Unit 5: Upkeep
Keep it tidy!
Let’s talk about how to maintain your efforts in tidying your home. We’ll learn tips for keeping it tidy while keeping the clutter at bay.
- Unit 5 worksheets
- Grab your Hum Making Cleaning Checklists
- Tell me what next step sounds best for you: Order Up, Tidy Kids, or 1-on-1 help
- Send me any overarching course feedback, including what you loved or didn’t love. All of your feedback is greatly appreciated!
- BONUS CLUTTER CHALLENGE: Complete your Think & Tidy Challenge by sending me a before and after photo of your Smallest Worst Space along with a course testimonial to get your free Hum Making Planner
Unit 5: Maintain
Welcome to the last unit of the Think & Tidy: Decluttering for Moms E-Course.
In this course, you created an effective home and family vision, improved your mindset, maximized your time and efforts, and you learned how to effectively declutter.
In this last Unit, we will be discussing ways to manage your stuff moving forward so that you can maintain a tidier home. At the end of this lesson, I will be including two smaller units that are previews to a couple of potential courses that I am planning to do. The courses are “Order Up: Organization for Moms,” and “Tidy Kids.” In the Tidy Kids course, we will set your home and family systems up so that your kids can help you keep things tidy. As you listen to those last two Units, think about which course would be the next best step for you personally. I would love to know as I make plans for moving forward! Ok, enough of that, let’s get started!
When you put so much work into decluttering, it is essential to maintain your efforts. If things backslide all over again, you can find yourself disgruntled, discouraged, and maybe even a little bitter.
These Tidy Tips are little things you can do to help slow the flow of stuff into your home. Stopping the flow is essential to decluttering and maintaining a clutter-free home. And, while some flow is necessary, following these little tips can have a huge impact on just how much flow you have to deal with each day. Less flow=less decluttering for you to do! If you enjoy decluttering, by all means, bring whatever you want in and out. But, if decluttering stresses you out, consider taking these tips seriously to make it easier for you to keep things tidy.
This first tip is to have gratitude.
Gratitude is the key to contentment. Gratefully use and take good care of your things.
Rather than spending time and energy buying new things that add to the clutter, why not use our time, energy, and money to take better care of things that we already have? When we feel thankful for what we have, it becomes easier to get off of the accumulation treadmill, making it even easier to keep the clutter at bay.
The second tip is to have charity. Keep an eye out for people in need. You just might have something that you no longer use that someone else needs right now.
In going through my office and craft supplies recently, my mind was turned to the school down the street. I packed up a bunch of supplies that were beyond what my family needed and dropped them off at the school. It felt so good to have the items out of my house and I loved that I was able to help meet the needs of some teacher or student.
Every purchase can contribute to clutter. Only buy items that support your home and family vision. Sales don’t make things more valuable if you don’t need them.
This can be a tricky one because we sometimes refer to shopping as “retail therapy.” As we discussed before, sometimes, our brain really likes getting new things. If we’re trying to avoid unnecessary clutter, we can choose to think differently about shopping and try to only shop when we truly need something, or maybe only when we have a well-thought out list.
Designate a space for items you intend to get rid of (e.g. an old box in your garage). As you see things you no longer need, take a minute to put them in the box.
Pay attention to the places where clutter accumulates. If you have a place where you regularly find yourself sifting through things, consider putting a donation box or bag there. For example, I have a garbage sack in my kids’ closets for clothes that they try on that are too small. If they are getting dressed or we are folding laundry, it becomes much easier to throw it in the bag than have it aimlessly floating around our house for three weeks before it finally makes it to the donation box. You could even keep a donation box in your pantry for food you no longer need and can donate to a food bank later. A closet, laundry room, or garage can be a great place to keep a donation box or bag, but pay attention to your family’s needs and place it accordingly. If you find yourself forgetting about it, then try another spot where you won’t forget it.
Pass on the free stuff before it gets into your house. Remember, there is always a cost to having things. Pass on any free thing you were not already in need of.
