Creating a Life Free From Chaos

The Lazy Mom’s Guide to Decluttering and Cleaning the Living Room

The living room (or in some cases, the family room) is where you entertain guests, relax after work, and hang out with your family. Since you use your living room for lots of different activities, it’s common to battle random clutter on a daily basis. It is, after all, called the “living” room for a reason. Thankfully, it’s also one of the easiest and quickest rooms to tidy.

Quick pick up

Grab a laundry basket, and start by gathering up all the items that should not be in the living room. We can then use the basket to go room to room, dropping off items back where they belong. Let me give you some examples of stuff I picked up in my living room, as well as where they should go.

  • 2 DVDs and an Xbox One disk, should be in the disk binders in the living room media cabinet
  • Dirty pair of abandoned boy socks, should be dropped in that kid’s laundry basket
  • 3 pairs of boy shoes, should be in their rooms in the closet
  • kids’ laptop, should be in the living room cabinet
  • 9 kids’ books, should be in the bookcase in the living room (or if being actively read, in the kid’s room)
  • 2 remote controls and 6 coasters, should be in the basket on the ottoman tray
  • Nintendo 3DS left out charging, along with a random phone charging cord. We’ve got four cats, so charging cords cannot be left out or they’ll end up as chew toys. We’ve got baskets for those.
  • Couch pillows all over the floor, should have been put back ON the couch after the fort came down
  • A telescope. Honestly, I have no idea why this has been sitting here (for a couple of months now!) Needs to be covered and put in the garage
  • A mass of school papers and school supplies brought home from locker clean-out. Useable school supplies should be in a bin in the office, and the papers need to be trashed or filed as appropriate

It appears that my boys are behind most of the “clutter” in the living room. Is anyone really surprised?

Why did I walk you through all that? Partially so you’ll know exactly what you’re looking at when you go into the war zone with your basket. It can be overwhelming seeing piles of clutter and not knowing where to start. Breaking it down into bullet points in your mind can help you sort through the stuff faster. I also wanted you to see that each item that’s “junk” in your living room DOES have a place to go somewhere else. If you’re at a loss for where that place is, it’s wise to reconsider whether you want the item in your house at all.

That’s your task: take your basket, grab up all that junk, and redistribute the stuff back to their appropriate homes. If it’s your kids’ stuff laying around, hand them the basket and supervise while THEY grab their junk and take it back where it belongs. As always, trash and recycling go straight to the bins, and if you happen to find used dishes in the living room, take those back to the kitchen to be washed.

Look at the space with fresh eyes

Now that the clutter is gone, it’s a good time to do one more thing. Look at your newly decluttered living room with fresh eyes, specifically seeing your decorations. Do you have a lot of knickknacks that need to be dusted? Old pictures that need to be updated? Extra furniture that doesn’t get used? Too many couch pillows (guilty as charged here). Consider removing some trinkets to give your living room a lighter, summer look (and save yourself some dusting). Make a note to update old photos, replace artwork you don’t like, or freshen up your sofa with new pillow covers. Maybe sell that unused extra chair on Facebook. What little tweaks can you make to your living room to make it feel fresh and new?

Time to clean!

When cleaning the living room, start at the top and work your way down. Grab your dust wand or a microfiber dust rag and dust any photos or artwork that you have on the wall, then head over to the mantle if you have one. If it’s not too dusty, you can just sweep your dust wand around the items on the mantle. If it hasn’t seen a dust rag in a while, go ahead and take everything off the mantle and use some all-purpose cleaner to wipe down the mantle and each item as you place it back on the mantle. Do the same thing for any other flat surfaces in the living room. 

Use the dust wand to wipe off the TV and electronics — if you must use a little cleaner to get rid of finger prints, spritz just a bit on a clean rag and wipe the finger prints away.

Clear off the coffee table completely and clean it using either all-purpose cleaner or wood cleaner, depending on the material it’s made of. Your living room will automatically look cleaner if you can keep your coffee table clear, so try to find other homes for the items you may typically leave on the table. Our “coffee table” is an oversized ottoman, so I use a tray with a small basket on it to corral remote controls and coasters. Stack magazines and books on a shelf in an end table or a bookcase, and roll throw blankets in a basket by the fireplace or use a blanket ladder to hang them neatly against a wall.

