A messy house is one of the things that most people will struggle with at some point in their life but how do you cope when you have pain to manage, have mobility challenges or another impairment which means you live life differently? As I'm sure you'll understand, or even experienced, you're going to come across some difficulties and you may not have found the best routine for keeping your house tidy.
After a full day of work, looking after children, and generally living life the average person does not want to come home to a messy house and have that to contend with before then can begin to unwind and relax. I was experiencing this exact problem until I started implementing some guidelines to start clearing up my home. Finding out which methods worked best for me has been a journey in itself and I have tried quite a few methods, some worked and others didn't. I'll be running through which ones have worked for me and also some other great examples which have worked for others but don't actually apply to me.
Getting Rid Of Clutter
My biggest problem that I encountered when I first started (and still working on) was clutter. How can you clean your work surfaces when you have a stack of paperwork or clothing on top of it? My first job was to start clearing through each area of my home and deciding what I actually needed or wanted and what was just junk or no longer served a purpose.
Regardless of which method I was using I had to break each session up into smaller amounts. I am able to comfortably work in 15 minute slots and then have a break or switch to an easier task. The best way I found to sort through the clutter was to bring everything out of the area of container I was working on and put it on the kitchen table and then begin to sort. If I was not able to bring it to the table then I would use a portable chair or make myself comfortable with pillows on the floor.
You will find that your home has various different levels to contend with, even if you're in an apartment you'll still have high cupboards to work through and then places like under the sink. I have found it easier to work through my tasks on the same level as much as possible, so whether that's getting rid of excess products under the sink and then cleaning the area, or chucking out old Tupperware boxes on top of my kitchen cabinet, sticking to those similar areas limits fatigue and gives you more focus on getting the tasks completed.
The Separation Method
There are many ways of sorting through your house and it will really depend on what you are capable of either on the day or in general. As mentioned above working through sections of your house in smaller areas, it doesn't matter if you only get through that junk draw in the kitchen and don't do anything else, you're still ahead of where you were yesterday.
I found that separating your items into three categories to be the easiest way of dealing with that clutter:
- Keeping and needs a home
- Throw away
A Home For Everything
After you have separated all of the items that you are keeping and have removed the items that you are donating, recycling, or throwing out you'll want to implement the golden rule of There's A Home For Everything And Everything Has A Home. This singular rule will allow you to get into the mindset of putting things away once you have used them. An item in your home will be in one of two states at any time:
- Being used
- In its home
If you fail to follow this golden rule then you'll soon find that you are having to pick up more around the house and eventually you are going to get overwhelmed again and start the whole process again. If you're tidying up for more than just yourself (family, housemates, pets, etc.) then you'll want to get everyone to follow this rule. This is one of the key points in being able to keep on top of things so that when you have a bad day and can't do your daily routine then others can pick up your share and they wont really notice as it'll already be a habit.
While you're sorting through your home you should either have one designated bin or container for charity items somewhere in your home (at the back door, laundry room, spare bedroom to name a few places), or have a container in rooms which need the most help. Having multiple containers is my preferred method as it means I don't have to remember to take it out to the sole charity container. I do a sweep of the containers once a month and either leave it out on the curb if we get notification of a charity collection coming by or I drop it down to our local charity bins or shop (if the need the items).
The biggest problem I have come across when deciding if an item will go to charity is the "What If?" that pops into my head each time. Well, to start with if you're thinking of donating the item anyway then it's likely that the item has already served its purpose or you're not going to need it. I have two ways of dealing with the "What If?" moments:
- Stick it in the charity container anyway and if I find I need the item within the month then it's likely I'll be keeping it and I'll get transferred over into the Keep It category and I'll need to find a home for it.
- Use the KonMari method: there is a lot to discover by using this method but the number one thing I have taken away from this is to ask "Does this item spark joy?". If you are ever in doubt then ask yourself this question, if it's a resounding yes then the item moves to the Keep It category otherwise it will go to the donation bin or get thrown out.
Throw It Away (Including Recycling)
This is probably the easy category to work with as the items you will be throwing out will more than likely be broken and beyond repair. Now, when I say throw it out that also including recycling so please don't just through everything in the trash as that will do no one any good. If you're not sure what your local recycling facilities can accept then you can either check your local council's website or give them a ring and they'll provide you with a list of collection services or self-serve facilities you can take your unwanted items too. It will also be worth checking in with your local charity shops too as many of them will accepts broken items to up-cycle into other things or to use as parts.
Identifying Heavy Traffic Areas
During your time of decluttering you'll also begin to notice where the heavy traffic areas are. For example, I have an open plan kitchen and living room area and that is our "dumping ground" for when we walk in the door and put our things down. There's also places like the front and back doors and bathroom that see a lot of traffic and items being placed "for just a moment, I'll come back for it" and you may be surprised that things will be forgotten and left there until the next frantic search for them. This is where the Home For Everything method comes into place so that you're not always searching for your keys or glasses whenever you're trying to leave your home.
