Undoing the Mess


Sometimes I wonder if an apartment is easier to keep clean than a house. What do you think? I used to believe it was true, but that was when I lived by myself, worked full time, and was away from home all day.

Now I think an apartment might have less space to clean, but there is nowhere for stuff to hide. Mess has a bigger impact. You can’t simply shut the door to a messy room when you live in every room every single day. You have to pick up more often in an apartment.

If I leave a couple of plates on the small countertop, the whole kitchen looks messy. A shirt on the floor makes the bedroom unkept.

For a while I was leaving my projects out in the open so they would be convenient to come back to later.

“Don’t put the ironing board away, I’m not done with it yet!”

“Leave the sewing machine right there, I think I still want to use it.” (Even though it was on the floor in the walkway to the bathroom, and I hadn’t used it in a week.)

One time my family was running around doing a quick pickup and Doug finally put away a couple of things I had left out until I could have time to work on them again.

Hmm, it only took a few seconds to put those things away, and it did look better.

Lately I’ve been trying to put more things away because I know it will take a much longer time than I expect before I can come back to it. This way I won’t have to look at a half-completed project a hundred times until then.

More than that, I’ve been focusing on finding a home for things, because the things that linger on the kitchen counter and tabletops have no certain place to go. It becomes automatically easier to put something away when you know exactly where it belongs. You don’t have to make a decision about it, you can just put it away.

What is your best trick to put things away?

In our family we turn on Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself” really loud and everyone runs around picking up for five minutes.

What’s yours?

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. We’re big fans of the five minute “fast as you can” pick up around here, too.

    It also helps that things have a place to go. I know this might seem obvious, but when we didn’t have enough shelves or “homes” for things like toys and books and kitchen gadgets, well these things just floating around becoming visual clutter.

    Kara @Simple Kids´s last post…Practical Life Skills- Letting Your Young Children Help With Household Tasks

  2. I guess the secret is “Just do it.” I mean pick it up already! The problem is that I don’t. And it you don’t pick up after yourself all day x 5 people and pets. Welll….you do the math. It isn’t pretty. How do you get yourself to actually begin picking up e-v-e-r-y-d-a-y. I can do it if company is coming, but every day….?

    Lauri V.´s last post…All I see is love

  3. Up until this past June we lived in a fairly small(for our family size) duplex. Even though we had packed up half the house in anticipation of selling the house, it was impossible to keep clean. It was just too small and we didn’t have nearly enough storage. After our move, we have more storage and the house is cleaner. We have places to put things so the process is simpler. It’s hard to put things away when you have no place to put them.

  4. Rachel P. says:

    Not that you asked, but it is my opinion that a house is easier to keep clean. Especially if you own a house. Then you can make any changes in storage and function you want, whereas in an apartment you are limited to the changes you can make. As for tips on keeping things tidy I know that I usually do an end of the day pick up. The rest of the day goes better if I wake up to a house already tidy and neat. I think this is good training for my children as well as I have them help me.

  5. Yeah, I completely agree! Living in an apartment, it’s much easier to just have a place for everything so you can tidy up on auto-pilot! I have a spot for absolutely everything in my home. It took a long time to get motivated and find a spot for hair pins and matches and every last thing, but now it’s all so much simpler! And it’s also handy when you need a scissors in a hurry, you know exactly where it is!

    And as for the music, I have a cleaning/ cooking playlist on my iPod, and iPod speakers, they’re real get up and move songs!

  6. there used to be a show on PBS called the Big Comfy Couch. On the show they did the ten second tidy to clean up. anyways – i like your billy idol song bettter : )

  7. We have starated a “five minute family tidy up” as well. It is amazing to me how much better the house looks with the living room neat and tidy! And the boys are learning so much from it. We even have time to get out the broom and dustpan in that amount of time and the boys are learning those skills. Also, I can really relate to the unfinished projects taking so long to get back to. Even though I have a studio now, it is so small, untidy and messy in there right now that I don’t even want to go finish my table runner that I started and is turning out so lovely! I see what you mean about the benefit of picking it up and putting it away between work sessions.

    Mary Beth´s last post…back to school!

  8. We have no method…but I do love the idea of blasting some Billy Idol :)
    Having always lived in apartments since moving out of my parents’ house, I know exactly what you meant about it taking so little for everything to look a mess. I can’t, for the life of me, keep the kitchen clean. *sigh*

    Lucy´s last post…the weekend- numbered

    • My kitchen is never totally clean. By cleaning it, I’m not aiming for it to be done, I’m just trying to keep ahead of it so it’s a nice place to cook and we can have clean dishes.

