Jun 20

Simplify

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I am always amazed at the people who can keep an immaculate and organized house especially when it seems they are always cooking and traveling and active. Whenever I meet someone like that I always ask them for advice. My friend Brooke is that way. Her closets are organized and her kitchen is always clean but she isn’t cleaning all the time. Both her and her husband work, they have two kids, people over for dinner all the time and are always doing things. So when I spent the long weekend with her I was peppering her with questions when she told me her biggest secret. It’s simple and kind of obvious, but so genius: she doesn’t have very much stuff. She pointed out that if you don’t have very many clothes, even if they are all on the floor, it won’t take you more than 10 minutes to clean them up. Same thing with kids books or toys or WHATEVER. She says that her mother is even more of a minimalist than her and whenever Brooke visits her mother, she returns home and gives away half her stuff. She says that is the secret to having a clean home. Since that weekend I have been cleaning out and purging everything I own. I’ve been ruthless, even the stuff I kind of want to keep I’ve been giving away. It feels so great to simplify. If I think about how much time I’ve spent organizing my stuff I start to feel like my stuff owns me instead of the other way around. Some other tips I’ve gotten from people who keep really clean and organized homes:

-Clean as you go. Put away purses and backpacks as soon as you arrive home, clean dishes while they food is still easy to clean etc etc.
-Have a place for everything.

Do you keep a really clean house? Whats your secret?

photo from Container Store site

49 Comments

  • morgan says:

    when i was a kid my dad once denied my sister a kickball, telling her that unless she deflated it at night there just wasn’t room for it in the house. hilarious, YES, and as i’ve gotten older i’ve realized that it’s also totally true. as someone who loves STUFF i’ve really tried to force myself into looking at SAID STUFF with unsentimental eyes and pushing things out the door, en masse, a couple of times a year.

  • Emily K. says:

    Having very little stuff is definitely key! It also helps not having a dishwasher, as I HAVE to wash dishes almost immediately, or I have nowhere to put them.

  • Megs says:

    I do try to simplify, but this makes me think I am not simplifying enough. I know what I will be doing tonight!

  • robyn says:

    i don’t have a very clean home actually, but do have one tip.

    in our family room, our coffee table is actually an ottoman that has two square tops which flip over. on one side they’re soft and cushy, but on the other they’ve got a flat surface for setting drinks, etc. the ottoman also has storage space under each top which we use to keep all of our son’s toys!

    this means when we all pick up at the end of the day, there’s only three toys out – his blocks set, his bead toy, and his new walking toy (all are too big for the ottoman), but everything else is out of sight and out of mind!

  • My home is clean to the point where my fiance likes to refer to me as his “little OC-Dearie”! But in truth, I’ve always been like your friend – I don’t like having too many things and the few things I do have are always immediately put away or cleaned after use. My life is so much simpler when I don’t have to set aside time every week to clean the whole house – just a little bit every day!

  • Kelly says:

    I share your friend’s sentiments. Simplicity and organization are key, as is cleaning as you go. A trick I picked up a while ago is the 1 minute rule: if you can do a task in less than a minute, do it right away. It’s amazing how effective it is!

  • Giulia says:

    Every trip upstairs take at least one thing with you that belongs there.
    Always tidy your kitchen right after dinner so you don’t have to do it before you go to bed, or even worse, when you get up in the morning.
    Try to own things that can be used in more than one way (conditioner for hair, can be used to shave your legs)

  • courtney says:

    I will eagerly read all these tips! keeping a clean house is so hard for me. I am trying to purge and give away stuff we don’t need, but I am kind of a pack rat– not the best trait for living in a 650 sq ft apartment. One thing that has helped is setting a timer for 20 minutes everyday, and then cleaning just that long. I’m always surprised by how much I can accomplish, and it doesn’t overwhelm me because it’s just a short time.

  • Shannon says:

    Not having much stuff is definitely key. I have a rule that everything in my home must have a place; if something doesn’t have a place, it goes in the garbage or is immediately given away. I also put things away as soon as I am finished with them, whether it’s a small appliance, something from the cupboard, a coat, my work bag when I get home, etc.

    My house is always clean as a result. I also don’t have kids, so that helps!

