Monday, February 19, 2007

You can have your cake and eat it too.

I don't like to houseclean. I would much rather read a book, learn something new, or be with my husband or kids. On the other hand, I love a clean, organized home that is also beautifully decorated. I suppose this is a bad combination, but over the years, these desires have driven me to find ways to have my cake and eat it, too. Here are some organizational tips I learned from various people and places:

If you have a lot of possessions, your home can't stay neat and organized unless you are willing to spend a lot of time keeping it so. I am not willing to do this, so I ruthlessly purge on a regular basis.

The more decorations you have, the more you have to dust. Think: Decorations = Time. I choose a few, well-placed decorations and give away those that we are getting tired of looking at.

We clean up after ourselves as much as possible and share equally in the housework. We begin this training when a child is two years old by teaching her to clean up her toys as soon as she wants to do something else. A three year old learns to make his own bed using a simple small comforter; a four year old can dress herself, comb her hair, brush her teeth and clean her room daily, dust and run errands throughout the house. Five year olds also empty trash cans, put away silverware, set a table, etc…An eight year old can learn to cook. A ten year old can clean an entire kitchen and a 13 year old can run a household with very little help. Not only this, they can do it cheerfully, achieving self-confidence, all the while developing a servant's heart. Think: Mothers who are maids raise lazy children.

We have a bath schedule posted in the bathroom. An older child and a younger child take baths on the same night. It is the older child's responsibility to help the younger child wash her hair, dress, clean up the bathroom, etc…

Younger children need to SEE a chore chart. Use charts that require the child to check off what he has accomplished. A child graduates from the use of chore charts when he displays maturity in this area. If he graduates, but shows signs of forgetfulness, he needs 'remedial coursework' a la chore chart again.

I cook with a different child helper each night. The other children clean the kitchen afterwards.

Cereal bowls and plastic cups are on a kid-level shelf.

"How to clean the kitchen" is posted up in the kitchen.

Throughout the day, we have five minute 'room rescues.' Everyone pitches in to tidy up a room.

If my children don't play with a toy for several months, we give it away. We keep toys at a minimum in our house. Also, most of our toys are creative so that they will interest several ages for many years. (Legos, blocks, puzzles, games, Playmobils, paper, markers, leather, yarn, cloth)
I use wicker baskets for large toys and plastic boxes to hold toys with small parts.

We have a shoe cubby by the door where everyday shoes are kept. No shoes are worn in the house; only slippers. It saves the carpets.

A cleaning routine is essential: The children have small, daily chores before lessons, and then afterwards, we quick clean the house on Mondays and Fridays for 30 minutes. On T, W, TH, we deep clean a particular room for just 20 minutes. On Saturdays, we work outside and play. On Sundays, we don't clean at all, just cook and clean up after ourselves.

Have a place for EVERYTHING and teach it to the children. Furthermore, make sure it is easily accessible. If your schoolroom cupboard is stuffed full, when a child gets something out and later replaces it, it's not really his fault if he leaves it rather messy. It needs to be organized with everything in stackable boxes. (We use old 1/2 gallon ice cream tubs, labeled with a marker)

In the winter, I buy seven pairs of socks for each child of a single dark color; in the summer, I buy white. (except for one or two fancy pairs) We all love this because there is no need for a mismatched sock bag. One daughter has all navy blue; one child has black, or a different brand of black, etc…

Kids don’t need a lot of stuff. I have learned that the more they have, the less they enjoy. I suppress the urge to buy and wait for special occasions. I give each of my children a medium plastic box that slides under their bed or fits in their closet. This is where they keep their personal, valued possessions that aren't nice enough to set out on a dresser. (Junk to us; treasure to them- pocketknife, ball and jacks, favorite marbles, favorite rock, etc…) When the box begins to overflow, purge time arrives. The child must get rid of something old to make way for something new. They protest at first, but are always grateful afterwards and laugh at themselves for keeping something so long. I never force them to get rid of something- unless it is green and smells strange. When they are ready to part with it, they will.

My children also have a minimal amount of clothing. We don't go over this amount. This helps SO much in staying organized. One child simply does NOT need 8 pairs of jeans and 15 shirts. I wrote down a summer and winter list for a boy and a girl and refer to this each season when buying clothes.

I also do not buy books on a whim, but plan carefully. If a book does not make at least a B grade, it is removed from our shelves and given away. I would rather have fewer books of high quality than beautiful shelves of inferior books. We only choose what we consider the "Cream of the Crop." That said, we still have thousands of books in our home. :- 0

Every bed in our home has two sets of sheets and no more. The second set of sheet is under the top mattress of each bed for easy access. (Turkish homes do not have closets!)

We keep a calendar in the kitchen. Appointments, special days and meals are jotted in. We also keep a running grocery list on the refrigerator.

I keep a pocketsize, small steno flip pad and pencil with me in my pocket wherever I roam within the house. Anything that pops in my head goes on this pad. One side is my TO BUY side. The other side of the pad says, TO DO. If a blog post pops in my head, I jot it down; if I realize we are low on glue, I jot it down.

