Tired of living in a cluttered home? Imagine having a house that is tidy, organized, and clean. Yes, it is possible! Here's a plan which you can either follow verbatim or borrow from to suit your needs:
Start with a Household Meeting
No one person should have to do all the work of home organization. The goal is to involve each member of your household in the process of home organization. Just as teamwork is required for victory in sports, it is also required to win at home organization. In order to declutter, clean, and organize your home (and keep it that way), all members of your household, including the young children, need to understand the vision, agree to it, and follow through with their assigned tasks.
Before you can get started, decide who will administrate. This person should keep lists of everything that needs to be done and check things off as they are completed. This will help keep everyone on track, encouraged, and moving steadily towards the goal.
- Choose a room to overhaul each week and put its name on a calendar on the day the project will happen. (Family members may need to forego some of their recreation time on that day, especially if their energies are required for the project.)
- Create your own master to-do list for what needs to happen in a particular room as well as a task list for each family member who will be working on that room. (You could put these on 3x5 cards, or simply print them from your computer.
- Obtain a large supply of strong plastic garbage bags. (You may also want to have a few boxes on hand to store delicate items.) These will be used during the declutter process. Use tape to label each one: "keep", "sell", or "give away".
- Pick a time to meet when everyone, or almost everyone, is home at the same time. (We found that right after dinner worked well for our family because we always had dinner together every night.)
- When discussing the family project for the week, be sure everyone understands what will happen and what their particular role is. You may want to ask younger children, "In your own words, what did you hear me say?"
- If some of your children are teenagers or young adults, you could help them "buy in" by giving them an opportunity for constructive input. You may find that they have some good ideas you had not thought of yet! Each member of the household needs to understand that they have an important role to play in bringing things back under control--and keeping it that way. Even young children can do things to help!
- If there is a member of your household that demonstrates resistance to the plan, don't rebuke them in front of the others, but have some private time with them following the meeting to help them come on board.
The home organization process
If your home is extremely messy right now, take a deep breath. . . then ask for God's help, reminding yourself that you are focusing on only one area of the house at a time. Once a particular area has been organized, then proceed to the next area. Here are the steps to take with each area:
- Declutter & Clean
The goal is to methodically bring order to the entire house, then maintain it. As you get started--declutter, clean, and arrange the most public areas of your house first, starting with the kitchen. (We'll talk about how to maintain things in a moment). Throughout this process, think like a minimalist! Avoid attaching sentimental value to objects in your house. If you don't use it, get rid of it! Sell it on an online trading post (such as Offer Up, Craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace), donate it, give it away (using neighborhood sites such as "Buy Nothing"), or throw it away. This includes toys your kids never use, old school assignments and projects.
We've broken this home organization process down for you into weeks but, since every situation is different, you may need to spend more or less than one week on a particular area of your house. Declutter a room, arrange it, then check it off. We've provided a free home organization checklist that is available to download here. Here we go!
Week 1: The Kitchen
Declutter & Clean
Storage areas: First, remove all items that you no longer want or need from every cupboard, drawer, and shelf. Give away anything of value and throw away the rest. Next, do a deep clean of each storage area that is now empty. (You may need to replace shelf paper in some cases.)
Refrigerator: Take everything out and throw away all the old food plus items no one in your household should be eating; but stay sensitive to the feelings of family members. Next, thoroughly clean and sanitize the entire refrigerator.
Kitchen: Store kitchen items by category—spices are together, utensils are together, etc. (If your storage areas are dirty, you’ll need to remove everything, thoroughly clean, then restock each area.) Every cupboard and drawer in the kitchen should be designated for particular items that you commonly use.
Refrigerator: Restock the fridge by category—vegetables are together, fruits are together, etc.
Week 2: Bathrooms
Declutter & Clean
First, remove all items from the bathtub, shower, cabinets, shelves, floor, etc. Next, sanitize every surface area with paper towels, including the toilet, tub, shower, floors, lights, windows, and storage areas. Throw away any item that no one in your household will ever use.
