Friday, June 10, 2011

A little help here.

I need a little help.

Ok. Let's be honest. I need ALOT of help.

Getting organized, getting rid of clutter, streamlining things, keeping track of stuff, ending our packrat ways...however you want to phrase it, that's what we need. Ok we're not really "packrats" in the strongest sense of the word, but some days it feels that way. Papers, papers everywhere. Clothes always living in the laundry basket. Kids' toys that somehow work themselves out of the toy boxes and into every nook and cranny of my house -- as I'm typing this I can look around and see a Hot Wheels car on the kitchen table, 2 DVD cases (likely without the DVD's inside of them if I know J) on the floor next to the TV cabinet, various Mega Blocks peeking out from under the couch, a large bouncing ball that's supposed to stay in the yard chillaxin' inside next to the patio doors, broken sidewalk chalks also right inside the patio door, some kind of Fisher Price junk (I know it's FP by the distinctive yellow/purple/blue color scheme) peeking out from under the couch, refrigerator letter magnets in the corner of the bathroom, random preschool artwork on the counters....

I know the problem areas, and I try to stay on top of them, but I feel like this is a real losing battle. For about 6 months last year we had a cleaning service come in every other week, mostly to deal with the floors (curse you, wall-to-wall ceramic tile!!) and the bathrooms. It was HEAVEN. But then...well, then I lost my job so we had to do away with that. It doesn't help that TH has a *teeny tiny* hoarder-type personality and is loathe to throw things away.

Here's where I need your help. How do I get organized? What do you guys do with all the papers, the toys, the clothes, the clutter? How do people have neat, tidy, organized houses when they work full time and have 2 small yet very active children? Are you just cleaning/organizing ALL THE TIME? Please tell me that's not the secret.

Here's the rundown of my most problematic problems:

  • No family room or separate living/formal area. This was the #1 mistake we made when we bought this house, buying into the whole "open floor plan" schtick. Never again. I hate hate hate that when you come in the front door you can look straight through into the kitchen and see if there are dirty dishes in the sink. Or toys everywhere. I would love to keep all of the kid stuff sequestered upstairs in their rooms, but that's just not realistic. Maybe when they're both old enough to play unsupervised, but for now Jr. at least has to be where I am - if I'm downstairs making dinner or on the computer or, well, cleaning, he has to be down here with me and thus we can't keep the toys out of the "formal" living space. We've got a couple of bookshelves with baskets and 2 storage ottomans, yet things seem to be overflowing all the time.

  • The papers. Oy, the papers. There's 2 factors here. TH and I have been witness to a really horrifying case of identity theft in my immediate family involving someone lifting personal information from a discarded credit card statement. So now, I'll admit it, we're a little paranoid about what goes into the trash/recycling. Therefore there's always a stack of stuff "to go through" and a box of stuff waiting to be shredded. Always. We never seem to get to the bottom of that box! The other factor is that we try to recycle anything that's recyclable, so there's also always stuff needing to go into recycling, which is nice and green and everything but when I look at bundled up boxes and papers and plastic bottles by the door it just feels like a pile of trash to me and I hate looking at it.

  • Toys. Short of going on a Throwing Things Out rampage, I really need a better way to keep these toys from overtaking our house. And I'm not talking about big bulky toys - it's those godforsaken little pieces that seem to be everywhere. There's only so many "storage solution" bins and containers and baskets you can have in a room before the boxes themselves start to look like clutter.

I really do need help. I'm embarassed to have people come to my house - I know it's not really that bad, but before I got married and had kids I was used to a much neater house. I know I shouldn't spend so much time worrying about a messy house but I'm one of those people who actually gets physically stressed when I feel like I'm surrounded by clutter and disorganization, and then when I don't have the time to really get it all done (or to get it done to my liking) I just get more stressed out.

Heeeeelllllllp meeeeeee......


Lindsay said...

First, I'm curious to see what people say, 'cause I could use some help, too.

As for toys, I'm lucky enough to have a play room upstairs. Honestly, I let them keep it messy sometimes. Toys always creep downstairs, though. I have ONE basket in the den that they must throw all the toys in before they go up for bed. Anything that's left out becomes MINE (usually the threat of that is enough). MY toys disappear for an undetermined period of time.

Our recycling gets out of control, too. Luckily, we get pick-up every week, so it's not out of control.

Since evenings after kids are in bed are woefully short, I try to just tackle one area: kitchen, den, counter-top, etc.

Beth said...

Grrr. I just wrote a super long comment that got eaten. I'll try again:

For the paper stuff, I recommend electronic statements. This saves TONS of paper. But if you're uncomfortable with the on-line route, then invest in a heavy-duty shredder and use it every day. (Although it might be hard to find an out-of-the-way spot, since shredders are dangerous for little ones.) Another option if you don't already have one is to get a file cabinet or file box and file things as soon as you open them. Use the OHIO system--only handle it once!

