I cannot believe i have been away from this space for so long. But not only did my kiddos get a super long spring break due to budget cuts but...On Saturday a tornado hit our town. Many homes were damaged and the roof was completely blown off one of our two middle schools and mangled school buses were thrown about the roads. Clean up is underway. People are thinking about what is important and which possessions truly matter. One newspaper article stated that teachers had asked to be allowed to return to the school to retrieve their belongings. But on Tuesday the perimeter of the school was fenced off and it was announced that the structure was not stable enough to enter. Everyone received an important lesson on letting go of the 'stuff' and turning our attention to the people and community.
[On a personal note my family is just fine - we lost power overnight and our yard is littered with branches but we suffered no damage. Today I drove Ezra to the bus stop at 6:30am for AM middle school. He will attend school until 12:45pm and the students from the damaged school will be bussed to his school for PM classes (1:00 to 6:30 pm!). Thank goodness there were no students in the school when the storm hit on Saturday and thank goodness there are only thirty-four days of school left - i, for one, cannot wait for summer vacation to begin.]
All of this has caused people around here to focus on what is important: friends, family, pets, relationships, health, sunshine...
This article talks about living with less stuff and how we are happiest when we spend our time and money on experiences such as vacations, entertainment and sports because they allow us to create lasting memories. I love the simple quote by Professor Dunn, "It's better to go on a vacation than buy a new couch" This quote, in particular, speaks to me because last July I painted the walls of my home white and donated two of our three couches. I fully intended to replace them with a nicer, no-so-worn couch but nearly a year has passed and our family of five has lived very happily with just one couch (and two arm chairs + the twelve chairs surrounding our dining room and kitchen tables!). All of this leads me to the post I said i would write on how i go about keeping our home clear and clean. Although i enjoy decluttering, organizing and donating these tasks are not synonymous with having a picked-up home - complete with clean, cleared-off surfaces.
Cleaning up, unfortunately, is a daily chore that I have to constantly remind myself to stay on top of. To find motivation i tell myself how much better my family functions when the kitchen table, couch, coffee table, and kitchen counter tops are clean and available for play, cooking, and making. And having supplies for crafting, cooking, and playing games neat and organized allows us to begin a fun project or recipe when we choose rather than waste precious family time searching for the lost game piece or missing purple marker.
Only flowers and a candle on the kitchen and dining tables. I have put away the place mats because crumbs and juice spills get underneath so i have to clean the top and bottom of five place mats as well as the table top. This way i just clear the dirty dishes, throw the napkins in the wash, and wipe down the table.
Only a lamp, alarm clock and a book on the bedroom nightstands. Makes for easy and quick dusting.
Only a lamp and artwork propped up on dressers in each of the kiddos bedrooms. Everything else has a home in a drawer or on a bookcase. I can dust all four bedrooms in ten minutes when all the surfaces are free of clutter.
Only a toaster oven, cutting board and blender (for daily smoothies) on the kitchen counter. I do not have many appliances or kitchen gadgets and i have made room for the ones i do have in the cabinets. My kitchen is tiny with only four pull out drawers and four cabinets and very little counter space. I have gotten into the habit of cleaning as i work when preparing meals - i am constantly wiping down the counter top and cutting board and putting away ingredients as i use them. This makes for quick cleanup after dinner because there are no spills or stuck on food to scrub.
Only soap, toothbrushes, and contacts lens stuff on the bathroom counters. (the kiddos only have soap and toothbrushes). I dislike cleaning bathrooms the most so very recently i decided that i would wipe down the counter tops and sinks with just a rag and warm water daily. While i'm there i swish the toilets with a bit of comet cleanser. I usually wipe down the master bath and guest bath in the mornings and the kid's bath when abigail is in the tub. This only takes a few minutes per day and i never feel like the bathrooms are dirty. About once a week i use method all purpose cleaner in grapefruit scent on the counter tops and floors - i get mine at target. I do not worry too much about killing all germs in the bathroom - there will always be germs and i don't like the thought of being responsible for their death.
In order to maintain all these surfaces free of clutter i do two things:
1. Follow the rule "if you used it - you are responsible for putting it away." Your kiddos will do this if they see you doing it. Remember that kiddos learn by example and love working as a team. We also have a "five minute put-away time" each night before dinner or before bedtime.
2. Donate all things in your home that you do not use often or love. The dilemma here is that often the items we use most are out on tables and counter tops while those that we have no use for and have forgotten we own are neatly stored away taking up precious space in closets, drawers, bookshelves and pantries. To remedy this, every few months I go through my closets and drawers and donate items that i don't use to make room for those that i use daily. I came across this book on amazon the other night and judging from the stellar reviews it could be very useful. I have not read this book - just putting the information out there for those who wish to live with less and want a bit more guidance.
As for laundry, I have recently switched from a big laundry day (where i washed a weeks worth of clothes + bedding and towels) to throwing in a load every evening after dinner. Some days I fold this load in the evenings while the kiddos are going about their nightly bathroom + snack routine. Other days I fold the clothes in the morning while everyone is waking up and preparing for breakfast. The following sentence is controversial but I will admit to putting my kid's clothes away for them and straightening up their rooms and tossing trash while i am in there - my boys rooms are often already neat and tidy but the six year old girly still cuts, shreds, glues and paints on every surface and needs some help to keep all the supplies + the resulting projects organized. Once a week, in the morning, i wash everyone's bedding and get it back on the beds by bedtime - that way i don't have to worry about folding or putting it away.
Ezra vacuums most of the house every week (or more often if needed) and David and Abby each vacuum their own rooms.
Each of the kiddos dust their own rooms. I dust the rest of the house (usually in the evenings when the kiddos are doing homework) using a Swiffer sweeper cloth - these work great for dust. I do not own the stick sweeper that it attaches to because i do not use these to clean the floor (we just wipe up spills and vacuum the floor).
We do not make the beds - everyone just straightens his or her covers/ quilts each morning.
I hope this helps a bit and that you can take this information and apply it to your cleaning routine. Don't worry too much about what you clean or organize or donate - just do what you can today.
Because "You can't wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time." Anonymous
If nothing else, be sure to clear off a space to create with your kiddos and then stop by here on Friday for a review of Jennifer Casa's gorgeous new book and a chance to win one of your very own! Book tour schedule is here for more chances to win.
Big hugs to you and thanks so much for stopping by!