Monday, January 9, 2012

Mondays with Martha

It's been a while since I've posted a Mondays with Martha entry. I've got my Christmas stuff down and my snowmen up (here's hoping some real snow comes our way soon!). But I feel rather uninspired by my house. Maybe you're feeling that way too. Sometimes all I need is to be inspired by someone else's ideas, so I've got a few solutions for house-doldrums today.

1) Clean. It's amazing how much happier you'll be with your house if it's clean. Set aside one hour and follow these steps:
  • Start a load of laundry.
  • Take that laundry basket to the living room and dump everything that's out of place into it. Do a quickie vacuuming and dusting, and one room is done. Do the same thing in your family room and you're probably already feeling much happier with the state of your house. 20 minutes.
  • Take that laundry basket with you into your other living areas and keep collecting out of place junk. Then move on to the bedrooms and start depositing that stuff where it goes. If your kids are over about 4, I think they should be cleaning their own rooms, but maybe the younger ones (4-7) need some help now and then. 10 minutes.
  • Make all unmade beds, pick up dirty laundry from bedrooms, and run the vacuum through them. 15 minutes.
  • Close the door to the basement/playroom/study--all those places you couldn't get to in one hour. Deal with them tomorrow.
  • Take paper towels and glass cleaner into the bathrooms and wipe down mirrors, counter, and (last) the toilet seat. Clean the toilet if it needs it. 5 minutes.
  • Sweep the bathrooms and kitchen. 10 minutes.

You'll probably be so inspired by your one-hour clean that you'll want to tackle a little more tomorrow and get it really, really clean. In the meantime,

2)  Tackle one area that is really aggravating you. Is it the kitchen counter, covered with stuff? The pile of kids' craft stuff in the dining room? The kitchen cabinet that won't close all the way because it's so crammed with stuff? Your bedroom, which is not relaxing because it's such a disaster area? I'm just listing what's wrong with my own house probably have all these things under control. But maybe there's just one place that needs some organizing.

For me, the area that's driving me crazy changes often. Sometimes I can deal with a messy bedroom, sometimes I can't. Sometimes I've been living with a particular mess and not noticed it and then suddenly looking at it makes me want to get a big garbage bag and throw it all away. Whenever I'm discontented with my house, I look around and realize that it's not the house that's making me feel overwhelmed and unhappy, it's one particular mess. And if I reorganize that one area, I'm much happier.

When you've figured out that one area that you need to deal with for your own sanity, start purging. Throw some stuff out, give some away, make a pile of the things that could be stored somewhere else, and then figure out what's left to go back into that space.
This is the girls' room. The bed and bedding are new from Ikea. The baskets are from the dollar store and are helping me keep my sanity about the clutter in a room shared by 3 girls.

A word about purging: The experts all say that if you haven't used something in a year it should be tossed. I say baloney to that. Craft things may hang around for 7 years and then suddenly be just the right thing for some project. Books may sit around for 20 years and then be read again. Clothing fashions come and go. Some things (for me it's certain baby items) have emotional attachments, and that's a perfectly good reason to keep them. But I will say that I haven't regretted anything in the 20 or so bags I've purged from our house in the last year.

If you're having trouble sorting, here are some things you can do with that thing you're just not quite ready to commit to getting rid of. Put it in a bag and put it in the attic or garage. That way it's out of your hair and you can make a final decision later. Or take a picture of it, and then get rid of it. Or give it to someone you know who needs it. Or get rid of all that stuff and then reward yourself with coffee with a friend. Don't let your emotional attachment to stuff be a stumbling block to making your living areas work for you--find a way to clear things out and still honor your emotions.

After that sorting, figure out storage solutions. Maybe you have a box or basket that can be repurposed for that area, or maybe you need to go shopping to find exactly the right thing. Pretty storage containers and storage containers that are all the same really help to make the area you've tackled more pleasing, so it's worth spending a little money if you can. If you are repurposing baskets that are not all the same, you can spray paint them for a more uniform look.

Back to how to deal with housekeeping doldrums, here are a few other ideas.

3) Rearrange your furniture. Or buy a new item that is just the right thing for a particular spot.

4) Have someone over. Hospitality motivates us to clean and make everything nice, and then we get to keep enjoying the house even after our guests have left.

5) Pay attention to your senses. Make your house smell nice by lighting some scented candles, make it feel nice by tossing a soft throw on the couch, make it look nice by arranging your knickknacks in a new way, make it taste nice by baking something yummy, and make it sound nice by putting one some music.

6) Give yourself a gift. It could be a knickknack (Need an excuse to go thrift store shopping or to TJ Maxx? Here it is!) or it could be carving out a little space for some particular purpose. Periodically I move my spot for my quiet times around--sometimes my Bible and journal are in a basket by a chair, sometimes they are on a shelf cleared out just for them. Or maybe you need a cozy chair for reading, and your books aren't very accessible. Put a lamp on the table, stack your reading material in a basket, and add a throw blanket to the chair. Or maybe your crafty stuff is in disarray and it's time to fix up your craft supplies and art table in a way that makes it more inviting so you can give yourself some "me" time.

7) Buy something living, like a bouquet of flowers or a houseplant. It'll do wonders for any room.

8) Repaint. If all else fails, repaint a room in your house. As an added bonus, it'll motivate you to purge and organize at the same time. Or paint a piece of furniture. Or just one wall in a room. Or, if you're really artsy, paint a mural on a wall. Paint is cheap, especially if you buy those cans someone had mixed and then returned, so you get a lot of bang for your buck.

What do you do when your house is feeling cluttery and uninspiring? Share your ideas in a comment!


  1. Lots of great ideas, Nancy! I agree that cleaning up often relieves that tension of being unhappy in the house. A friend taught me what she calls "Speed Cleaning" and it's quite similar to the 1-hour cleaning you detailed in your post. The easiest household pick-me-up I have is to find my counter tops. I always feel better after I have dug them out and wiped them down!

  2. Digging is definitely involved in finding my counter. Shovels are sometimes needed! And just like flylady says, starting with a shiny sink does make you want to clean the rest of the house. But my sink is rarely shiny because it only stays shiny for about 15 minutes before someone leaves a dish or some sort of unidentifiable grime in it.