Thursday, April 11, 2013

Skip the Spring Cleaning

This post inspired by my newlywed cousin's blog:

Love, Pasta and a Tool Belt

My cousin Emily blogged recently about her first spring cleaning (see link above) and asked for readers to share their own tips. As I started to respond, I quickly realized that after 27+ years of keeping house, I had a little more to say than would fit in that comment box.

I was cursed blessed with a double dose of the organization gene, so I do realize what comes naturally to me may require much more effort for others. I used to call my teacher friend during our holiday breaks, and each time I asked what she was doing, I got the same response, "Cleaning out closets and drawers." I can honestly say, I've never spent more than a few minutes cleaning out anything other than a child's room when he was out of town.

So here are my tips for AVOIDING spring cleaning:

Tip #1: Get Rid of The Dump

It might be a spare bedroom, the kitchen table, a chair in your family room. Whatever...wherever you are dumping things that you don't yet know what to do with or plan to put away later, eliminate that spot first. Make it a priority to put things away immediately. Why move them twice? And who knows, you might just start eating at that kitchen table if you can see the wood. Find a place for your purse and phone and such, and put them there as soon as you walk in the door. I keep my purse on a bench in my bedroom and my phone on the table by my bed.

The only exception I have to this rule is allowing myself one junk drawer. No, not per room. Just one. This is where I put those little things that don't really have a place. I subscribe to the philosophy that  a cluttered life is the sign of a cluttered mind.

For homes with school aged children, a designated place for backpacks is a must. In a couple of homes, I have had built-in backpack benches, similar to what you might see in a mud room. In our current home, my husband refinished an old pew from my childhood country church, and that serves as the backpack bench. This has worked not only to eliminate clutter elsewhere, but also to ensure mornings move smoothly. I also use small baskets underneath the bench for hats, scarves, and gloves (for the two days per year it is cold in Florida) and hooks above for jackets.

Tip #2: Start the Day on Track

As I child, I spent many summer nights with my Grandmother Smith. She was an early riser and would make her side of the bed with me still sleeping on mine. I'm not advocating you do this to your spouse, but my mother taught me that a made bed makes a room feel clean, and cleanliness affects our moods. There have been two days in my adult life that I can recall leaving home after waking up late and not making my bed. Both days I had unexpected company who both requested tours of my home. This humiliation, along with the fact that my mother would roll over in her grave, has kept me on track with making my bed as soon as I get up each morning. It serves as motivation to keep the household organization on track.

Tip #3: Limit Your Hangers

Less is more. Once you have your closet in order, eliminate the extra hangers. Each time you make a new purchase, remove an item of clothing you haven't worn in a while. WAIT! Where are you going to put it when you take it out of the closet? You no longer have a dump spot. Use a recycled shopping bag labeled for the season it containers. When it is full, take it to Goodwill or a consignment shop. I make approximately $1200 per year at the consignment shop. And almost everything was purchased on sale to begin with, so this lowers the cost on the back end. EBay is another good bet if you have the time to learn the ropes first. I read The Silent Sales Machine several years ago, and I have had great success with selling high quality, gently used items.

Tip #4: Add a Shoe Shelf

Another only one rule I have is keep only one shoe box at a time, which is needed at least twice per year for school projects. When new shoes are purchased for our family, the box goes straight to recycling. It never enters the closet. If you don't have the luxury of having a built in shoe shelf, buy a hanging one at Wal-Mart or Target or use a small shelf underneath your clothes. You'll be much more likely to wear what you can see.

Our children were taught at an early age to take shoes off when entering the house, so a shoe shelf is also needed in the garage. I added a sock basket, because boys with dirty shoes typically have dirty socks (I never have understood how they manage that).

Tip #5: Save Time on Laundry

A family of five can create tons of dirty clothes by the minute. Determined to be efficient on things I detest, I came up with a system. First, each person has his/her own hamper, so no sorting clean clothes is ever needed. When children are old enough, they are responsible for bringing their hampers to the laundry room to signal clean clothes are desperately needed. I do ask that if one hamper is there, another doesn't appear. Each closet also has a different style hanger. Hangers are brought to the laundry room with the hamper. I invested in a high efficiency/large capacity washer and dryer which cuts down on the number of loads.

