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I’m a homemaker. Making and keeping and running our home is a job I actually take pride in.

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to share how we strive to maintain an organized, efficient home with a bunch of local high-school Home-Ec students, earlier this week. They returned to tour our house as a field-trip, yesterday afternoon.

little sister snuck this pic of me sharing with the class, un-napped toddler strapped to my back, whilst playing on my phone. so glamorous.

My friend (the teacher) asked me to share because my 13 years in the real-estate business has provided a unique vantage: Having literally toured thousands of houses over the years has certainly provided insight and objectivity, and helped shape how I make and keep my own home. The good, the bad, and the ugly, many homes I’ve toured have made lasting impressions.***

Ours is certainly not the biggest, fanciest, or most spotless of homes; ours aren’t the floors you can eat off of. It’s more TIDY than CLEAN. Like an optical illusion, it looks clean because it’s not cluttered.

Because we REALLY live in our home, live HARD in our home, it is critical that we run a tight ship. We cook, eat, sleep, play, teach, learn, and work here. Allllll day, every day.

Here are some of the main points that I shared with my new friends:

*This is probably the Realtor in me talking, but I have always felt that you don’t really know someone until you’ve been inside their home. A house is a reflection of those who live there. What does your home say is important to you?

*Less is more. You don’t have to have EVERY pretty thing. Treat your home as your personal cocoon, your calm, serene oasis to retreat to. If your space is visually cluttered and over-stimulating it will often leave those inside it’s walls feeling emotionally or mentally cluttered. (or perhaps that’s just me and my husband?) Especially vital to our home-schooling efforts, deliberately minimizing distractions is essential to providing an environment conducive to learning, and fostering creativity.

*Clean as you go. Everything has a place, never just set things down. Do yourself a favor and take ten extra seconds to put things away as soon as you’re done with them. If your kitchen counters are cluttered with tools and appliances, it’s unlikely you’ll have space to actually use them. Just because you use your blow-dryer daily (ha! I wish.) doesn’t mean it really needs to live on the bathroom countertop. And your curling iron. And your straightener. And your brush and products and makeup and contact solution. Tuck these items away if you have the cabinet space available.

*IF you’re generally home full-time, as I am, earn your downtime. It would be surprisingly easy for me to wile away the hours of each day with buttocks firmly planted in a comfy chair. Reward yourself with that next chapter of your book by emptying the dishwasher. Wait to brew that cup of tea until you’ve re-loaded it. If you walk by the laundry room, go ahead and switch over the loads and make a pile to fold. A sobering reminder: you will NEVER be done with the dishes or laundry (unless you can convince your family to go naked and starve– believe me, I’ve tried). I play mental games like this with myself all the time: “I will sit down and check my email AFTER I fold this pile of laundry.”

*Clean before you leave. For the day, for an hour, or for vacation, there’s nothing like returning to a tidy home. Just think when you leave: Would I be embarrassed if someone came though my house while I was away?

*Utilize a cleaning schedule. That house won’t clean itself… darnit. Delegating regular tasks to a specific day of the week, I avoid having one grueling, oppressive cleaning day.  Monday I dust, Tuesday I vacuum, Wednesday I mop, Thursday I do bathrooms, and Friday I wash sheets. As with the old adage on eating an elephant, bite by bite, it makes the whole process less overwhelming. The jobs are never too big because they are done regularly, and if a day is missed it’s no biggie because I’ll surely get it next week.

Perhaps these tips are obvious to the rest of you, but it took me a few years, and thousands of property tours, to discover for myself; to challenge the practices I blindly followed because my parents always had. Does one REALLY need a pitcher full of dusty cooking utensils adjacent to the stovetop, or are they actually just as accessible in a nearby drawer?

For additional tips gleaned from my glamorous past-life in the real-estate biz, see here and here.

*** Like the house that had a bowl full of red potatoes on the counter, in lieu of fruit. Or the one with the giant suicidal goldfish flopped out onto the kitchen floor. Or the one with the urinal in the man-cave. Or the one with the chandelier in the shower. Or the one with the full-sized tanning bed in master bedroom. Or the one where the home-owner greeted us clad in only tightie-whities.

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