  • Edna says:

    I love reading everyone’s tactics for a clean house. I’m constantly told by friends that my house is always way more spick and span on a “messy day” than theirs is on a clean day, and truly it’s because I have less stuff and avoid clutter build up. Another thing I’ve realized saves me time later, is while I’m waiting for dinner on the stove or in the oven, I’m already quickly rinsing the prep dishes and throwing them in the dish washer so that post-dinner, all that’s left to clean is the dishes and silverware we ate with. I also try to constantly be picking things up and putting them back in their place when I leave a room. It’s these simple 1 min. exercises that keep your house looking tidy and nice!

    Even the dog’s toys get picked up and dropped on top of his bed to keep the mess at bay!

  • zee says:

    swell ideas. i really need to fix up my room with some organization. honesty, i have way too many art supplies? paint and feathers and beads everywhere!

  • I can’t even tell you how much I needed this today. I did my own blog post this morning titled Simplify. Small blog world. Thanks for the thoughts and tips.

    Kacie
    http://www.acollectionofpassions.com/

  • Amber says:

    I don’t keep a clean house, at least not by normal people standards, but it’s neat by creative people standards. I’d say the most crucial thing for us is a) everything having a place and b) baskets, trays, trunks, etc. that help corral clutter while still keeping it within reach.

    The other tip I have is to get the right size bin/container for the job. If you do a lot of recycling and have a tiny bin, your counter gets cluttered in no time. So to solve that, we bought two giant bins and hid them in the utility closet just off the kitchen.

    My friend has a rule that for every 5 clothing items she buys, she has to give away 2. That’s a pretty good, but rigid, rule.

  • kelly says:

    Love that Brooke got a shout out, but one thing about her that none of us have is the ability to do everything quickly, which makes her hair always look great, her dinners seem simple and her work seem like a second thought. She’s been this way since we were kids. Also she always runs and unloads the dishwasher before she goes to bed, which is actually great to wake up to!

  • Ruth says:

    Having a place for everything is my favorite strategy – such as our bank of school lockers for containing school bags, nappy bag, hand bags, shopping bags, picnic blankets etc right where we can easily grab them. As much as possible I insist that my kids only have one mess out at a time. That doesn’t always work with a two year old in the house. An important part of our daily routine is 5 pm tidy up right before bath-time – all four kids are expected to help with that, regardless of who made the mess. That way our house is always tidy when we sit down for dinner. I like the idea above of having the dishwasher empty before I go to bed, but I’m not sure if I have the discipline for that.

  • Ashley says:

    Love this post! I’ve been reading a book recently called “The Joy of Less” and it has really made me more thoughtful about each item I allow into my home. Not only does it create a light feeling emotionally, but it’s better for our planet, our wallet, and our families. There is something so therapeutic about letting go and this book has really helped me begin that process.

  • I recently figured that out myself and I have been slowly going through our stuff each month and donating or selling the stuff we have no use for/ can be replaced when we need it in 3 years. It’s true! Things are easy to clean AND keep up with. Earlier this year I made the joke that it’s amazing how you can clean your entire house in 15 minutes when you have last minute company the way. Or sometimes I think my husband will out of town for the night he last minute calls and says they finished early and is on the way home and suddenly that pile of dishes in the sink and general messiness that I previously had no energy to pick is completely clean in 15 minutes flat… I guess I’m just a little lazy ;)

  • at the other end of the childrearing business, the best organizationtrainer was living in walkups and having no space.

    every april and october, i had stoop sales to sell that six months of outgrown things. living with less space was the best motivator. plus, making cash for a desirable or need really helped motivate with loads leftover to donate. rule::nothing comes back in once you say goodbye.

    we eventually moved back to texas (home of the garage and the shed, too) and i still purge every april and october. the key factor of buying this home was ‘is it small enough to keep clean?’

  • I find the key for me too is having a space for everything, and not having much stuff in the first place.

  • Emme says:

    This is true for me as well. We moved our very small apartment in Santa Barbara and we just cleansed and got rid of all the stuff we don’t use. It amazes me that I am still getting rid of stuff. We have a very clean home 90 percent of the time, but we both work and have no children so no one is really messing it up. We do cook everyday, but dishes for two isn’t much.

    I am the one who does make the mess though and my new thing lately is just to take a few minutes, look around, and see what needs to be put back in place before I go to the office or go to bed at night. It’s been huge and I don’t have pile of clean clothes that I decided not to wear but threw on my desk that need to be sorted through on the weekends.