Using Tools For Managing Daily Items
Once you've identified problem areas then you'll want to start by finding homes for everything and start the habit of putting them in the right place. If you already have solutions in place then you'll need to create a reminder for putting them in their home, for example a quick note by the front door as a reminder to put your keys away. After a couple of weeks has passed and you're still not putting items in their designated homes then you should reassess your existing solution and try something else until you get something that works for you and your family.
Here are some ideas to work with for sort and storing your daily items:
- A hook for your keys and bag
- A deposit bowl or container for keys, glasses and wallets
- A shoe rack (I hate having shoes laid out everywhere)
- A coat rack or hook
- An in/out tray for mail
- A Designated shelf or slot for laptops and tablets
- A weekly tablet container so you don't have a ton of prescriptions everywhere
- Set of drawers for frequently needed items
For those who haven't quite got the hang of everything having a home you can try using designated small storage box with their name on so that when it is full they can put these things away. I find that it works for small children who are still learning about looking after their things and also for people who just forget that certain things have a place - this way you're not having to run around picking up after them 24/7.
So now that you have been decluttering you'll have found that you actually have things that you can clean now and they need attending too. By this stage you will already have a good idea of what chores need doing and how often. No matter what size your home is if you're not feeling well then even the smallest task can seem daunting, so why not make things simple and break them up into manageable chunks that you can complete.
When it comes to breaking down the chores you'll need to have a hard think about how often you can reasonably do each task. It's no good saying that you're going to vacuum each and everyday but don't do it because it hurts your back to much as you're just going to become stressed out and then worry that you're falling behind. Set yourself realistic goals that you can complete within a 15 - 20 minute slot so you can then rest and have a break or switch to a different task.
This will be chores that need to be done everyday, or as near as everyday for them to remain manageable. For example, in my home we definitely need to do the dishes everyday as we don't have a dish washer and they will quickly become overwhelming if we don't stay on top it the washing up. My rota for daily cleaning is as follows:
- Dishes washed and put away
- Laundry washed and dried (non-ironed clothes)
- Empty the bins
- Make the bed
- Open windows and air each room
- Constantly pick up items as I go about my day and put them in their rightful homes
- Meals (cooking and preparing)
Now I certainly don't get to do all of these chores every single day but I do plan and make time for them in my schedule if they need doing.
Weekly tasks are things that you don't have to do everyday but really can wait for once a week. These chores are going to vary quite a lot from home to home as they will entirely depend on foot traffic, pets, guests, number of family members and so on. You will have to be the better judge of your own personal schedule but I shall provide you with my rota so you can get the idea:
- Change the bedding (maybe every five days or more frequently in hot weather)
- Scrub the bath, bathroom sink and shower glass cover
- Big vacuuming session (done on an ad hoc basis in smaller chunks throughout the week)
- Spot clean windows and mirrors
- Spot clean inside of fridge
- Clean inside of garbage bin
- Sort and remove recycling
- Clean the oven
- Mop floors
These are often classified as seasonal work and you may only get to these once or twice a year depending on the task in hand. I also put monthly chores in this section too:
- Give the fridge a good clean
- Clear out donation bins and give to charity
- Clean windows thoroughly inside and out
- Touch up any old paint jobs
- Scrub outside decking
- Flip mattress (every 6-8 weeks)
Dividing Up The Work
So now that you have a good solid foundation for how your home runs and what you can expect to happen to keep it in tip top shape, you can't be expected to do all of this yourself if you have a partner or family to be looking after as well. Everyone who is under the same roof should all take pride in keeping the house in good working order so that they can appreciate having a lovely place to come back to at the end of a long day. But how do you divide up all the chores and tasks that need to be done on a regular basis?
There are plenty of ways that you can accomplish this but one of my favorite methods is simple sit everyone down at the kitchen table and lay out the chores in front of them. Once everybody has had a chance to look at all the tasks available to them they can then offer up their services to chores that best suit their ability to complete. For example, my other half takes care of the daily bathroom chores and washing up while I take care of the laundry and meals. Everything else for us is done on an ad hoc basis when we spot that a chore needs to be done. Our free-form way of doing things doesn't suit everybody and I know plenty of households who have a rota set up for when chores need to be completed by and this works for them.
What if you're not able to do an equal share? Fear not! Don't be afraid to state your position and reasoning for not doing your perceived share, if you are living with decent human beings who are understanding and compassionate about your health and current abilities then you will be able to work something out. It may not be a fair share of the work load but you will be contributing to the well-being of everyone in the household but you will be doing as much as you reasonably can and that's OK.
One final thought about dividing up the workload: if it's within your budget to do so then I would recommend getting a professional cleaner in on a schedule that works for you. Having someone come in once a week or even once a month to help complete those bigger tasks can be a huge weight off your mind as you know those chores will get done and you don't need to rely on another member of the household remembering to get it done.