Life Unparalleled

Loving Life as a Foreign Service Family – Current Parallel 41° 23' N – Barcelona, Spain

Calm the Clutter Chaos Part 3: So now what just tell me how!!


Let me begin that I in no way would consider my home spotless. We live here. We have kids and pets. There is usually some pet hair because we just can not seem to get it all. There are usually some papers around the kids have left out. There is always a book on most flat surfaces because we are bookworm homeschoolers. We live in a rural area with an unfinished yard and a stream near by meaning there is more than the average amount of dirt being drug in and flying through the air. So if all of these things are true than why would I consider myself able to give any advise on the subject of clutter and housekeeping?

Because I have found a place of peace!

Here is what I have learned and implemented and what it has done for my home and time:

  • I could really have people over at any time and it would be ok. My house looks lived in but clean and happy.
  • I am fancy company ready in 10 minutes and inlaw ready in 20 minutes
  • I do one load of dishes per day
  • I do four loads of laundry per week
  • I only spend about 20 minutes or less cleaning/tidying up every day
  • I do a real house clean once a week. My 3,400 sf takes about an hour with the help of the kids.
  • I enjoy my kids so much more
  • I have so much more time to do what I love, play with my kids, spend time outside, read a book etc.Hours every day of free time! Can you imagine?hammock

So what has helped:

It has all been a progression of things so I will just go in order of how they were exposed to me:



Her main premise is you do a little bit of cleaning every day and things get done. She has a huge system and if you sign up for her emails be prepared to be vomited on by about a dozen emails per day. I found much of her system to be impractical. The 10 minutes every week to mop your floors—I have 2,000 sf of hard wood that alone can take an hour for example.  Here are the jewels of her system in my opinion.

  1. Get dressed everyday to your shoes. Sounds corny but wearing actual shoes every day means I will actually run that item I found on the floor out to the car, run out the trash, or go to the garage to get a tool to fix something. It sounds so simple because it is. Wear shoes.
  2. Always go to bed with a clean kitchen. The kitchen is the center of the home. We do not need to wake up to a mess of chores first thing. Start the dishwasher, throw away the trash and wipe the counters. It isn’t much but it makes you feel like you have started one step ahead of the chaos the next day.disheslord
  3. You can do anything for 15 minutes. Set a timer and just work. It is shocking how much you can get down in a short period of time when you just don’t allow your self to get distracted.

Children’s Miracle Music: Standard Schedule 2 (CD Set)
Miracle musicThis is a series of CD’s and a goal chart. There is a morning and evening CD. The CD begins with calm warm up music then a voice says “Time to get up and use the bathroom”. It sounds creepy but keep following me. It plays for a song then is fallowed by “Make your bed”, “Brush your teeth” , ” Do your hair.” Eat breakfast” etc all with a different classical instrumental song. Each of these last form 2-6 minutes except for eating and act of kindness which is 15 minutes. The real kicker and help is the “Do your act of kindness.” So this is 15 minutes set aside for the child to do an assigned chore. It could be their room, or one the parent assign or taking a bath or shower. We chose to have four rotating chores. Each child keeps with the same chore for an entire month. Keeping them with the same chore each month means no confusion over what they have to do. They really learn to master the chore. If they do a crappy job it is only themselves they hurt because they have to do it again next time.

They include:

Dishes(load and unload, counter, pans etc.)—this is the hardest chore and I am often helping them out just so we get done in time. In the morning when all they have to do is unload the dishwasher they sometimes help make breakfast.

Floors- sweeping or vacuuming our 2,000 sf of dark hardwood. On this note we own a Roomba robotic vacuum. It is worth its weight in gold I promise. My kids can set it going in one part of the space and work on the opposite side with a broom and it cleans so much better and misses all the stuff that kids just plain miss when they clean. I also love it because it cleans under things like couches and beds. You would be shocked with how much stuff it picks up.

Bathrooms- We have three. They do one each day. Toilet, counters, mirror, hang up towels etc. Tub and shower is done when we do the whole house cleaning.

Playroom- The kids have a playroom in the basement that in typical kid fashion always gets trashed.

They do this CD morning and night. In doing so, my house every day even if we do no other cleaning has a clean bathroom, clean floors in our kitchen/dining/living room, and picked up toys. Every mom knows these are the key areas! You can always close the door to your kids bedroom if it is toxic.

This has made a huge difference. Technically it is designed that if they kids get their things done they get a star and a certain number of points earns them a private date with mom or dad. We are so much in the habit we quit keeping track and just try to fit in the dates with the kids when we can.

Kids clothes and dishes- 

dishesI found that washing and putting away clothing and dishes sucked up so much time. About 4 years ago I had had enough and got extreme about things. I removed all of the dishes from the cupboard except one bowl, one plate, and one cup for each person in the family. I still have the other dishes but they are on a high cupboard to keep them out of reach for use unless we have company. Each person is responsible for washing their own dish after each meal. They wash it, dry it, then put it back in the drawer. It takes about three minutes and my kids could do it on their own once they were three. I have them labeled so you can always tell who it really was who left their plate at the table. At the end of the night they all go in the dishwasher with the dishes from cooking and it is run. This means only one small load of dishes per day and no more dishes all over the counter. For clothing I cut my kids wardrobe down to about 8-10 outfits for play and 2 outfits for nice dress. That is all! I gave up long ago trying to choose my children’s clothes for them. If the shirt is too itchy it goes. If they only wear elastic waist the jeans go. If they don’t wear collars I won’t bother keeping them. I just ask them do you like this yes or no. They will now wear every single item of clothes they have. No more of the same shirt being thrown clean into the dirty laundry because they hate it. I write on the inside of the neck their initial so that when we do laundry everyone can tell instantly what is theirs and there are no more arguments between my boys in similar sizes whose clothing it is. Because they have so few clothing they tend to really wear their clothes out by the end of the season. We have two seasons here summer and winter so twice a year I switch out the clothes. This number of clothes means that each child can wash all of their clothes in about one load. There are not clean clothes to end up on the floor. You always know where the clothes are. Because they have so few they can do their own laundry, starting around age 5. The clothes can be washed, dried, then quickly put away. Be aware when those hand me downs come in, really go through them if one comes in one must go out nothing will throw you off faster than a bunch of free clothes. It sounds extreme but once you try it if you are diligent your life will instantly become much, much easier. Trust me!