If you invest the time needed to get organized, you will save time in the end and will have achieved a much happier, peaceful home.

one step at a time... image courtesy:


  1. Excellent! Good to see a fellow home school mother adopting the "Cheaper by the Dozen" philosophy!

    As a mother of eight children, I have to say that a woman's call as "household manager" is important. Delegating work to the kids should be a natural family function. Kids who are used to working hard while growing up will be much better off in the future. Furthermore, you won't here "Mommy I'm bored..." anymore!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. We moved our family of 6 from a 1300sf. home to a 1000sf. home, and we would not have been able to be comfortable here save for the fact that we ruthlessly purged our extra stuff. Now our full-sized basement is almost empty because we keep only what we need with no excess to store.

    Love your blog.

  4. Great tips Linda!
    I trying very hard to be better at all this!! I appreciate you posting this because it helps me a lot.
    It really is so much easier to stay organized with less stuff. We are decluttering all the time.
    Thank you again,

  5. Once again you have written a wonderful post.

    We use chores charts but we have gotten away from it lately. We still dow hat we need to but we aren't chekcing things off. I think a child does need something to see so he might know what needs to be done until he is mature enough to just do it without words on paper.
    I sometimes need it to see what I missed.

    I'd rather read a book or watch LOTR then clean to but isn't it nice to be in a clean house or go to get a dish and they're all washed!

    That cake looks good!

    Ms. Jocelyn

  6. This is such an encouraging and helpful post...thanks for sharing your ideas and insights! I really struggle with the whole business of decluttering, but I intend to get better! LOL
    Have a wonderful week!
    Blessings, Amy

  7. Anonymous19.2.07

    Thank you for this break-down. It is all common sense but sometimes one needs some one else to give them a little reminder (kick!). Do you have any suggestions for how to begin training children to do chores, etc. at ages 4 & 9? I hate to admit it but I've grown slothful in training them in this way and want to make up for lost time! Any suggestions would be valued.

  8. Anonymous19.2.07

    Me too! I was nodding my head reading that first paragraph. I'm the same- don't like to clean but I want a clean, organized home. And it sort of drives me crazy when it's not. I'm growing in the art of purging, but I have MUCH room to grow!

    Great ideas, here.
    Thank you, Linda!

  9. Anonymous19.2.07

    That last comment was from me,

  10. I love to have a clean organized home too!
    It's harder for us homeschoolers whose children are home all day.
    It sure helps with little tips and little helpers.
    I posted some pics on my blog,of my little ones helping today, (floor cleaning day.)

  11. Great stuff! I have never thought of putting the spare sheets under the mattress! I'll be doing that from now on! Thanks for the tips.

  12. Betty20.2.07

    Great ideas, Linda! I have times where I work alot smarter and other times where life gets busy and before I know it EVERYthing needs cleaning and decluttering. I am coming out of one of those times right now. Goodwill has never seen such deliveries as the ones I've dropped off lately.

    I am so much like you in that I crave and need order but was never taught how to get it and maintain it! I'd much rather read or knit.

    I find it hard, also, to make time to read or knit because the house is never really done. There's always another load of laundry or a closet that has yet to be decluttered, or an email to read, etc... Are there times where you close your eyes to the "to do" list and focus on Mother Culture? My morning quiet times with the Lord are this for me, but I find that I usually need some time during the day too! I guess this would fall under your afternoon quiet time?

    Still much to do in the area of training. But we are progressing.

    He is near...

  13. Anonymous20.2.07

    HI, First let me say how helpful your blog has been. It has given me the courage to improvise with our curriculum. We use ambleside but I've used it as a starting point and I've changed it here and there to better suit my child. So thank you for that. Now my question. I have a 8 almost nine DS. He is progressing slowly. His reading is awesome ,comprhension just slighty less depending an the level of the language he is reading. The problem we are having is his spelling. I'm really trying to use CM methods here but I feel I'm missing something. I've read all your posts on this and even printed them out to have on hand.He is still very much phoneticly spelling. Is this something that will improve on his own through use of books and copywork.We do both although I feel maybe not enough.It's done three to four days a week and is usually only a sentence or two.Should I up the amount I ask him to copy.Also should I begin dictation with him. I tend to hold back in what I require thinking he might not be ready or I dont want to burn him out, etc. Would dictation be the next logical step to help his spelling.He writes well but he is left handed and seems to be progressing a little slow in his neatness. I am a stickler on that but I've been told boys especially when LH seem to develop slow in motorskills such as writing. He at this point does not write on his own much at all.He writes much better when copying. When writing without a guide it tends to be messy and very phonetic spelling.I feel like he is way behind in this area,spelling and writing.I'm just needing a little advise or encouragement.

    Thanks in advance

  14. Anonymous20.2.07

    Hi Linda!

    I really like your ideas! Your post definitely applies to the things I (and the kids)am trying to work on. Since I can tend to feel easily overwhelmed, my motto is "progress, not perfection". Progress can be very slow at times, but we try to keep moving forward.

    I agree that both kids and adults don't need a lot, materially. I was wondering if you'd be willing to share your seasonal clothing list with us?

    I love reading you blog! Your a great inspiration.