The vacuum: Your living room’s best friend

Once you’ve dusted and cleaned the flat surfaces, grab the vacuum, even if you don’t have carpet in the living room. Before hitting the floor, use the handheld attachment to clean off the couch and any chairs you have, making sure to get in the crevices and gaps between cushions. If you’ve got access to the space under the couch and chairs, use the handheld attachment to clean the dust bunnies from underneath. You can also use the handheld attachment and extender hose to vacuum off the window sills, corner cobwebs, and baseboards.

All that’s left is to vacuum the carpet thoroughly, or use a dust mop if you don’t have carpeted floors. Mop if necessary.

Keeping it clean

Here are some quick tips for how to keep the living room guest-ready with very little effort throughout the week.

  • Each day, spend a few minutes putting away clutter, fold throw blankets, discard read magazines, toss trash, pick up dirty dishes, and put away DVDs.
  • Once a week or so, take a dust wand and go over artwork, decorations, and flat surfaces.
  • Use a lightly damp sponge to wipe pet fur off the sofa and chairs.
  • Once or twice a week (as needed), run the vacuum around and make use of that handheld attachment to get rid of cobwebs, stray popcorn kernels from movie night, pet fur, and tracked-in dirt.
  • Keep your end tables and coffee table clear of clutter, and once a week or so, wipe them off with wood cleaner or all-purpose cleaner to keep them shiny.

The Fast and Easy Way to Clean Your Kitchen

The Fast and Easy Way to Clean Your Kitchen, photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

The kitchen, the “heart” of the home, can be a tricky room to declutter because there is just so much stuff. It’s week two of our spring cleaning series, and we’re hitting the kitchen this week. A clean, well-organized kitchen can be a catalyst for healthy lifestyle changes — a healthy diet, quality time spent with family around the dining table, even stronger relationships as we cook together. The less cluttered and more organized your kitchen is, the easier and more pleasurable it will be to cook dinner every day (trust me, it’s true!)

In most homes, the kitchen has more stuff in it than any other room of the house. It’s crazy how much a kitchen contains: cookware, plates, cups, silverware, gadgets, appliances, kitchen tools, towels, cleaning supplies, holiday supplies…not to mention the canisters, boxes, bags, and bottles of foodstuffs. It’s amazing how much we can fit into one space. But how much of that do we really use? Have you ever looked around your kitchen and thought about what you really need?

Cabinets, drawers, and storage spaces

To start your kitchen clean-out, you’ll need to go through every storage spot in the space. Stay with me, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Go through each cabinet and drawer individually, pulling out all the items you don’t use regularly. Clear out tools, dishes, and gadgets you don’t use. With the exception of some seasonal items, seldom-used items contribute to clutter. Get rid of the excess appliances you don’t really need. Be honest with yourself about how often you really use that yogurt maker/popcorn popper/electric griddle.

Next, get rid of duplicates. Yes, it’s perfectly normal to have more than one cup, plate, bowl, etc. But you don’t need 20 coffee cups or four sets of dishes. Think about how many of each item you really need, then pick your favorites and donate the rest.

Also be on the look-out for double-duty items. There’s no need to keep a specialty chip-and-dip tray when a tray and bowl will do. Always look for tools that can be used for more than one purpose. Before buying or keeping a specialty gadget, ask yourself, “can I accomplish the same thing with another tool I already have?”

Pull seasonal items out and store them in high cabinets or in another room. Think carefully about which items you really use during the holidays. In my house, the large roaster gets regular “special occasion” use, but the adorable reindeer plates and coffee mugs I had were boxed for years. They’re gone.