The Life Changing Method of Tidying Up– Marie Kondo. 


 This book has been a best seller the last few years. It was written by a woman from Japan. Japan often has much smaller houses than here in the US so storage and organization are a huge deal. Her emphasis is that rather than spending a bit of time every day decluttering you do one massive event and you essentially never have to declutter again. I was skeptical but now I am a full believer. I would recommend reading her book but here are the most impactful points for me

  1. Only keep what brings you joy! This sounds simple but most people have become completely numb to what joy is or feels like. They keep things out of duty, necessity, assumption and many other reasons. The book speaks in great detail about the amount of stuff people got rid of but the important thing it to identify and only keep what brings you joy. You can hold a piece of clothing in your hands and ask “Does this bring me joy?” They will usually know right away if they just stay out of their own way! Don’t let the “But it was so expensive” or “My mother gave it to me she will know if I toss it” or “If I get rid of it then I won’t feel like I have enough clothes” get to you. You would be shocked at how little we really need and when we have what brings us joy how much more contentment we have with what we do own. You can not get rid of other peoples things!! This is hard but important. The exclusion is very young children. Yes this can even be taught to children. I will address this later.
  2. Organize and declutter by category NOT by room. This was difficult for me to accept but it really makes a huge difference. We have all cleaned out an arts and craft drawer and gotten it organized just to find another stash of art supplies in a different place in our home. If you are doing clothes take out every piece of clothing you have in the whole house and do it at once rather than room by room. Her categories include: clothing(plus linens), books and paperwork , komono is everything else kitchen, DVD’s, toys etc, and last sentimental(pictures and special items).
  3. Store all like items together. Sounds simple because it is. Keep all of something in the same place then you always know where to find it and how to put it away.
  4. Put things in boxes in your drawers to keep them together and from sliding around. This made it so much easier to open a drawer and find exactly what I needed. Old cell phone or tablet boxes are the best!
  5. Fold things and stack them facing up not on top of each other. That way you can see everything you have and when you pull one thing out it doesn’t unfold all the rest.konmariefold

Trust me just READ THE BOOK it really does make that much of a difference. They even have an illustrated one out now. I thought I was a minimalist before but once I started the big declutter I took over 30 garbage bags full of things to the thrift store and threw out about 15 bags of trash.Clothes were easy for me. Kids toys and books were nearly impossible but I did it.  It has stuck and six months later there is very little tidying to do except the regular laundry, dishes and actual cleaning of carpets/windows/bathrooms etc. I promise a house that is uncluttered can get much more dirty and no one can tell.

I’m sure you are asking so how do I teach all of this to my kids. Let me begin with what used to occur when I would ask my children to clean their rooms.

  1. I would enter the room looking for something only to find it torn to pieces after I had just spent an hour the day before cleaning it.
  2. I would get angry…really angry.
  3. I would tell children to clean.
  4. I would return 15 minutes later to everything exactly the same.
  5. I would enter a room with a trash bag scooping up my children’s precious belonging with them wailing and screaming in the back ground.
  6. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.  It wasn’t my prettiest or proudest moments.        crazy mother                                                                    With the Konmaie method I went with each of my kids in their rooms and we pulled out all their toys. I asked them right away to identify what was trash. Then I had them hold each item in their hands and close their eyes and ask them if it brought them joy or if they thought it would bring another child more joy. If they said joy then I would ask ok where does it live. Every item in the house has to have a home. A home it always returns to. It would be placed in its home. We would continue through all the toys. I was shocked what my children decided to keep. I had to let go of so many control issues here. I had to get out of my head how much an item cost, who gave it to them, it was part of a set- they want only the banana from the toy food set they should only keep the banana—-this was gut wrenching let me tell you! I found that many of my issues with stuff were actually seeping onto my kids. They had too many toys and clothes because I was inadvertently making them keep things that didn’t bring them joy. You may go through everything in the childs room and they decide they have to keep everything. Let it be and revisit it again in a few weeks. Once my children saw how easy it was to put away my things they began to see the benefits. They now have very few toys and really enjoy what the do have. They now for the most part have little trouble keeping their rooms clean(with the exception of putting dirty clothes into the hamper I just don’t get that). They can also pick up quickly when you remind them that everything has a home. Is it perfect? No! Do I still have to ask them? Occasionally which is much better than always.

I have found that now that they can better identify exactly what brings them joy that is has greatly decreased the amount of gimmie’s and I wants from the kids. They are happier with what they have and are better able to identify what they want and what will really make them happy.

These all combined together is not a perfect system, and it does take some effort to build the habits, but for me it is pretty dang close to perfect so I consider that a win on any day!

Less cleaning= more traveling!


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