When it comes to things you might need, make a point to sift through items the day that you get them. It will only take a few moments to find the items that you actually need. Be careful to look at items with a decluttering mindset and only keep things you would be willing to pay money for. Then, put everything else straight into your donation box.
Go through and purge subscriptions and remove your address from company mailers that you don’t want. Less mail means less clutter!
And, while subscription craft or book boxes can be really fun, they are a great way to automatically add to the clutter. So, be judicious about which things you subscribe to. If you love the subscription, but have a backlog, pause it for now and remember you can always start it up again later (or not!).
When you buy new things, try to get rid of one item for each new thing. This will keep your stuff from growing out of control.
For example, if you buy three new shirts, trade out three old shirts. Or, if you buy new crayons for your kids, throw out some old ones. Decluttering is the opposite of accumulating. To keep clutter from building up in your home, declutter as much as you accumulate. To let it really sink in, I’ll say it again: To keep clutter from building up in your home, you need to declutter as much as you accumulate. And, if you don’t like decluttering, then you need to start accumulating less.
Limit yourself to a certain amount of storage for each thing. If you exceed the space, it’s time to declutter!
You might have a little section in your office drawer for pens. If the pens are overflowing, get rid of a few so that they fit nicely in their space. Or, you can limit your books or craft supplies to one shelf. You might limit yourself to whatever clothes can fit on x number of hangers. Then, if there’s more than can fit comfortably, pass some on!
Commit to touching things one time – when you set something down, put it in the right place instead of on the counter. Or, when you get junk mail, put it straight in the trash.
I think many of us have wondered why certain people in our family will go through the effort of taking a shirt all the way to the laundry basket, but then leave it on the floor beside the basket instead of in the basket. Don’t trip at the finish line. Put it where it belongs! If it doesn’t have a specific spot yet, at least put it in the room in which it belongs. Then, once you do have a spot for it, commit to putting things in their proper place.
To remember all of these tips, refer to the “Tips for Managing Clutter” sheet in your workbook. Pick one to work on at a time to help slow the flow of stuff into your home.
Times & Seasons
We all have regular habits for bringing things in. We usually go shopping at some point each week, many of us do back to school shopping just before school starts, and we buy gifts for birthdays and other holidays. But, do we have habits for regularly taking things out?
Just as we use our calendar to dictate when we accumulate new things, so too can we use our calendar to dictate when we declutter our things. For example, starting in November, I begin a massive purge before Christmas. As I get new things, I am taking note of which things I will pass on. Then, I get those things out of my hair as soon as possible so that I have less to declutter after Christmas. Still, it seems that, for my family, every January is a natural time to declutter as we make room for the gifts from Christmas.
If you find yourself moving, this can be a natural time to really evaluate what is worth moving to you and what you are willing to let go. In fact, pretending you’re going to move can be a great way to get into a good decluttering frame of mind. If it’s not worth moving, it may not be worth keeping.
The seasons are another time when we may naturally accumulate new clothes. Take advantage of this natural flow by decluttering your clothes as you add new items to your wardrobe..
Another very effective way to declutter is by doing it day by day. Use your pre-established donation box to help you gather things that you bump into as you go throughout your home. By keeping your decluttered lenses on each day, you may be surprised how much decluttering you’re able to do even in the forgotten minutes of your day!
I’ll emphasize that knowing the donation hours of your local thrift store is just as essential as knowing the hours of your local grocery store, so write the hours down and put them in a visible place in your car to help you remember to actually donate your items.
Making decluttering a regular habit can help you have a tidier home every day. If you want help remembering to declutter, check out my free Cleaning Checklists, or my Hum Making Planner which will serve as a reminder to declutter each space regularly.
It’s clear that having a massive home reset can be a huge endeavor. But, your daily habits can keep these dramatic overhauls at bay. Everyone is different, so everyone’s tidy habits will look different as well. You might have more time in the morning or at lunchtime to tidy things up. Or, you might pick a day each week to do one big tidy. With this in mind, I want to share with you what I do to help you get some ideas for what you can do in your home.
