The floor is an endless sea of Legos and markers, plush toys and dolls, games and puzzle pieces. There are piles of dirty laundry in the kitchen and piles of clean laundry in the dining room. Every surface is sticky. And it’s been so long since the beds were made, you’re not even sure you remember how.
A young family moves fast, and messes build up just as quickly. This can lead to a constant state of chaos in your house, which can take a mental and physical toll. Recent studies show that a cluttered home can lead to greater stress, depression, and anxiety.
But don’t throw in the towel (it’ll just be another thing to wash). While some amount of chaos is probably inevitable, getting organized can not only reduce the crazy but also help you live happier and healthier. Here are a few tips to help you curb the clutter.
Laundry: turning mountains into molehills
The problem: The daily avalanche of dirty clothes, sheets, and towels is never–ending, and it’s impossible to make a dent in the mountains of laundry piled by your machines.
The solution: Start by organizing a laundry collection system to consolidate what needs to be washed. Place a hamper in the bathroom and each of the bedrooms and place two large bins by your machines—one for whites and one for colors. Two or three times a week, have everyone bring in their laundry and sort it into the bins by the machines.
Then, create a schedule for doing laundry so it doesn’t pile up and become overwhelming. For instance, commit to doing one load each day or three loads a week—whatever fits your family’s needs. Consider starting the wash before you leave for work and then throwing it in the dryer when you get home at night. Try to fold it and put it away promptly; it’ll mean fewer wrinkles and less work when you want to dry the next load.
Toy story: corralling the mess
The problem: If your kids are like most, they randomly drop toys anywhere (and everywhere) after they lose interest in playing with them.
The solution: Think of toy control as a battle—one that requires a three-pronged attack plan.
- Reduce: Limit the number of toys your kids have at any given time. You can do this by putting half their toys in storage bins and then keeping them out of reach on high shelves or in a basement storage locker. Then, every few months, rotate their current toys with those in the storage bins. Your kids will feel like it’s Christmas and their birthday rolled into one.
- Contain: Large bins filled with a hodgepodge of toys can be frustrating and unmanageable for kids. Use small bins instead and label them for a single type of toy, like Hot Wheels/Matchbox, Polly Pocket, and FurReal. Scatter “whatever” baskets around the house and drop items in them when you see them lying around. When the baskets get full, have your kids sort through them and put the toys away in their proper bins.
- Donate: A couple times a year, gather up toys to donate. The low-hanging fruit, of course, are toys they’ve already tossed aside. Beyond that, ask your kids to help you choose toys to give away. It can help them understand that it’s okay to let go.
Surface junk: staying on top of it
The problem: You come home tired, knowing there’s still dinner, homework, baths, and bedtimes to get to. You drop odds and ends onto tables, countertops, dressers, or benches until there’s hardly a surface that isn’t overflowing with junk.
The solution: Resist the urge to just drop stuff wherever. When you look through the mail, toss junk pieces into the trash right away. Put a garbage can near the entryway to make it even easier. Buy a wall organizer for important mail, keys, and ID badges, and use it every day. Keep bills and important mail in designated slots and commit half an hour each week to emptying and taking care of them.
Delay tactics: fighting the urge to procrastinate
The problem: You feel tired just looking at the clutter and mess all around you, so you tell yourself you’ll deal with it later. The only problem is, later never comes.
The solution: Tackle the problem as a family and divide and conquer together. Decide on a specific number of items each person will pick up and put away every time they enter or leave a room. Encourage the kids to pick up after themselves by using the “whatever” baskets around the house and reward them when you see them cleaning up. Reward yourself, too, with a relaxing bath, a cup of tea, or a little retail therapy.
Turning chaos into calm
Living in clutter day in and day out can have a real impact on how you feel and your overall sense of well-being. Taking the time to tackle those piles of laundry, put away toys, and sort through stacks of papers will not only make your home a more welcoming space, it can actually give you a deep sense of happiness and satisfaction. Know what can add to that feeling? Protecting your family’s future. Find out how life insurance can help your family avoid chaos down the road here.