Now store items by type in the drawers. Use storage trays to separate items into categories within each drawer. Have a soap tray in the shower or use liquid soap. Keep in your shower or tub area only products that you use often.
Week 3: Other Common Areas(living room, dining room, playroom, etc.)
Declutter & Clean:
Living Room / Dining Room: Make a decision on every item in these rooms. If you don't like it or don't use it- bag it up to be either given away, sold, or thrown away. Don't waste your time trying to sell items that have very little value. Go through this process for every shelf, every drawer, and every knick knack. Once everything is bagged up, remove it from that space as quickly as possible and deal with those bags right away.
Playroom / Entertainment Room: Go through every book, toy, game, video game, movie CD, etc in these rooms and box up every item you know that no one uses. Give these to charity asap. (If it's a very expensive item, you might consider selling it.) In either case, get it out of the room. It does not belong! Be ruthless!
Find smart, nice-looking boxes for things that don’t fit in drawers or on shelves. Very small items can be put together by category in small boxes within drawers. As you discover precious memorabilia, decide how you would like to preserve and display each item in your home. (You may want to temporarily store these items in a box together until you find another day to create the displays.) Have a special place to store seasonal items, such as Christmas decorations. Store toys in a storage system.
Week 4-6: Closed Rooms: bedrooms, offices, hobby rooms, etc.
(Adjust the number of weeks to match your house).
Declutter & Clean
Each capable member of your household should be involved with home organization on a regular basis. Each capable member of the household should be able to declutter, clean, and arrange their own room. (Children will obviously need to be guided through this process by a competent adult.) Give them a list of specific tasks to accomplish. (The more specific the better.)Put all your clothes in one pile, then touch each item individually and decide whether you really like it or not. At the end of this process, you should have two piles, one to keep, and another to give away. Bag up the items you are giving away and take them to your favorite charity or consignment store.
Clothes: Before you get started, if possible use your most accessible closet for clothes that apply to the season you are in. In other words, during the warm months move your winter clothes to another less accessible area for storage. (We move ours to the guest room closet.) Now hang up clothes that need to be hung, and neatly fold in thirds clothes that go in drawers. Stand clothes upright in the drawer so that you can easily see every item. In the bedrooms, each drawer should contain clothing of the same type, neatly folded and always kept in the same part of the drawer. (If you are working alongside children, coach them in this way: (1) I do it and you watch, (2) You do it and I watch, (3) You do it when I am not looking, then I'll check later.
Desk: The top of your desk is not a place for piles of paper and general clutter. That’s what produces stress as soon as you are near it! Other than maybe one or two decorative items, clear your desk of everything except what is essential. Each drawer should have a purpose, and only things you use should be stored in them. Set up labeled hanging files for important papers, then put them in the drawer in alphabetical order so that you can easily find the file.
Week 7: Garage and Storage Areas
Declutter & Clean
Go through everything you are storing, one thing at a time. Decide if you really like it or not, then bag up all items that must go away. Thoroughly clean each storage area, then store remaining items by category in tubs.
First, decide how you would like to store smaller items. We recommend using plastic tubs with lids. Label your storage tubs by category so that you can easily find items you need occasionally throughout the year. You may want to apply removable labels instead of using a permanent marker, since categories can change over the years. In your tool area, be sure to store your items in such a way that you can easily find them when you need them—then be sure to put them back in that same place after each use.
Maintaining your Home
Once everything is in its proper place, do everything possible to keep it that way! This may require the development of some new habits. Everyone in your household will need to be of the same mind and work together in order to maintain the organization of your home. Even small children, if they know where their toys go, will have an easier time with clean up when they are done playing. When it comes to household chores, everyone should have the attitude of a servant, giving up their right to do as they please for the good of all.
