Project 1: Keep the Living Room Clean for A Week

Posted on Sat 07/20/13 in Getting Organized Series

The living room is a great place to begin, because it’s the easiest room to involve your family in.

This is a series that shares, project by project, the ways our household is changing. You will notice the focus is project by project because we are attempting to build habits for our family. I’ve cleaned and organized before, but the mess always comes back. And that’s the trigger behind Keeping the Living Room Clean for A Week because we all know the only way to not have the messes come back is to instill change; and you can’t instill change quickly.

The living room is a great place to begin because it’s the easiest room to involve your family in.

Right off the bat- I called Jenna, a high school junior I had help me weekly during tax season. She was a little surprised to hear from me since I hadn’t seen her since late April, but once she arrived we got right to work. YOU SEE, the living room wasn’t just messy, it was a disaster. To get started would require a mega deep-cleaning (by me -I’d be exacting great tolls from my family soon enough!) -followed by the grit & grain—-our first attempts to build new habits.

Getting it Clean

Clutter establishes itself as background objects to your living space

Step 1: Jenna and I moved all clutter off bookshelves, mantle and end tables -and placed all these random pieces that didn’t belong into a big pile on the center of the living room coffee table—-where it was easy to see it all in one space as the clutter it was. _This change of perspective was needed; I began to recognize how my brain lets clutter establish itself as background objects to our living space.

Purging gives you less stuff to control

Step 2: As we dusted bookshelves and ledges and window sills, we purged. I needed Jenna’s help and input for this… I don’t do well with getting rid of things… I kept thinking to myself the ways that I will need the item, or the circumstances in which I’d use it. But instead, I let my thought process go something like this:

This is all background clutter, the less I have of it the less places I’ll have to set things down.

And it worked, we were able to completely eliminate an unused table from the living room landscape -and let me tell you, it’s nice for Daddy and Sonny Boy to have all that floor space to play in; we downsized a small 3-shelf bookcase and converted it to be used as a container garden -I decided I’ll plant 6 bell peppers in it; two in each shelf. We moved it to the porch; and the books I was able to part with were split between two locations:

  1. Textbooks from our college years (haha, why are we hanging onto these?!) were loaded into my car where I took them back to the college bookstore. I got a $1 for a single textbook, (indicative of their value) and the rest got dumped in a big box that was going to another country as part of the store’s textbook drive.
  2. Books & DVDs others might enjoy went into a box in the den, where I would list them on Book Mooch and Paper Back Swap. In full disclosure, the books sat in the den for 2 weeks until I posted them on the sites, but I just posted them the other day and I got instant hits on 7 of them – the rest went into the basement in a box so they were easily accessible for future requests, or for the next yard-sale in August.

Something I read on A Slob Come’s Clean was very useful, and I’d like to source Nony’s two questions to ask yourself if you have trouble giving things away, like I do.

The questions are:
If I needed this, where would I look for it at?
If I needed this, will I remember that I even have it?

Cleaning with help yields faster results & less stress

Step 3 Cleaning with Jenna allowed me to move faster and stay focused, and helped me purge more stuff than I would have been able to do on my own.

We swept out all the socks and toys from under the couch. The couches were vacuumed, the ceiling fan dusted. I didn’t bother to go through these toys at this point to purge them, that project will likely come later. Instead, I indiscriminately threw them into a laundry basket at the bottom of the stairs and it was taken up and unceremoniously dumped into the toy box!

We were pretty much done! We finished cleaning, we scoured around for more items to purge, the den was a disaster, but we weren’t cleaning the den yet. And at this point, I knew there was nothing we had put in the den that we weren’t keeping!

Keeping it Clean

Discuss with DH

DF and I discussed briefly that the goal was to keep the living room clean for a week, and I shared with him why it would be beneficial to do so. Some of the best advice I ever heard was recent and it was from my best friend, Jessica. She shared this story:

I explained to Hubby that I knew the pile of stuff sitting in the garage didn’t bother him at all, but whenever I saw it there it caused me great amounts of anxiety. I told him, I know you want to go through it all and sort it out, and I know you don’t want me to do it for you because you have something particular in mind, but I am willing to go out there with you and help you. And then I reminded him that when I’m anxious and stressed it spreads to him and the kids.

What I like about her example is that she showed me how expressing to her DH what the goal was, why the goal mattered, and what effect it would have on her & the kids created an environment where now Hubby didn’t think it was just one more nagging task to do. Instead, his task has purpose and the lines of communication are now open and clear. This is why the women in our lives are so important!

Establish the daily habits

I’m embarrassed to say that for us the habit we needed to instill the most was that after dinner we would all take our plates and dishes to the kitchen. This is not something we’ve been doing, and it’s something that doesn’t even occur to me. Here’s why- For me when I get up from eating my mind is already on to the next task. I’m just forgetful. DF doesn’t have this problem, and he used to be super-clean. He jumped right on board with this habit, and has been nothing but encouragement for me and a good example for Sonny Boy, who follows his every move.

Take-aways to Implement

  1. Ask around for a high-school sophomore or junior you can trust, have them help you fold laundry, clean, organize things, and pay them for their time. We pay Jenna $10 an hour, or you could pay a set-amount per task accomplished. This helps remind me that my time is valuable. So often as mothers and spouses I think we need reminded of that..
  2. Purge while you’re cleaning, and it will help reduce clutter you have to maintain in the future
  3. Discuss a couple ideas you have for change with your spouse, get them to agree why it’s useful for the kids. If you can get hubby to be a good sport about the things you’ll be asking him to do, the kids will follow suit. For me, having DF on board has been wonderful because he’s actually cleaner than I am and is excited about teaching me how to “clean as I go”.
  4. Remember that if you take on a lot of responsibilities, your time becomes valuable, worth at least half the pay that your job gives you. If you get paid $30 an hour at your job, and pay someone $15 to help you with an hour’s worth of work at home that you’d have to do otherwise, you’re earning $15 of time! Cleaning with Jenna allowed me to move faster and stay focused, and helped me purge more stuff than I would have been able to do on my own.

Disclaimer: The links above are NOT affiliate links. I genuinely love Book Mooch & Paper Back Swap as my favorite book trading sites, and Nony from A Slob Comes Clean is a slob like me, so I do utilize her tips & techniques in my everyday life. I’d like to give her credit for those ideas when I mention them.


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