Something that works well for me is to do a nightly tidy before going to bed. After dinner, I assign each of my kids a dinner helper job, which may be helping with dishes, or cleaning up toys. Then, as we go through our bedtime routines, we tidy up bedrooms and bathrooms as we go. After our kids are settled, I usually do a clean sweep of the house and put any last stragglers away. I still have a pile up once in a while, but for the most part, this habit keeps things very manageable.
Past that, there might be a day each week where I take time to deal with the little things that are harder to put away, that need mending, or what have you. Until then, I might let those items sit in a cute basket so that things still at least look tidy. When it gets full or when I have time, I can take care of those items. My basket for things like this sits on my kitchen counter. The bonus is that if I ever need to move my clutter, it’s just a matter of moving a basket somewhere else.
Keep the quote “Use your brain to save your feet,” in mind and let yourself tidy things up while you’re in a certain space. If you’re giving kids a bath, why not throw some dirty towels in the laundry or clean the toilet? If you’re going up the stairs, why not carry the little pile of stuff up the stairs and take a minute to put it away? Or, if you’re on your way to the garage, why not grab those forgotten tools or car items and put them away before you hop in your car to run errands?
Sometimes, when I am tidying up, I think of myself like a stuff bus driver. I have my little route that I take around my house while helping kids do this or that, making meals, washing clothes, and so on. If I notice someone (or, in this case, something) needs a ride to somewhere I am headed as I am passing by, I pick it up and take it with me! It takes hardly any extra effort, since I am already on my way to where it belongs, but it makes a huge difference. So, as you go around your house, play bus driver and pick up and deliver those little items as you go about your own little route.
I share these habits with you just as an example. As I’ve said, you’ll need to find what works best for you, since there is no “right” way to keep things tidy. Pay attention to your natural flow and pain points to determine what’s best for your family.
Establishing new tidy habits will take time, so be patient with yourself. But, I want you to know that you can create new habits that can have a major impact on your home.
Right now, I am going to walk you through the Tidy Habits worksheet in your workbook.
When establishing a new habit, consider what successful habits you have currently? What helped you develop and maintain that habit?
These questions can be very powerful. It can help you see that you are capable of developing positive habits, which is so encouraging. If you think about it carefully, you can also figure out what makes you tick as a person.
You might realize that you do well when you have someone doing a habit with you. For example, maybe you developed a habit of running because you go with a friend.
Or, maybe you realize that you do well with accountability. Maybe you thrive having a teacher or coach to report to. Or, maybe deadlines help you get the work done.
In contemplating your habits, you may realize that you do well with time limits. For instance, maybe you could set a timer for 15 minutes each day while you focus on cleaning the kitchen. Pairing a specific desired outcome with a time limit can be a powerful way to help yourself get things done in less time.
You might also do well with incentives. Your incentive may be something fun or a natural result of the habit. For example, you may tell yourself you can buy a new paint set once you’ve painted for thirty days straight. Or, you might have successfully changed the way you eat in order to avoid negative health outcomes.
Even offering yourself small incentives each day for successfully completing your new habit can help you stay encouraged when the going gets tough. Because it will. Maybe you let yourself visit social media only when you’ve tidied up the kitchen. Or, maybe you let yourself watch your favorite show when you’ve decluttered the office. Love yourself enough to keep yourself accountable and encouraged in ways that work for you.
As Bill Walsh said, “If your why is strong enough, you will figure out how!” So, if you’re really struggling developing tidy habits, you may revisit your reasons for developing the habits in the first place. (Hint: doing it because you think you should won’t take you nearly as far as doing it for reasons that matter to you.)
Once you’ve narrowed in on what methods have helped you establish habits in the past, you can use those methods to help you establish new tidy habits. Keep in mind that sometimes a certain method that worked for you in one situation may not work as well in another and that’s ok. With patience and practice, you will be able to create the habits that you desire.
Now, you know you want to create some new tidy habits, but where on earth should you start? Using the Tidy Habits workbook page, determine which room or group of items is your biggest pain point. Then, decide what tiny habits it would take to overcome this issue. After that, you’ll decide which of those habits will have the biggest impact. This will be your starting point. Once you’ve established your starting point, you’ll decide on a trigger that will serve as a reminder for you to do your new habit. This should be something that you know already happens consistently in your life or each day. Lastly, you’ll pair your new desired habit with this trigger or a habit that you already have established.