Regardless of how many people are in your household, there will always be chores to do every week. If you live alone, then it’s easy to figure out who will be doing the household chores; but what’s the most fair and efficient way to divide the chores when there is more than one person in the household? Yes, even children need to learn from an early age that household chores are part of being a family, even if you have hired a cleaning service. Without some kind of a chore system, the result will be dirty dishes piled up on filthy counters, dirty floors, dusty shelves, gross bathrooms, bedrooms with piles of clothes everywhere, etc. etc. Here's some great advice from a Heather Sokol, a mom who, while struggling to get her kids to do chores, succeeded in creating an easy to use system. Heather’s chore system:
"Be Specific. Be very clear in your expectations. “Pick up toys” will end up with a stack of toys in a different room or on the furniture. “Put away toys in toy box” gets them exactly where they belong. Keep it Simple: Keeping each chore limited to a few simple instructions helps kids finish the job without getting overwhelmed. Color code: Use the same colored card for similar chores, areas of the home, or appropriate ages. (How you divide the chores will depend upon the setup of your home and family.) Mix It Up: Be sure to change it up regularly by mixing the chore cards or assigning different tasks to each kid. Even if you only have one child, provide 3-4 different chores and rotate regularly. Define Expectations: Decide on a consequence or reward, like no electronics or television until chores are completed each day."
Examples of chores that need to be done daily, weekly, and occasionally.
Make the bed, tidy the bedroom, spray and wipe the toilet and flat surfaces in the kitchen and bathrooms, wash & put away the dishes, clean the sink, file papers, throw away junk mail, take out the trash & replace the bag, feed pets, pick up toys, do laundry, prepare meals, put stuff away!
Weekly: (Assign a day of the week for each of these chores)
Dust, vacuum, sweep, wash mirrors, wash and vacuum the car, mow the lawn?, sanitize the refrigerator (especially right before you put in new food), laundry catch up, deep clean kitchen
Occasional: (Find a day in the month where you have a little more time, i.e. Saturday)
Clean and organize the garage or shed, wash windows, purge the house of unused/unwanted stuff, prune, weed, etc.
Home Organization Habits
Some say it takes 21 days to create a new habit; others say 66 days, then still others say - 90 days. Whatever the case, it's going to take a lot of repetition--but you can do it! In all of this – be sure to stay flexible. As you well know, it’s not always possible to keep your house constantly clean and tidy, but if you are always working together towards that goal, over time you will win—together! We recommend that you create a list for each capable member of your household. Each week they should know what tasks they are responsible for and have the satisfaction of checking a box when completed. For young children, it's easiest to just use stickers.
Select a few of these household habits, starting with the ones that are the most important at your house, then focus on doing them every day until they become new habits:
- When you first get up in the morning, make your bed and tidy the room before you leave the room for the day.
- In the bathroom, wipe down your sink and vanity after every use.
- Sanitize your bath tub and shower after each use. (That shows you care about the next person that will be using it.) Don’t wait until company is on the way to clean your toilet—and remember to close the lid. That helps keep the sewer germs where they belong!
- Each time you walk into a room, find one thing to put away.
- After you use an item, when you are finished with it, put it back where it goes!
- Wash and dry your clothes by color. Don’t allow clothes to pile up on the floor in your bedroom or other places in your house. Put them in laundry baskets, then begin a wash load asap. In fact, before you leave your bedroom for the day, be sure your bed is made and clothes are where they should be—on hangers or neatly folded in your drawers.
- When you buy something new, get rid of one or two items you already own that are similar that you don't regularly use. These, of course, applies to kid's toys. After Christmas or a birthday, make it a habit of giving away one or two toys that aren't used much to someone who would really appreciate it!
- When the mail comes in, touch it once.
Most importantly-- don't get discouraged! Many others just like you are fighting this same battle. If parts of your house start to slip, just reapply what you have learned and bring it back up to speed. Beyond that, focus on teamwork & good habits and you will win!
© 2020 by John Hart. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of John Hart. https://stewardshipandromance.com