Once you’ve decluttered the excess, it’s time to organize your kitchen to make it easy and convenient to work in. Organize cabinets and drawers by proximity of use — dishes near the dishwasher, pots and pans next to the stove. The roaster goes on a high shelf while the crockpot goes in a prime position, easy to reach. Group like items together, with all the baking items in one cabinet, glasses and coffee mugs in another. Think about how you use your kitchen, and arrange items in the most logical positions for your lifestyle. 

Fridge, freezer, and pantry

A key habit for a useable, healthy kitchen is keeping the fridge, freezer, and pantry clean and well-stocked with the food you actually like to eat. It’s far too easy to let food go by the wayside: forgotten produce rots in the bottom crisper drawer, leftovers get pushed to the back of the shelf, seldom used condiments get left in the door shelves “just in case” we need them later. A healthy kitchen that’s fun to cook in needs to have only the good stuff in it, and it’s hard to find something healthy for dinner when there’s an assortment of mystery meat crowding the freezer.

I like to clean out the food each week before grocery shopping. I start with the fridge, then do the freezer and the pantry:

  • Cleaning shelf-by-shelf, starting at the top, pull everything out, wipe down the shelf, then put back only the food and beverages that are still safe to eat and that you actually plan to consume before their expiration. Repeat the process for the second shelf, all the way to the bottom. I like to line the crisper drawers with paper towels to make them easier to clean. Pay close attention to expiration dates, and discard anything with an “off” smell, freezer burn, or mold growth.
  • Organize food and condiments by category. Soups together, meats together, veggies together, and so on. If you like to meal plan, you might want to consider organizing meal items together so you can see at a glance that you have all the necessary ingredients.
  • If you find food that’s still good but that you don’t plan to eat, set it aside for a donation to the local food pantry.
  • Consider storing dry goods such as rice, flour, sugar, and other staples in air-tight clear containers. I use large glass jars with rubber seals for my staples. If you opt for plastic, buy containers free of Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used in many polycarbonate plastics that may migrate from containers to food (types 3 and 7 plastics may contain BPA).
  • Corral small items together in bins, baskets, or clear boxes. An over-the-door shoe organizer with clear pockets works fabulously on standard pantry doors. Small items such as tea bags, drink packets, microwave popcorn, spices containers, oatmeal packets, and bags of beans can be organized easily.
  • Keep your fridge and freezer clean by doing a maintenance clean-up once a week, removing old leftovers, wiping up spills with a warm cloth, and arranging older items toward the front to use them up faster. Do a quick sweep through the pantry to straighten the shelves and get rid of any stale or expired products.

Make it a shiny, clean kitchen

Now that you’ve gotten rid of all the extra stuff that was creating chaos in your kitchen, cleaning it should be a lot simpler. I’ll walk you through it in eight easy steps, starting at the top and working our way down.

  1. If you’ve got dirty dishes lying around, gather them up and either load the dishwasher or soak them in a sink of hot soapy water.
  2. If your upper cabinets are grimy, grab an all-purpose spray and a cleaning cloth and wipe off all the fronts. 
  3. Working in sections, clear off everything from the counters and wipe them off with all-purpose cleaner and a clean cloth. Replace items one by one, wiping off each appliance as you return it. Consider which small appliances can live in a cabinet instead of on the counter — less stuff on the counter keeps the kitchen looking cleaner and gives you more workspace for food prep. 
  4. Clean the microwave by placing a coffee cup of white vinegar in the microwave and heating it for about 2 minutes. When time’s up, pull the mug out and use a clean cloth to wipe out the microwave, dipping a bit of your cloth in the cup of vinegar when you need a little extra cleaning power (watch out, the vinegar is HOT!) Don’t dump out that vinegar just yet.
  5. Now clean the top of the stove, using your all-purpose spray and a cloth. If you’ve got burned-on spots that stubbornly stick around, place a cloth or paper towel on the spot and pour some of that hot vinegar on it, letting it soak for a couple of minutes — the spot should wipe right off. If you have a flat ceramic cooktop, follow your manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning — you may need a specialty cleaner for your cooktop.
  6. Grab your all-purpose spray and wipe off drawer fronts and the bottom cabinet doors.
  7. Wash the dishes, either by hand or by dishwasher.
  8. Clean the floor — sweep it and then mop the floor. I like to add a few drops of lemon essential oil for extra degreasing power. You’re done! 
The Fast and Easy Way to Clean Your Kitchen

