I love this post by Molly. I’m a huge fan of figuring out cleaning and organizing strategies that work for your unique family, and that’s exactly what she did!
As a mom to three boys the clutter threshold at our house is low, real low.
I used to think my kids were the only ones who couldn’t put the blocks in the block bucket and the cars in the car bucket. Now that they are older, I cringe that I spent so long trying! I now know that intricate sorting is just not in their DNA!
I have made some bold organizational changes around the house to get to a place where the boys can help me. I surrendered to the fact that if I want assistance at all, it can’t be done my way. Frustrating, of course, but I feel much better getting results and knowing I am no longer setting them up to fail.
The first big change came with the laundry hampers. When the boys were younger I had hampers in each bedroom and bathroom. Nonetheless, towels and socks were still on the floor. So, in addition to gathering stray laundry, I also had to straighten five mostly empty (and usually knocked over) hampers.
In a rage of laundry fury, I removed all individual hampers in favor of a full-size sixty gallon garbage can next to the washing machine. The boys almost immediately had more success getting laundry into it. It isn’t a cute decor look, but it helped mentally streamline the goal for them. Get laundry in huge can next to washing machine. In their defense, what is the purpose of the tiny holding zone hampers?
The second area I had to give up on was the toothbrush zone. Each boy now has an entire drawer dedicated as a target for his toothbrush and paste. You read that correctly. Each kid gets a whole drawer. It is an inconvenience to not be able to store much else in the bathroom. However, the countertop is often clear. I can indeed wipe the counter and sink whenever I muster up the energy.
When I see those tiny toothbrush holders in the stores, I just shake my head. Are there actual families that get each toothbrush slipped in place each night?
The climax of my custom organizing for the inattentive and disinterested is the communal closet. I house the boys’ clothes in a single coat closet near the laundry. Most items are hanging (for visibility). Remaining items are labeled in big bins such as “sloppy pants” for polyester sport pants that don’t stay folded. There is also an important bucket labelled “uniforms’’ where the swim jammers and soccer socks hang out together.
It gets to be a mess in the communal closet, but at least there is only one space I have to slog through. When I tell people about my genius group closet idea, it is often a reminder that I am working with a higher level of unkempt. Many cannot understand how the clothing could be that big of a hassle. It was.
I also work to keep wardrobes minimal and only do laundry once a week (per Dana’s excellent advice). I do this because inevitably, even with my extreme accommodations, all the clothing will end up in the wash. I do not sniff laundry.
Maybe my clutter threshold will increase in my next stage of life. As Dana so perfectly explains (in podcast 221), you have to acknowledge what you are working with in your present household. Currently shoe racks or labeled pantries would be nothing but constant reminders I am the only family member who cares to participate.
I’ve read some mom wisdom about the day there are no shoes piled at the door is a very sad day. Maybe that is true. Or maybe that day is bittersweet because mom can finally install herself a shoe storage system that won’t be used as a gathering place for water bottles.
[by Molly Haffele, Fighting the Clutter in WI]
Have you heard? I’ve teamed up with Cas from Clutterbug and Dawn from The Minimal Mom to bring you the course: Take Your House Back! Go check it out!
LOL–yep, each of mine have a bathroom drawer. At times, I open one, cringe, take a deep breath, and close it. At least the counters are clean!
I’m up to date… definitely feel a bit of a tug realizing there is no “newer post” to click on right now…
Michelle Davidson says
I JUST emailed my sister this morning about our family being way over our clutter threshold. I actually said “I would love to have many cute outfits for the kids, but I need to be real that I can’t maintain that right now”.
HA! Now I need my family to realize what their threshold is.
I feel like we have our parent threshold down pretty well. Kid threshold is still a bit weird because we saved a lot of stuff for a second child, and now second child comes end of April, early May. As we’ve been pulling stuff out and inventorying, we’ve been taking boxes and boxes to Goodwill, and we STILL have so much stuff.
The toy bit is really the overwhelming part. Kid one isn’t much of a toy player, but I don’t want to get rid of stuff until kid two is at an age where we can learn if they are a toy kid or not. But because lots of stuff is small parts (they’re about five years apart in age) we have to come up with a better way to store the older kid toys. And books. Thank goodness for the local library so we can keep our personal library small.
Love the bin by the washing machine, I don’t have the space for that but it’s great to get some ideas.
We, my family, have a sock problem, I find it so difficult to sort socks and work out whose is whose now we are all the same size. I have had support from services who have tried to help but I just have to accept that this is something I can’t, at the moment, grasp.
My solution, which works for us, is all clean socks get put into a large container drawer, whenever anyone wants socks they get them them self from there.
We are quite happy to wear odd socks in fact it seems to be a preference, although not one trainer sock with a long thermal one! This works for us, every so often I will go through it and get rid of ones with holes or ones from the bottom that never get worn, if I buy new ones I use the container concept. With less people in our family now living at home, I have reduced it to one container from two.
Great read – I too have 3 boys and cringe at the memory of trying to organize toys – giving up and not seeing my living room floor for years. Things are much better here but it requires constant effort. I’ll be trying the one bathroom drawer per kid concept. It should surely cut down on the number of toothbrushes that nobody will claim. Thanks for the suggestion. And – if anyone could share tips on living with a husband that is content to leave his Amazon shipments – box and all – in the living room or foyer for weeks, I’d appreciate it.
@Lucy With your socks issue, how about initials in laundry sharpie in their favorite color? You like red, put a red L on yours. Kid A gets an A in their favorite color, kid B and repeat.
Each of my kids received their own ‘bathroom bag’. They need to bring it with them when they come and take it with them when the leave.
Currently, our main bathroom is off the kitchen. Our holiday hutch is located near the bathroom door, and much to my irritation, I’ve actually found toothbrushes hidden in the corners inside the glass doors.
Good grief! What’s so hard about BATHHHHH ROOOOOOOM BAAAGG!?
lol, about the socks.
I had 11 people in my household. With 6 guys, it was getting difficult finding the proper matches. My husband, who could never seem to find his matches, finally went out and bought UNIQUE socks. With jalopeno peppers all over them. He was sure no one would touch THOSE! So far, so good.
Cindy, I also have a husband and a son who leave Amazon boxes by the front door. I am the one who cares, so I am the one who puts them on their desks. I have convinced myself that I am burning calories by moving the boxes.
Molly made me laugh. She plays well with Nony. I also have three sons, and I also do NOT sniff laundry.
Barbara Floyd says
5 kids. i color coded the cups. larger cups with handles and same color rubber band tied on side. one cup all day. separate for milk at supper. toothebrushes with same color assigned rubber bands around them. we usually didn’t even have drawers in the bathroom so they had to put into the holder. laundry- black marker inside cuff with initials. D for dad, B for mom (Barb), S and R for the girls, J and M for older 2 boys, MK for youngest. and- he got hand-me-down socks & underwear that were still ok. Oldest was much bigger than all the rest! all guys underwear marked the same in the inside. once the youngest was in school they all got their clothes tossed on couch. mandatory to hang and put in closet, shorts in drawer, inside out jeans? they got them back the same way! once all the girl undies were close in size, they got marked too.
Barbara Floyd says
adding- we didn’t have that much because we couldn’t afford much. but i realize that really kept the clutter down . like being minimalist -not on purpose! and dad enforced all pick up and put up their stuff. kids took turns with dishes, chores, etc. rented homes that were for sale, so when prospective buyers were coming it was all hands on deck!