      • I think that’s a great mentality to have, even for the whole house if you have littles! So many women fuss about ‘it’s never done’ – if you stop wanting it to be done and focus on keeping it comfortable and functional, it would reduce a lot of stress. :-)

  9. I agree with you about finding a home for things. That’s so important. If something doesn’t have a home, it won’t ever get put away! Right now, I’m trying REALLY hard to put things away RIGHT away. If I let something sit, even for a few hours until I can get to it, I usually never get to it. And there it sits. And sits. And then when I don’t put things back into their home, I can’t find them next time I need them. It’s a vicious cycle. I’m sure you know just what I’m talking about.

  10. “Sometimes I wonder if an apartment is easier to keep clean than a house. What do you think?”

    i don’t think its the size so much as the amount of stuff in the home. we just moved out of campus apts and we had everything in the small 2 bedroom space. it was so full, and so hard to keep clean and decluttered. now we’re in temporary housing. fully furnished, but sparesly so. just enough. and oh is it so much easier to clean. its about the same size as our last place but all our stuff is in storage. so i guess the moral of this story is I HAVE TOO MUCH STUFF! lol

  11. We don’t live in an apartment – have a small Cape and it is a constant battle, too. I find if I try to balance what we bring in with what we toss out, it works. We are trying so hard to not bring anything unnecessary into our lives. If every object has a home, life is smoother. If I can’t find a home for something, it’s a prompt to me to do a quick reorganizing or maybe let something go.

  12. I have never been a super neat person but I found that keeping a house was easier to keep clean. Simply because it has a basement. When I don’t know where to put anything it can go in the basement, halfway done projects can go in the basement, out of season clothes and sports equipment can go in the basement. Of course, now it’s so full I can barely go in the basement :-)

    I think the real key to keeping things tidy is just having less stuff. i love going away on vacation because in a hotel room you have less stuff. It’s a nice feeling being able to tidy really quickly because there isn’t a ton of junk.

    Carrie´s last post…Homemade English Muffins

  13. I find things go better if I’m sort of always in pick up mode. we have a split level house where everything seems to be six steps away up or down, so any time I am leaving a room I try to take something with me so that it is at least that much closer to where it belongs. Not everyone can do this, but with young kids who aren’t quite ready to help all the time, I find the end of the day is not as chaotic that way. A little bit at a time sure moves that mountain!

  14. For me it’s definitely having a place for everything. I don’t have a big house. No attic or basement. So everything around here serves at least one purpose if not two or three. I think that is key.

  15. I’m not in an apartment but I am in a house with not much space to put things away. We don’t have a garage, a shed, or a coat closet. We have closets in the bedrooms but that is it for storage. Not even a linen closet or a pantry. So, I get what you mean about when stuff is out, it is out. My ironing board was in the middle of the kitchen for 10 days before I finally put it away last week. At least I now have a room to sew in so the sewing machine can stay out as opposed to before when we’d eat dinner around it at the kitchen table when I was in the middle of a project. It definitely helps keep the clutter at bay that there just isn’t anywhere to stuff things.

    I wish it only took us 5 minutes, but we do the same thing. Set the timer (for 30 minutes) and pick up everything we can before it goes off. It’s never perfect but always better.

    • My friend moved from a three-bedroom apartment to a big house, and I was surprised by how much less storage her house had. Her apartment had lots of storage space, but the historic house had very few closets and it made a huge difference.

      I’ve eaten dinner around the sewing machine too, but more often than that it was my computer on the dining table with a stack of papers pushed to the side.

    • We have the same deal – no closets. Big house, but no place to put anything you want easy access to but don’t want to look at. Like the vacuum.

      If I can get everyone involved and the baby in a sling so we’re all participating it goes so much more quickly and then we can celebrate and enjoy our clean space. I also notice that when everyone does something the clean lasts longer.

      darah´s last post…First Day of School

  16. I agree with what Tawnya said- whenever I’m having a day when the house seems so messy I feel completely overwhelmed I try to set a goal of making each room just a little bit better than I found it each time I’m in it. That means not only putting away whatever I just used, but also a few other items that may need to go back to their homes. It is amazing how quickly your house can get cleaned up that way!

    Another trick is to have your home “commercially cleaned”- while you’re watching tv, jump up during the commercials and do a quick clean-up.

    I read an article recently about a woman who pared down her belongings to only 100 things (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1812048,00.html). I was very inspired- I realized how much of my life is spent dealing with “stuff” and not with LIFE! How much simpler it would be if you had to wash your dish everytime you used it because it was the only one you had- dishes could never pile up in your sink! What if you had 1 set of sheets, a few basic items of clothing- laundry would be a breeze! Of course, if you have kids and/or you’re the slightest bit creative, 100 things is unreasonable. But still, it does make you re-examine what you do keep in your home…

    KaseyQ´s last post…GIMME!

