I like to be organized. That is not to say that I am organized (at least not all the time) but it's kind of an overall aspiration.
Organizing and planning is my Thing. Homeschool curriculum, updating my calendar, researching vacation ideas, coordinating all those Disney trips . . . these things make my heart happy. Decluttering makes me giddy. Moving every two years (thanks, US Navy) is wonderful, because that means I get to put my Thing to good use frequently.
Anyway, I have a pretty simple two-step plan I follow when it comes to keeping the house both reasonably neat and unquestionably lived in. I've mentioned it before, but I thought it deserved its own post. Also, sometimes I realize I need to take my own advice, and what better motivation than writing it out and sharing it with you fine people.
So, without further ado, here are the two steps you need to take if you want a neat living space:
1. Get rid of crap.
2. Clean a clean house.
Step one: Having less stuff will make the stuff you choose to keep easier to deal with.
Everyone has possessions that quite honestly they would never, ever miss if they disappeared this very second. Think about it, how many clothes in your closet do you actually wear? When was the last time you read most of the books on your bookshelf? Do you have enough glasses, cups, and mugs in your kitchen to serve 50 people? Why?
But it's not just excess. Sometimes we hold onto things because they have so much potential usefulness. It pains us to let go of something we might need. I have a love/hate relationship with my crockpot for this very reason.
Now just the thought of decluttering strikes panic in folks with lots of stuff. It does sound immense if you try to think about doing everything at once. But, that's not even possible. Start small. Then do it again. And again. And again.
A few weeks ago I cleaned out my closet. If you haven't done this recently, start there. It's not a huge project, and it will be a tremendous confidence booster if you are trying to get started down the path of Getting Rid of Crap. Once you see what you can let go of in this one small area, you will realize, hey, I can totally do this.
If your bedroom closet is too overwhelming, start with a coat closet. Or a bookshelf. Or a kitchen drawer. The point is, seeing small progress will make you want to see big progress.
When I get ready to move, I have a whole process. You can read about that here. Oh, and here. This might take me days, or weeks. And it's not a one-time event, it's more fluid. Which brings me to my next point . . .
You will never be able to say, I decluttered my whole house! Woo hoo! I'm done! Sorry, it doesn't work that way. The kicker is, you have to keep doing it.
Yeah, I know. What a let-down. But the truth is, the only way to truly declutter is to never be done with it. I go through all of my clothes at least once every six months, and I always have a donation bag at the end. I have a "junk" drawer in the kitchen that I take everything out of and reorganize about once a month. And every time, I'm like, WTH is this and why did I keep it? Stuff adds up. Fast. The good news is, once you start doing it, it becomes easier.
Step two: Clean even when your house looks clean.
You don't need to be neurotic about this, just consistent. It's much easier to clean the bathroom before it "needs it" than it is to wait until it scares you. Doing laundry once a day is less intimidating than trying to wash/dry/fold/put away 7 loads on Saturday. Vaccuming every day will make a big difference. Walking around the house once a day for 5-10 minutes and putting things back where they belong goes a long way. I don't follow a strict agenda, but I do have a basic idea of what cleaning gets done when (both daily and weekly).
Oh, you will let some things slide, because you can't be on top of everything all the time. (Dusting bookshelves and dressers is what gets me. I often wait until the Agents can write messages to each other before I notice.) But overall I try to keep these two (relatively) simple steps in mind as I go about my day.
I'm by no means a perfectionist, really. Sometimes I have a whole pot/kettle thing going on when it comes to advice like this. And if you saw my house right now you would laugh and/or question my sanity for even drafting such post.
However, I have to remind myself that when I'm surrounded by too much disorder, everything else seems so much more intense and crazed up. Everything! It's like I can't focus when there is too much peripheral ack! going on. Less stuff = less chaos = calmer Momma.