10 things I learned from cleaning my house

A few events transpired lately to cause a dramatic shift in the cleanliness and organization of our home. 

  1. Everyone in our house got sick. And it kept coming back.
  2. My nesting instincts kicked in.
  3. Our landlord came by for an inspection.

I'm a mother of two children ages 3 and 1, with a third on the way, I teach part time, and run this blog and a home-based business, which could all be excuses for why our home is a disaster. In fact, I have been using these circumstances to justify clutter and messes over the past few months. And there certainly were times when it couldn't be helped, such as the first trimester of my pregnancy when it was a rare sighting to see me out of bed.

However, for the most part, the mess, clutter, and disorganization of our home was a result of excess and lack of discipline and routine. 

Over the years, the amount of stuff we owned grew and grew until I reached the breaking point a few weeks ago when I felt suffocated by our possessions. With my third trimester baby bump, it was physically painful to bend over and clean up after the kids, and I felt like all I did was follow them around and clean, with little to no results. Our home still looked cluttered at the end of each day, and it was incredibly defeating. So I did what any hormonal pregnant woman would do - I texted my husband one morning through tears and curse words that I was getting rid of EVERYTHING in our house. Throwing it all away. Starting fresh. Nesting, guys. It's a real thing.

Not to mention, one member of our family or another has been sick since January. Our house needed a good spring cleaning and scrubbing down. When our landlord texted to say he would be stopping by to check the status of our place before renewing the lease, it was the final straw. So we spent an entire Saturday going through every closet, drawer, and bin. We threw away or set aside to donate bags upon bags of clutter that we didn't even know was occupying space in our lives. We ruthlessly culled our children's toys down to the most played-with toys that inspired imaginative play (while they were napping of course). In the spirit of Marie Kondo, I thanked and released a few mementoes from my time abroad in South America. We figured out how to sell our old iPhones, and bid adieu to electronics that no longer worked or had a purpose. We got our carpets cleaned, and scrubbed down every surface, nook, and cranny of our rental home.

The relief and pride my husband and I both felt at the end of our cleaning and organizing spree was palpable. With a little time and a lot of elbow grease, we transformed our home into a haven instead of a source of stress. And while we are by no means done (the garage is our next project to tackle), it feels like the beginning of a new way of living. 

Here are a few things I've learned from decluttering and deep cleaning our home in the past few weeks:

1. Living in a neat, clean environment inspires you to be better in every area of your life.

2. Getting your children involved in the process in paramount. Tell them what you are doing, give them age-appropriate responsibilities, and show them how and where to put away the toys you have kept. They will get excited about keeping a clean home.

3. Most of the clutter we had was a result of not making a decision about something, or being too lazy to take action. The iPhones in my desk drawer were a prime example. We had gotten new phones about a year ago, but didn't know what to do with the old ones. Instead of researching how to handle it right away, I just stashed them away to deal with later. 

4. Almost nothing is as peaceful as a clear surface. Empty counters, floors, and coffee tables are a beautiful thing.

5. I'm a better housekeeper when the clutter is gone. I'm much more inclined to vacuum, dust, or wipe down surfaces when I don't see junk everywhere.

6. A place for everything and everything in it's place. Yes, it's a cliche, but it's a cliche for a reason. it feels really good to know exactly where the scissors go instead of just stuffing them in a junk drawer. 

7. It takes practice. If your current habit is to set something on the counter instead of putting it where it belongs, it will take practice and discipline to change that habit. Don't be discouraged if you find yourself falling back into old habits. Keep working at it!

8. A mindset of abundance and gratitude staves off the desire to bring more into your house. "We have everything we need and more."

9. I need a printed out schedule to do chores. I used the free printable from Clean Mama, and put it on the fridge. Mondays are for wiping down bathrooms, Tuesdays are for dusting, etc. etc.

10. We're trying a new habit. Every night after dinner and before we put the kids to bed, we will do a 10 minute family clean up, vacuum the carpets, and clean the kitchen.  

I wouldn't dare call us minimalist. We still have far more than we need, but I'm learning that it's a journey. It's a shift in perspective from always needing more and feeling frustrated in your surroundings to joy and contentment in the space you're in with the things you have.