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What Momma Never Told Me About Housekeeping


A lot of us grew up with Mom taking care of most everything. Now, we do things pretty much the way she did. What if there is a better way? If you are buried under the daily clutter of life, always wondering where you put "that damn thing", read on. There is hope. All you need is a little direction and you can take control of your house.

I always thought my mother was a great housekeeper, and she was. She was clean and had dinner ready and we had clean clothes etc... My mom rarely worked and she devoted most of her life to caring for her family. I do a lot of things the way she did them.

One difference between us was the amount of involement we had outside the home. I always seem to have a few more balls to keep in the air than she did. Throughout my child-raising years, I stuggled with keeping the house running (and running well) and doing things outside the home too. I did some research and found there are some basic rules, that seem only obvious once you hear them, to keeping things organized at home.

The toughest task in keeping your home organized is to keep the clutter to a minimum. How do you do that with kids, husbands, dogs, cats etc...? I see the disbelief in you eyes already. Start by getting rid of all the things you don't need. Sort every closet, dresser, shelf, cubby and keep a couple boxes handy while you do it.

One box is for garbage. A spray can that is 1/4 empty, and you have had it for 3 years, and you haven't needed it is garbage. Usually, the rule is, if you have not used it in one year, it is trash. Even I have trouble with that time limit, but be reasonable. If you are just storing this item for the rest of your life is it worth moving it around again when you do your next clean up? Be ruthless here, chances are you will never regret it.

Another box is for charity. Some things are too good to trash, but not being used by you. Let someone else enjoy them. Extra linens, clothes that don't fit, dishes, belts, shoes etc... that seem too good to trash can go to someone who would really appreciate them. You may know someone who could use them, or give them to an organization and take the tax write-off.

Some items may require special boxes of their own, according to your plans. Sentimental items like baby things may be stored in the attic or elsewhere. Just keep these to a minimum, again be reasonable about what you keep. Definitely keep things that are special to you, even think of creative ways to display them in your home so they double as decorations. Just look at some of the restaraunts we visit where roller skates, guitars, shirts, etc...are nailed to the walls!!

Now, you have sorted everything, where do you put it? A few simple rules help here, my two favorite are:

1. Store it where you use it.

2. Divide and Conquer

Sounds simple doesn't it? Store things where you use them seems obvious. The idea is this, don't just stick something in the cupboard. Put it where you will use it. Most of us have our glasses in a cupboard above the sink on the left or right. In most kitchens you can guess where some things are. That is because someone thought about where to place those items.

Where should the mixer go? As close as possible to the plug where you will use it. If not on the counter, in a cupboard as close as possible. You won't have to think where it is. You won't waste time walking across the room to get it. It is where it belongs.

Here is one. Where do you keep paper towels? The kitchen, of course, and where else? Anywhere you use them, you should also have them. Keep them in the bathroom vanity for cleaning the mirrors, keep them in the garage for checking the oil. Multiples in convenient locations saves you time and aggravation.

The other part of placing your stuff in the right spot is dividing the space. If you have a lot of small items are you going to just shove them in a pile? If you have a tall space and a lot of short items what do you do? You divide and conquer!!!

Picture the area under the kitchen sink. Is it a pile? Is it damp and dirty and practically useless? It doesn't have to be that way. Okay, if you have a leaky trap, you have a problem. Put something under there to catch the drips and call a plumber. The rest of the area can be divided quite well by putting plastic dishpans or some other type of container in there. Then, when you are looking for an item you can lift out the entire bin and look in it and even behind it quickly. Instead of pulling out each item one by one, you have half of it out in one clean swoop!

Think of your desk drawers. Is it a big tangled mess in there? Can you find anything? Drawer dividers are a simple solution to the tangle. Most any cupboard, drawer, shelf, closet etc...can benifit by having different categories of items separated. Kids rooms can get bright colored bins, other spaces can have wooden or wicker bins, or use the good old plastic dishpans, there are many options.

Here is a tip that will keep your kids out of trouble. Put the puzzles, games, action figures etc... in separate bins or dishpans and put the most annoying ones up high in the closet. This way they are not mixed into the bottom of the toy box and lost forever. Give them one bin at a time and be sure the items get put back in the bin when they are finished and returned to the shelf. This makes those items more interesting to the kids too. If they get bored, pull down a bin, see what is in there that they haven't played with lately.

Okay, now you have sorted, and divided and put things where you use them, now what? You guessed it....Keep It Up! Don't throw away all that hard work. You just spent hours getting control of your home, now you have the final assignment which is maintain what you have accomplished. It takes mere seconds to put something back where you got it. It takes dedication, it takes determination, to maintain your organization. If you take a minute here and there to upkeep, you will save hours later.

Good luck, it is a lifelong task, and we only stay ahead if we really want to. If you don't really care, admit it and get over the fact. If clutter is your enemy, go to war and mean it.

Susan Hoskins


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