  17. When we moved in to the rental home we are in now, I thought – YES finally tons of storage… so why is it still a mess? I think that our problem is that we have too much stuff! I’m trying to sell/give away unnecessary items so we have space for what we really use and need. I love to organize and find that I’m always finding new ways to organize our stuff.

    Creating zones in each room has been working for us lately. In our sun room I have my office space, a quiet place to read and my sewing corner. The dining room has a corner for the kids “homeschool” stuff, the living room has one designated spot for toys and one spot for books. It seems to help contain the mess.

    – Donna

  18. You need a work basket – although it doesn’t work for sewing machines and ironing boards. I knit and current projects are in a basket that has a home elsewhere but it spends a lot of time next to the sofa. I also have a work baskets for stuff I’m reading (actually a box), stuff I’m writing and prjects (art, event planning). All of these have homes in cupboards but can be brought out and put away easily.

  19. I have a “hyper” playlist I put on when I need to speed clean!

    And I’m so with you on leaving things out! We no longer have a spare bedroom so all my sewing stuff is on the kitchen table…last night I finally put it away so we could eat dinner there instead of at the coffee table.

    And I love when everything has a place, but what to do when your better half doesn’t remember those places? I find my spatulas in with my silverware, my pants hanging in the coat closet and my scarves put away with my pajamas! You get to a point where you think, “Well at least its not out!”

    Kait Palmer´s last post…Aprons from the Giggling Gourmet

    • I can relate to this. I try so hard to keep things put away, but my husband and son (11 years old) don’t share my passion for “a place for everything and everything in it’s place” theory. I think they are convinced that when I clear an area, I’m just making room for more of their stuff.

      I usually clean as I go along in the kitchen, but the rest of the house gets straightened up at the end of the day (5 minutes a room before bed) and that helps the morning start much more smoothly.

  20. This is so true! I’m not sure it is necessarily because of living in an apartment, but any smaller space. People are always surprised because I am always “sorting and purging”; but the truth is that it is necessary. And I have found that I like living in smaller places better, so I don’t mind that it takes that or cleaning more often.

    PS I have to admit that my apartment looks messier than I would like it to enough of the time–but I still wouldn’t trade it at this point!

    • Sometimes I wonder if my desire to have less stuff means I am spending even more time on my stuff because it takes longer to do something with it than to let it pile up.

      • I know what you mean! Seems like a catch-22.
        I’ve often thought that I’m too preoccupied with organizing even though things get untidy all the time.

  21. I’m so glad someone else remembered the “10-second tidy”. That’s what we do when we see company coming up our long driveway. Everything gets thrown into my bedroom and the door pulled shut. I’m going to try finding a home for every item. I’ll probably need labels for my husband and boys!

  22. Having a home for things is key. When I was in middle school or so my mom bought my sister and I each a pair of our scissors. I imagine because hers kept disappearing. It made all the difference in the world. Sadly enough at 35 I am still using that same pair of scissors. I have more than one pair now, but still each pair has a home that it is always returned to. When things have a home there is no question as to where they go or where to find them next time you need them.

    And yes, being at work all day definitely helps things at home stay cleaner and more organized. :)

  23. Oh you are so right about homes with inadequate storage being harder to keep clean. Our house is so small, with so few closets that we have actually just given up. I keep the dishes done, and vacuum, but other than that, it’s just a mess. And very depressing. We are in the midst of moving to a new place, with better storage options, but I am determined to not bring all that STUFF with us in the first place.

  24. I moved a couple of years ago from a small terraced house to a larger detached house for my growing brood.

    How I miss my little house when it comes to cleaning and tidying (!) I used to be able to clean up so easily and beacuse I was ruthless about not having too much in a small space our posessions were naturally fewer and we just spent less time tending to stuff.

    Now it seems to take an entire day to get things organised, the luxury of extra space has not made me tidier….there is just more places for clutter to build up! I do love my new home for lots of other reasons, but on the tidying front it is just a disaster! Family also don’t think twice about buying big and bulky gifts for the kids as they assume we have the space to deal with it – most frustrating.

    Anna´s last post…Twisted Goodness

  25. Clean as you go and only start what you can finish! Easily said, not so easily done…

    Zom G.´s last post…Meal Realism and Aji

  26. I have to tell you what I read once (I think it was a FlyLady idea). If you keep a clean dishpan under your sink, when someone dirties one plate or a couple of glasses, they put them in the dish pan. Then those couple of dishes that make you whole kitchen look undone are out of sight until the next meal when you wash again. It really works. I can’t wait to use this again once the construction is done on my sink.

