Free Advice: Keeping a House Tidy

Stirrup Queens had a good idea for protesting the SOPA bill: “I want to highlight the good that comes from the online world instead of withdrawing our sites in order to teach a lesson.” So she put together a round-up of bloggers offering advice on one topic they excel at.

At first, I was stumped. I honestly don’t think I do ANYTHING well. But then I realized there was a compliment routinely bestowed upon me by friends and family.

I am consistently told I keep a neat house. Which is pretty true.


1. We have a cleaner who comes twice a month. But this is new. And probably won’t last, due to financial constraints.

2. I am the kind of person who cares a lot what people think.

2. I SUCK at decorating and my carpets have stains.

OK, so what I AM good at is keeping messes out of sight. And this was even true when I lived in a small space.

Here’s how I keep clutter at a minimum:

1. I go through all of my stuff regularly: clothes, books, toys, cosmetics, movies. I am ruthless about getting rid of things that I haven’t used after 6 months.
2. I love having yard sales, selling furniture on Craig’s List and clothes through consignment stores. Not much makes me happier than making money from things I don’t use anymore. Also totally gratifying? Gathering up stuff that doesn’t sell and driving it over to Goodwill. Drop-off is easy and donations are tax-deductible.
3. I don’t purchase a lot of material goods in the first place. Not for any particularly noble reason, but mostly because if I buy something it has to be perfect. That’s why I love my Chanel purse, and don’t have any other handbags. I was taught to buy quality not quantity by a former co-worker. It’s a lesson I’ve taken to heart. Things I buy are generally built to last.
4. Things I will NEVER get rid of: a few important items imbued with sentimental value. The Amish quilt my in-laws gave us when we got engaged. The wedding china my parents purchased for us in our first year of marriage. The family photos and inherited paintings from my husband’s grandmother. My grandmother’s jeweled broach. These items may not have much financial value, but when I see them and touch them, they actually bring me joy.

In terms of keeping the house clean, every day I tidy each room and clean certain areas regularly: once a week I mop the floors in the kitchen and bathrooms. The kids are expected to put away their toys after playing. I learned long ago that it’s much easier to work a little each day than do a massive clean-up every few weeks. But this was a skill I picked up that’s basically Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: I cleaned every day for a month, then it became a permanent habit.

I also invite friends over a lot: both personal friends and play-dates. That keeps me honest.

Darcy would want me to tell you that sometimes I don’t do the dishes. Which is true. And I’m bad at keeping on top of laundry 😉



Filed under Discovering joy, Family

19 responses to “Free Advice: Keeping a House Tidy

  1. Awesome advice. Most of which I follow! Except for inviting people over. I’m really bad at that.

    Want to visit? 🙂

  2. Great advice! I have started trying to clean a little each day and it really has made a difference in keeping the house clean. I like the idea of buying only really nice things- less clutter, and then, well, you have nice things.

  3. Ah, dishes… I am so glad my hubby took on the responsibility to load and unload the dishwasher. I used to do it, too – every now and then – before I got to be 7 months preggo and repetitive bending became a chore 😉

    laundry, though? Yeah, my hubby approaches me now and then, telling me he’s running out of underwear 😉

  4. a

    I hate cleaning. And I hate clutter. I am in constant internal conflict!

    It was really nice for the past 6 months. My husband was home and did the majority of the housework. I highly recommend that strategy. But it couldn’t last forever…he went back to work last week and already the counters are a mess!

  5. I am terrible at keeping house. But whenever we have company, I do thorough, deep cleaning so as not to reveal my true messy self. That’s why Hubby says we need to have company more often (not because we particularly love to have people over).

  6. Esperanza

    Of course your advice is to just tidy up a little bit here and there all day every day. Of course.

    Everything easy is hard.


  7. We need to invite people more often! I hate clutter and I’m struggling with patience over my husbands piles of magazines he hasn’t read nor organized and put away yet. But I also hate nagging so.. Anyway, I’m not too sentimental either about things. I like your ruthless strategy on getting rid of what’s no longer needed.

  8. I am a hoarder, and that is part of my problem. But I agree, doing a little bit every day is better than doing a massive effort once a month. It helps me so much.
    The bit about quality vs. quantity is great. I have two bags I love now, a Furla and a Coccinelle and I think I am ready to part with the rest of the twenty cheepos I keep in the cellar. I should come out of my medieval ages and check out the ebay thing, methinks.
    Good, decent advice. Thank you. Common sense is so seldom met these days, don’t you think?

  9. I think I need to try the cleaning every day for a month trick to get me in the groove. Mmmhhmmmm….next month? 😉

    Ok, at least I can go through my handbag collection, which is out of control and doesn’t contain anything as nice as Chanel.

  10. Great advice! I am also a believer. Still, it somehow takes real effort to keep junk from entering (and making sure that it properly exits) my house. This has been especially true since having a little guy around.

  11. Yeah, are house is always in great shape when people are coming over (usually about 5 minutes before), so we definitely need to invite more people over! Your purging items and buying only quality items definitely resonates due to the carpet beetle situation! We have been doing a lot of purging anyway and the carpet beetles have really helped us see we have a lot more stuff we could do without. I was just in my closet and I wonder if I could get by with just the few items I saved for work until spring/summer. Might be a fun experiment.

  12. And how humiliated am I by putting “are” instead of “our” in my first sentence?

  13. I wish you would come to my house and do #1 for me.

    Wait. That sounds antithetical and a little bit kinky.

  14. I really struggle with the keeping a house (particularly mine) clean and appreciate your tips. I go through phases where I rock and keeping things straightened and clean and much longer ones where I don’t. I’m a work in progress with this and hope to get in a better routine that I can stick with one of these days… Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  15. Wordgirl


    My clutter is threatening to stage a mutiny.


    I don’t really excel in any area of housekeeping — I can cook and bake and plan meals — good ones — and storing things in boxes in cubbies has made a big difference in a pinch — but my god –what’s in those boxes?????

  16. This is good advice. I’ve been making an effort to keep my house cleaner, and while it’s definitely cleaner, I still wouldn’t say it’s clean. The thing that’s help is to kind of clean while I’m doing other things, like wipe the counter while I’m already in the kitchen with something that has to be stirred occasionally, etc. Clean the sink when I’m brushing my teeth.

    One thing I want to know, though: what are your children doing when you tidy up? Are they asleep? Playing on their own?

    • Good question: I do most of my cleaning when they are at school or at night after they go to sleep. On the weekend, I’m just cleaning all the time because I have my husband and the two kids making messes all day. My husband is the messiest one of all.

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