This is what my kitchen looked like when I painted my pantry. This should not be normal.
This is what my kitchen looked like when I painted my pantry. This should not be normal.

By the inch, it’s a cinch! By the mile, it’s a trial! (I am not sure where this came from but my Grandmother Lyons said it all the time.)

You did not get where you are in a day, you cannot reclaim your home in a day. BUT you can make a difference. Keep at it. Pick up as you go. It really is the little things done consistently that make a difference.

If you have been coasting and things are out of control:

  • Get dressed, comb your hair, and brush your teeth.
  • Put on some lively happy music and then
  • Get a basket –go through the house and gather the laundry.
    • Sort the laundry, and
    • Start a load.
    • Set a timer for when the wash cycle will be completed so you can move the load from the washer to the dryer. Don’t rely on your memory. Use that timer!
  • Get a basket or box and go through the house and gather the dishes.
    • Fill the sink with soapy water and/or make sure the dishwasher is empty of clean dishes
    • There are knives, pots and pans, and other items I do not put into the dishwasher but wash by hand. Load the dishwasher or
    • Put the glasses and flatware (knives, forks, spoons) in the sink to soak
    • Wash glasses first, then flatware, then plates, then pots and pans
    • Change water as needed
    • If you do not have a dishwasher, put the dishes in a dish drainer or on a towel on the counter to air dry
    • Run the dishwasher when it is full. Unload as soon as you can after the cycle is finished.
    • Finish drying and put away hand washed dishes
    • Put away dishes from dishwasher as soon as the cycle is complete and the dishes are cool enough to handle.
    • DAILY PRINCIPLE: Load dirty dishes directly into the dishwasher instead of leaving them on the counter or in the sink.
  • Get a trash bag and go through the house and collect all the trash from the wastebaskets and surfaces. Take the trash to your trash can.


  • Set another timer (on your phone, on your microwave, on your stove) for 15 minutes at a time and go room by room giving each room 15 minutes. If some rooms require more than 15 minutes return to that room after you have gone through your home and put other rooms in order. Think of racing the timer and focus on what you are doing.
  • The laundry, dishes, and trash have already been removed.
  • Put surfaces in good general order and pick up and put away what you can.
  • Begin by your front door, then your living room/great room, dining room, powder room, kitchen, bedrooms, bathrooms.
  • You are only going for an overall sense of order. This is just the first skirmish in the battle.
  • Keep the laundry going from sorted to the washer to the dryer to folded and put away. When your children are babies you put away their clothes for them. As they get older you stand next to them, hand the clothes to them and allow them to place them in the drawer, when they can do it on their own you allow them to and then you INSPECT, NOT EXPECT. With greater responsibility comes greater privilege. I put away Roy’s clothes. He is not my roommate. He is my husband and I take care of him. I am not his mother. I am his wife, friend, and sweetheart. In the same way I was not my children’s buddy. I am their mother. This is not a democracy, it is a benevolent despotism.


Your wee bonnie ones are your assistants. Let them help you. Yes, you could move faster without them and then go back and redo what they have undone while you are working. If you let them help you, they will learn. If they are too young to help and are in a playpen, swing, or whatever they sit in—keep up a conversation with them, sing, dance . . . make it fun! Stop and give your children 15 minutes of attention, as needed. It may be challenging in the beginning but keep it up and it will get better.

When working with your children, gathering the dishes, laundry, and trash are treasure hunts. Sorting laundry is a matching game. Use your imagination and creativity. Work can be fun—believe it or not.

Use the timer to help you focus on the task in front of you. Use your timer also for occasional 15 minute breaks.

I am not naturally organized. I had to learn to do this. You can, too.




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