Health & Home Life

My Attempt to Simplify: Tidying Up, Decluttering, and Streamlining

February 1, 2016

I’d like to begin this post with a disclaimer. These are first world problems, folks. I am blessed to have a roof over my head, clothes on my body, and food to eat. I just need to become less materialistic and discerning about the things I fill my home with. Does anyone else feel like they spend way too much time trying to catch up on cleaning? I feel like I am constantly behind and can never catch up! When I finally do sit down to relax at the end of the day, I feel a little bit guilty because there is still work to be done. Part of that is just learning to accept that in a home that is really lived in, housework never really is done. Our house is pretty well loved at almost 100 years old, and very much lived in. We’re always having guests come to stay, and the minute my stove is clean, I’m usually dirtying it again with some from scratch recipe. Once I  vacuum up the dog hair, my big girl Piper jumps up to cuddle me on the couch! Who can say “no” to that face? Well, right now I can, because  my poor dogs’ smells trigger the old gag reflex. I can’t wait until my son is born and I can hug my dogs without holding my breath!

When I was off over the summer, I spent a solid week organizing every nook and cranny of my house. It was extremely satisfying! However, the minute morning sickness reared its ugly head, and I was headed back to work, much of my work was undone. The tidiness was not something that stood the test of time, or the test of real life, which is very often busy and messy.  I think we never lost some of our messy habits, and I didn’t throw away or donate enough things. I’ve  been thinking- who wants to be cleaning all the time? Is it really worth it? Maybe its time to stop being disgusted that two grown adults can’t keep a small home clean. Maybe it is time to find out what the real clutter problems are,  so that I can solve them before our son arrives in May. I don’t want to be worrying about cleaning all the time, and I definitely don’t want my son to grow up walking on eggshells and trying not to make a mess. I want to cherish all of the time that I have with him. But deep down, in my neurotic soul, I also would like a house that doesn’t look like a house party gone wrong the minute I relax a little. However, another part of deep down me is something of a hoarder that can’t bear to throw out pictures drawn for me by former students, old christmas and birthday cards, or get rid of clothes that never fit right. It is definitely a battle as those two sides attempt to fight it out! I aspire to achieve balance in these areas. I want our home to feel comfortable, but arrange it so that tidying only takes a few minutes because everything has a place. As for deep cleaning, perhaps I can set up some kind of loose schedule for that! I’ll have more time to deep clean if I’m not constantly relocating clutter.

I’ve decided to identify a few of the messy culprits in our home.


You know how it is, every day you get a huge stack of grocery store circulars, actual bills that matter and maybe a few political ads in the mail. We are terrible at sorting our mail right away. Things that need to be kept and filed are mixed in with old catalogues. This can lead to mild panic for the sixty seconds that I think I accidentally threw out our new insurance cards. Not worth all of the drama.

Solution: I need to set up a system of sorting things right away and immediately discarding junk. I  need to firmly I ask my husband if he is ever really going to read his issues of Popular Mechanic. We recently found an old mail sorter/whiteboard thing that we are going to be hanging in the pantry. Bonus: it also has space to hang our keys. I’ve finally started hanging up some family photos, and will continue to hang up more favorites as time goes on. As for those old pictures and cards, I’m going to keep the ones that are most meaningful, and file them away, and mercilessly throw out the rest. Ugh is that hard for anyone else?

Clothes and Laundry

I have a habit of letting laundry pile up, especially after we’ve had guests and we have a bunch of linens and towels to wash. Right now, I’m still doing laundry almost every day to catch up. This is not a habit I want to be in- especially as we plan to cloth diaper our son, which will mean another load of laundry every other day. Plus, I feel like we can never fit all of our clothes in our dresser and closet. So then I let the laundry pile up because I don’t know where to put it! Part of this is the fact that my husband and I share a dresser, and part of this is that we have way too many things that we don’t wear taking up space. We also have a bad habit of coming home and plopping our coats right on the back of the kitchen chairs, and my purse goes right on the table.  This winter has been pretty fickle, so we are constantly alternating between our lighter coats and winter jackets.

