Messies Manual

Messies Manual

by Elizabeth
January 19, 2023

Hello there, Elizabeth here. You have met Anna Catherine – my very clean and organized daughter. While many of you may identify completely with Anna and are always ready to tackle that kitchen, bedroom, bathroom or closet and get them squeaky clean and organized, others of you are more like me.

We so badly want that neat and organized house (we will settle for one room actually), however, when we get ourselves psyched up and walk boldly into that room to get started, we often get overwhelmed or distracted by all that we see.

So, what do we do? Most of the time, cringe a little and decide to do it later. Our intentions are so good and our ideas are wonderful. Our mentality is organized and ready, but reality and the room in front of us, not so much. Believe me, I am right there with you.

While I can’t solve all your organization and cleanliness woes, I can offer some suggestions that I have picked up over the years in my hunt for ways to “reset” my house and harder yet – maintain it.

First, let me give credit where credit is due. Years ago, based on a recommendation of a fellow “messy”, I purchased and read The New Messies Manual by Sandra Felton. This blog is not intended to be a substitute for reading the book; but rather to share some of the suggestions that have greatly impacted my ability to improve my housekeeping. The overall goal for me was to become a better housekeeper. I knew that I would never be perfect, but if I could get it
under better control, then my family (and my house) wins. I wanted to able to graciously invite that unexpected guest into my home without secretly dying inside at what mess might be in there.

Set a goal and start somewhere.If large messes and projects overwhelm you, set attainable goals and just start. One plan maybe to start by the front door and work your way around your house. Get three boxes and label them “giveaway,” “throwaway”, and “put elsewhere” and then dive. Be aggressive in filling the donate and trash boxes. Even if it just a closet, when it’s done, you will feel success. A cleaned out room is far easier to maintain.

Set a timerSometimes we are so busy that we think we have no time to clean or start a project; it is easier to shrug and start another day when we have more time. However, while you may only have ten or fifteen minutes, you can actually get things done when you focus during that time period. Set a timer for whatever amount of time you have and work diligently during that time; you will be surprised how much you can get done.

Work clock wise around a messy roomThis has probably been one of the most helpful tips I gleaned from Felton’s book. When I have a mess to clean up, I select a corner of the room to start and clean my way clockwise around the room. Yes, sometimes it involves shuffling “junk” temporarily to the other side of the room. However, by the time I get to that last corner, I have cleaned the rest of the room and I am ready to find homes for those remaining items. Sometimes those homes are the donate and trash boxes. I still use this method every day with almost every cleaning project I tackle. It helps me take on both big and small cleaning and/or clean out tasks.

Get the kids involvedIf you have kids, you should never be cleaning your house alone! Get them involved in the process. I will share a couple of the most effective ways we used when our children were young.
         - Chore charts. Although this sounds trite and oversimplified, it works. My goal was never to clean the entire                               house in one day, mainly because I would have to do it every day. I just couldn’t keep up when all five of my kids were little. So, I created color-coded (with each child getting their favorite color) daily notecards noting what chore had to be completed that day by each person. The daily tasks were not meant to be huge overwhelming jobs but just something that could be achieved within 20 minutes and still make a difference to the overall cleanliness of the space. The goal was that, by the end of the week, each room of the house had been touched with some measure of tidiness. It wasn’t perfect, by any means, but it was such a relief to have a measure of control over the messes.
          -Meet in the MiddleThis is a game that I created when all five kids had made a giant mess in one room. Trust me, this happened quite a bit. I am a huge fan of messes made when imaginations are running wild, but I am also a fan of cleaning up those messes. The rule was always that the messes had to be cleaned up. However, as we all know, the clean-up is never as much fun as the mess-making. Solution? A game. Each child picked a corner and started cleaning, moving toward the middle. They mentally sectioned off the room (believe me it was as precise as if a laser measure had been used) and cleaned their section. By the time they “met in the middle” the room was clean and it was much faster than any one person having to do it (and much better than me singing a clean-up song).

Everyone has their own methods for tackling household chores, and you likely have your own tips and tricks. The goal here isn’t to upend the way you clean, but instead to offer you some additional suggestions that you may be able to add to your wheelhouse. 

Remember, part of having a home full of faces includes a home full of clutter. Learning to eliminate it also involves learning to live with it! Pick up your feet, you are building memories.

When Adam, that lovely face you see all over the website, was little, I was headed out to run errands and left instructions with the babysitter that they were to clean their rooms. Upon my return, I asked him if he had completed the task of cleaning their room. Adam immediately replied “Yes!” without hesitation. Just to confirm, I continued “If I walk up there am I going to see a clean room?”. Without hesitation he quipped “I really don’t know Mom. Your eyes see things different than mine!”. 

I couldn’t help but laugh and think how right he was. We all see things differently and I hope that these tips and tricks will help you see your way to a cleaner, neater house.