For toys, invest in more bins, baskets, etc. The ottomans/side tables are a good idea. How many more of those can you fit in your living room? LOL Toys will inevitably migrate, but we have clean-up time every night before we go upstairs, and although we end up doing more of the actual cleaning up, the boys are getting good at it. One of my friends organized their toys by type (hot wheels, trucks, action figures, sports stuff, etc.) and then took pictures of each group and taped the pictures on the front of the baskets or storage bins so the kids (and the husband!) would know where to put each toy. Also, once a week (or therabouts) I do a toy organizing purge where I put all the strays back where they belong.

For recyling, is there a closet where you can put a recyling bin or box? We put our stuff on the counter and then carry it out to the bin (which we keep outside) each night, but at our old place, we kept the bin in the front hall closet.

My most effective technique for keeping the clutter at bay, however, is having an anal-retentive husband who goes around picking everything up. I highly recommend it! LOL

Karen said...

We have pretty much the same problems that you do. We do have a playroom but it's right off the front foyer. Toys always migrate into the foyer so it's just an extension of the playroom.

Paper is EVERYWHERE in our house, on every surface. I have a bag for shredding and try to go through the mail each day but I can't decide what to do with some things.

Recycling is the only thing we have under control as we keep the bin in the garage right outside the kitchen.

I second Beth's recommendation of e-statements. It has cut down on paper tremendously here.

LauraC said...

I think some pictures would help and/or offline correspondence. My house is crazy insane tidy and picked up, as Beth can attest. The only toys downstairs are legos, every counter is clear of clutter, etc.

For the specific questions though.

Paper. I don't file right away. Instead I throw the "to shred" stuff into the shredder unshredded and the "to file" stuff goes in a folder inside the filing cabinet. At the end of each month, I shred and file.

Toys. I am a crazy purger. If they don't use it or we don't have space, it is gone. They have a lot of toys and they do not need that many! But the toys they keep, everything has a home that is hidden out of sight so that it can be picked up.

Cleaning up. I have always made the kids pick up, ever since they could walk. So we pick everything up right before heading up for bedtime.

As for the monthly stuff, what has worked for me to stay organized is to have a monthly to-do list. THese are chores I do at every month end. (I also have a daily to-do list). A sample:

* print last month's photos
* change contacts
* clean out car
* file papers
* monthly budget

Basically my brain is so shot if it isn't written down, I don't get it done!

Julie said...

I have toy storage in every room--decorative baskets or entire drawers in cabinets/hutches. It doesn't always get put away by the kids as often as I'd like, but if someone is coming over (i.e. my neat freak mom), I can open doors/drawers/baskets and start chucking crap in them. I do live with a lot more toy clutter than I would like though. In contrast to working moms, I am here constantly and there is always stuff being played with and I don't always have the time or energy to get it put away before we need to run out the door for something. But there is plenty of space, should I need to get it done quickly.

I also go through the toys a few times a year and purge. If its not a high use item, I either store it (or pitch it if it is wrecked), or just gather the parts from all over and put it in a tub. That is our main problem--if the pieces of a certain toy are scattered all over the house, they can't really play with it.

I have no thoughts on the paper clutter. My husband is a total slob (but I love him anyway), so I am often taking stacks of paper from all over the dang house and transferring it to his office. Maybe twice a year he purges. At least I can close the office door.

JenFen said...

I wanted to add/agree on the baskets, specifically I am in love with the cubicles from Target. I have the dark wood 9 hole cubicle in our main living space with decorative baskets that contain army guys, hot wheels and littlest pet shop. Easy for the kids to get out and pick up and put away but it doesn't look like it contains toys. And then they both have cubicles for additional toys in their room. I also have other baskets - one for shoes, one for books, etc. So everything has a place. We also ALL have our own in-boxes, in addition to an organizer that is specifically for bills and other items that need to "get done" and then a filing cabinet for when they are "done". When the kids bring home papers from school or do other artwork, we have a corkboard to display the best and the rest goes in their in-box. I secretly clean out their in-box when they are not around so they don't get their feelings hurt if I don't keep EVERY paper they do at school or every picture they color, but I keep the favorites and ones that have sentimental value.

At this age, kids invaribly play in the main living space and like you, we do not have a playroom so my rule is - one thing at a time. When they want to switch from hot wheels to army guys, the hot wheels have to get put away. We also clean up once during the day - usually before lunch during the summer and then after dinner. Their room only has to be picked up before bed.

Hope those ideas help. I am not quite as anal as Laura but my house is pretty neat and clutter free at all times. Now for it to actually be dirt free is another story.