Solution: I need to seriously reevaluate what I do and do not wear, and encourage my husband to do the same. No more feeling obligated to keep a stained top that I can wear only if I find a sweater to go over it, or that hand me down dress that never fit right. If it’s damaged I need to let it go, if it is in good condition, but never worn, I need to donate it. Soon, my son will be inheriting our dresser, so my husband is  planning to build us a wardrobe for our bedroom that will better suit our needs. I have also started doing complete loads of laundry before I start another one. This means less piles of clean laundry waiting around to be folded. My husband also hung up some coat hooks in the kitchen. Hopefully soon we’ll remember to hang up coats, put keys away, and sort the mail immediately! This will mean a tidier kitchen table for more family meals and a clean space for my husband to study.


I love a cute knick-knack! I have a ton of candles that I love the smell of (when I’m not pregnant), as well as pretty glassware and a collection of salt and pepper shakers. I love the little sheep that lives on the counter and my postcards of foxes on dates that line my kitchen shelf.   That’s not all, but you get the gist. However, these are all things that take up space and get dusty. After awhile, there are so many of them, that things just look dusty, messy and cluttered, and you don’t even notice how pretty that vase is, or that those salt and pepper shakers are shaped like sea shells.

Solution: I’ve decided anything that is broken and not easily fixed must go. I am keeping only my favorite candles, and some will go into the attic to be rotated out by season.  My postcards will be framed and hung up in baby boy’s room. I will keep two sets of salt and pepper shakers in the kitchen, and the rest will be cleaned and relocated into our china cabinet. I can rotate them out whenever I want a change! My goal is to clean as many flat surfaces as possible to keep things from looking cluttered, and create more space for using the kitchen.

Not having a dishwasher

This is a tough one. I just need to better keep up with dishes and not let things pile up! Sometimes this will be inevitable when I cook a big meal or have company. I have learned to buy paper plates and cups when we are having a lot of company, so that we don’t spend the entire time doing dishes.


A Cluttered fridge

Anyone else find  themselves plagued by a cluttered fridge? Two weeks ago I did a big fridge cleanup and wiped down the shelves and drawers. I also threw out expired condiments and emptied old containers of food that made their way toward the back of the fridge to hide- gross!

Solution: Now that I have a basically tidy fridge, I check it every time before I do dishes for old food containers that need to be washed. I also quickly  glance at each shelf before grocery shopping to see if anything needs to be thrown away. Doing this has kept things pretty clean for the past two weeks!

There are so many more areas in my home that need tidying, but these are the spaces I am trying to conquer first. My current plan of attack is to declutter room by room and try to donate or throw out what is unused.  I know that goes against the Kondo method- has anyone read The Life -Changing Magic of Tidying Up? I am waiting for my turn to borrow it from the library! For now, these methods have been working for me- we’ll see if I change my mind after reading.  I guess nesting is kicking in, but I want to simplify things as much as possible before May! I know life is only going to get crazier with a baby and two pups! Luckily my husband is a big help and will get into cleaning mode if I encourage him!

My main message of encouragement to anyone out there who has similar issues is to make your home a space that works for your own needs! My parents recently decided they needed a pantry near the kitchen more than that coat closet. My dad built custom shelves into the closet and it’s been a game changer! It frees up a lot of needed cabinet space for them. The coats were relocated and the space just works better for them. While you want your house to be a welcoming space for guests, also remember that you and your family are the ones who live there every day, and you are the one’s cleaning it! Make it a place that you love to live, rest and create in. Living in an older home means that we alway have a list of updates that we are trying to gradually fit into the budget. However, the things that need to be improved don’t bother me nearly as much as clutter and mess. I love our house, warts and all- but I do know I feel more content and creative in a tidy space. Don’t live among the chaos if it’s stressing you out.

Good luck tidying up!

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