Maybe you pay a home cleaning company to scrub and vacuum your house each week. Maybe you do it yourself. Either way, it's impossible to clean properly if the home is not tidy first. And, if you're paying for a home cleaning service, chances are that you want them to spend their finite number of hours scrubbing bathtubs and mopping floors rather than tidying up and making your beds.
So, how can you make sure your home stays tidy throughout the course of a week, leaving it primed for its proper weekly cleaning? (Or, at least, how can you avoid the weekly fire drill of 'cleaning for the cleaner on the day she or he is due to arrive?) Here are 7 quick tips for making sure your home remains tidy all week long:
• Everything has a place. The first key to a tidy home is that every item in the home has a designated place where it is supposed to be and-here is the important part-everyone who lives in the home knows what the designated places are ( at least for their own belongings). There may be training involved here. Try this: If your husband has a bad habit of hanging his jacket on the back of the kitchen chair because the coat rack is always full, get him his own personal hook.
• Invest in attractive receptacles. Resist the allure of cheap-ugly-plastic bins. Use attractive baskets for hats, mittens, boots, backpacks, and the random sports equipment that tends to get dumped near doorways. Organize school supplies in clear containers so they don't need to be dumped out to see or get at what's inside. This doesn't need to be expensive, especially if you frequent flea markets or yard sales. An old bureau can easily be painted or otherwise spruced up and used for hats, mittens, bats, balls, cleats, and so forth. Another strategy: liberate the receptacles you already own. If you haven't touched what's in them for more than a year and the items have no sentimental value, get rid of them!
• Multitask. Every time you prepare to walk from one room to the next, scan quickly to see if there is anything that has moved from its rightful spot that you can take with you. Do the same when going up or downstairs.
• Create staging areas in each room. Collect odds and ends that don't belong there-for example, plates, glasses, trash from your teenagers' bedrooms that are ready to move downstairs and also things you are moving into the room to be put away at a later time. When you reach a critical mass of items in the staging area, spend a few minutes putting the incoming things away and moving the outgoing things to their rightful rooms. For bigger trips, like going up or downstairs, place receptacles strategically to make it easy to move multiple items in a single efficient trip. (But be careful the receptacles don't become ad hoc storage spaces!).
• Prioritize your storage spaces. Any storage space in a heavily used living space should contain only the items most needed to make the room functional. So, for example, instead of storing your fancy party and holiday trays in a kitchen cabinet where they are seldom used and running to the basement every time you need paper towels, reverse the storage locations so the things you use every day are always at close to hand.
• Supply each room with the tools needed to keep it clean and tidy. For example, keep a dust pan and brush near the entryway your kids use, or by the woodpile or the pet-food container where there always seem to be bits on the floor that need sweeping up. Likewise, keep containers of disinfecting wipes in each bathroom, the kitchen, and in the laundry room to wipe daily dust and spills.
• Develop routines. The most important strategy for keeping a consistently tidy home is to work at developing specific routines and real habits, like running the dishwasher every night at 8 pm and emptying it every morning when the children are having breakfast or always pushing a load of laundry immediately upon waking in the morning. Something to keep in mind: numerous phsychological studies suggest it takes a minimum of 21 days and sometimes up to 66 days or longer to form a habit. The less pleasant the task, the longer the habit may take to form in terms of establishing neural pathways in the brain that make the activity automatic. Try this: get a calendar, mark out 66 days and start marking your progress toward establishing tidier habits.
Stay tuned for Part 2 in our Quick Tips for a Tidy Home series in which we look at how to optimize your storage spaces as well as strategies for ensuring that no-longer-needed things move out of your home at least as rapidly as new possessions move in.