  27. I so relate to the ‘nowhere for stuff to hide’ feeling – small flat etc. Worst of it is, I am mentally paralysed if there is clutter.

    My solutions – tolerate children’s play things when the babes are awake (they play better) but ensure an adults’stuff only zone(saves my sanity, even if it is just a sofa!). Pre-tea (evening meal) do a thorough tidy-up. This is where I seem to do it differently to everyone else… I intentionally teach them how to tidy up. Oh yes it is sometimes a game. But more often, especially for the laziest one, it is a case of ‘pick X up. Where does X belong? Put X in its place’. That way, the play cycle is complete – they can find what they want tomorrow.

    Solution 2 – igonore the pc. Tidiness starts as a state of mind and when the computer is distracting me, then everything else just seems to go to pot.

    And I second the motion for less stuff and a place for everything. The rest is habit. Oh, to see mine improved!

    • “tolerate children’s play things when the babes are awake (they play better) but ensure an adults’stuff only zone”

      Oh yes, good idea. I really try to keep the toys out of my bedroom, and we pick up kid things about twice a day.

  28. At night, 5 mins per room works here.

    If I feel overwhelmed with stuff to put away, I use the flylady’s method of 27-thing fling. It can be combo of any 27 things–trash, clothes, dishes, shoes, junk mail, whatever. Usually after 27 things, I realize how easy that was. (It got me started.)

    Knowing someone is on their way over also is a doozie of a motivator!

    As for keeping a small or big place clean, it all comes down to desire. If you really want to keep something tidy, and realize that it’s hard without enough storage, you either get rid of stuff or find a better solution. Sometimes, though, even a lot of storage units (carts, boxes, furniture) gets any size house looking cluttered, even if stuff is stored away neatly!

  29. We live in an 812 square foot condo and I am still trying to find a home for some things. I am tired of not even seeing things anymore stacked against the bedroom or hallway walls. We are getting close though!

    paisleypenguin´s last post…Freedom From the Cage

  30. Karen (Scotland) says:

    I think it’s more to do with “stuff” and storage than to do with size. Sure, I can throw everything into the playroom and physically close the door when it’s messy but, and this is the key point for my kind of mentality, it’s STILL messy. And I know it is. Even if the door is shut.

    In our last home, we could stand on the top landing and put our hands in each room. Now, we have a sort of U shaped corridor-landing around the stairs. The first night we were here and putting the boys to bed, my husband suddenly stopped and said “There’s a lot of walking in this house, isn’t there?!”

    I’m certainly not complaining about our extra space but I think the tidiness of ANY home comes down to the old saying “A place for everything and everything in its place”. Cliche but true.

    Our tidy up gee-up song is me singing the William Tell Overture at the top of my voice! The kids know it as the “fast song”.


  31. Karen (Scotland) says:

    Just a funny story. My friend’s little boy just started school this week, after two full years at nursery. During the holidays, my friend was playing a CD when “Is this the road to Amarillo?” started playing. Her son suddenly shouted “Tidy Up Time Song!” and she stood, amazed, as he proceeded to tidy the living room and play room at top speed.
    She then phoned me to rant “Two years! Two years! How come no-one ever told me about the nursery tidy-up time song?!”

    I couldn’t stop laughing…
    Karen (Scotland)

    • I love Karen’s story about the Tidy Up song. Too funny.

    • I think this is proof that every family needs a tidy-up time song. This is so funny! And what also makes me laugh is the thought of you belting out the William Tell Overture!

  32. We live in a house, and I tend to clean the space that I’m in; so if the upstairs is messy, I rarely get to it. But I think smaller spaces tend to look messier faster.

    Unplanned Cooking´s last post…Are you addicted to kitchen gadgets

  33. Billy Idol. Awesome! Who can complain with that song on? (off to listen to it…)

    Marisa´s last post…New Homeschool Year

  34. We tidy up before meals – everything!!! Every meal!!! Our house is pretty small for all of us and if we have spent the morning on a project it is very unlikely we will get back to it in the afternoon. And before dinner we tidy for the next day, perfectly – after dinner it is bath books and bed – no chance of a project!!! And nobody ever wants to start a new day with tidying!!! SO away they go… we have two surfaces: one for the eternal LEGO game and one for science projects in progress… but tidying is a fact of life and no I never ever want a bigger house because I fear the need to tidy will just grow with the space… the thought is just beyond comprehension!!!

    se7en´s last post…Sunday Snippet- A Visit to Egypt…

  35. I am so with you on this!
    I have been bad at leaving things this week and I am certainly paying the price. Now I have to spend the day cleaning. If I tidied as I went, I could have used the time to do something fun.
    Thanks for the inspiration today.

