March Organization Challenge: Living Area

We’re on a roll, now!  In January we set goals, made a plan, and assembled a planner.  In February we brought order to meals and menus and cleaned the kitchen.  (If you missed any of these articles, you can find them on the “Articles” tab at Daughters 4 God.) March is the month for bringing order to our main living area—living room, family room, great room, or whatever you call it.  (If you have two such rooms, you have double duty this month!) It is difficult to give specific instructions for cleaning and ordering a living area, since each family is so unique.  This month, I’m giving you some general suggestions and recommendations to help you bring order and organization to your specific living area.

I recommend you print this page and post it on your frig so you can keep up with the weekly assignments.

Week 1:  Declutter and Downsize Keep only what you need and regularly use. It’s most challenging to be organized when you’re pressed for space.  I remember having two girls in a tiny two-bedroom condo with no basement or garage.   I survived by regularly discarding toys and clothing we didn’t need.  Sometimes I wasn’t sure what I’d need in the future, but that’s where I trusted God to provide.  If He provided it the first time, He could certainly provide again if I needed it.  We aren’t as cramped for space in our current home, but we still regularly evaluate closets, bookshelves, and other possessions.  We try to find others who may be blessed by our gently used items.  It brings me great joy to go to church and see young girls wearing dresses my sweeties have outgrown.

Start the process with items you need and regularly use.  Those items can stay where they are for now.  Next, get two trash bags and make three piles:  Trash bag #1 is Throw Away, Trash bag #2 is Give Away, Pile #3 is Need but Use Infrequently.  Evaluate decorations, knick knacks, furniture, and any other possessions—things you can see and things in drawers and under furniture.  Throw the trash away, find a good home for your gently used items, and find a temporary home for the things you “Need but Use Infrequently.”

Week 2:  Pack and Put Away Use it or pack it. If you’ve determined you need an item but don’t often use it, pack it away and make room for other necessities.  For example, you don’t need daily access to suitcases, seasonal decorations, keepsake items, old bank statements, tax returns, treasures made by children, etc.  Move the items to the attic or a top shelf of a closet.

Hit the spot. Also this week, remove any spots in your carpet and on your furniture.  I recently saw this recipe for treating spots: “Use hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle and thoroughly wet the area.  Come back and blot it up; then sprinkle iodized salt on the damp part.  As it dries, the salt will soak up the stain.”  I haven’t tried it yet, but a friend told me it worked great for a blood stain.

Week 3:  Order and Organize A place for everything and everything in its place. Everything needs a home.  My mom had a saying when we were cleaning the house: “Don’t put it down until it’s home.”  Most everything in our house had a home.  All our toys belonged in the basement where we had a special closet for the games, an area for the dolls and another area for matchbox race tracks.  In my home, I chose to use plastic bins for many of the girls’ toys—one for musical instruments, one for blocks, one for dress up clothes.  (Baskets work well, too, but I wanted something with a lid.)  Yes, there is an initial investment, but the return is a system for an ordered home that allows children to help.  When you ask your children to put things away, they know exactly where things belong.

Two are better than one. Look for storage options that meet two needs—a dresser that doubles as a changing table, an entertainment unit that has storage for DVD’s, a bookshelf with baskets to hold other trinkets, a higher bed frame that allows under-the-bed storage.  All of these options double your space.

Allow space for future growth. I’ve heard it said that you fill whatever space you have.  The same rings true for storage.  If you need 4 shelves for books, buy a bookshelf with at least 2 extra shelves.  (I’m not advocating materialism or collecting things but if you are a young homeschooling family or a family of readers, those empty shelves won’t stay that way for long!)  If you need storage for toys, make sure the lid fits on easily.  If the toys in the box fit like a tight puzzle, it’s unlikely your young children will be able to fit everything in.

Week 4: Bust the Dust Clean your living area, top to bottom. Cover a broom with an old t-shirt and remove cobwebs around the crown molding and down the corners.  Starting at one of the light switches in the room, continue around the room until you return to the light switch, accomplishing the following:  clean the glass and tops of the picture frames (Update pictures, if necessary.); remove all knick knacks and dust furniture; dust all knick knacks and replace them on the furniture, clean the windows—glass, sills, and sashes; clean light switches; clean door frames, removing all fingerprints.  Clean and organize other furniture in the room, such as an entertainment center, bookshelves, baskets, etc.  Start again at the same light switch and clean the baseboards, continuing around the room until you get back to the light switch.  Sit back and admire the fruits of your labor.

 

The Cleaning Game

When I was growing up, spring was the signal for an all-out war on dust and dirt at our house.  Mom removed and cleaned the curtains and drapes, got on her hands and knees to strip and wax the kitchen and dining room floors, and cleaned out every inch of the kitchen cabinets and every closet.  Taking care of her family was her full time job—and she did it well.  Most days we could’ve eaten off the kitchen floor because it was so clean.  (Some days you can eat off my kitchen floor because there are enough crumbs to feed a small country.)  When my brothers and sisters and I were at school, my mom had many uninterrupted hours to order her home. As a homeschool mom, my time is divided between home and school so I had to find an alternative. “Many hands make light work.” (John Heywood) When daughter #4 arrived, I knew I could no longer do everything around the house on my own.  The oldest was only 6 and the next was 4, but I immediately enlisted their help.  My solution was based in three principles:  1.The girls couldn’t do everything I did, but they could certainly do some things.  2. If their hands were busy working with me, it would be more difficult for them to undo what I was trying to do.  3. Working together as a family, no matter what the project, would build teamwork.  And so I invented The Cleaning Game--a fun way for our family to work as a team to clean our home.  When the house is clean, everyone wins!

How to eat an elephant You’ve probably heard the saying, “How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.”  The same principle works for the overwhelming task of cleaning a home—take one bite at a time.  The Cleaning Game (TCG) is played with 100+ task cards that each list one bite-sized task, brief instructions for how to accomplish the task and a list of supplies needed.  Cards include chores for two vehicles and houses with 6 bedrooms and four baths.  Blank cards are included so you can customize the game to meet the needs of your family.  Three diligent, expert players over the age of 6 are able to clean a 4 bedroom, 2 bath home in under 3 hours—not including floors.

“You can expect what you inspect.” (Anonymous) Remove any cards from the deck that don’t apply to your family.  Begin by dealing the cards to each player.  (TCG comes with instruction cards explaining several different ways to play with the same deck of cards, but our family plays once a week.)  I recommend that you introduce a few tasks each week, instructing and demonstrating how the task would be completed to your satisfaction.  Add tasks each week until all cards have been introduced.  Ideally, players who can read can work independently, however it is critical that work is inspected and that players receive both positive and negative feedback—especially in the start-up phase.  Parents can choose cards, remain only an “Inspector”, or complete the jobs that children are unable to do.  Players seem to be best motivated when a parent is involved in some part of the process.

“A family that plays together, stays together.” (Joy Moore) If you are interested in playing with your family, you have two options:  purchase a CD with the pdf file of The Cleaning Game for $7.99 and free shipping OR purchase and download the pdf file of The Cleaning Game for the introductory rate of $3.99 during the month of March.  Both forms of The Cleaning Game are available only at the Daughters 4 God Shoppe.