Clutter happens to all of us. But just because it’s a reality doesn’t mean that you can’t conquer it. I’m excited to share these cute little signs I made as a gift for you! They’re great for classrooms, play rooms, bedrooms, or anywhere! Print as many as you want and post them as a great reminder of where to start on your journey of overcoming the mess. If you practice my A, B, C & D rules you can start to build a good habit! Be sure to check out my POST about the first 5 steps I take when cleaning and organizing a cluttered area. I’ve also written about my secret to keeping my bathrooms clean HERE. Good luck!
Cleaning and organizing does not come easy to everyone. If you’re hoping to improve your methods and attack some cluttered areas, you’ve come to the right place. I have a passion for cleaning and organizing, but that didn’t always come naturally to me; I had to work at it over the years. Now that I’ve found some shortcuts and tips, I love sharing them to help others. Here are the 5 main ideas I use when first attempting to clean and organize something.
Number 1: Break it Down
This idea applies both to physically breaking things down to fit into the space better and to breaking the job down into manageable pieces. For example, if you want to organize a whole room, start with the closet. Even that might need to be broken down even further (i.e., organizing clothes before other items). This idea can take an overwhelming project and turn it into bite-sized pieces. Dedicate your time and energy into doing things carefully and slowly. Be aware of the fact that a project like a whole room might take several C&O (cleaning and organizing) sessions. Typically, I dedicate myself to one project per weekend since that’s the only time I can really focus on a task.
In regards to breaking things down physically, this is definitely the first thing I do when I approach a project. Is there anything being stored in this area that could be broken down to take up less room? My most recent project was a closet stuffed full of baby items that we’ve grown out of in our current stage. This included things like a bassinet, a jumper, a baby swing, a high chair, etc. Some of these items were made with built-in storage features like collapsable legs or removable covers, but many of them can be broken down further. If you have no plans to use these items in the near future, breaking them down to their easiest-to-store size can be a huge help to you in the meantime. I go in to better detail below in number 4 about breaking items all the way down and the best way to store them.
Number 2: Vertical Space
Vertical space often goes overlooked and underused. If something can be stacked upright as opposed to laying down it can create a lot of extra space. You can also store items in stackable boxes. Depending on how large your items are, you can typically find shoebox-sized plastic bins at the dollar store that work great for stacking to make use of your vertical space. And make sure to label, label, label! Check out the last section, number 5, for more information on that. If you’re storing things like books or folders, make sure to stand them upright. If you still have some vertical space above those books or folders, look into making or buying small shelves that can create another shelf for stacking above them. Refrain from stacking books or folders on top of one another. This makes it extremely difficult to access books on the bottom should the need arise. And if you awkwardly pull something from the bottom, and it knocks down the whole stack, now you have a new mess on your hands. It’s better to think ahead for the sake of accessibility.
Number 3: Out With the Old
Holding onto something “just in case”? Chances are, if that case ever happens, your feelings and circumstances might be different enough that you may not even need the thing you’re holding onto. For example, sometimes I hold onto some shirts or outfits with a plan that I’ll wear them again someday after I magically lose weight and gain confidence. In reality land, if the stars aligned and I was able to wear those outfits again, I’d most likely be more excited to buy new clothes because my tastes change over time as well as my budget and the available styles. As a personal rule, if I haven’t worn something in 6 months, I consider donating it. If I haven’t worn it in a year, I do. This rule can apply to anything you’re storing. If you don’t have a specific plan for the item, consider donating it after storing it for 6 months to a year. This will help keep your storage levels at a more manageable level and make room for newer items that may need storing.
Number 4: Keep it Together
This idea goes along with breaking items down. If you take something apart or break it down into smaller parts, think ahead to a time when you may need to reassemble it. Before I take things apart, I always make sure I have three things handy (other than tools): a small Ziploc baggie, a permanent marker, and tape (packing tape works best, but most tapes will work). As I remove small parts, screws, nuts and bolts, I place them all in the baggie. Then I label that baggie with the name of the thing I took apart and tape the bag to one of the larger pieces to make sure they stay together. Just throwing the small parts baggie in with the larger pieces creates a risk of losing them. Make the effort to keep the parts together. This method also works great if you’re disassembling furniture when moving. Labeling the baggie and taping it to the piece of furniture has saved me from losing the small parts several times.
Number 5: Label Now, Find Later
Labeling things is a labor of love. It takes a lot of extra work and planning to keep things organized in the long run. I find it best to label things as I go and to commit to finishing the job completely, which means labeling things as best as possible before moving on to another section. Too many times have I started to label things only to get distracted by another section that needs my attention, and when I come back to where I was originally working, I’ve forgotten what I’ve packed in which bin. I find the easiest way to label is to use a white duct tape or colored masking tape and a permanent marker. This is the fastest, cheapest way to label. If you’re looking for a more polished look to your organization, you can always take things a step further and invest in a label maker or, better yet, use a vinyl cutting machine to stylize your own personalized labels. But unless you’re hoping to get a lot of likes on Instagram and saves on Pinterest, I suggest going with the quick and easy tape and marker method. It’ll keep you from hating the whole process and giving up before you finish.