    Thank you,
    Linda in Oregon

  15. Great post, Linda! I love your tip about walking around with pad & pen in pocket to take note of whatever you need to during the day. I will start doing that TODAY. Now I just need to make sure I'm always wearing clothes with pockets ;).


  16. Thank you, thank you, thank you. These tips are great!. I'm forever in the same boat, wanting stuff and wanting a clean house. I have three boys. Your tips are a welcome addition to my organizational tool box!


    My blog is being overwhelmed by spammers. Where did you get your verification image code? Is it part of Blogger?


  17. Sharron Cox21.2.07

    Amen! I hate all the time I spend doing house work vs. the time I spend playing with my daughters!!

    The sheet idea is wonderful. We recently moved to a farmhouse built in 1900. Apparently they did not believe in closets either. LOL

    I would also like to know your clothing guidelines.

    Thank you for all of your encouragement!

  18. Astreil, yes the verification code is part of blogger.

  19. Kristie,

    I answered your questions (or attempted to, anyway :-) in the comments section of my studied dictation post.

  20. Thanks for this fantastic post. Thank you for taking the time to break down your tips into small sections.

    I, too, am a ruthless purger, but I still don't have a 'home' for everything. I suppose that means more must go! :)

  21. okay-love all of the household ideas. One question from a tired brain- how exactly do you manage the clean sheets underneath the ones being used. When you take the dirty ones off and wash them, do you have to take off the then clean ones to place the newly clean ones underneath? Sorry- just can't wrap my brain around this one!

  22. Caroline, You have me laughing over this one. I didn't realize how poorly I communicated this. Thanks for pointing it out. The second set of sheets is a FOLDED set that I store between the top mattress and boxsprings. While the dirty sheets are being washed, I lift the top mattress a few inches and pull out the set of folded sheets and put them on the bed. The newly washed sheets will replace those under the top mattress. :-)

  23. Anonymous12.3.07

    Okay- I get it now- that makes perfect sense. Thanks for clearing it up for me.
    Thanks for being such an encouragement!

  24. I'm with you in the thousands of books category :) My question is, how do you organize all of yours? I'm thinking of using two bookshelves/areas, one for books we will use in school, and one for additional reading books that they (my kids) can access at any time. I currently alphabetize by author, but I am capable of remembering who wrote what, and that system is a little beyond my kids' abilities...any ideas?


  25. Jamie,
    I wrote a post on book organization and lost it. Stay tuned... it will get posted again eventually. (one hint: I put little stickers on all our free reading books)

  26. Great post! Much needed encouragement. I'm going to have to definantly use the flip pocket notebook idea and do some organizing of our inventory of toys/books/clothes, etc. and have a garage sale.

    thanks again for all your practical help!

  27. OH.WOW. I REALLY needed this!!!!! (((((HUGS))))) sandi

  28. Really like what you've written : " Think: Mothers who are maids raise lazy children."

    Spurs me on to declutter, organize and keep to it. I find myself falling into the cycle of this once in a while but can never keep up with it, which makes me feel hopeless and helpless!

    Many thanks for sharing your simple ideas that yield such amazing results! Truly appreciate it! :)

  29. I'm excited to find this post, as I've often thought I'd like a list of what children are capable of at different ages. I want something to aim towards with my baby boy and any other children God gives us. Thank you for your tips on what the little ones can achieve!

  30. I really like the reminder that kids do not need 8 pairs of pants and 15 shirts. My girls are the same size now and as long as I (we) stay up on laundry, I can get rid of lots of their clothes. Many are not worn more than a few times.

    We are in the middle of de-clutering our home and lives and I love the tips and encouragement. I love having them help me with everything. It amazes people to see my 6yo using sharp knives and my 7 yo cooking at the stove...don't all young girls do this?

    Just today my girls told me they would love to make the bread for me since it's my 'birthday week'. How precious is that???

    I just found your blog, Linda, and I love it already! Looking forward to checking it out!

  31. Wonderful post. I want to use the sock idea!
    We have an essential clothing list too. Its three or four play outfits. Shorts in the summer and pants in the winter. Shirts are short sleeve in warm WX with half long sleeve and half short sleeve in the winter (ie two of each). Two or three errand outfits, and two or three dress outfits. Everyone has a fleece, winter jacket, and rain jacket, vests are optional and if the winter jacket is not dressy enough we get another for this purpose. We try to keep water proof boots for all. Two sets of PJ's, several accessories ie. belts (boys one play one dress) (girls one or two belts in common colors). All get socks and girls get stockings. Hope this can be of help.

    Again I want to try the sock idea with an addition of light dress socks for kakis.

  32. Anonymous15.11.12

    I have just recently found your blog and started homeschooling using Charlotte Mason's theory...We have a LOT to learn. What is your suggestion for the amount of clothing one child needs? I have three boys, 7, 5, and 3 and their drawers are filled to the brim. Again, I will say I have three BOYS. How in the world did we go overboard on clothing?! :) We have gone through several of their toys and have kept only the toys that promote imagination. Any tips or advice are greatly appreciated.

  33. Amy, have you seen this post?