  36. My best trick to put things away is something I have only recently started doing: I’m getting rid of all my stuff. Not my valuables, not the things I treasure, not the things I use daily, but the stuff that has infiltrated every adequate storage area in our home. Now that I am purging the home of all these space suckers, I’m finding it easier to clean and easier to keep clean.

    Jules´s last post…The Last Few Days

  37. I heard a professional organizer say it best – we don’t own our things, they own us. We work to buy things, we go the store to pick them out, we bring them home, we find a place for it, we move it when we dust it, etc. Remembering this has kept me from buying many things.

    And I try to get the paper clutter out of the house ASAP. We have a recycling bin by the door in the garage, and all junk mail and misc papers from school go right in as soon as possible. Otherwise they sit on the island and grow into a paper mountain!

  38. I tell my boys to each find 5 or 10 (depending on how untidy our house is at the time)things to put away. Amazing the difference that makes! And it’s fast, too, because they want to be done so they can go play.

    Jill´s last post…How to use up stale baguette

  39. There is this old saying I really like: A place for everything and everything in its place.

    Before I try to deal with “my put-a-ways” (my surface problem), I have to first figure out where to put the stuff (my root problem), otherwise, it is just shuffling the mess from point A to point B and the vicious cycle repeats until I find a permanent home for the “to keep” stuff.

    Our Lives´s last post…The Basic Plan

  40. The problem is we all own absolutely too much STUFF!
    People in 3rd world countries don’t have problems with clutter/organization.

    • amen and amen!!! it makes me sick to see all the articles in every woman’s magazine about how to declutter or how to organize!

      Jill´s last post…How to use up stale baguette

    • I was thinking tonight as I cleaned the kitchen floor how it’s really a luxury to have a clean floor. Not because of how much I enjoy it, but just the fact that we are so blessed to have a nice clean home instead of a shelter with a dirt floor.

  41. My idea (which I don’t implement well) is to have a basket, and if I want to do a quick tidy then put everything that doesn’t belong in a room into that basket to be redistributed. I’ve also wondered whether I should have a small basket for each room for sorting stuff.

    But yeah the reality is, get rid of stuff (because any basket around here is always full anyway, and some stuff doesn’t even have a proper place!)

  42. I quite feel this way after having kids and being home with them that my house is comfortably messy!

    If I clean something up, it is in messy again in no time. I clean big way now once at 4 pm and another at night after putting kids to sleep! I generally am clean freak so I have come a long way to be zen minded about it all. Still work in progress!

    BTW, congratulations on your site being mentioned in big three sites! Yeah, you deserve it.

    Preeti @ Heart and Mind´s last post…Web Design- Overwhelm and Good Reads

  43. My housekeeping is so much easier since I purchased two tall bookcases and a set of nice-looking boxes from Ikea. There’s space for random things to have a home – like office supplies, receipts, books, bud vases, etc. I know the point is not to have to buy stuff to deal with your stuff, but the bookcases have really made a difference for me in terms of storing stuff I actually need.

    vegeater´s last post…Probiotics and Pregnancy

  44. Living in our apartment, I’ve found decorative baskets to be a lifesaver. I bought about 5 various sized (but all large) woven baskets *with lids* and they can be found in varying spots/combinations around our apartment. Having lids means that the things that are contained are always out of sight. They’ve contained any or all of the following things at any point in time:

    * our electrical ‘stuff’ (camera cables, cameras, cords, iPod chargers, laptop charger when not in use etc)
    * one basket sits beside our fire, and it contains the things that we like to do when we sit in front of it — Bibles, notebooks, moisterizer, pens, books, etc.
    * stationary/ utility items like scissors, tape, wrapping paper, glue etc
    * craft items
    * extra blankets
    * projects that I’m in the middle of
    * paperwork
    * in a really desperate situation …. anything that I want out of sight when someone is popping in for a quick visit.

    My advice for buying baskets: buy ones that look beautiful and can be used in various combinations, in a neutral colour that will work with your whole house. Mine are chocolate brown and I love them to bits — I couldn’t imagine our tiny little place without then. I spent a somewhat significant amount of money on them compared to plastic crates etc (from memory, $100 or so), but they look like they belong in our home, rather than “I bought this to hold more of my stuff”.

  45. A timer :)

    pam´s last post…Party Hardy!