These methods only scratch the surface of deep cleaning and organizing, but they’re a great place to start. They’ll help you tackle any clutter, great and small. Just keep in mind that breaking your C&O jobs down into smaller chunks is the way to go. If the stuff you’re cleaning and organizing hasn’t gone anywhere in years, there’s no real rush if it means things don’t get done right.
I wouldn’t call myself cheap, but I appreciate a bargain. Especially when it comes to equipment and clothing for my children. I still end up spending plenty on them, but when I can save a few bucks here and there, it means I can splurge on the more fun stuff.
Getting hand-me-downs and re-gifts is a great place to start when you’re expecting a child, but as you get further in, you start to realize how much stuff you actually need for a baby. Of course, there are some things that are more of a luxury and not a necessity. But there are some items that end up on every baby registry or wishlist. A stroller is one of them.
When I found out I was pregnant with my second baby, I started to think about what life would look like with a newborn AND a toddler. How do I keep track of both of them at the same time when we’re out and about? How do I get both of them from one place to another outside of a vehicle? It all started to sound overwhelming, but I was determined to make the transition from one to two as easy on myself as possible. I struggled with anxiety when I became a mom the first time, and I was intent on preventing a repeat situation.
Dreaming of a Two-Seater
I told myself years ago (before I had kids) that I never wanted to have to juggle a double-stroller. Well, that bit of pride went right out the window when I discovered multi-function strollers. They now have double strollers (for two children) that convert into different seating functions. You can have two seats for toddler-sized kids, or two spots for baby carriers (good for twins), a spot for an older kid to stand and hold on, or any variation of those options.
Since I love a bargain, I was determined not to pay full price for one of these luxury baby vehicles. I saw how the stroller I had for my first child got beat up, used heavily, and tossed around, and this made me less excited to sink several hundred dollars into something that received that much wear and tear. So, I started bargain shopping.
Thankfully, there are as many people trying to get rid of their old child-rearing gear as there are trying to buy it, so I had plenty of options to choose from. Once I narrowed down the make and model of the stroller I wanted (based on reviews I read on new ones combined with input from other moms), I jumped on the Facebook Marketplace and searched my surrounding area for the stroller I wanted.
I lucked out and found one for a fraction of the cost of a new one. It was practically free! I knew this most likely meant that it had some wear and tear, but at the price they were asking, I could hardly be picky. Once I picked up the item, I found that it wasn’t so much wear and tear that I should have been concerned about but more dirt and grime. Yuck! I know kids are messy, stinky, sticky, icky, cute, little creatures but this stroller had seen some action!
I had seen some Pinterest post months before about soaking a stroller in a bathtub filled with water and soap, but I wasn’t quite willing to submerge my stroller in water. Plus, I wanted to be able to let it dry out completely, which seemed tricky when washing it inside the house. Luckily, I was pregnant with an end-of-summer baby so I had great weather for my experiment.
The Nitty and Not-so-Gritty
I decided to wash my not-so-new stroller like I used to wash my car. (I say “used to” because I just go through the car wash now…I don’t have the time or energy to wash my own car anymore.) I cleaned the stroller in my driveway with a hose fixed with a spray nozzle that had multiple spray options. Here’s the breakdown of my method:
- Open up stroller completely and remove any loose debris. Turn it upside down and shake it out if need be. Vacuum it out! There are a lot of methods that could work for this part.
- Remove anything on the stroller that you don’t want getting wet. This could be any bags or extra things hanging off the stroller that don’t need cleaning.
- Open/extend all canopies as they will also be getting a scrub down and need to be easily accessible.
- Get a hose hooked up to water, preferably with a spray nozzle that offers at least one higher pressure setting.
- Spray the heck out of that stroller. Get every nook and cranny. Use the high pressure setting to blast stains and grimy surfaces. *Watch out for flying fishy crackers!*
- Using regular dish soap and a scrubby brush (I used the kind I use on dishes, and it worked fabulously), scrub every surface of that stroller until you get a decent lather all over.
- Using the high pressure hose setting, spray off all of the soapy surfaces until water runs clear.
- Check surfaces for any necessary re-scrubbing.
- Once stroller is clean of soap and dirt, leave in a warm, dry area or in the sun to dry.
- ***Don’t leave the stroller in the sun too long because some material colors could fade. Make sure to spin the stroller around every 15 minutes or so to speed up drying in the sun. Also, don’t leave a wet stroller in a warm, dark place or you could cause mold to grow on it. Similarly, don’t fold up the stroller if it is wet or even damp for the same reason. Fold it up once the material surfaces are COMPLETELY dry.***
You may need to go over some sections more than once. Seriously, kids are gross! But so much fun, amirite?! I purposely used just regular dish soap for this task because it is a mild detergent. I’m sure you could use something else, but I wouldn’t suggest it. You don’t know how some cleaners could affect the integrity of the stroller’s surfaces. You wouldn’t want to weaken materials or corrode the stroller’s moving parts.
