Monday, September 26, 2011

OCD like me in 12 easy steps.

Yeah...I can't help you with this.

So, I feel kind of like an egotistical jerk (or Martha Stewart) (same difference) writing this post.

Who am I to be telling people the best way to do things? I mean, sure, I tell people how best to live their lives all the time. It's just not usually to their face.

Anyway, I've gotten enough e-mails asking me for advice on this topic over the past couple of years--at least one a week--that I guess it warrants a post.

The question: How do I keep my house clean and organized without killing someone/spending every minute of my day doing it/giving myself an aneurysm and STILL have time to go to the gym, shop, cook and waste countless hours cluttering up the internet with my pointless rambling?

The short answer is that I was blessed with a heaping helping of cleanliness OCD tendencies and control freakishness. Also, a loud yelling voice.

But for those of you not blessed with such attributes, I've made a list of some of the things that make my life easier and my house cleaner. (I know. You're bored already. Here, go look at my cat dressed like Princess Leia instead.)

1. Have a place for EVERYTHING. You can't expect things to get put away if they don't have a permanent home. If you're out of places for everything, you have too much stuff. You should get rid of some. Or apply to be on Hoarders.

2. Make sure the people in your house know where those permanent homes are. I get crazy with my label maker on a regular basis, but it really helps.

3. Make it easy to put things away. For example, I tried traditional book shelves for my kids' books when they were littler. Guess what? Kids are not very adept at standing books up to put them away. So, I now store their books in small piles instead (I have several of THESE, which are great. They hold lots of kid books at an easy to get and put away angle). And now the books always get put away. Another example--if you have a toy box, make it a small one, and only keep larger toys in it. Your kid will inevitably want the toy on the bottom, which means everything will have to be taken out to get it. The less stuff to be taken out, the less stuff to clean up.

4. Speaking of toys, I don't allow the kids to take their toys from their bedroom (or playroom when we had one). Obviously when they were very young--one, two--I kept a small basket of their toys in the living room because that's where we mostly were. But once they could play more independently, it became an iron clad rule. That way, the mess is contained to one area. If I'm tripping over Barbie or impaling my feet on Legos, I'm more likely to become mean screaming mom. By keeping them in their room only, they have more freedom to keep toys out until clean up time.

5. Also, have a designated space for toys. Once the space is filled, that's it. No more toys until they get rid of some to free up space. Kids need far less than many parents think they "deserve." I'm not saying you should give them a can and some string and tell them to make do (although that's not a horrible idea). But no child needs a room like a toy store. I limit my kids to one of THESE each. It's more than enough for lots of toys. We go through them and purge A LOT before Christmas and birthdays to make room for anything new they may get. The fewer toys kids have, the less they have to clean up. This goes for grown ups, too.

6. Get rid of broken stuff. You're never really going to fix it. It's just cluttering up the place.

7. Clean up right away. Clean up from meals immediately after they're done. Wipe up spills before they dry. Empty the dishwasher as soon as it's done so there's no reason to pile dishes in the sink. Fold laundry (and put it away!) when it's dry.

8. Make it easier to clean. I keep cleaning supplies upstairs and down. Make sure your cleaning equipment works (I put off mopping for a month because my mop didn't work quite right).

9. Set a schedule and stick to it. I do my deep cleaning on Wednesdays. If you stop by before noon on Wednesdays, you'll find me in my underwear, gloves and a toilet brush in my hand. It's scheduled, like an appointment.

10. Have hiding spots for clutter. I have clutter. I have stuff that doesn't really have a permanent home. (Don't tell!). My saving grace is that I allow a few places around the house for it to accumulate. A junk drawer in the kitchen. An empty cabinet in my bedroom. Wherever you choose, make sure it closes so you don't have to look at all that crap everyday. It'll stress you out.

11. Have an assigned daily clean up time for your kids. For us, the littler kids go to bed at 7:30, so 7 is clean up time. If they're not done by 7:30, there is no story, AND anything not cleaned up goes in a bag and goes away for a very long time. It may take having nothing in their room for a few weeks, but they WILL eventually learn if you're consistent with the consequences. And if you yell. Loudly. (Just kidding.) (Not really.)

12. Don't let your kids/spouse be pigs. Really. Sometimes you just have to be a bitch. Sometimes you have to mean business. The earlier you start, the better. And you have to be consistent. After two months of no TV or computer and keeping the bathroom door locked (they had to get the key from me), there is miraculously no urine on the back of the toilet or the floor. After a few times of scrubbing the carpet on hands and knees, they miraculously remember to take off muddy shoes. After losing $1 per item not turned right side out, I miraculously no longer have to waste time turning clothes before I wash them. Have a kid who writes on walls? Guess who gets to not touch pens/crayons/markers/colored pencils for a month?

I'm not saying any of these tips are EASY. Or PLEASANT. Cleaning isn't pleasant. If you're looking for a way to make it enjoyable, good luck. But these things make it easier for ME. Maybe some of them will make it easier for you too. Or maybe you're just happy living in a pig stye. That's O.K., too. Just don't invite me over for dinner.

*This post is NOT sponsored by Ikea. I just love them. And they're cheap. And their crap works for organization.

**While these really are things I do, please take this post with a big dose of sarcasm.

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