Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The House the un-Cleans Itself

You are familiar with barnacles, right? They are those strange sea creatures that attach themselves to rocks on the ocean shores. You can see them when the tide goes out and there they cling to every surface they can find. I have them in my house. Not sea creatures, but stuff, stuff, and more stuff. When the whirling tide of family life resends for a moment, "clutter barnacles" can be seen on all available horizontal space. If there is a shelf by the back door to set something on, stuff will get set there. The top of the piano, the mantle, the dining room table, the desk in the kitchen, the top of the hutch.... these are my trouble spot.

I wish I could tell you there is an easy fix. If only there was some 76 step process that would rid us all of clutter barnacles for good. I've done the research, my children have added their stuff to mine to help with my experiments and I've discovered only one universal, frustrating, tiring solution: clutter requires constant tidying and pick-up.

Having a place for everything and everything in its place is a huge step in the right direction. I've talked about "The House That Cleans Itself" before and I love the book for all its organizational genius. I followed the principles in the book last year and Jeff built a shelf for the back entry. It is just what we needed for the spot and I'm not sure how we functioned without it.

My house has been cleaner and tidier lately and not because I figured out how to add more time to my day. I simply figured out how to be more productive with the time I have. The Motivated Moms Checklist has made all the difference. I highly, highly, highly recommend it. I'll write a whole post on it at another time because it has changed my life. I'm not even being overly dramatic. Truly. Changed. My. Life. For the better.

But I still have barnacles. It is constant and I think it is totally normal for a family to have clutter. But I'm working on my organizational methods so that tidying up isn't stressful, painful, frustrating, and tiring.

Trouble Spot #456:


This is the highest barnacle shelf in my home: the top of the hutch in the dining room. It is pretty much the only place that my really agile children with their go-go gadget arms and scaling devices cannot reach.

You are looking at everything I don't want them to touch without direct supervision:

  • Play Doh. Otherwise known as let's-get-the-150-piece-set-out-and-make-a-huge-mess-and-be-entertained-for-less-than-2.46-minutes.

  • Beads. Who's crazy idea was it to think beads were a fantastic craft project for preschoolers? I think that was me because I knew the girls would love them. I was right, both girls LOVE threading beads onto ribbons. Then, Mandy usually gets bored first and all the beads end up on the floor where I chase said beads around with the broom.

  • The "washable" markers that aren't actually washable. Everyone is so concerned about lead paint on toys these days. Well, someone should really start lobbying against faulty marker labeling. We have 2 sets of markers in our home labeled "washable" that are anything but. I have the marked up table, floor, and walls, and couch to prove it. It does seem to wear off children's skin within a few days. And that is the good news.

  • Puzzles, puzzles, and more puzzles. Puzzles are a great source of entertainment. I just need to know the who, what, when, and where of all puzzle activities. Unsupervised puzzle-ing ends up with 19 pieces missing out of each box hidden somewhere with all the missing sock mates and then there was Georgia and Wisconsin from the the US puzzle that went through the wash. Hence, all the puzzles park on top of the hutch.

  • Various other "supervision required" items.

My natural instinct says that nothing should be on top of the hutch. Mmm. *Insert dreamy, wistful look*. That would look so nice and clutter free. It should stay un-cluttered. Yes, yes it should. But it will not.  Experience has made me smarter. If I found a new location for everything, it would look nice for a few days, until I needed to get the "needs supervision" items out of reach again.

What was necessary was something to contain the items that I know will end up there anyway. Plus, I wanted the containers to be easily accessible when I was supervising their use at the table. They should be pretty to look at too because it is necessary for balance in my life. I'm weird that way. Function must be accompanied by form. I was willing to spend a few dollars. Do I need to remind you of how terrible it looked before?


Emma actually stumbled on the perfect containers. I was looking for baskets, but they were too expensive. The dollar store had a lot of $1 quality items. Emma saw some large bowls and said, "Look mom, these would be perfect." And they were. Watch out, this girl has an eye for design and she's only 5 years old.

She found the perfect thing at Wal-Mart. Plastic (function) and a beautiful red (form) and the price was $1.50 each.


I organized the top of the hutch during the children's rest time. For those of you curious about whether Emma still naps, no, she usually does not sleep. But every single day she rests quietly at the same time as Mandy and Remington. Some women run marathons as a major accomplishment in their lives; I get three children sleeping/resting at the same time every day. That is my major accomplishment.


Oh, the dreaded markers. Washable, my %^#$&^@. Crayola's Color Wonder markers are a fabulous scam idea if you want to continually invest in the special color books and paper. In the meantime, I now closely watch the girls with their "washable" markers.

The result is a very practical containment system that is still out of reach. Plus, it looks nice and tidy too.


Being organized feels so good!



Sherri said...

Hurray for Emma!And her mama!

Dan & Hillary said...

The top of my tall bookcase has one LOUD robot, a handful of a/c adapters (yes, these are Russell's toys), a bag of 101 alphabet magnets and a 3'x5' puzzle. I've stashed the 'washable' markers so well I don't remember where they are! Emma can come help me organize:-)

Sara said...

Great idea, Emma! Maybe she can come help organize my house someday... =)

Season said...

It actually looks really good! I was skeptical when you said "round" bowl but it looks great and easy to grab and put away. I might just completely copy you because I have 2 of these hutches that collect the things that need to be up. I'm very inspired. I wish you would get inspired so I could finish MY dining room too!

Anonymous said...

Way to go Alysun! I agree that containers for specific toys works! Rotating toys helps with clutter. I prefer to keep most of them in the basement. It helps to have a goodwill/charity box and always be adding things to it to keep down unnecessary clutter. Keep it up with your winning ideas. Jenni B

Kellie said...

Looks great! I keep the candy bowl on top of our hutch since if it's on the counter the kids WILL find a way to sneak several pieces before I discover them. The playdough, ALL markers (I don't care if they say they're washable or not...the labels lie), and any other messy craft project items (glitter, glue) are kept in the top of the kids' closet. I moved it all into a tupperware up there right after Grace painted my inlaws guest room. You can never be too careful in where you store paint.

James & Joelle said...

Impressive and inspiring. Delightful as always. Thanks for sharing!

Joelle said...

It looks great! I also agree that the Motivated Moms list is fabulous. Thanks for getting me onto that.

joyq said...

Fine! I will clean some things up! *overly sensitive subject, considering I am 3 feet deep in toys right now.* I might just get all the kids and photo albums and move. It might be worth it at this point!

jayne said...

wow, inspiration. Do you want to come over... :)

Andee said...

Great job to you and your lovely assistant. Never would have thought of bowls. It looks great!

Cathy said...

Way ta go, Emma! Love the red bowl look!

Sarah D. said...

Talk with Janelle about truly washable markers. She told me about them and didn't mention the brand. :)
Love the top of the hutch.