  • Totally agree with your friend.
    My other trick is to do a ‘sweep’ of the house a few times a day so that mess doesn’t build up and we can start each new bit of the day with a clean slate. Each sweep only takes about 5 minutes but it’s just so good for keeping all of us sane…
    Ronnie xo

  • Brooke says:

    thanks jordan! hopefully people reading are inspired to purge a little. it really does feel good not to be weighed down by a lot of stuff!

  • Tiffany says:

    Hilarious Pine-Sol Prank. I don’t know if you’ve already seen this, but this post reminded me of it.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENygQpTMC7s&feature=youtu.be

  • Faith says:

    I’m both OCD and my house, car, office, etc. being clean and organized. I like to purge stuff around my house often; however I have emotional attachment to a lot of things too! Like I have about 12 beautiful table cloths handed down from my mother and mother-in-law that I just can’t part with. It gives me anxiety to think about parting with them, but also having the linen drawer overflowing. I like for everything to have a place, but I have a hard time letting go of certain things. Thus, I’m always feeling like my house is on the verge of becoming disorganized. This post has helped me to realize- just get rid of it! I loved that feeling of freedom in college that basically everything I owned would fit in my car.

  • Faith says:

    Also- last year I followed another blogger’s tip and tried to get rid of 365 things from my house over the course of a year. I kept track and after weekly purging and a yard sale, I got rid of over 500 things. A lot of clothes and furniture stored in my basement, but small things like too many measuring cups counted too. I just need to that again this year!

  • This is a great post and I’d love to see more like it! I like things tidy but not really CLEAN… but then I got married and realized my husband loves things both tidy and clean! So I finally made myself a chore chart with a few tasks to do every day of the week. That helps so much, and cleanliness begets cleanliness. Now I see the dirt and untidiness in a way I never did before and am motivated to clean and organized even more thoroughly.

    And yes, having a limited amount of stuff is so key. We basically don’t spend money on anything besides food and travel, and that means most of our clothes and my daughter’s toys are all gifts and hand-me-downs. That means we really don’t have too many clothes or toys… although, believe me, what we have is plenty!

  • ShAnnon says:

    I agree! After being forced to downsize last year I tossed more than half of what we owned, moving into a condo with two little boys, and us two adults. It has really helped us to simplify. Even after being here for a year and a half we are moving again into bigger quarters, but I’m still purging before I pack! Less t clean up and the chance to better design our life.

  • Michelle says:

    Looks great and simple without appearing sterile! Thanks

  • Simplify.

    Such a good motto. I used to have a lot of tatty stuff… and then we moved across the ocean. It made me realise that stuff is just… well stuff and not the key to happiness.

    The key to my happiness is doing a job I love, surrounded by the people and objects I truly love.

    http://www.randomlyhappytoday.blogspot.co.uk

  • I agree completely, not having a lot of stuff is really helpful and that’s. Pretty much how I’ve operated. Thing is, I’ve inherited some things from my parents, lots and lots of photo albums in particular that I know my Mom spent hours organizing. I know I can’t keep all of it, because when it becomes my son’s turn, he won’t even know most of the people in the pictures and then the albums will really get thrown away or stored away to never be seen again.

    Can’t bring myself to sort and throw out the majority of the contents of these albums, though. Any suggestions?

    http://Www.cuteanduseful.com

  • Heather says:

    I’ve recently come to the same realisation. Having less stuff is so liberating.

    However, for me the key was not just purging but understanding why I was acquiring so much in the first place. I had never thought of myself as materialistic since I was never one to want the biggest house or fanciest car. Then I realised materialism is really just feeling like you are what you own – even if your style is second-hand granola stuff! I think advertising has done a great job of making us feel that acquiring a certain possession will make us a certain kind of person. And so we lust over objects, finding them irresistible even when we have no use for them. Unless we can overcome this thinking we will end-up filling our houses with stuff once again.

  • Emily says:

    I keep a super clean house. I have to. We live in 860 square feet with me, my husband, our 4 year old son, and our border terrier. We are constantly entertaining 4 and 5 year old boys and other friends.

    Here are some of my tricks:

    Everything has a place-everything I bring in has to have a place. If it doesn’t, something is thrown out to make room for it. I agree with not having a ton of stuff but some living necessitates some stuff. So for the stuff you need, have a place to store it (this includes winter coats/boots, sweaters, seasonal clothing, linens, etc.)

    Closets are emptied and thoroughly cleaned twice yearly during season changes. Clothes that don’t fit are consigned or given to friends. Clothes that haven’t been worn are donated or swapped with friends. Otherwise, closets and drawers are organized by article of clothing and color. I personally rotate my clothes and my son’s clothes to insure we wear everything we own. When I’m folding and putting away laundry, I bring the clothing in his drawers forward to be worn next and put the newly laundered items in the back of the drawers. Same with my clothing.