So, let’s break this down a little bit. Say that I want to keep a tidier kitchen. The little habits needed to overcome my kitchen clutter are: clearing the table after each meal, loading and unloading the dishwasher each day, wiping off the surfaces after every meal, and putting things away as I cook. Since I know better than trying to establish several habits at once, I am just going to pick one that I think will have the biggest impact. For me, that would be loading and unloading the dishwasher each day. I take this habit and decide that my trigger will be meal times. Since I already have the habit of clearing the table after each meal, I will pair my new tidy habit of loading the dishwasher with clearing the table. While it may take a few weeks for it to become automatic, once it does, I’ll be fast and efficient and can then start practicing my next most impactful habit.
These little changes may seem small, but they make the biggest difference! Don’t worry if you only do your habit half of the time. Like any skill, it is going to take practice. We wouldn’t scold a toddler who stumbles while learning to walk, so, be careful not to scold yourself as you are learning to be tidy.
Tidy Space Order of Operations
Now that we’ve talked about habits, let’s talk about what to do when you step into a room and everything is out of place. Rather than panicking, follow this order of operations, which is, in my opinion, the most efficient way to tidy up a room.
- Throw away trash.
- Put away dirty laundry.
- Stack papers and mail (that isn’t trash) and put in a place to be dealt with.
- Gather all items that do not belong in the space and put them in a box or laundry hamper to be delivered to each room.
- Put things in their proper places one category at a time.
Following this order of operations can help you and your family make significant progress without getting completely overwhelmed. As you do each step, you can put your blinders on to the other items to help you stay focused and be efficient.
Let’s apply this order of operations to a child’s bedroom. Get your child to help you do each of these steps one at a time until they can do them on their own!
Step 1) throw away the trash. That was easy enough.
Step 2) gather all of the dirty, or questionably dirty laundry and throw it in the hamper.
Step 3) Grab all of the papers and mail (that isn’t trash) and put them in a pile to be dealt with at the end of your power session.
Then, Step 4) grab all of the toys, rocks, blankets, craft supplies, and anything else that does not belong in the room and throw it in a box or empty laundry basket and push it into the hall.
Step 5) Put all of the items left in their room away one category at a time. You could start by making the bed, putting the books on the shelf, or by folding and putting away the clean clothes. Then, you might put the legos away, or collect all personal treasures into their treasure box.
And, voila! You now have a tidy room! From there, you can decide if you want to vacuum or wipe things down, but even tidying alone is great!
Order Up: Organization for Moms Preview
While the Think & Tidy Course is primarily focused on decluttering, I wanted to give you a little preview into my “Order Up!” course to help you get things organized as you declutter.
You already learned the SASSY steps for decluttering, and now we’ll put those together with GAL, which helps us remember the steps to organizing.
GAL stands for “Group, Assign, and Label”
As you organize your items, you’ll first want to group items by type or purpose. Then you’ll assign those grouped items a designated space. And, lastly, you’ll label your storage to maintain organization and hold you and your family accountable to your new system.
Let’s use SASSY GAL to declutter and organize your pantry. You first sort your food by type. Noodles with noodles, cereal with cereal, cans with cans, and so on. Then, you’ll ask yourself what to pass on. Is there any food that your family no longer eats that you can donate? Are there any items that are spoiled that need to be thrown out? You will then store the food you want to keep, decide that you won’t sell any food, and then you’ll set some food aside to yield to the local food bank.
The great news is that your food is already sorted, which will make it easy to group your food and determine your storage needs. You may see that your family eats a lot of pasta sauce. So, you group all of the pasta sauce and assign it to a specific bin. Then, you’ll label that bin “Pasta Sauce” to hold yourself and your family accountable to your new pasta sauce system.
