I love pictures of clean, tidy rooms with uncluttered spaces. There are no Legos hiding underneath the couch. The chairs are perfectly squared away at the table. And the table? Yup, no cut up paper, no colored pencils, no half-open scissors teetering on the edge.
These are the kind of rooms you can walk into and just feel the perfect peace in the undisturbed air.
Mmmm…I hate these pictures.
They create in me a longing that is unfair, and simply unrealistic.
They frustrate me because it feels so unattainable.
My life is overflowing with chaos. I have 4 creative, energetic and incredibly busy kids who like to drag their toys across the living room and leave little piles of activity everywhere they go. On top of this we operate a small working farm currently in the middle of harvest. There are bins filled with tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers in the kitchen, the hallways and the mudroom. There are buckets of potatoes in the dining room, apples and pears in the backroom. All waiting to be processed, canned or handed over to our CSA customers. This equation equals two incredibly tired adults struggling to do all the things and keep all the things together.
I’m painting a picture that is probably universal for many of us. But it doesn’t seem to mesh with those pictures of clean, quiet spaces, no matter how hard I try.
I’ll settle for less than perfection if I can just find a happy space just this side of chaos. So I’m trying to find that balance.
Many of you do this much better than I do. But I’m trying to gain some ground here. To be better. To get closer to that picture.
Is that okay?
Here’s what I’m doing.
I’m picking up the living room before sitting down
Our couches are like hungry monsters consuming as many coins, Matchbox cars and crayons as come within their reach. Our end tables are flat spaces capable of holding just about anything stacked to vast heights. And our living room floor often looks like the aftermath of a super hero battle.
The one room where I want to go to relax and it’s often the epicenter of a nuclear meltdown.
My kids want to hang out here because it’s the center of our house. I understand. The dogs have built their fortress here too. It’s everybody’s space. But there has to be compromise, right?
We’ve made a rule with the kids that whatever they bring downstairs, they have to take upstairs with them (revolutionary, I know). No dessert until the floor is picked up. But as hard as I try, little minds just can’t seem to always remember to put things back to where they came. So I’ve made a rule for myself. Circle the living room and pick up before I sit down.
Cups go back to the kitchen. Paper gets recycled or put back into the art center. Pillows go back onto the couch.
This is so simple it hurts. But its amazing how quickly things go back to clutter when you don’t intentionally do this every day.
I do a load of laundry daily
Lots of little people under one roof means lots of laundry. Which usually means overflowing laundry bins. And yuck…
Our laundry room doubles as a pantry, so the space gets lots of activity throughout the day. Imagine having to walk through a gaggle of towels just to get to the linguine. Not ideal.
Plus, our laundry room floor is new so I kinda like to see it every now and then.
I’ve spent many weekend days working through mountains of laundry. I have better things to do. But if I do one load of laundry a day, then I’m not spending all weekend catching up. And…wait for it…the laundry room floor stays clean.
It’s like magic. But not really.
Sometimes this means I’m folding clothes late at night, but you know what? I’m not caring much, because I get a clean laundry room. And no kids complaining about not being able to find their soccer jersey. I’ll take that as a win any day!
As a side note, when I fold clothes I immediately put them away. I’ll make piles for the kids to take to their rooms. Towels go to the bathrooms. Nothing sits piled in a laundry basket or stacked on top of the dryer. It’s stupid amazing at how this really helps.
I fight for clean counters
Did you hear me just sigh? Cuz I did.
This is a big deal to me. Why can’t counters just stay clean? I mean, seriously, do we need to fill EVERY cup with water and leave them around the house?
Homework. Junk mail. Baseball cards. Books. They all find their way to the table or the counter or any flat space that once was clean. No matter how many times they get picked up.
The battle is real. Because empty flat spaces grow things after just a couple of days.
I get rid of unused things
It’s amazing how much stuff a family of 6 can accumulate in a year. If we aren’t intentional about removing unused items from the household they will multiply. Trust me. It’s science.
Each week I try to challenge myself to fill up a garbage bag full of things we don’t use. Clothes, toys, books. Whatever. This will be donated or throw out. It’s a system that helps keep the clutter down. Someday I hope to run out of things to get rid of, but the pigs may learn to fly before that happens.
The other side of this is to stop buying things that don’t have a purpose. We need to focus on acquiring experiences instead of stuff, but that’s a whole nother thing.
I take time to breathe
Okay…maybe I have a problem. I want the picture perfect clean spaces, but life just gets in the way. And you know what? I’m mostly okay with that. After all, life is the point, right?
So sometimes I just need to breathe. To be present. And to remind myself that the chaos is evidence of a life well lived. One day the little people will be out of the house. There will be too much time on my hands. And those clean spaces might seem…well, empty.
So I’ll not sacrifice the experiences in pursuit of the ideal picture. I’ll accept that progress, even if sometimes it feels incremental, is good.
Be well –
I once read an article about a woman who had one cup per kid, labeled with each kids name. That was their only cup, and they had to wash it and find it if they wanted a drink. Amazing. (Ok, hopefully it wasn’t an entire article just about that.)
I kinda like that idea! Cups are a challenge in our household.
Great tips and simple reminders – we are only 2 adults and 3 dogs and the house still looks like a bomb went off most of the time! I particularly like your first rule – it’s so easy to just collapse onto the couch but it would make a big difference to just do a quick pick-up first! Charlie xo
Central Ontario Farmer here. I have a CSA and greenhouse, my husband has a large dairy goat operation and we only have One child….. and you’re preaching to the choir! The cupboards thing, the cleaning up the living room thing, the constant removal of things to the corner in the front room that we will be doing needed to the next church yard sale that I see….. The battle is constant. Some days I handle it pretty well, and have the perspective to see it as proof that we lead beautiful, busy lives and have our priorities set Correctly — to take care of our land, our animals, and each other first. On other days, I whirl around in rage cleaning mode…. It’s our own kind of balance. I wish you success!