  46. When we moved cross country we went from a 1500 sqft townhouse to a 4000sqft house. A year later, I just can’t get into a good “keep thing picked up” routine. A place for everything is definitely key… we just don’t know where to start. When I need something or actually put something away, I’m still thinking of the perfect spot we had in our old home. There’s way more storage here AND we actually got rid of a lot of crap! Ugh! Not sure what our problem is… couldn’t be the 2 young toddlers could it!?!? I know, I shouldn’t blame them ;)

  47. Totally agree with you about putting things away.. That is my simplest rule for keeping a clean home. Also,I like focusing on one room/corner at a time. Helps me to move through the mess faster:-)

    Prerna´s last post…A Free eBook for New and Aspiring Online Writers!

  48. I love the 5 minute idea, and turning up Dancing with Myself really loud: what a great song!! I am very partial to some Jive Bunny & The Mastermixers to do some speed cleaning too! (on the original vinyl too!)

    Junk mail is such an issue it can pile up so quickly: so I have a recycling bin handy I can quickly toss them into it when finished.

  49. we live in a tiny 900 sq. foot rental with a very bad layout and minimal closet space for a family of 4. it is tight, but we have it under control mostly because we don’t buy too much stuff. i do have an EXTREMELY hard time with kids clothes {keeping them for the next one, clothes for the next season, buying things on sale for next summer, etc.} and use space bags where i can… but i feel like the clothes own me.

    as far as the actual cleaning goes, a newer home or apartment would be easier to clean because cleaning ill repaired or shoddy parts of a house {think – tile with cracks in it in the bathroom with a potty training toddler} is really hard to do. the clutter thing is easy – get rid of what you don’t use. period. it has been strangely freeing.

    • I used to have a hard time with children’s clothes too. I organized them all, so I’m enjoying a break before I need to go through them again in a couple of months.

      For the past few months I’ve been experimenting with buying fewer children’s clothes and seeing just how few clothes they can get by with. It’s working well because the clothes are worn more, and my hope is that there will be less to keep for the next child.

      • Karen (Scotland) says:

        I agree with you on the as-few-as-possible-clothes for the kids. My boys have about five outfits each max (as well as their nursery/school uniforms – this is Britain, after all!)
        They have 50cm of pole each and one narrow drawer for their undies/socks/PJs.

        A tshirt/sweatshirt and trouser combo hang on a coathanger each so they (or my husband) can just grab a hanger and the outfit is ready.

        Rosa, ahem, has 100cm of pole but her wardrobe is the bain (bane sp?) of my husband’s life. I actually see his eyes glaze over when he looks at it – information overload….
        Karen (Scotland)

  50. I absolutely agree! We have NO storage space in our home (besides a small laundry room) and a shed that only holds outdoor items. People do not realize how hard it is to keep a storage-less home looking tidy. Right now there is two books, a pair of flops, socks and and two throw pillows in my living room floor and it looks terrible! It will only take 30 seconds to tidy-but that is 20+ a day. It is like fighting a losing battle. I can’t get rid of enough stuff to make it look “clean” all the time. So I settle for having a (small!) basket that I put everything in to go elsewhere and put that away periodically throughout the day. I used to use a laundry basket-mistake! Too much to put away quickly. A little basket works to dump everything in for a magic tidy appearance and then deal with later.:)

    • I agree totally. if even a few pairs of shoes or a shopping bag or two is out, my house looks trashed. and then, somehow that “sets the pace” where my husband doesn’t even bother to put things away… slippery slope. i abide by a laundry basket that is a holding place for odds and ends when i have to.

      Stephanie´s last post…Saturday Morning Breakfast

  51. We are a family of 5 living in a 750 sq ft apartment. We own the whole house and rent out the bottom floor which helps pay the mortgage. (score!)

    BUT, let me tell you–I find it very challenging to keep it clean for exactly what you stated. There just aren’t places for things. It would be SO nice to have a sewing machine table to keep it out on (which can still look neat), but we just don’t have the space. If the kids even pull out a few things it instantly looks/feels messy. We are doing our best and have our tricks (we call it the 5 minute fake clean–just to make it look nice), but I do think it’s tough.

    We almost need one of those experts to come and design our space to perfectly fit our needs. I think built in furniture/storage would help.

  52. We have a little home to so clutter is always obvious. Sometimes I stash things on the attic stairs and shut the door!

    BUT! I usually go through and clean it out several times a year.

  53. I live in a 500 sq foot 1 bedroom apartment (alone, but sometimes the family dog comes for a sleep over) and I have a few set rules to help keep my place neat and organized. You don’t get the nickname Slackerjo if you spend all your time cleaning!

    Hooks, magnets and Velcro are your friends. Stuff I use daily is out in the open. No more rooting through drawers to find the object.

