Getting organized seems to be a chronic goal for me. At times I have made great strides, but then seem to easily backslide into old habits. Recently I read an article about how “metacognition” (the ability to think about thoughts) can help in learning new skills. It talked about how children can improve their reading when they consciously apply certain automatic strategies of good readers. I gained hope as I applied this to my organizational struggles: if I learned to think like an organized person, perhaps I too could get organized!
Luckily, I have a few very organized friends–walking into their orderly, polished homes is a transformative experience! I asked them to summarize their approach to keeping the house clean. This is a list of what they shared:
1 – Touch it once. Once you pick it up, put it where it belongs, don’t just set it somewhere to put away at another time.
2 – “A place for everything and everything in its place.” If you don’t have a specific place where it belongs then you probably don’t need it. Consider labels to maintain your system.
3 – Clean as you go. If baking, once you use the sugar/flour/etc – put it back where it belongs. That way you’re not left with an insurmountable mess when you’re done. If you walk through a room and notice items out of place, put them back on your way.
4 – Less is more. Don’t hold onto anything unless it’s a necessity or a treasure. The laundry pile will automatically shrink after you downsize everyone’s wardrobe. The number of toys scattered will automatically be less if there are fewer toys to choose from or they are taken out in limited quanities.
5 – Prevent messes before they are made. Insist that shoes are removed when coming in, that hands are washed after eating or being outside, and that food stays in the kitchen. (Always!)
6 – Keep horizontal surfaces clear of “stuff.” Clutter does actually block from getting down to “clean.” Have a regular routine of wiping down counters and vacuuming, etc.
7- Don’t cut corners or ignore corners. Do a thorough, high-quality job. Maintaining cleanliness does take work! Overall, daily habits make a bigger difference than occasional major overhauls or “clean sweeps.”
8 – Involve children when you can, but because of the investment required, this will initially be for teaching purposes more than lightening the load!
9 – Start with one or two “rules.” for yourself–things that make the biggest difference to you, like making your bed every morning or leaving no dirty dishes in the sink. The energy gained from these successes will give you momentum.
10 – Find joy in cleaning. Put on some music you like, contemplate while you work, celebrate the results!
Happy 2016! Here I go to wash the dishes, whistling all the way!
Some additional recommended resources: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo AND Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern