It goes without saying — but everyone has their own version of tidy.
For some, it’s neat stacks of bills and paperwork on the kitchen counter, plus the odd mug or two sat on the coffee table. For others it’s surfaces sans-decor, and beds that are always made.
I think, before you start considering how to have an always-tidy home, it’s important to define your version of tidy.
My version of tidy sits somewhere between the two mentioned above. Our beds are always made, and our kitchen sinks are always empty, however we usually have a bread board or two that are left drying in the dish rack on the kitchen counter, alongside a couple of glasses we use for water throughout the day. There are no stacks of paperwork throughout our house [we barely get snail mail, anyway], and we don’t have piles of clothes on chairs waiting to be folded and put away.
It’s become kind of a joke now, in my family, that I’m a little bit of a neat freak. I don’t describe it as OCD, because I know how trivial [and sometimes offensive] the concept of *OCD cleaning* can seem to most, especially those who actually deal with obsessive compulsive tendencies on a daily basis. And, really: it’s not that. It’s not arranging my pantry and fridge so they’re *aesthetically pleasing* to look at, but it’s also not frenzied cleaning at 2am with a high-pulse and a pounding head, unable to sleep or eat until everything is right.
In a daily sense, it’s more that I crave order; quiet; regularity. A sense of normalcy. As an adult who has invested in therapy [something I recommend everyone does], I’ve learnt that it’s a coping mechanism — having a clean and tidy home makes me feel like I’m in control in times when I don’t feel as though I am. Feeling that control in my home environment is a need for me, not a want.
Everything has its place, and if an item is not currently in use, you can expect to find it in it’s place. A television remote discarded absentmindedly on the couch overnight isn’t enough to break my sense of calm, however an unmade bed combined with shoes haphazardly tossed by the front door, plus a sink full of unwashed dishes and a discarded remote… now that’s enough to send me into a feeling of unease.
So — how do I keep a [for the most part] always-tidy home? For us, at least, it’s all about building a set of household habits.
First, it’s important to figure out your non-negotiables: do you want to wake up to a clean kitchen every morning? Do you want to get into a bed that has been made every night? Do you want for each of your belongings to have a ‘place’?
Figuring our your non-negotiables is an easy way to figure out your daily household habits.
For us, waking up to a clean kitchen is paramount. We literally don’t make our way upstairs to bed unless the kitchen is clean. This means the benches have been wiped over, the stovetop cleaned, the dishes have all been rinsed and stacked in the dishwasher, and the floors have been vacuumed. Keep in mind that we also live in tropical Queensland, where cockroaches are a common pest. Doing a thorough kitchen clean every night ensures we don’t deal with cockroach invasions and lets us start each day with a clean and tidy kitchen to make coffee and prepare breakfast in.
Another daily household habit for us is making the bed. I actually hate getting into a bed that hasn’t been made — so much so that I’ve been known to make an unmade bed, just to get right back into it. It just feels nice. Crisp, freshly washed sheets are one of my favourite little luxuries in life, and getting into a made bed, for me, feels almost as good as getting into a freshly washed, made bed. Making the bed is a non-negiotable.
One final non-negotiable that I’m going to share is doing small tasks in full, every day.
If I’m doing the laundry, I’m doing the laundry. Clean, dry clothes don’t sit in baskets for days in this house — they get folded, hung and put away as soon as they are dry. I make a habit out of this. I do the same with sheets: on the days where I strip the beds and put fresh sheets on them, I’ll run a load of linens in the morning, hang them out in the sun and then put them away in the evening. It just makes sense to me. It’s completely cyclical, and it ensures I’m never stuck without a fresh set of sheets for our bed.
The same goes for clothes. I love a wardrobe full of clean clothes, so I make doing the laundry in full a priority. Sometimes this means running a hot wash of whites at 6pm and a cold wash of darks at 8pm and hanging them on clotheshorses in our garage to dry overnight before going to bed. Other times this means throwing a small load of household linens [think tea towels and cleaning cloths] on at lunchtime and hanging them out in the afternoon sun to dry before bringing them in at 5pm.
It’s the same with taking out the trash: every single bin gets emptied at the same time. When tidying up my office at the end of the day: everything gets put back in it’s place.
I never used to be this way. I used to be unorganised with my cleaning and tidying, letting it pile up until it had to be addressed. I think there are a lot of people that can relate to that — and the feeling of needing to dedicate an entire day every week to cleaning the entire house before having guests over. Now, we just do small tasks as we go and practice our non-negiotable household habits daily, and I never feel like our house is out of control or untidy, or that I need to commit myself to a deep clean before having a visitor. Things are simply just clean, tidy and where they’re supposed to be.