When I was little my mother used to have a Clothes Folding Party each week and I was always invited. Adamant that these parties not continue into my adulthood, I decided to fold and hang directly from the dryer. Again, why move it twice? This does sometimes result in an extra Touch Up cycle, because I also don't enjoy ironing, so I hang things when warm. Once a family member's clothes are folded and hung, that person puts them away.

My cousin Kellie, a mother of four and not a lover of domestic work, gave me excellent advice on shortening the time between loads: Buy everyone plenty of socks and underwear. My middle son, the Linus of the family, typically brings his hamper in every two weeks, which equals about fourteen pairs of socks and underwear. When my boys were younger and shared a room, and therefore a hamper, I bought them two different brands of socks so that sorting their clothes was fast. They wore different sizes of underwear then, so that wasn't an issue. I still buy them different brands now, so that socks in the sock basket are easily identifiable. Having only one brand of sock per person also saves time on matching them or looking for lost ones.


Tip #6: Create a Space for Everything

 Cords, Headphones, Phone Cases, Etc

For all things technology, we have a basket in the home office. If we happen to know what the cord belongs to, we put it in a Ziploc bag and label it.

School Supplies

During the Back to School sales, I stock up on everything the children use frequently during the year. Once they take what they need for the first day, everything else is put in a clear storage container for future use (clear because you know what's in it).

Because boys don't remember due dates for school projects until 10:00 PM the night before they are due, it is wise to have an Art Box. We have another clear container full of stick-on letters, fabric paint, stencils, etc.

Holiday Decorations

Both Halloween and Easter have clear containers. However, Christmas containers are red and green, because they are stored in the attic, and this makes them more visible to the grumpy husband who has to retrieve them. I used printer shipping labels to identify the contents of each box, so that I never again had to open 20 boxes looking for the Christmas tree skirt. Printer labels are also used for gift tags.


When my children were younger, I bought baskets for the family room and my room and any time toys were abandoned in the floor, I quickly tossed them in the baskets. Their rooms and playroom had baskets for organizing like items.


A key hanger is a major stress reducer. I walk in the door and hang my keys and sunglasses. I walk out the door and grab them as I go. My boys have yet to manage the few arduous steps from the island to the door, but the fact they put theirs on the island each day is routine enough for their age. I am holding out hope that if I hang them nightly, they will eventually get the hint. This is also where we keep the key to the community pool.

Batteries, Light Bulbs, and Such

I have two little plastic storage drawer sets from Wal-Mart. Each drawer is designated for something such as batteries, light bulbs, gift bags, tissue paper, and ribbon.


"Would you like your receipt with you or in the bag?" With me, of course. How will I ever find it again if it's in the bag? Once per week I check my receipts against my on-line account. This is when I sort them. Tax deductions are labeled at the top and put in a file folder. Clothing or small items that have the potential for needing to be returned are filed alphabetically, very quickly, in a 3 X 5 file box. I purge it every January, because Christmas receipts are kept separately for one year, and I typically only buy Christmas items for the last few months of the year, so hardly anything in the 3 X 5 is current in January. Big ticket items are filed in a file folder and also purged every January, depending on warranties.

Old Photos

If you are old enough to know what Kodak means, you may need to purchase photo boxes. I get them from Hobby Lobby or Michael's. Mine are only for the duplicates I acquired over the years. They are in Ziploc bags by year. I haven't quite figured out yet what I want to do with all the bulky photo albums that I spent hours and dollars creating. I may eventually scan the photos and create Shutterfly photo books.


Tip #7: Trash the Junk Mail

By the time I've walked from the mailbox to the garage, I have sorted the junk mail and toss it immediately into the recycle bin. I then open all envelopes, take out what I need, and throw the rest in recycling as well. Remember...why move it twice?

Tip #8: Forget about Rainy Days

Stop saving things in case I need it one day. You won't. And if you do, you probably won't know where it is. So get rid of it if you don't use it often. This includes small appliances; exercise equipment (ewww! so ugly in your bedroom!); lids to things you aren't sure if you still own; millions of plastic bags (use eco-friendly ones most of the time and have a bag holder for the times you forget); cups from everywhere you've ever eaten; sheets and towels from trends past; etc. Make a little money off the things that have value. Do a Craigslist Curb Alert for things you don't have time to fool with or think no one will want; you'll be surprised what people will come get!

I told you what I had to say wouldn't fit in that comment box.