When home is in order, it seems that life is in order. It's no wonder, since God is not the author of confusion or chaos. A disorderly house can easily destroy the peace of an entire household, especially when something needed immediately cannot be found. But when we get organized, our frustrating moments will be fewer, and we will have more time for our families, for homeschooling, for ministry or for working towards other goals.
You can spend several days in a row organziing and cleaning your whole house, or you can spread your work throughtout weeks, months or even a whole year, by doing one area or room as you have the time. This is how I've cleaned recently. First I noticed that the top of the wardrobe with its silk flowers and pictures needed cleaning; then I cleaned a shelf. Another day I washed the dining room ceiling. And then yet another day emptied and cleaned the pantry, which was a real mess, as it is a catch-all, being behind closed doors. At the same time, a couple of the chidren cleaned the back porch, which is another area regularly needing attention. (Your activity will inspire your chlidren to do similar work.)
A good rule is to have a place for everything and keep everything in its place. If you don't have a place, make a place, or eliminate the need for a place by eliminating that possession.
Prepare to Eliminate
The most important thing, and the best starting place is to eliminate - to get rid of as much as you can do without. To do this you will need grocery sacks, plastic bags, boxes (or similar containers) and a Magic Marker® for labeling what you plan to store. I prefer boxes because they stay open while filling, and close securely when done. I also like boxes for trash because large and small articles can be easily tossed into them, and then dumped and the boxes reused.
When doing the kitchen, pantry and bathroom, de-clutter one room or area (even one cupboard) at a time, and then clean that. For rooms that do not need as much attention or for lighter cleaning, de-clutter several rooms first and then clean.
You may wish to sort your possessions into these five groups:
1.) items to trash
2.) items to keep, clean if necessary, and put back
3.) items to keep and store
4.) items to give away to a thrift store, individuals, or other charity or box for a future garage sale
5.) items to recycle
Items to Trash
First throw away the really trashy things. This simple first step will make a lot of difference, and will inspire you to continue with your task. Don't stop to read, consider, or ruminate - just toss! Put your trash bags near the trash pickup area for a short while - in a garage perhaps and later, if you find you absolutely need something you threw away, you can go through the mess. (Yes, I have done this!)
Items to Keep
The things you will keep and put back right where they were should be dusted, vacuumed, or washed. Scrub everything that can be scrubbed. If you are cleaning out a cupboard of spices, for instance, make up a strong solution of dish washing liquid or other cleaner. Take everything out of the cupboard. Wash out the cupboard (use an old toothbrush to get in the corners) and then wash each item you plan to keep, before putting it back. If you have two of one item, you can dump them together, although this is not always wise with perishables. (One of our children combined two jars of picante sauce when cleaning the refrigerator, without checking for spoilage and the next day the whole batch was spoiled.)
Items to Store
Are you the type of person who can't bear to part with anything? You can box all those "treasures" that are cluttering your home, label with your marker and store.
The rest of us will also have some boxes (fewer, of course!) of things that we want to keep but don't need at the moment. These are possessions such as seasonal items and personal keepsakes. If you haven't used something in more than a year, and yet still want to keep it, it would probably be in this category. The exception would be items that complement your home, such as an abundance of knick-knacks with Victorian decor. But many things in our homes are just in the way. Place these objects in boxes, label and store under lock and key. This is extremely important, especially if you have young children who like to, and are allowed to, explore. You will not want days and weeks of organizing undone in an few minutes.
Items to Share
As you sort and toss, you may find things that are too good to toss, but are not needed nor wanted any longer. Put these items in separate boxes to give away or to sell at a garage sale. Label accordingly, but keep these separate from your "save" boxes. What if Dear Husband loads the vehicle and mistakenly takes Aunt Matilda's china to Goodwill?!
Remember that if a possession is not good enough for you to use or wear, trash it! No one else should have to use it or wear it. But if you are getting rid of something for another reason and it is still in good condition, bless someone else with it by giving it away or selling it at a garage sale.
Items to Recycle
When you organize your closets and bureaus, you can sort into yet another group. We rarely buy paper towels, but instead use our old cotton clothes that we have cut into 1 ' to 1-1/2 ' squares, after having removed buttons, which you may wish to save and reuse for your sewing. These rags, recycled from clothing, can be used for cleaning, wiping up spills, washing cars, stripping woodwork and so forth.
Once your possessions are organized, you can begin cleaning. Cleaning is an unending and necessary fact of life, because dirt is part of this life. I sometimes tell the children that we can look forward to no cleaning in heaven, but here it has to be done. Yet, I tend to neglect major cleaning for as long as possible. Then when we are expecting special visitors, relatives from afar, or the reporter from a newspaper or when I just can't stand it anymore, we go on a cleaning blitz. One year I cleaned for a month. By the time I was done, I needed to start over.