    Speaking of out in the open, I have about 95% of my possessions out on display in my apartment. I have one plastic bin to hold cables and two cardboard boxes to hold painting supplies. All my clothes are hung up in the closet (left side = off season, right side = current season) or placed in my dresser. When it comes to clothing, I use the 1 in, 1 out rule. No new jeans unless old jeans are full of holes and falling apart. I also find this rule useful for controlling my weight.

    So where do I put all my stuff? Shelving, shelving, shelving. I have shelves everywhere. Most are made from salvaged material from my building’s garbage (old bed frames, dresser drawers, broken microwave cart). I just buy the brackets at the hardware store. Putting up shelves is easy, affordable and it’s lots of fun to organize your stuff on them. Of course if you have young children, you may have to think where you are going to put the shelves and what you are going to put on them. Shelves also give your things a home. If things have a home, it’s easy to control clutter.

    People always ask me “Do you ever get in trouble from your building for putting up so many shelves?” The answer is no. The reason is that when I move I do a much BETTER job of patching the holes and painting the walls than the maintenance staff. If you walk around your apartment and take a look at the walls, you probably will see some patch jobs. Make yours better and you will have no problems.

    My other big rule for small space living is “never start an activity until you have finished cleaning up after the first activity.” Nothing like 3-4 half done projects scattered around a small space to make it look messy and disorganized.

  54. I have been reading a lot lately about down-sizing your life and that means the things collected, kept as memories, etc.. I have gone through our house, a 3 bedroom with a vengence and found out I have been collecting things/stuff and along with that stuff some pretty awful memories of events with that stuff. I am rearranging, selling at the only garage sale I will have and getting rid of the chaos of my life and letting go. I take the 5 minutes a day, take the articles down and think about them–do I really need them, want them or do I need to get rid of them? I donate some, give some of the costlier items to friends and essentially rid my house and life of the chaos of the mess. My mother was a knick knack collector–my theory; if you have to dust it often and don’t like it, why keep it? My father a pack rat–does it work, can it be repaired for less than it’s worth, is it worth having in the first place? I have streamlined my life keeping only what I need to keep and decluttering the rest and my life is calmer. Love what you have/buy, buy/have what you love. I and my husband could live in either a smaller house as we do or a 2 bedroom apartment or smaller if need be. It’s the stuff you have that keeps you in chaos.

  55. i don’t have any quick tricks – just too.much.stuff.

    so on that note this last week+ i have finally been cleaning and decluttering and letting go of stuff that isn’t a positive force in our home. last night hubby put up a shelf that is almost 12feet long in my office – up high and out of the way – that today i will be attempting to put everything i need/want to keep in here away – neatly and out of the way so things we do use regularly can have a home :)

    deb from p.s. bohemian´s last post…Wordless Wednesday Water Fight

  56. I have to admit, I am a timer addict too. Set it for 10 minutes and pick up as much as possible. I have also found that my son loves to be “challenged” in a pick-up game. I dare him to finish his pick-up tasks before I finish mine. (Of course, I move like a snail when we are doing this!) I started this when he was about three and now he is 12 and still loves the friendly competition! =)

    Paula´s last post…Family Meeting

  57. I live in an 875 sq. foot apt. and I am so with you on the having a “home” for everything. For example, it might be a pain that we have to get our printer out of the closet and connect it to our computer every time we want to print or scan, BUT then the printer isn’t on the floor beside the computer and it makes things much less cluttered. When things are less cluttered, I’m more likely to strive to keep other things less cluttered. Otherwise, if I leave stuff out I just feel completely overwhelmed and do nothing. So yes, it’s all about the home for things!

    katherine´s last post…Summer beauties

  58. I am constantly bringing stuff to goodwill or throwing stuff out. We don’t yet have “a place for everything” but I have a moderately lax view on clutter. But keeping the kids stuff minimal has helped. There’s a book I think you’d love called “Simplicity Parenting” by Kim John Payne. He recommends no more than 6 to 8 toys for kids. That helps. We have an old bookshelf with 11 cubby holes on it that the kids share. More than 8, but it’s for both kids, so it works. That’s helped alot. Grandparents don’t help, and neither do other kids birthday parties. There’s always crap to try and get rid of. A recent birthday party that my daughter went to resulted in 2 big bags of about 30 party favors!! 30?! I thought the party WAS the favor!!

  59. I’ve been working for almost a year to completely pare down my home. Luckily, I started this soon after we got married and didn’t have to deal with years and years of accumulation. It’s something I will continue to do so that that doesn’t happen.
    My problem seems to be that we’ve gotten rid of everything we don’t use or love, and it still seems like too much sometimes! Does anyone else have that problem?
    On the other hand, I did have a very nice compliment the other day. A man came to our apartment the other day (which is also the office for our apartment complex) and he asked my husband, “Do you actually live here or is it just an office?” And my husband said, “No, we live here.” The guy was really surprised and said, “But it’s so clean!” Apparently, the mess is all in my head sometimes.