    Make use of underbed storage-particularly important in a young child’s room in a small home since all of their toys are in their rooms! Also-shelves, baskets, etc. Buy and use the ones that work for you. Organize toys by type. We have a container for legos, one for playmobil, one for costumes, one for “animals and people,” and one for vehicles.

    Nothing out on the counters except for the fruit bowl-I swear this keeps our kitchen looking very tidy

    Tidy up! Or, as they call it where I grew up: Read (short for ready) up. I take about 10 minutes each afternoon when I get home to sort mail (junk mail is tossed, bills are filed, magazines are put away for reading), unpack work bags and backpacks, put away work clothes and get into home clothes, etc.

    I also tidy up before bed. I pack lunches the night before, unload or load the dishwasher, wipe down the counters, sweep any lego creations off the furniture or tables and put them into my son’s room, etc.

    If I have five minutes and I don’t feel like sitting down, I make busy and either pick something up or organize it.

    Another time saver/organization tip for me is a small series of folders I keep. They are labeled: bills, health, school, coupons, cards, art — paper that is coming in my home can be filed in one of these folders. Every Friday after our son is in bed I sort through, discarding and shredding what’s been paid or isn’t needed. Supremely helpful both as a time saver and for keeping paper organized.

    I also pay someone to clean my house every other week. This has saved me a ton of time, saved me a lot of arguing, and helped me focus more on being with my son and husband when I’m home, rather than toiling away cleaning the guts out of our bathroom.

  • Jamie says:

    @Judy – OMG Don’t throw away your albums!! Especially with you think of all the time your Mom put into them. Even if they do end up in storage, SOMEONE someday will dig them out and look at them. Photos are our window into the past. I totally agree that purging is important but photos should be one of the rare items that NEVER get thrown out. If your son personally knows the people in the pics isn’t the point – he’ll know they’re family, won’t he? I’m assuming their names are written in the album too. He’ll be glad to have that record, I’m sure. I freaked out when I saw your comment, please don’t do it! :)

  • @Emily: Wow, I am really impressed. Lots of helpful hints, thanks for sharing.

    I love all of these ideas, & I aspire to be a minimalist, BUT don’t you think that goes against the grain of what we do as bloggers? I mean, we’re always talking about making crafts & things, buying the latest hats, jewelry, books, etc. It’s about consumption. Am I the only one who sees this paradox. Maybe it’s just me.

    I completely agree with the purging. We’re embarking on a military life we’re we are going to have to move around a lot. It certainly is changing my perspective on needs vs. wants. Now that we’re living in the interim at my parent’s house, all we have are our some of our clothes, a few books, & my computer. I can support your friend Brooke–it is much easier to keep a tidy home when you don’t have very much stuff!

  • Summer says:

    This is so timely for me! I REALLY need the extra motivation, because I have waaaaaaaaaay too much stuff. I mean, my house is clean, just cluttered. I’m so emotional about it, no matter how much I know I shouldn’t be (stuff doesn’t equal memories). I’ll be honest though, I have to be pretty drunk in order to make any real progress, haha. I guess another issue is that I feel sooooo wasteful getting rid of stuff. Like, the free stuff/crap that companies give you? It’s just going to be landfill, and that makes me sad.

  • Fey says:

    “Things are thieves of time” someone wise said. It’s true. How much of our free time is spent organizing and putting away clutter? I am also currently in the process of purging and simplifying, but it’s a slow process. Some things are just hard to part with (emotionally).

  • So many great tips here – I used to have it down, as a single person living in a small one bed flat (I am not a minimalist, but a huge believer in the grandmotherly wisdom of “a place for everything”), but find myself struggling a bit with the step-change to life with a 7month old baby…more stuff, less time”
    Re toys, controversially, at the moment I still agree with a piece of advice I received to just pick up the toys from the living room once, at the end of the day, rather than trying to keep everything constantly shipshape throughout the day as that’s a recipe to make yourself insane” better enjoy the time with the babe. Perhaps that will change as kiddo gets bigger and the mess along with it? Hm.

    My tip is to view the cleanup like a dance – when you know where everything goes, there can be a kind of grace to the whirlwind of tidy-up, which I rather enjoy. Find the Flow in it.