Because the kitchen and bathroom(s) take the most elbow grease and show the fruit of your effort the most, they are a good place to start. It takes me a day or two to do each well. It is best to do the interiors of cupboards, appliances, and fixtures first, as their cleaning alone, especially in the kitchen, could take a whole day. Additionally, cleaning appliances makes messes that you wouldn't want on a newly waxed floor. (Oven cleaning usually means spraying on an oven cleaner, letting set overnight - with possible drips - and then wiping clean. Defrosting and cleaning refrigerators is also a messy job.)
After the interior of your appliances are clean, make a solution of water and a heavy duty cleaner in water as hot as you can stand. You may wish to wear protective eye wear and you will certainly want to choose a sunny day. Take down curtains and/or turn all the lights on. Using a sponge or a wrung-out cloth, wash the ceiling in the room you have chosen to clean first. Rinse your cloth often and change water when dirty. NOW TURN THE LIGHTS OFF and clean the light fixture next, taking the glass down to clean if possible, then wash the upper walls, the exteriors of cupboards and appliances in kitchen. Then wash lower cupboards, walls and in the bathroom, fixtures.
Windows can be done now with clean cotton cloths, paper towels, or crushed newspapers using a spray window cleaner (Windex®) or homemade cleaner (see side bar). Finally, after vacuuming or thorough sweeping (move appliances), attack the floor and baseboards on hands and knees with a scrub brush and strong solution (use rubber gloves, as some of these cleaners are very harsh and drying).
When cleaning anything in this manner, change water often and rinse until the water is almost clear, if you want a truly clean house. Several all-purpose concentrated cleaners available for washing smooth surfaces, such as Mr. Clean®, Fantastic® or a generic cleaner from a warehouse store, such as Sam's.
After rinsing and allowing your floor to dry, give it a final touch with a coat or two of wax. Keep at it room by room and before long your whole house will shine!
It really doesn't take long to keep your house in order. A key is to pick up soon after the mess is made or better yet, never put anything down out of its place. You can have a 10 minute pick up each day before or after school. We vacuum once a week or as necessary, after the children have picked up. Children can also have weekly chores, such as cleaning their rooms, cleaning the bathroom and dusting.
Children and Work
God has blessed you in so many ways because of your children (as well as having blessed them with you!). The mutually beneficial relationship that family members share is seldom more evident than in the area of work. Our children make it possible for us to accomplish much more than we could without them. But, since we are a "team," our accomplishments are also their successes and accomplishments.
Working is a very, very important part of education and one that is almost completely overlooked by most schools. A phrase that I use often with my children is, "There's no fun like work!" I love to work because I love to see the results of work - a clean house, a redecorated house, a weed free garden, knowledgeable children, a quality product and so forth. It is a real blessing to see children begin to demonstrate responsibility about work by doing their chores well without being told. And even better is seeing them help in unexpected ways.
To train your children to work, start early, let them have some say in what they would like to do, enforce their choice until it becomes a habit, and let them know you need them. Teach that "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."Tell them, "Be not weary in well doing," and to do their work "as to the Lord, and not unto men." If you are financially able, pay your children for work well done; for " for the labourer is worthy of his hire." Money does motivate, especially if your children are not already overly "blessed." But if you are not able to pay them, don't be concerned about it. They are paid in food, clothing, shelter, occasional trips and treats.
Husbands and Work
Do not try to delegate to your husband. More than likely he is working full time at a job, so whatever he does at home is an additional blessing. Just be thankful that he is supporting you and your children. Many men aren't these days!
God and Work
As I was writing the final paragraph of this article the Lord seemed to say, "You're not done yet." He reminded me of how the enemy can use our attempts at cleaning to get us into anger, criticism and disrespect. We wrestle not against flesh and blood. If we are going to be angry, let's direct our anger at the devil who defiled God's beautiful world with dirt and clutter. And shoot him down with the gospel gun, overcoming evil with good. What an opportune time to sing along with praise tapes, listen to and pray God's word and to pray for those we are tempted to get bitter against. Our hands working, our minds, hearts and spirits in union with our Lord Jesus Christ.
Throw away, put away, store away, give away. Have fun in the doing and enjoy the results - your clean, orderly, peaceful home.
Lorraine Curry is the author of 5 Star Easy Homeschooling books. See and link to more articles, FREE copywork, subscriptions, ebooks and more at http://www.easyhomeschooling.com