  60. I love the music idea! We do a five minute pick-up to beat the timer, but rocking out would definitely help morale!

  61. Basically, we do a one hour blitz. I write about blitzing a lot on the blog.

    Jena (Organizing Mommy)´s last post…Its really not so bad

  62. We just moved into a 50+ year old fully furnished home in Italy. By fully furnished I mean all the old furniture, linens, figurines, and whatever other STUFF you would accumulate over fifty years! We’ve been here 2 months and its definitely an adventure finding homes for our things as well as clearing out what doesn’t need to be kept versus what is a keepsake. Its a little daunting and allows for the mindset that there isnt a place for this or that to go. But we are slowly but surely getting there.

    Adrianne´s last post…Balancing Act – How to be a Better Me

  63. If I really need to pick up and clean, I invite guests for dinner… its amazing how quickly I can clean up when folk are on their way over! LOL…

    angelvalerie´s last post…off on holidays…

  64. My current idea is this: I try to go to bed at a set time. For 1 hour before that is quiet time. For the 30 min before quiet time, I am designating “pick up time”. Yes, 30 min is a long time, but I live alone and don’t plan to run around. :-)

    Basically, I want to go to each room and pick up clutter, get dishes back to the kitchen, load the dishwasher, and do a quick Swiffer in the kitchen. If it doesn’t take 30 min, great! But I don’t want to feel rushed.

    Psychologically for me, waking up to a kept house is really soothing, so that’s why it’s important to me to do the pick up time before bed. :-)


  65. It seems I’m different than a lot of people here. I tend to do my picking up in the morning and then maintaining throughout the day. If it’s a bit cluttered when I sleep, that’s okay. I like having it uncluttered during the day when I can enjoy it rather than feeling like the only time my apartment is clean is when I’m asleep.

    Jennie´s last post…What You Wake Up To

  66. Catherine says:

    You know what? I’m going to go put my iron away RIGHT NOW! It’s been sitting out for over a week, and I can’t even remember what else I was going to iron!

  67. I live in a 1 bedroom, 400 sq. foot apartment with my fiance and two big dogs, so it’s important that we keep the small space free of clutter. Our best trick for cleaning up? Throw things away! We spend a few minutes every night picking up, and if something doesn’t have a “home” we decide whether to trash it or keep it. If the latter, we throw out something else we’re not using to make room for the new stuff. It’s a system that allows us and our dogs to have lots of living space in our tiny NYC apartment.

  68. we have a big house too, all the bedrooms have walk-in closets, which the kids DON’T need b/c their toys are in the basement. I find its the basic things like coats, shoes, vacuum cleaner, etc that there’s no place for! If you build a 4 bdrm house, don’t you think it should have a walk-in coat closet instead of one that i couldn’t even stand in? ugh! that being said, we endeavor to have a ‘place for everything’, I think the challenge is communicating to everyone where that place is!

    Alison´s last post…Chair to go with

  69. We moved to a much smaller house a little over a year ago, and while I find that it’s easier to actually clean – cleaning one bathroom instead of 3 takes much less time – it does look and feel messier more easily than our old house did.

    Every day before nap time I have my kids help me with “Clean up, Pick up” time, and I recently found a great way to help little ones that are too little to really understand “as fast as you can”, get involved. The Belong Game – I posted about it on my blog: http://www.liverenewed.com/2010/08/the-belong-game.html.

    It’s great! And I love having the time that my kids are asleep to be able to focus on what I would like to do and not just cleaning up after them!

  70. We are also the most inspired to do work when we have a time limit. It is usually something short (5 minutes!). My husband and I might intersperse watching a tv show online for 10 minutes with 5 minutes of cleaning. That way we feel like we get a little reward (tv) after every stint. It works for us!

    Tiffany´s last post…Baby Short on Hair No Slippy Clippy to the Rescue! GIVEAWAY!!!

  71. Can you tell us a bit more about the card catalog in the photo (if you haven’t already…?) I’ve thought about getting something similar, but I’ve had a hard time deciding to what degree segmented storage is helpful. For some reason, keeping an IKEA Expedit bookshelf tidy and decent looking seems a lot easier than a traditional bookcase, with so much open space. I wonder about the card catalog-style cabinets I see – helpful segmentation, or hard to find things that really fit into those small spaces?
    Emily´s last post…View from my kitchen window