How to keep a tidy house when your family is messy

Oh no, it’s that sinking feeling again. You’ve just picked up your laptop, book, a cup of tea, or whatever, and someone, somewhere from the depths of your house yells, “Mum, where is the ….. “ (insert simple thing that nobody can find). You thought you kept a tidy house, so why can’t anyone find anything in the house except you?

Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s probably because you are not as organized as you think you are and why not? Because you think you are already organized enough. Well, I’m here to break it to you buttercup, that you are not!

It’s not all bad news though, because it’s not entirely your fault! But you knew that anyway, didn’t you?

a tidy house

For example, how many times during the week does your child yell that they cannot find their school shoes in the morning? Is it your fault? Let us examine the evidence:

  1. You have a shoe bucket at the front door. Are they in that? No? Why not? Because your child didn’t take them off before he ran upstairs to say hello to the cat.
  2. Are they in his room? No? Why not? Because your child has absolutely no recollection of where he took his shoes off. Why? Because picking his nose and wiping it on the cat was by far more important!
  3. So, fast forward, you are now late for school, and you have still not found his shoes, eventually, twenty minutes later you realize that they are still inside the trousers that he took of last night, now if you could only find his trousers!
  4. And so, the whole episode goes on and on.

This is not what should happen on the way to school. You’re never going to get rid of the chaos of kids, but you can change when that chaos happens!

So when should this chaos be happening?
In this instance, to prevent the morning chaos, I would start laying out school uniform, including shoes, book bag, and coat after tea. This way, if any item mysteriously disappears, you’ve got all night to look for it instead of sitting down watching line of duty (lucky you!)

So, your challenge is to know where everything is at any given time in your house, so when you get the call of dread, you can explain to the family member exactly where things are without having to interrupt your first sit down of the day!

That’s all well said and done, but how are you supposed to know where things are when you live with a bunch of monsters who can’t put anything away and are chronically disorganized?

Well, you’ve just answered your own question. You need to turn into a super sleuth in your own home! You need to preempt, investigate, and instigate. Here are some examples:

1. Pre-empt

They will need their PE kit in two days’ time.

2. Investigate

Where is it? If it is already washed and put away in his drawers, then that’s amazing. If it’s not, you will need to do some investigating to find out exactly where it is!

3. Instigate

Find it, wash it, and put it out ready to go.

A terrific way to do this is to create a daily and weekly routine to pre-empt all the things that your family needs to have done each day and make sure they are prepared in advance.

  • Make sure you know exactly where their goggles are for their swimming lessons.
  • Their gum shield for rugby. Chase it up as soon as they come through the door from their last match so you can intercept it before it gets lost somewhere in the living room.

Yes, it’s a lot. Yes, you are going to have to be superwoman to put out all these fires, but it’s better doing that in your own time than two minutes before a rugby match, on the school run, or just as you’re getting in the car for your child’s swimming lesson.

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Failure to prepare is to prepare to fail.

two kids eating icecream  in a tidy house

If your kids are so young that they can’t organize themselves, you must do it for them. Being organized and prepared allows you to get out of the door with a smile on your face instead of dealing with a panic attack! This is the most important step to keeping a tidy house

Tips for a tidy house

Keeping a tidy house isn’t all about having a multitude of cleaning products it is about making your house easy to live in, especially for little kids who are by nature chaotic!

Make it easy for your kids to put things away.

It might not look great, but a huge shoe bin by the front door will help keep things organized.
If your kids are school age, putting up some pegs to hang their bags on will help keep things off the floor.

A washing basket in a child’s room will help them put their dirty clothes away rather than scattering them all over the floor.

Keep at least one room food-free

If you can, try to keep one room that the kids don’t mess up. My living room is the place where I don’t allow the kids to eat. I can’t bear the thought of clearing up dirty dishes before I try to relax. The rule is that the kids sit at the table in the dining room or kitchen to eat. They are not allowed food upstairs either, as this keeps the plates and cups clean rather than festering upstairs. Moldy cups are just one thing I can’t cope with upstairs!

Fix the problems!

Every day, pick something that bugs the hell out of you and makes your home descend into utter chaos and think of a straightforward way to fix it.

If your spouse drops his clothes on the floor, move the washing basket to where he gets undressed, you might find he drops them in the basket instead (but don’t hold your breath!)

I had a problem with my spouse who used to leave all sorts of rubbish lying around the house, from sweetie wrappers, apple cores, receipts, etc. He just couldn’t be bothered to put them in the bin.

One of my girlfriends had the same problem with her husband, and she said she fixed it by putting all his rubbish in his jacket pocket. He didn’t notice until he went out and then he had to find a bin quick!
I tried this trick with my spouse, and it worked a treat. The first thing I did, was collect all his apple cores, wrappers, and stuff that he expected me to clean up and I put them in his coat pocket. After I did this a couple of times, he soon started cleaning up after himself!

Most problems have a solution, some, of course, don’t, but you can certainly try to fix some of the things that stress you out.

Don’t expect others to change

It’s easy to fall into the trap of getting angry and upset because we feel like we are constantly picking up after everyone in our home and to get into a downward spiral of negative thoughts like

“It’s not really my job” and “why can’t they pick up after themselves, for god’s sake.” These negative thoughts kill your motivation, and you start becoming resentful rather than organized. That’s when the stress and chaos start.

Our families are never going to be perfect, and we wouldn’t want them to be.

We have to assume that everybody in our home is stupid, so we need to make our home as user-friendly as possible.

The bottom line is that they really don’t care whether the house is organized or not. They can live with the chaos, and you’re never going to change that. As the saying goes, we can take a horse to water, but we can’t make it drink. We can lead by example and try to create good habits that our kids (and spouse?) may follow eventually.

My little nine-year-old checks to make sure all his clothes are laid out before he goes to bed. My 13-year-old likes to crumple hers up in a dirty ball in the corner of the room. You can only do your best to teach good habits for a tidy home.

The empty nesters in my Facebook Group keep telling us, we will long for the big pile of shoes at the door one day. But until then, keep putting out the fires and make life easier for yourself!

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a tidy home

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