Confessions of a Former Clean Freak

This year I have been married for 20 years. It is hard to believe that much time has gone by not to mention all of the changes my life has undergone since then. Several moves, job changes, pets and children have taken place over the years and moulded me into who I am today.  
Life is like that, experiences and situations impact choices you make. 

Back when I was younger, I was known as a clean freak. Everything was spotless and everything had its place. My beds were made like a page out of a magazine and my kitchen and bathrooms appeared like they were never used. I couldn't relax unless my home was clean and orderly.

Nearly 20 years later, I can honestly say no one would walk into my house and accuse me of being a neat freak. Most days there are mail and papers on the counter, shoes strewn by the door and never ending pet hair. What changed? Several things actually.

First, we adopted a pet (a dog). After buying our first house and before children we decided to add to our family unit. Our beloved dog Hagrid was truly a wonderful dog however, he shed like crazy. Thanks to him we still own one of my favorite house cleaning tools (our Electrolux vacuum). Our new dog Huck is slightly better in the shedding department but I still am battling the pet hair war.

Second, we had children. It is amazing how two little people can make such a big mess. Not to mention, the older they get the more mess they make. No sooner do I clean a room then they come in and mess it back up. Shoes on the floor, dishes on the counter, books and Legos scattered around the house. It is enough to make me go insane. Then I have to chase them around to get them to clean up after themselves.

Third, my husband and I started to work from home. I had taken for granted how easy it is to keep a house clean when no one is in it. Before children, my husband and I worked full time. He traveled most of the week and it was just me (and later the dog). One person does not make much of a mess. But, once we both stayed home, it was nearly impossible to keep our house clean without literally spending the entire day doing nothing but cleaning.

Fourth, my children's extracurricular activities. Between baseball, softball, basketball, music, art and religious education, there is rarely a day that we are sitting home doing nothing and allowing for plenty of time to clean. Additionally, all those activities produce a lot of equipment that needs a home. Since this house does not have a significant amount of useful storage, they are left out most of the time.

Which brings me to the last reason, our house. Over the years we, like most people, have accumulated quite a lot of stuff. Our prior house was nearly double the size of our current home. Although we significantly purged many of our things to downsize, fitting all our stuff into this home is a challenge. Our decision to downsize was an easy one. A smaller mortgage and a wonderful neighborhood for our children to grow up in drove that decision. But, like all choices we had to give something up in return and storage was it.

If you are like me and are struggling to keep your home neat any tidy, I do have some tips from my former life.

1. Make your bed everyday. If you do, it will slowly compel you to clean every other part of your house.

2. Make sure everything has a place and put everything back in its place. Bins are great for this. You can label them so there is no question of where things ought to be. Keep like items together so you know where everything is.

3.  Purge what you don't need. Go through every storage area in your home and get rid of those things you don't use. If you haven't used it for a year or more, donate it or throw it out. It is just taking up space and you likely will not use it again. This is especially true in your closet. Be honest about what you wear and get rid of the rest. Holding on to something you may wear later is an exercise in futility. Even if you were to want to wear it later, it would likely be out of style.

4.  Keep cleaning wipes or a rag in your bathrooms and wipe down the counters, mirrors and toilets daily. Your bathroom will stay cleaner longer and cleaning it will be much easier.

5.  Create storage where there isn't any. Use console tables with baskets to corral small items, or place a free standing storage unit on an empty wall for additional closet space. It did this in the front entry of my home where there is no closet. I can't tell you how much I can fit in it. 

While I have learned to live with my not so neat home, I yearn for the days when it was neat and orderly. Slowly but surely I am trying to purge items we don't need and find unique storage solutions for the stuff we do. I am also toying with the idea of giving my kids an allowance to foster their independence and help with the cleaning.

What about you? Are you a current or former neat freak? If so, what tips or tricks do you have?

Happy cleaning!


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