This process took me maybe 30 minutes to complete, and it changed something that was garage-sale-quality into consignment-shop-quality for only minimal effort and no extra money. This process could be used on things like playpens, baby seats, high chairs, etc. But you SHOULD NOT use this process on car seats, as car seats have very strict rules on cleaning so that their structural integrity and safety are not compromised. Please do your research or ask a qualified car seat safety specialist for the proper methods of cleaning a car seat.
I’ll admit it. I’m obsessed with organizing. I’m not a neat freak by any stretch of the imagination. I can be real about what daily life looks like in a house. But I get a really big thrill out of problem solving about areas that need organizing. That passion is one of the reasons I started this blog. I want to share the ideas that I’ve had to help others.
But just because I love organizing doesn’t mean I love, or even like, cleaning. The only time I enjoy cleaning is after I’ve finished it and can admire the outcome. My least favorite chore is cleaning bathrooms. Any part of it- toilets, counters, shower, etc. It’s tedious and gross. But, for myself, I’ve found that if I can make any part of the cleaning chore easier or less nasty, I’m more likely to do it.
I’ve done this in different ways all around my house. Doing dishes is easier and more fun now that I have a long-handled, soap-dispensing scrub brush instead of a stinky sponge. And cleaning toilets gets done more often now that we’re using the toilet wand method. Oh, adult life is so glamorous, isn’t it? If I could go back in time and tell my younger self about all the things I would get excited about as an adult, I’m pretty sure I’d have a good laugh at myself.
Big Scary Words
Before I became a mom, I worked for the government. Of course, the government is not known for its efficiency. It was very challenging to be a nut for organizing while working in a place that prides itself on remaining entrenched in ancient methods and outdated processes. I struggled for years while working there just to update, clean up and streamline my specific job. Towards the end of my time there, the workforce changed hands to a much younger generation, and real change began to take place. Processes were reevaluated, methods were questioned, and literal tons of excess was purged from that place to make way for a totally different way of operating.
“Processes were reevaluated, methods were questioned, and literal tons of excess was purged from that place to make way for a totally different way of operating.”
During those changes, I learned A LOT about how to find the most efficient way to do things that seem trivial or otherwise mundane. Because of that, I’ve been able apply a lot of what I learned to some of the processes and chores I do around the house. I’ll definitely be doing more articles featuring those ideas in the future because there are so many good ones. But for this article I’m focusing on an idea called “cellular management”. Yup. Sounds scary. Don’t get turned off just yet; I’ll explain it. Without having to bore you with all the background details on why it’s called “cellular management” or how that term came to be, I’ll just explain it like this:
In this method of thinking, a “cell” is specific task that needs a process and materials to be completed (example- a cooking recipe is like a cell in that way). To apply that to our real-world scenario, your “cells” are your bathrooms. Each bathroom is its own cell. Every bathroom/cell needs specific items in order to be cleaned, especially since some bathrooms are bigger than others or have different surfaces.
The OLD Way
I used to keep all of my cleaning materials under my kitchen sink. When the time finally came that one of my bathrooms got scummy enough that I couldn’t ignore it any longer, I would walk all the way to the kitchen to get what I needed for that specific cleaning job. Most of the time, this took several trips because I would forget items or cave-in and decide to clean something I hadn’t intended on cleaning in the first place.
To apply the cellular management principle, it actually works more efficiently to have a cleaning kit made up for each bathroom that is tailored to that bathroom’s specific needs. Now, I know you’re not made of money. Neither am I. But hear me out. You may have several bathrooms in your house but there are thrifty ways you can create cleaning kits that won’t break the bank.
Let’s create a scenario that we can work from as an example. The example below shows you what could be in a bathroom and what you might use to clean each of those things:
- 1 Toilet
- 1 Shower with glass sliding doors and tiled walls
- Double sink vanity with countertops and mirror
- Garbage can
To clean this entire bathroom you might use the following:
- Toilet scrub brush or cleaning wand and heads
- Multi-surface bathroom cleaner (like Soft Scrub, Scrubbing Bubbles, or Kaboom)
- Scrubby sponge or bristle brush
- Disinfecting wipes
- Glass cleaner
- Paper towels or cleaning cloth
- Garbage can liners
- Rubber gloves
These would be the items you would want to gather and keep in this bathroom all the time. Clear a place under the sink for the cleaning kit, but keep it accessible so you are more likely to remember it and use it.
On a budget?
If you’re on a budget, here are some ways you can save money on these kits in the long run. Buy in bulk. You can buy things like paper towels and garbage bags in bulk and leave a roll in each bathroom that needs it. Those will last you FOREVER. Also, there are certain cleaning supplies that can be found at the dollar store for, you guessed it, $1 each. You can buy scrubby sponges, rubber gloves, and plastic bins to store your cleaning supplies at the dollar store. You can also frequently find coupons for cleaning supplies in the newspaper or online. Shop the sales and buy multiple at one time if you can.
Assembling a kit like this could take an initial investment, but it’ll be worth it in the end. You’ll have no excuse not to clean the bathrooms. Sorry…or you’re welcome? You can even use this as a reason to teach other family members how to make use of the kit and keep the bathrooms sparkling! Good luck!