My mom always leaves my home better than she found it when she visits us. It’s her love language. Because she doesn’t live in the same city as me, she wants to do what she can to make my life more manageable. Disorganized laundry room? Messy closet? No good system for hats and coats and bags and shoes? She’ll fix it.
She does these things to help me, but she also does them because it’s fun for her. It is in her very nature. My grandmother likes to tell stories about how, as a kid, my mom would clean her room when she was bored. But I don’t mean just picking up toys clean. She would move all her furniture into the hallway, dust the baseboards, vacuum, wash the windows, and then bring her furniture back into her deep-cleaned bedroom. Without being asked. Her grandkids call her “Giddy,” and she lives out her name while she cleans.
At my house, sometimes her projects are small; sometimes they are really big. For example, on one recent visit, she moved a set of shelves from my laundry into my half bathroom, reorganized what goes where, created a little backpack/jacket/shoes station in the new laundry room space, and convinced me to buy a utility sink for our powder room (huge win). And my neighbors always know that my mom has been here when our garage gets a good clean-out.
The last time she came, she noticed that my oldest child had the rearranging itch and came up with a plan for all three kids to switch rooms. This was a bigger than usual organizing project, involving disassembling and reassembling bunk beds and moving entire rooms of furniture around. In the process, she reorganized their toys, books, and clothes. It feels so good.
On some trips, if our garage is acceptably maintained, she just makes it her job to tidy up after the kids. One of my daughters noticed this and left her a little thank you note in our playroom. Obviously her own mother does not take joy in cleaning up after her, so it’s nice when her grandmother does!
If you don’t have a mom that loves to do this for you, I’m so sorry. Since I can’t loan her out to all of you, I thought I would just ask her to share some organizing tips with us.
Giddy’s Top 5 Cleaning Tips
Her overall goal for a space is that it have “fun functionality.” Or, FUNctionality, if you will!
Her process is the same, whether you’re looking at a junk drawer, a refrigerator, a closet or a whole room. Here are her organizing steps:
- Empty. Move all the items out of your space entirely. Lay them all on a dining room table or on the floor in the next room.
- Clean. You need to take this opportunity to clean your space when there are no items gathering dust in a corner. Vacuum, dust, scrub any stains. You’ll be glad you took the time to do this above-and-beyond step! Even drawers can be a magnet for little pieces of trash and dust over time.
- Sort. Look at all the items from your space and first sort them into these larger categories: keep, trash, donate. Throw away the trash, and put all the donation items into your car right away, so they don’t end up cluttering up another space. Next, sort your keep items. Put like with like. You might find that some items don’t belong in this space at all. Put them in the right place.
- Store. If you can put like items into a container of some sort, that is always preferable. If you’re organizing cabinets or shelves, it’s easier to store items in baskets and bins. Make a quick trip to the dollar store and find bins of different sizes you can use. Clear plastic shoe boxes are extremely useful for storing collections of smaller items, and they stack nicely in a cabinet. Get silverware dividers for your miscellaneous drawers.
- Label. Take the time to label your bins. It makes maintenance so much easier, because the whole family will know where things go. You can even label the shelves inside your cabinets. Label makers are great for this (and kids love to use them), but you can also just use a piece of masking tape with a sharpie. Or you can get cute chalk labels from Amazon and label your things with a piece of chalk. This one comes with a cute chalk marker. Pro tip: don’t fall for pre-made labels like these. They look adorable, and you might be able to use a few, but you’re going to be left with a lot of labels that don’t apply to you or your house.
Now for the hard part: committing to maintain your organization. You don’t want to spend all this time and hard work organizing, just to let things clutter up again. Giddy’s advice is to have a daily cleaning “blitz.” I have many memories of my mom yelling “BLITZ!” Everyone in the house had to stop what they were doing and run around putting things away for a quick five minutes. It’s great to involve kids in a blitz, but it’s also a really good time for you to tackle a small pile of clutter. If you do this daily, it won’t pile back up.
A few years ago, I walked into my daughter’s room and found all her belongings piled in the middle of the room. The only problem is, she didn’t quite know what to do next. Hopefully she is learning enough from her Giddy to follow through with her organizing goals the next time she starts to clean out. And I hope that you, too, have learned something from my amazing mom that will inspire you to organize one spot that bothers you every time you look at it.