Back in April I wrote a post about how I deep clean my house once a month. I mentioned that "it’s amazing how a tidy, uncluttered house can fool people into thinking it’s clean."
In a followup post, I actually shared before and after photos of my cleaning days. In the comments Jenni wrote:
"Will you do a post on HOW your house looks so good in the before pictures? Decluttering? Organization? Simplifying? Daily pick ups? Where is all your STUFF? I love it!"
Others mentioned feeling discouraged by my photos (the complete opposite of my intention, by the way)--feeling like they had so far to go or that I secretly clean without calling it cleaning.
In a way, that's true--I don't consider tidying cleaning. No, I don't wash my dishes once a month (ew!) or sweep after meals once a month--putting things away is part of family life, doesn't take a ton of energy or time once you get started, and allows monthly deep cleaning to proceed with ease.
The secret to any success I've had in this area comes from stumbling across an organizational system that has worked well for me--once a month decluttering.
Outer order definitely contributes to inner calm, which I especially need to tackle the daily challenges of raising three little people. I find, however, that the organizational advice in many books doesn't fit my situation.
There's no way I can declutter my whole home in a few days, or even a few weeks, as is often suggested. I'm a work-at-home, homeschooling mama of three! But I wanted a system that would give me natural accountability and allow me to make consistent progress.
The solution for me is tackling one room a month. In my case, that means 12 areas total, perfect for one year. They are: living room, sunroom, dining room, kitchen, upstairs bathroom/linen closet, my bedroom, office, attic, Trishna's room, the boys' room, basement, and the garage/van.
The goal of once a month decluttering isn't perfection; the goal is progress.
In a small room, this may mean that I'm able to get through each item contained there in a month. In a room with more objects, I may just pick four hotspots (one each week) to work on. I may devote 15 minutes a day to the designated area, or I may wait and spend a full hour on the weekend when I have more time.
I started one room per month decluttering nine months ago, making it the longest, most successful organizational system in our home.
Here are the benefits I've found:
1. It doesn't overwhelm me.
Trying to clean out a whole room in a weekend, for example, has never worked out around these parts. I have a full life already, and I easily bite off more than I can chew and feel overwhelmed.
But an entire month feels like plenty of time, even when not working each day, to tackle the important parts of just one room.
2. It easily fits with the ebb and flow of family life seasons.
You can easily alter this idea depending on what season you're in as a family. If you have infants and toddlers, you may only be able to make it through one or two hotspots in a location in one month. That's fine!
Even dealing with one area that bugs you will have a huge return on investment in how you feel emotionally about your home.
I also plan my decluttering months according to the seasons of the calendar. I knew I'd need to put the kids' summer clothes in their drawers in May, so I worked with my daughter on her room that month. It's a small room and when we finished we put her new clothes in her dresser.
3. It makes it easier for me to do once a month cleaning.
I once read that about 40% of housework could be avoided if you had less stuff.
By clearing out what no longer has value to us, those items with value have an assigned place. And when everything is in its place, a home looks cleaner and feels more manageable to keep up with. This is what makes once a month cleaning work well for me.
4. It's taken us one step further down the road toward simplicity.
I've never been a hoarder, but this year I challenged myself to test and see what all those minimalists keep raving about.
Does letting go of excess stuff really free you?
I can answer now--YES! I feel (& Steve agrees) so much more detached from our stuff.
Books like Organized Simplicity and Simplicity Parenting made me question how many toys my children actually need--made me wonder if I really need to have every book on the shelf that I'd ever read. I find I now get so much more pleasure from the treasured items we care enough about to keep and take care of.
We are blessed with riches and wealth that many people in the world can only imagine. Part of the stewardship of that wealth is the work that goes with caring for the objects we invite into our lives and homes.
Once a month decluttering has given me the opportunity to perform that task in a way that works for me, a way that inspires me to sheer gratitude at the abundance in our lives.
How do you care for your stuff? Have you discovered exactly what "enough" means to you?