Ridiculously Simple Shortcuts to Clean and Declutter Your Bathroom

Ridiculously Simple Shortcuts to Clean and Declutter Your Bathroom, Photo by Edgardo Lagmay on Unsplash

Hello friends! It’s been a while since we did a series, and with spring cleaning in the air, it seems like the perfect time to start one. This week, we’re starting a new four-week series to spring clean, declutter, and simplify your home. 

We’re starting in the bathroom. Why the bathroom? I like to start here because it’s the smallest room in the house and full of items that are generally not sentimental or overly expensive. If you have more than one bathroom in your home, start in the one you use the most OR the one that bothers you the most. We have three bathrooms in our house — I’m starting in the boys’ bathroom (EWW!), then attacking the half bath (small and quick to finish), and then I’ll finish in the master bathroom (biggest and the most stuff to deal with).

Grab your supplies.

Start with the basics — grab a large trashcan, a box for donations, and a box for items that belong in a different room. You’ll also want some basic cleaning supplies for a quick deep clean once you’ve decluttered.

Hit the shower.

Beginning with the shower/tub, remove any items you don’t use — those half bottles of shampoos you don’t like, the empties, the spent razors, the soap slivers. Toss the trash and set aside anything useable. If you have several bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, shaving cream, etc. that you use, consider leaving only one set in the shower and moving the others out until the first set is used up. Remove washcloths and bath towels and set them aside for the laundry.

Tackle the vanity.

Going drawer by drawer, cabinet by cabinet, take everything out of your sink vanity (or other storage space if you don’t have a vanity). Discard the trash and anything that’s old, expired, or that you don’t like. If there are toiletries you won’t use that are still sealed, place them in the donation box. If they’re open and you know you’re not going to use them (be honest), trash them. Remove anything that belongs in a different room. 

Organize the keepers by category — shampoo together, soaps together, dental supplies together, you get the idea. Gather up all those extras and put together a stockpile in a cabinet or plastic container so you can shop your stash before you go out and buy anything new.

Clear the counter.

Now that you’ve cleared the cabinets and drawers, let’s clear off the countertops. Toss the trash and anything you’re not going to use — be honest with yourself and pare down to just the stuff you use and love. Organize the keepers and, if possible, find space in a drawer or cabinet for these items so you can keep the countertop clear. 

For make-up, I like to use a plastic bin that I can store in a drawer but easily set on the counter while I get ready. Consider using a plastic silverware tray in the drawer to organize toothbrushes and toothpaste. Using bins and baskets makes it easy to bring your stuff to the counter while you’re using it but stash it discreetly away in a drawer or cabinet when not in use.

Instead of leaving bottles of hairspray, mouthwash, and hand soap laying around, grab a pretty tray and corral it all in one spot. It’ll make it easier to keep the counter organized, and you’ll be able to wipe down the counter in seconds.

Clean up.

Now that you’ve cleared the clutter, it’s time to give the bathroom a quick deep clean. Before you get started with the scrubbing, save yourself some elbow grease. Mix up a batch of this awesome Blue Soap, and spray it all over the shower/tub walls and floor to loosen up hard water stains, soap scum and other nastiness. It helps to mix the Blue Soap up a bit thicker so it’ll stick to the walls. Let the Blue Soap soak for at least an hour, longer is better.

While the shower soaks, we’ll work on the rest of the bathroom, dirtiest areas to cleanest. Toilet cleaning is the one place I go non-green and head straight for the bleach bathroom cleaner. I have one bottle and it’s only used on toilets. Here’s why: once you scrub the inside of your toilet and get it nice and clean, all you have to do is spritz bleach bathroom cleaner in there once or twice a week, let it soak for about 10 minutes, and flush. It keeps all the grunge from building up. I rarely have to scrub the inside of the toilet anymore (the outside… well, I have sons…!) Go ahead and spray it well, close the lid, and let it soak.

