!!!!! :-)

LadyLydia said...

Kitty: It was amazing how the simple act of removing and relegating papers and books, pencils, pens, and any office things, to one room, created the atmosphere for neatness. It freed her completely of the messes she had been fighting for years. I don't mind dirty dishes in the kitchen, because that is to be expected. I don't even mind them all over the surfaces there. They are one subject that can be dealt with and cleaned up. Papers and books and toys are a real problem if we don't make some rules about it. I love your idea of sending pictures to your mom of gleaming tubs and neat closets.It is inspiring to the mothers' also, because it gives us energy back.

Sunny said...

Very practical post. I think I will try to implement some of those suggestions.

I would like to offer a website suggestion. Your music choices are nice, but they make your website load a lot slower, and there is no way to turn them off when I am listening to other music already. It's a big turnoff. I would like to see a way to hit pause/stop at least.

LadyLydia said...

we have noticed that and have been trying to remove this feature.

amy said...

I can really relate to this. Our kitchen counter and my husband's place at the table is the catch-all areas. When I go through and remove everything, but candles, our books we read at meal times and the napkins I feel so much better.

Also, I love the link for the May Day baskets. It has given me enough time to prepare a special treat for our near neighbors this year.

Thank you.

Candy said...

What a great post!!

BessieJoy said...

I love this post! It really inspired me to get in and clean my house. We live in a small home with four children. Clutter is a constant battle but this article helped me to have the will to tackle it once again! I have a mom like you who is an encouragement to me as I see you are to your daughter. We are blessed! Thank you for your unashamed esteem for the ministry of homemaking!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post!! Thanks so much for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Great post!!! A book that really helped me a lot was "Sink Reflections" by Marla Cilly, also known as the Flylady. I have three children -- four, three and one - and I am pregnant due in Nov. 07. What a lifesaver that book was! I have to admit, I still haven't been that great at it, but I have been spending a lot of time with my head hanging over the sink, too. :-) Oh, what fun....but anyway, they have a great system of assiging for each day of the week, and each week also having its own "zone" for cleaning and getting it done efficiently.


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