The other day I was reading an article about "the secrets to a clean home." Apparently the secret is to clean your home. Well, it's more so that you are in the habit of daily cleaning your home so that it's never in a state of total disrepair that takes an entire day to clean up. So there were a couple ideas I took away from my reading:
Put It Away Right Away the Right Way
Say that ten times fast! This just means that when you have your scissors out and you finish with them, put them back where they belong immediately. It'll take you less than a minute. But what ends up happening is that over the course of the day (and week) piles accumulate of things that simple need to be put back in their homes: shoes, books, pens, recipes, mail, etc. If you are in the habit of putting these things away, you never sit down at your desk and have to wonder where your desk is underneath all the stuff.
Do the Dishes Immediately
How many nights a week do you say "I'll do the dishes when the baby goes to bed"? Well, the baby goes to bed and you're tired and the dishes don't get done. And who likes to wake up to a sink full of dishes? And then there's no way to do the breakfast dishes due to the dinner dishes, and thus a terrible mess accumulates. I can admit that I hate to do dishes. It takes a lot of self-control to just do the dishes immediately after every meal. But if I do that, then I never have that pile of dishes looming over me that makes me want to call for a maid. To help motivate myself I've started trying to see how many dishes I can do while I make dinner. When a recipe says to let something cook for 3-4 minutes between steps, that's the perfect opportunity to start washing the few measuring cups and prep bowls I have out. And if I do this, then there are only a few things to clean up after dinner and I'm much more likely to finish them off.
Everything Has a Home
I read that one of the keys to a clean and clutter free home was to make sure that every item has a place where it belongs. That way you don't have a bunch of stuff loitering around your counters, desks, and any other flat surface. Baskets are great for this. Charissa has a basket for almost everything in her life. She has a basket for shoes, one for socks, another for blankets, one for food toys, another for dress up, and on and on. She doesn't yet understand the difference in the baskets and things are often put in the wrong one, but it does help me keep everything put away. So make a folder for the recipes you want to try instead of leaving them a stack of papers shoved in a cabinet. Have a crate for all your craft supplies. They don't have to be expensive baskets and boxes, a shoe box will do. Be creative!
Touch it Once
I can't remember where I heard it now, but someone once made a rule that you should touch each piece of mail only once. You should immediately go through it and deal with it. Therefore, the junk mail immediately gets tossed, the bills get put away in your bill file/box, and personal mail finds a happy home wherever it is that you put personal notes. That way you never get the stack of mail that when you eventually go through you find a bill that is now overdue.
Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Your Mess
This is my favorite rule. Well, this is the one that's helped me the most. At some point in my evening (after Charissa is tucked in bed far away from any ability to make more messes), I just take a quick walk through my house and pick up things that are out of place. I put the shoes away, straighten the pillows and blankets, put away the dozens of books we've gotten out throughout the day (between the three of us we go through a lot of books in one day), and just tidy up in general. I rarely spend more than 5-10 minutes doing this. And it makes such a difference. One day's mess is fairly easy to deal with. A week's? That can take some time.
Now, having read all that don't expect to always come in to my house and it be immaculate. These are the things I try to adhere to, but I can be honest and say that some days it just doesn't happen. However, on the days that it does it makes a huge difference. It's a habit that we need to work on cultivating the rest of our lives.