Like most busy parents, you probably haven’t had an unobstructed view of the floors in your home since the Reagan administration. Covered in toys, pop-up books, ground up granola bars and the occasional stray sock, your floors (along with the rest of your home) are a veritable minefield of chaos and clutter.
Fortunately, bringing order to your muddled household needn’t be a Herculean task—but it does require a little planning, discipline and ingenuity. Use these room-by-room tips to transform your home from messy to marvelous. Happy cleaning—and get back to us on that color-of-your-floor question when you're done.
10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">• Prevent toy dumping by securing plastic storage bins to low-hanging shelves.
10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">• Establish a guideline: Put one toy away before taking out another one.
10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">• Make cleanup fun. Pick a special cleanup song or make one up—the sillier the better. Also, cut the top off a milk carton and let kids use that as a scoop to pick up small toys.
10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">• If you’ve got too many toys, consider talking to potential giftgivers about choosing an intangible gift – movie tickets instead of another set of Legos, for example.
Normal>• Use a small plastic beach rake to round up all the small toys under bookcases, dressers and beds.
Normal>• Have kids go through their toys with you. “Ask them, ‘Are you too big for this now?’” or “’Do you still love this, because if you don’t we can give this to some
other kid who will really enjoy it.’”
Normal>• Make an out-the-door list for everyone, so you’ll know at a glance what you’re missing.
Normal>• Put a variety of small toys in a one-gallon Ziploc bag to use in the car or in the doctor’s waiting room.
Normal>• Hang a shoe organizer with see-through plastic pouches on the back of the front door. In the winter you can stow mittens here; sunglasses in the summer.
Normal>• Have hooks for hanging backpacks, and make it a policy that kids give you the papers you have to see when they get home. Process the papers immediately, then stow them in the backpack to be returned to school.
Normal>• Fasten wall-mounted kitchen cabinets beneath a window and put cushions on top to make a window seat that doubles as storage space.
• Don’t leave a project out on the kitchen or dining room table as a reminder. Put it on a to-do list, assign it a priority, then put it on your calendar.
• Buy extra treats, brownie mix, etc., so that you always have something on hand when it’s your turn to bake for school or one of your children’s friends shows up unexpectedly.
• Clean as you cook. For instance, clear counters and clean dirty plates while dinner is in the oven. Stow ingredients after using them; make sure all pots, pans and utensils are returned to their proper places.
• Buy shelving with adjustable height so that they can fit changing needs.
• Create an easy but effective filing system that can be understood by the entire family.
• Make duplicates of important documents—birth and marriage certificates, licenses and passports, insurance policies, etc.—and store them in a designated area or a safety deposit box.
• Keep only photographs worth saving; trash the rest. Purchase photo albums when they are on sale, and then transfer photos from a shoebox or jumbled desk drawer into the albums.• Create a portable office—especially important for moms and dads who have a study at one end of the house but pay their bills at the kitchen counter at the other end. Whether it’s a cart on wheels or a portable folder, it should include stamps, envelopes, a stapler and scissors.