Grab all the towels and washcloths and start them in the washer. Wash all the towels and put them in the dryer promptly — you might want a shower by the time we finish cleaning the bathroom!

Once the toilet has soaked for a few minutes (like, while you were starting the laundry…), grab that toilet brush and get to scrubbing. Start with inside the bowl and work your way out. Make sure to get under the rim. Once the inside is clean, flush, then grab cleaning wipes  or spray cleaner and wipe from top to bottom, with special attention around the base of the toilet (boys…!) When you’re finished, check the toilet paper supplies and restock from your stash if necessary. Almost out? Write it on the shopping list!

Once that toilet is clean, wash your hands and move on to the sinks and counters. You’ve cleared the clutter, so it will be much easier and faster to clean. Use a step stool to wipe the dust off any above-mirror light fixtures. Spritz the counter down with all-purpose cleaner and scrub it clean. Wipe off dusty bottles from the counter, the speckles on the faucet, that little space behind the faucet that collects all that gunk. Wipe off the exterior of the outlets, the light switch, and the door knobs. Use glass cleaner to clean the mirror.

The shower/tub has been soaking with Blue Soap the whole time you’ve been working, so it’s ready to be cleaned. Using a damp scrubber or brush, work the Blue Soap around the tub, concentrating on any spots that were especially dirty, corners and crevices. If the Blue Soap has been soaking for a long time, the gunk should come right up. Rinse well. Use a squeegee or rag to wipe water off glass shower doors. If you have a shower curtain, remove it and run it through the washing machine, then hang it back up to dry.

Side note: I have handheld shower heads in every shower in our house — they make cleaning so much easier! Instead of tossing cups of water at a soapy shower wall or at the suds in the back corner, you can just aim the handheld shower at it and rinse everything in seconds. Also incredibly useful for scrubbing children or dogs.

Finish up by cleaning the floor. Grab a broom or vacuum, and clean up all that dust and hair, particularly the stuff that congregates in the corners. If you have rugs that are vacuum-able, vacuum them too — otherwise, shake them out outside and toss them in the washing machine. Grab a mop and give the floor a good once-over. Or, do what I do: pay the kids a couple of bucks to hand wash it!

Hang up some clean, fresh towels and then stand back and admire your hard work! I know this may sound like a lot of work, but it really only takes 15-20 minutes, and even less after your initial cleaning.

Maintain it.

You’ve worked hard to declutter and deep clean your bathroom, so don’t let all that hard work go. Here are some quick tips for how to keep the bathroom sparkling clean with very little effort throughout the week.

  • Keep a canister of disposable cleaning wipes in each bathroom for quick touch-ups. These will come in especially handy for cleaning up the toilet!
  • A couple of times a week (or as needed), wipe the toilet seat, rim, and outside of the toilet (including the base) with disposable cleaning wipes and toss them. It only takes about 30 seconds. Spray the inside with bleach bathroom cleaner, close the lid. Let sit for 10 minutes, then flush.
  • Keep a dish wand filled with equal parts dish soap and vinegar in the shower. Once or twice a week while you’re in there, use the dish wand to do a quick scrub of the shower walls, then rinse well before you get out.
  • Eco-tip: got half-used bottles of shampoo or body wash that you don’t really like from your decluttering? Combine them, then use them to clean the shower while you’re in it. You can even fill your dish wand with it.
  • If you have glass shower doors, get in the habit of using a squeegee after every shower to wipe down the door. Trust me. It’ll keep the bathroom looking nicer between cleanings and it will prevent scum from building up on the glass door.
  • Use a tray to corral bottles on the counter — it’ll make it easier to maintain the cleanliness. After you brush your teeth each day, use a disposable wipe or a damp washcloth/rag to wipe off the counters, faucet, and inside the sink — you’ll save yourself from the dried concrete that becomes of toothpaste blobs. If spots appear on the mirror, use a damp towel corner to wipe them away.
Ridiculously Simple Shortcuts to Clean and Declutter Your Bathroom