Clutter is defined as ‘a collection of things laying around in an untidy mass.’ As moms, we are familiar with the untidy mass and the frustration it creates. It is well known by now how clutter impacts our minds. Organizers tout the benefits of decluttering by hauling out our belongings to sort into piles to toss or donate. Who doesn’t love replacing a chaotic mess with a well-organized bin with a cute label, right? But not everyone has time for an extreme make over.
Moms are busy and often the only person to tackle the clutter at home. We might set aside time once a year (usually in the spring) to clean out our closets and kid toys, but it is the daily management of clutter that can wear us down. Managing the daily clutter and mess causes stress. Clutter impacts our mood when we feel like we are nagging, it affects our relationship with our loved ones because we can resent having to do it all by ourselves, and it can be physically draining being a cleaning team of one.
As much as I love an organized closet and escalate to giddy heights over the perfect storage solution, I find the daily clutter to be the most overwhelming. It distracts me from working and feeling productive, it takes time to clear the dining table so we can eat, and I am exhausted at the end of the day after returning items back to where my family took them from. I admit, my blood boils when no one else notices the crumbs and puddles on the counter nor remembers that coats do not belong on the floor.
Scientists agree that clutter signals to our brain that our work is never done. It can be difficult to relax when we feel like we see an endless task list. I don’t know about you, but I could use a few less things on my to-do list. I already have enough running to-do lists taking up space in my brain. What I need is a simple solution to tackle the daily clutter my family creates.
Cleaning out the closet doesn’t make me feel better when my husband tosses the mail in a pile on the side table next to my workspace and leaves it for me to take care of.
Putting the kids toys in cute bins with pretty labels doesn’t make me feel better when I find toys strung about the house left for me to take care of.
Rounding up things to donate or toss doesn’t make me feel better when there is a new stream of stuff right behind me to take care of.
I’ve noticed, I am the only one doing all that cleaning and organizing on top of the daily cleaning and organizing and I am tired.
One day, I thought about what will make me feel better. I will feel better when my family pitches in to take ownership of their own stuff.
After months of feeling angry and festering in silence, I realize it isn’t fair to me or my family to just do everything myself. It isn’t teaching them life skills they need to learn, and it isn’t fair to drain my energy each day picking up after other people who can pick up after themselves.
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I created a list of the top five sources of clutter in my home and planned how to tackle each one.
After I made my list and my plan, I sat my family down for a family meeting and told them they needed to pitch in. We are a team, and we are all capable of sharing the workload to maintain our home.
I set the expectation for their help and explained how working as a team frees up time and energy for all of us, it improves our moods and our relationship. That doesn’t mean every day is perfect or that I stop giving reminders, but now there is no question of where and when I need help. It minimizes my nagging and pleading and saves me energy!
So, how do I motivate them without nagging and making an elaborate chore chart?
I assign a tidy time each day. We all pitch in together to put away our own clutter and items that need to return to their point of origin. If we are all working together, there is less complaining and not one person feels like they are the only ones doing the work. I am less exhausted and less annoyed.
I delegate responsibilities, not just tasks. My kids need to learn to be responsible with their belongings. So, I assign each of them their own laundry day. I taught them the steps to loading the washer and dryer. They still need help folding, but they are responsible for putting away their laundry. They pick up the clothes on their floor during tidy time and do their own laundry on their laundry day. This is a huge step toward independence and less for me to tackle.
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How do you get your family to pitch in more? I’d love to read in the comments below!
Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom and creator/owner of The Whatever Mom community. As a freelance writer she has contributed to parenting magazines and influencer campaigns. A fan of snarky comedy, she uses humor to share the messier parts of her parenting life and helps other moms embrace the chaos and let go of perfection.