  • I try to view my clean up like the Do Easy method of living in Gus van Sant’s short film here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ochyO45Jb0g&feature=youtube_gdata_player
    :)

  • I know that tidying as you go is the secret, I just can’t ever seem to quite get into the habit of it….but I’m working on it!

  • Shasta says:

    Ummm….this idea is brilliant. I don’t know why I have never thought about this. Someones comment on having more than 1 measuring cup. Hmmm….I could definitely get rid of some stuff. My kids have way too many clothes (hand me downs) but still too many. I know what I am doing the next few weeks!

  • Faith says:

    @Summer – I also feel guilty throwing away things that will go into a landfill when they could actually be used by someone. When I get promotional junk from companies like pens, coffee mugs, magnets, etc., I corral them in a box in the basement and then deliver them to places like the Salvation Army, shelters and community centers. They are always looking to restock items like these and if they are donated, it leaves more room in their budget for more important things. And I don’t feel guilty for filling up the landfill.

  • Stefanie says:

    Just saw this today. Thought you might find it relevant.

    Could Minimalism Help You Save Money?
    http://www.businessinsider.com/could-you-be-a-minimalist-2012-6

  • Kate says:

    Re: the photo from Container Store — I always swoon over the look of those things, but then on closer inspection decide that that form of organization is actually quite impractical. Everything so high up, with only the stuff on the very bottom accessible to the little ones who need to use it. (Unless we are to believe that all the higher storage is of less often used items, perhaps the adults’ belongings? I think even if those were my things and not my kids, it would bug me to have to get on a step stool to reach them with any frequency.)

    Sorry if that was a bit off-topic, but I felt the need to say it! Overall, I could not agree more with the premise of your post. I just wish I were better at carrying it out in practice. My big hang-up with purging is holding on to things that I think my mom will be mad about if she finds out I ditched them. I don’t think every thing ever purchased is destined to be a family heirloom, but she seems to treat many things that way, so guilt weighs on me. It’s a delicate balance, wanting to have an organized home, but always remembering that relationships are more important to maintain.

  • Martha says:

    @Janae, amen about the paradox! Which is why I try to be disciplined about reading too many blogs. It becomes this overwhelming want-fest and most of it is just junk. I’ve been focusing a lot on buying classic things that I won’t want to throw away at the end of the season. I also don’t get sick of things very fast … which is good for wearing things out but bad for staying up to date on the latest fashions.

    A word about kids’ toys. For big, clunky things that I know my kids will love for a short period but I will hate to drag through all the moves we have yet to make as a family, I’ve had a great experience borrowing. Exersaucers, bouncers, baby swings. I don’t own any of it, I’ve just borrowed and returned to people who are happy to have them being put to use instead of sitting in their garage. That’s how I keep kid junk at bay. Same with books. We have a small (beat up) collection, but depend a lot on rotating library books. Thank goodness for libraries! If I can keep our stuff minimal, I am soooooo much happier. We are moving next week and I am thrilled about this forced motivation to purge. Moving can be great that way!

  • Martha says:

    Oh … also, about the landfill comments. I always say, either the landfill is the landfill or my house is the landfill. What’s it going to be? And that usually is all the motivation I need to get the garbage out of my house and into the trash outside.

  • […] terminons avec une touche de couleur avec le blog Oh Happy Day et ce petit mobilier pour enfants. Un article qui nous questionne sur l’organisation et le […]

  • angela s says:

    Cutting your stuff makes all the difference in the world. By having less clothes laundry has to get done and put away quickly because I don’t have the luxury of leaving it festering for a week or so and I am never left with a mountain to fold. Less dishes means I have to do dishes more often but its always a manageable load. There is just plain less to deal with. Our kids have few toys but they are happy regardless. Whenever we have issues with cleaning it means its time to get rid of things. The kids (8 & 6) have embraced this lifestyle and will tell us when they have too much or have kept something long enough. It is wonderful!

  • Lauren says:

    This type of attitude totally speaks to me and I have the urge to go clean out all the closets right now! I love a clean house and think I do pretty well not owning a lot of things, but there is always room for improvement :)

  • ash says:

    I use to live in san francisco, in a small apartment with my husband. I really think living there, moving from texas (where we had a huge house!) really changed us and the way we live.

    We don’t have kids yet, but I really think I am going to be like this & keep it up.

    I always say though- the bigger your home- the more crap you buy and the more you have to clean. I’d rather spend more time outside.

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