House & HomeMom's LifeThe KitchenWork and Passions

Clean. Organize. Rinse. Repeat.

by Meagan Francis on March 24, 2014

Happy Monday! Meagan is traveling today, but we’ve been loving our Monday morning focus on one simple tip to get your week off to a better start. So today we thought we’d dust off (ha!) this post from a couple of years ago in the hopes that it helps any of you who may be struggling with the practice of cleaning and organizing. -Sarah

cleaning, organizing

Hmm, I feel like we’ve tackled this topic here before. Maybe even three or four times before. But that’s OK. As I’ve written repeatedly, I believe that getting your house clean and organized is a process – and a practice – not a project.

What’s the difference? Well, projects have specific end points. When you reach your goal, the job is done.

But there is no point at which I will be able to throw my hands in the air and say “I did it! My entire life is COMPLETELY CLEAN AND ORGANIZED!” and then just move on to some new thing, like, I dunno, knitting a sweater.

Knitting a sweater, after all, is a project. Once it’s knitted, it generally stays that way. But no matter how clean my house gets or how neat and tidy my desk is, all it takes is one afternoon – or in this case, one Spring Break – to put it all out of order again.

And that can be frustrating and even demoralizing – especially if we’re looking at cleaning as a project, something we have to “complete” before we can move on to anything else (whether it’s spending time with our families or going out to the movies with a friend.)

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I’ve heard some moms say that it’s hard to relax because it feels like there’s always something we “could” be doing – the dishes, dusting, laundry, etc. But that mindset is a trap, because it’s truly impossible to ever “finish” cleaning, and trying to is akin to a hamster running on a wheel hoping to “get there.” (hint, Mr. Hamster: there is no “there”.)

Instead of focusing on tasks to be done or “finishing”, I try to go by the way I feel when I’m in my home. Do I feel functional and peaceful? Are there messes that are getting in the way of my being able to use my kitchen or work space well? Are toys, books, pencils and craft supplies, etc. accessible?

If the answer is yes, hooray! Time for me to put my feet up and watch House Hunters. If not, no biggie – that’s life. Pick a spot and chip away until it looks and feels better, with the understanding that I’ll be doing it again and again and again.

plan a better week
This week I’m focusing on the practice of putting things back in order, with the realization that this won’t be the last, or the second to last, or even the hundredth-t0-last time it will need to be done.

Like rolling out of bed in the morning or brushing my teeth before bed at night, cleaning up is just a part of life. And this week I’m putting it front and center.

What about you? Could your life use a little attention to the practice of keeping things clean enough – even though they will definitely get messy again?

Want more ideas
for creating a happier home life?

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy Armour April 9, 2012 at 1:31 pm

Love this! Shared to my facebook page.

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Missy Rose April 9, 2012 at 1:34 pm

I’ve been trying to focus on this mindset recently, especially when it comes to laundry. It’s so easy for laundry to become a negative for me because it’s never done. But we’re alive and enjoying our life, so really, it should never be done – at least that’s what I’ve started telling myself. I definitely need to put your fourth project on my list; my pantry is a Disaster.

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Jessica April 9, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Oh, this is a much needed post for me! I’m working on this, or accepting that clean enough is good enough. I find that this mindset is necessary especially now with two kids.

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SusanP April 9, 2012 at 2:58 pm

I popped over and read most of that discussion you participated in and it was really interesting – thanks for sharing. Great timing too as this topic has been on my mind since yesterday. Last night my oldest (7.5) asked to watch videos of when he was born. In ’07 we bought a digital camera that does both snap shots and video — so they are all accessible on my computer. However, he was born back when we used a camcorder and had to transfer the movies from little tape to VHS tape. I had to go on a “hunt” through our house to find those tapes. That was maddening as I came across so much junk we’ve kept that we really need to get rid of. I told my boys “If we didn’t keep all the unimportant things, the important things would be easier to find!!” We did finally find the tape after about 20 minutes of searching and watched video of the days leading up to his birth and his first months at home. What a shock it was! I should note that after his birth we went on to have three more kids. We live in the same house. I could not get over how EMPTY our house was in the videos! And it was so organized! It was really sobering to realize just how much it’s changed. Adding kids to the mix definitely brings in a lot of chaos – good and bad :-)

I do see your points about cleaning as a practice — and for the kitchen, laundry, mail/bills I’ve mastered that thinking. But the decluttering /organizing I do see as a project – one that we need to get started soon! Hopefullly I can motivate my pack rat husband who hates to give/throw things away. If anything, hopefully seeing that video is motivation!

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Meagan Francis April 10, 2012 at 1:54 pm

I do agree that parts of organizing (just like parts of cleaning) are projects…for example, if I clean the table, there is a point at which it is CLEAN and I am DONE. The difference is that life gets in the way, and kids dirty the table, so it doesn’t STAY done. I think of organizing the same way – I’ll create a great filing system for my papers, but still, more papers come my way every day. I have to make decisions about what to do with those papers, and how to manage them, and sometimes even have to change a system because life changes. The trick is not getting mad or discouraged because my life doesn’t stay organized – I still have to apply the practice of dealing with life as it happens, know what I mean?

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SusanP April 10, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Yes, I see what you mean. I guess I have to get over my dream that some day I will have the time to set up that perfect organizational system that WILL keep everything “in order”. :-)

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Tragic Sandwich April 9, 2012 at 3:13 pm

It’s really hard for me to come to terms that there is always more laundry. I could do six loads a day and clear out the hamper, and that evening somehow there would be a full hamper again. But I certainly don’t want to spend all of my time doing laundry!

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Amy @ Permanent Kisses April 9, 2012 at 7:19 pm

Thank you! I needed to read this today. The realization that our life as a mother and wife is really cyclical – it helps to just get things to good enough.

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Sleeping Mom April 9, 2012 at 8:23 pm

This is how I try to manage my cleaning; little bit here and there with the knowledge that it’ll all just come back again. That’s why I try not to sweat it especially knowing that this is an on-going process.

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Lorinda April 10, 2012 at 12:10 am

This is exactly what I needed to hear and I will be reading this again tomorrow morning when I’m facing my household. I love this: maintaining the house is not a project! Helps me categorize my ‘sweater’ projects. Love love love this. And yes, things can only truly be clean ‘enough’ with a big family and you have a choice to embrace it or not.

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RHome410 @ Friday is Pizza, Monday is Soup April 10, 2012 at 1:34 pm

My current problem is that the practice, gotten out of hand, has created projects! I can deal with everyday, family clutter and project messes (even love to note shoes sitting around and things that remind me of family… things that someday won’t be there and I’ll miss them), but it’s the stuff that’s not from today, but from last week and last month… It’s hard to play catch-up, because the projects get in the way of the practice, and it can become a nasty cycle. ;-)

I have shared some ‘organization projects’ on my own blog, but explain that the sharing serves mostly as an accountability exercise… I don’t do anything very cute or clever, just get the job done and blogging about it every once in awhile provides extra motivation to keep plugging away. Real life.

This is why I love to sew. In our mom-lives where so many things are a never-ending cycle, it’s great to finish something that won’t be undone. :-D

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Meagan Francis April 10, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Love doing things that just get the job done. I think any practice can be broken down into a series of “projects” that have a start, middle and finish. But we have to keep applying the practice to maintain it. It’s hard! I like reading for the same reason you like sewing, I think. Can’t un-read a book. :)

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Olivia March 25, 2014 at 3:53 pm

I love this perspective.

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