Monday, January 18, 2010

Don’t Fold Your Underwear (and other tips for busy people)

Look, mom, I made my bed! (But only because we had our friend Christopher over for dinner yesterday!)

Part of my happiness project this year is to figure out ways to get myself in the habit of being neat. I’m naturally a messy person, so being neat and tidy doesn’t come easily to me. But I’ve realized that I feel calmer on the inside when things are orderly and tidy on the outside. So, here are some tips that have helped me so far:

1. Don’t fold your underwear – They usually get unfolded as you search for your favorite ones to wear, anyway, so just throw them in your underwear drawer unfolded and save yourself a few minutes. My husband also has a “same sock” strategy. He only buys one brand & type of white socks, so that any white sock of his will match any of his other white socks. I’m too cheap to make the switch when all my mismatched white socks still seem wearable, so I still spend a lot of time sorting socks. But I kind of envy his sock efficiency.

2. Do accidental cleanups. -- If you accidentally drip water on the floor in the bathroom and reach for a towel to clean it up, go ahead and wipe the whole bathroom floor quickly with the towel while you’re at it. Or if you spill some coffee grinds on the floor of the kitchen and reach for the broom to sweep it up, go ahead and sweep the whole kitchen. You’ll be surprised how these little cleanups can save you time and make your house look nicer bit by bit.

3. Keep a Donation Bin – In our house, we have a heavy duty “Good Will Bag” (a.k.a. a ForceFlex trash bag) hanging inside our pantry at all times. I’m amazed how fast it fills up. Of course, the 10 item a day Clutter Therapy Challenge has made it even more of a necessity! I remember in our old house, we didn’t have a designated spot for “donation items,” and we’d constantly have goodwill stuff piling up in our hallway near the kitchen. Our donation bag keeps the clutter contained until we’re ready to actually donate it.

4. Shine Your Sink – Flylady says that keeping her sink consistently clean (or doing your dishes every time they’re dirty) was the first step she took to try and change her messy tendencies into productive habits. She says keeping our house clean makes us better people, because we start being able to be hospitable at any time and have guests over with just a few minutes notice.

5. Buy Clorox Wipes. In Bulk. – Keep a container of Clorox Wipes (or any other brand multipurpose cleaning wipes) handy wherever you’ll need it, and allow yourself to do mini cleanups when you have time rather than waiting for a big chunk of time to clean. I try to keep some in the bathroom, under the kitchen sink, and in my car. That way, if I’m sitting in the bathroom waiting for my daughter to finish up her bath, I can quickly wipe the mirror and the sink without having to seek out the cleaning supplies and rags.

6. Plan Dinner – If you have a plan for dinner by lunch that day, then you’ll probably eat healthier and more balanced meals. Sometimes I get really OCD and plan my meals out for a week or 2 at a time. That’s when I really feel like a supermom. But it doesn’t happen a lot. Oh, well. Baby steps.

7. Make Your Bed – I admit it, I never ever EVER make my bed unless people are coming over to my house. But when I do, it totally does make me happy.

8. Invite People Over -- When we lived in Athens, we went through phases of having regular “Thursday Night Dinners” at our house every week. Or sometimes every two weeks. Nothing motivates me to keep my toilet clean consistently like having a deadline by which it must get done in order that guests not be horrified.

9. Pay for Cleaning Help – There have been times when I have just been too busy to even think about cleaning, much less actually find a bucket and some Pine Sol amidst the chaos that was my house. At these times, even though I have never been a wealthy girl, I have hired cleaning help. Hey, I’m cool with eating rice and beans for a week if I have to in order to save up the dough for the cleaner. To come home to a freshly dusted, swept, and mopped house after a long day at work is a serious happiness boost. 75 bucks has never been so well spent.

10. Assign Babysitters Chores – This was a hard one for me, but my friend Nikki inspired me to try it. After the kids go to sleep, or while they’re watching TV before bedtime, you really CAN ask your babysitter to fold a load of laundry or do the dishes. Nothing too difficult, because of course their main duty is to keep the children happy and safe. But most good babysitters don’t mind helping you with a few little chores. And some of them will even do chores without you asking them to! (Those are the ones you pay extra and keep a secret from all your friends so no one will steal them away!)

So there you have it. Secrets to tidiness from a professional mess-maker.

What’s your secret to keeping a tidy and orderly home? Really, I want to know!


  1. I plan dinners for a few weeks, too. I have a dry erase board on the fridge and I list the main meals for which we have all the ingredients for. Then each few days I know what might need to be thawed out. Then I erase them as we cook them so that it's easy to see what else we can make. I find it's less likely that I'll run out of things and resort to bad eating habits.

    The other thing I do is take a laundry basket and go through the house and collect things that do not belong in the room they are in. Then I go to each room and put away all the things that go in that room until the basket is empty. It's amazing how just that for 15 min can make the house look soooo much better!

    I have to admit though that I'm a neat freak. I've actually learned to be messy here in the last few years - to just let things go - it's a control thing and so I see the ability to let stuff go as progress! Sad but true.

    So I don't have the kind of accounts they list in order to post under my name instead of anomymous... can't seem to figure out how!
    Lisa Price

  2. Lisa - I totally agree that unless I plan a meal, I too easily slip into bad eating habits! And that's a great laundry basket strategy! I'm going to have to use that one!

    I'm so envious that you're a neat freak! I'm an organization freak, but I dream of one day being a neat freak, too. :)