Updated: Apr 14, 2019
During all the years that I lived with my parents, it was my mom who kept the house organized and clean. My brother and I, when we were old enough, were responsible for our room (we shared a bedroom), but the rest was on her. The job was much bigger than what I could've ever realized as a child. Every Saturday or Sunday we all pitched in cleaning the house. It was a major clean; we had to wipe floors, vacuum, and organize. My mom had the most to do as her job also included cleaning a bathroom and kitchen as well as do laundry. Not only did she keep the house clean, but everything had an assigned place, and nothing was piled up in hidden corners or closets. As I was growing up, I never appreciated how much work that was because I had no idea how hard that is. My mom made it look so easy.
When I was twenty, I moved out from my parents' house and moved in with my boyfriend, now husband. He had a three-story townhouse with two bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms. I could not imagine managing the place. Luckily, he had a housekeeper who kept the house in order. Years passed, and I naturally felt more invested in organizing the home the way I liked it. I started to organize, buy new pieces of furniture, clear out older items, get rid of clutter, and arrange the place the way I wanted it. The task of putting the house in order came naturally to me; it did not click in my head as to why. Later, as I was thinking about my slight obsession with the clean/organized house, I realized that my mom was the one who cultivated all the good habits that I now have.
Ten years and two kids later, I am still very grateful to my mom for teaching me the importance of uncluttered house, organized closets, thoughtful shopping habits, and the value of planning. And honestly, these skills are even handier now when I have children. My mom and I never discussed her love of tidiness and organization. She never had any specific arguments as to why the organized house is the best kind of house. But I am so thankful for her instincts.
I will share a few practices that I employ around my house to this day. And this is not to say that my home is perfect all the time. No, I have my lazy days or busy work weeks. Perfection is not what I want to emphasize. Consistency and effort are the most important takeaways.
1. Furniture. I am a person who likes open space, so I keep my furniture to the very minimum. When I moved in, my then boyfriend had end tables, coffee tables, shelving units - I got rid of them all. I wanted to create a clean, bright open space that is welcoming. Now our leaving room is an ample open space that can be enjoyed by adults and children. I similarly keep our bedrooms. Master bedroom has a bed, two small nightstands, and one small chair, and two candle stands. The principle is that I try to minimize the surface space, so there is less clutter to be placed around.
The children's bedroom is smaller and harder to maintain, but there are two beds, a small sofa, and a changing table. About a year ago, I invested money into building out the closet in their room. I figured all of their little clothing items, toys, books, and shoes needed a better space than what we originally had - one bar to hang clothing and a shelf above - very useless set up when it comes to children's clothing. I love the closet and do not regret spending money on it. Now, I dream of a day I can rebuild my wardrobe.
One "problem" in my organized house is my hubby. My husband tends to leave his worn clothes on the floor. At first, I was fighting him, then I was begging him, then I was cleaning up after him, then I gave up. Kind of. The middle ground that we achieved was that his clothes have to stay hidden on the floor on his side of the bed. Thankfully his bedside is the side you cannot see when you walk as it is closer to the window and far away from the entrance door.
2. Clothes. I love to shop for new clothes, and that creates a few problems for me. Problem one, I need to continually evaluate my items: what I truly love and what can be donated. This takes time, but this is the only way. I am afraid to be the person who's closet spills out or filled to the point of uselessness. Problem two, I need always to remember to return unwanted items and go through the necessary steps to do so. This takes time and energy, but again, this is the only way. If I want to shop online, I must commit time to make returns happen.
3. Organization. A busy, cluttered house starts when items do not have designated places. So I try to make sure that each piece has a home within our home. Clothes and shoes all must have a room in a closet. Children toys all have a spot in a bin or on shelves. Kitchen counter has to be clean - clean out your cupboards and organize them, so each item has a place. If you don't have room, critically analyze each piece and think when was the last time you used it. If it was more than a year, it has to go. Go through your bathrooms and discard product samples, almost-empty shampoo, conditioner or lotion bottles, personal gift sets (creams, shower gels) that you don't like, and old makeup.
4. Shopping for new. When buying something new, I consider a few questions: (1) Where will I store this item? (2) Do I need it or do I want it (need vs. want)? (3) Is it a temporary desire? I always give myself a week or two to think about a purchase before buying. I cannot tell you how many times I decided not to buy something after allowing a week of "wait" time. And I never regret not buying something.
My mom's instincts are backed up by science nowadays. There are many books, articles, and TV shows explaining the power of clean, organized spaces. Uncluttered home makes you feel better and more in control of your life and thoughts. If you have a cluttered house, your brain is using power to process what it sees, gets frustrated, and overwhelmed. If you have an organized space, your mind is not working overtime and uses energy on more productive thoughts. If you want to read more on the benefits of the uncluttered house, read this article -- https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/why-clutter-killing-your-focus-how-fix-it-ncna775531
"Evidence suggests that when multiple visual stimuli are competing for your attention, you have a harder time narrowing your focus to only one of them. That means the clutter in your life is making you unfocused."
I hope you find a few of my practices useful or at least worth noting in the back of your mind.