While it can be effective to group smaller categories of items, it can be even more powerful to group these smaller categories by overarching categories. For example, you may group all of your childrens’ lunch items together and assign them a specific section, or zone, within your pantry. Within that zone, you’ll have those smaller categories grouped, assigned, and labeled. But, it can be very handy to have a zone dedicated to one function. Within a pantry, you may have a breakfast section up high (because cereal is lightweight), and a canned good or dinner section towards the bottom (since cans are heavier). You may have a long-term storage section for items you don’t use all the time, but want in case of emergencies. Or, a cooking essentials section that has oil, sugar, spices, or baking powder in it.
To organize any space, all you need to do to is group, assign, and label. If you’re wanting more help organizing, stay tuned for my upcoming Order Up! E-Course where I have so much more to share with you about organizing your home, top to bottom.
Tidy Kids: Teaching Kids to be Tidy Preview
This last section is a preview for my Tidy Kids E-course. This course will be centered on setting your home and family systems up so that your kids can help you keep things tidy. For now, I’ll briefly cover how to train your kids to help with tidying up, particularly after you’ve decluttered and organized a space.
Once you have decluttered and organized your space, you will need to set clear expectations with your family about keeping it tidy. You might gather the whole family together (or talk with them separately) and say something like this: “I (or we) just did a lot of work to get this all nice and clean. I would love to keep it tidy. When you put things back, please put them in their proper basket. You can see that there are labels on each of these baskets to help you know where things go. The cars go here, the legos go here, etc.” You can show them your system. If you have non-readers in the mix, teach them to look in the basket to know where things go, or label your baskets with pictures.
Then, help them understand why it will be great to keep the system. “I hope we can keep things put back in the proper baskets so that we can always find what we need!”
Understand that once in a while a reset will need to happen, but, with clear expectations and proper training, even your littlest helpers may surprise you with their ability to keep things in order.
In order to get kiddos to really help with tasks, imagine yourself as a job manager. You want to hire some new employees, but you know that they will need some training before they can do it well on their own.
The four steps of training kids to do chores are:
- Show them how
- Let them help you
- Watch them do it
- Let them do it alone
Essentially, you are going to be assuming that your children will be fully incapable of doing the job upfront and that you need to lead them through these steps to the point of independence. You will be weaning them off of your assistance so that they can do each task on their own.
Let’s imagine that you are trying to teach your four year old how to empty the dishwasher. Step one will be you sitting them on a chair next to you while you say things like, “I’m putting the cups up here with the other cups,” and, “I’m very careful with this because it is glass and if I drop it, it can break.” Then, the next time around, you might have them help you by giving them a small task, such as sorting and putting all of the silverware away while you do the rest of the dishes. Then, you can gradually add to their level of responsibility in the task. For instance, once they have mastered the silverware, you might have them do the cups. Then, eventually, you can watch them as they empty the dishwasher, offering help where needed.
Once you are confident in their ability to do the job, you can let them do it alone. Congratulations, you just trained yourself out of a job!
For more information on setting up effective home and family systems so that your kids can help you keep things tidy, stay tuned for my Tidy Kids E-Course!
Congratulations! You have just finished the final unit of the Think & Tidy: Decluttering for Moms E-course.
Your tasks for this week are as follows:
- Grab your Free Hum Making Cleaning Checklists here
- Tell me what next step sounds best for you: Order Up, Tidy Kids, or one-on-one consulting
- Send me any overarching course feedback, including what you loved or didn’t love. All of your feedback is greatly appreciated!
- BONUS CLUTTER CHALLENGE: Complete your Think & Tidy Challenge by sending me a before and after photo of your Smallest Worst Space along with a course testimonial to get your free Hum Making Planner.
Thank you so much for being part of this Beta group and for your feedback and involvement. I have been thrilled to see your progress and want you to know that I am truly cheering for each of you. I would always love to hear about the progress you are making in your decluttering efforts, so feel free to send me an email for a virtual high five anytime! I hope you’ve enjoyed changing the way that you think so that you can effectively tidy your home. Happy decluttering, friends! Until next time.
Q&A's and Feedback
What questions or suggestions do you have? I’ll get back to you within 72 hours!