Monday, 1 April 2013

A Discourse on Cleaning, Organizing and Decorating

I am in the "mother of young children" stage of life.  What does that have to do with cleaning, organizing and decorating?  Well, everything in fact.  I have found after being a mom for 6 years that in order to keep one's sanity, there must be compromise on one's previous standards and expectations.  When I had new babies, I would sit in my chair in the living room and look across our open concept home and see nothing but dusty and streaky floors.  I would then obsess about it the whole time I was nursing and then anxiously try to work it in to my day to clean said floors.  I think on average I would clean my floor every other day when I had 1 or 2 kids.  I now clean my floors once a week (on a good week).  This may sound like an excuse, or a cop out, but in my reality it has been a blessing.  I see it as a blessing that I clean less because it also means that I interact with my kids more and we "live" in our house, rather than have it as a show home.  

However, I do enjoy a clean, organized and decorated house.  So how do I find balance?  Well, I think it starts with having a clean house.  What's the point of having a nicely decorated home if you can't keep it clean?  Here are a few of my tried and tested cleaning tips.  I don't use chemicals.  I like to use things that are safe for my kids to be in the same room as me while I'm cleaning without risk of poisoning them or them choking on fumes.  I only clean with vinegar and water or a store bought green cleaner and have never had terribly sick kids.  I clean my toilets with a big splash of vinegar and a big shake of baking soda - let it foam and then clean with a brush.  I have also (FINALLY) found the best floor cleaner for my laminate is a combination of 1/4 vinegar, water and a couple TBSP of rubbing alcohol.  The rubbing alcohol makes the floors dry really fast and they are not streaky.  
After you have a cleaned, if you a still have time, and acknowledged that it won't get done all in one day, it is important to organize.  I believe that everything should have a home and if it doesn't, find one, or get rid of it.  This becomes increasingly hard as you have more kids and they start bringing papers and art work home from school.  This has caused me great anxiety in the past.  However, now with one in Kindergarten and one in Preschool, I feel like I have a pretty good system for organizing, which gets it off my kitchen table.  We bought this Expedit unit at Ikea and put it in the corner of our dining room which is my "Grand Central Station" for running my home. 

I keep things like lunch kits and camera bags behind the closed doors, our Bible and kid's Bibles are on the top for handy access for after meal readings.  Notice one binder labelled Family Organization Binder?  That might be a future post, but basically it has important information about our family, emergency info, babysitter instructions, school schedules, meal ideas and take-out menus, sick kids guide, cleaning tips and other miscellaneous papers that have a home in one convenient place.  There is also a purple binder there which is for the baby.  I have one small binder for each kid that has their first year calendar, a pocket page for important documents such as birth certificates and swimming lesson report cards, and a pad of paper to jot down what they've been doing as they grow.  I also bought this cube organizer at Staples that helps to divide my papers from the kid's papers and has drawers for pencils and such.  This whole unit was a bit of investment but has been a huge relief for me in the organization department.  I realized that I have about 5 different places in my house where I keep arts and crafts supplies and that this should be consolidated somehow, but that will be a future project.  

On the side I have my super Mom's planning calendar and a white board for remembering prayer requests and kid's memory verses.

As another way to control kid's papers, we put up a cork board on a blank wall in our dinning room, so the kids art can be displayed without taping in all over the house.  I usually take pictures of their art and then "recycle" it and put up the new stuff so I don't keep too much.

I have also found that rather than "spring-cleaning", I clean as the need arrises and starts to bug me, or I make a list of things to clean/organize and then allow myself to do one a day so that I don't get obsessive and ignore my kids for a whole day while taking on too much.  This being said, I still sometimes see all the needs at once and try to tackle too much; you know how one thing leads to the next; but I'm trying.  I read once that cleaning with young kids is like shoveling snow while it's still snowing - so true!

And finally, on decorating.  I wouldn't say I have a specific "style" so to speak, however I generally decorate with things that I like and make me happy, with input from my husband who happens to have a great eye and is kinda crafty too.  I think when it comes to decorating for a home with young kids that it's important to be practical in your approach.  Find a balance between form and function.  This doesn't mean that you can't have nice things, but I wouldn't put a lot of breakable stuff at a crawling babies level.  Of course, that's obvious.  But having a soft ottoman instead of a coffee table, or dinning room chairs with slipcovers that can be washed (regularly).  When purchasing furniture we went with stuff we liked, but that isn't so expensive that it can't be jumped on used (come on, we know it happens). 

I like to be able to change up my decor a bit according to the seasons.  Something simple like a wreath can really brighten things up.  

However, I don't like to store a whole bunch of seasonal decor so I try not to go over board.  It helps to go to a place like a garden center after Christmas when everything is 50% off or Michaels when they have eveything 15% off including sale items.  We've done well for art and such at Winners too.

Family pictures have always been important to me, so we make a presence for them in our home.

This arrangement was so easy with a template from Michaels.  I am not one to be afraid to make a hole in the wall.  If it's not level, I try again; holes can be patched.

We had to rearrange our living room (even buying new couches) to work with a second hand piano.  No one in the house plays (yet) but we look forward to our kids taking lessons.  For now it is a place to display (and collect dust).

I have also tried to decorate my kids rooms in ways that are special and functional.  

I know that this is not necessary, but I like to do it and they love their rooms.  However, we have not yet decorated our room, which is supposed to be a sanctuary right?  Well, that's on the to do list.

One more thing that I want to share before this gets too long.  Our electrical panel is in our daughter's bedroom and we wanted to cover it in a functional, accessible and attractive way.  We bought a mirror that was the right size and my husband put hinges on it.  
So there is no unsightly electrical panel, yet it is easily accessible.  Great idea right?!

We don't have a large home, and we have to build a garage so we can stop using our relative's garage to store our stuff.  But I think we have made the most of the space and we will be able to live here in comfort for a few more years to come.  It's amazing that when we moved in to our house 6 years ago that we said it would be our 5 year home and now we have no plans to move.  

With a Bushel and a Peck of Hominess,



  1. Wow, you are organized Steph! I have the binder for each kid going too but usually my basket on the phone desk is overflowing and don't get to it as quick as I should. All your rooms look so pretty!

  2. It would seem that way - I try really hard, but of course I live in a real house, with real kids and it is usually more chaotic than I'd like - but at least most things have a home at the end of the day (or when I get to it)