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Mom's on her way in twenty minutes—you have time to scrub the bathroom! And then you glance back at the clock. Not twenty minutes—five. How are you going to make your home feel clean in five minutes? Or, it's organizing time and you're completely stumped. How do you make it look good?
Here are a few suggestions.
1. Use the rainbow.
This is an organizing tip. Our brains, whether it's born in us or something we learn, like color order. We like a system, a gradient, a rainbow. So in organizing clothes (or books, I've seen it!) or other colorful things, sing your preschool rainbow song to yourself and set things straight.
2. Try KonMari folding.
There's a famous and growing method of folding that you can look up online that explains how to fold things (clothes, mostly, but you can extend the principle!) to a standing rectangle and then store them so that they're all accessible. I gotta say it: some of the KonMari stuff is, in my opinion, a little bit of lunacy... but that folding/storage stuff is absolute gold. It makes your drawers, closets, cupboards, etc. seem happier.
3. Store vertically.
Most of us have stuff. Things we use, or want, or haven't gotten rid of yet, that sit on shelves or in drawers. Let me tell you something: if you want the room to feel small and messy, store horizontally all the way around the room. If you want things to feel bright, tidy, and spacious, get a taller set of shelves and look up.
I do it with clothes, books, food, notes... basically anything I want to ever find again. If you want something to seem settled and deliberately placed, put it with other stuff like it. And I don't just mean throw your books in with your books: put them in a specific order. Set aside boxes for each area in your house that the corresponding holiday decorations go in. Put pens in one space and pencils in another. You get the picture!
Okay, this one is a true cleaning tip. I realized it first in the bathroom, but it's true everywhere: to our eyes, a dirty reflective surface feels dirty. Even if it's Windex streaks! If your mirrors, windows, stove, fridge, and shiny door knobs look clean, the whole place will look cleaner.
6. Replace light bulbs.
You know what really helps things look clean? When you can see them. Nothing brightens up a space like light! I know that light bulbs can add up—trust me, I know!—but I also think that if you're committed to a clean feel, a bright light is the way to go.
7. Label everything.
A lot of our stuff is stored in old moving/empty diaper boxes. And that's fine. Cardboard is alright for the time being. But a stack of boxes makes it look like you're moving somewhere. If you want ugly storage to look deliberate (or if you just like knowing what's where), slap a label on it. Just slap it neatly.
8. Deliberate angles and straight lines.
Which reminds me: be consistent about the angle you put things at. If your couch has a pillow and a throw blanket on it, and they're tipped like a drunk skunk, the couch looks dirtier than if the pillow is at a 90- or 45-degree angle (or whatever angle you choose to be consistent with.) If the throw blanket is actually thrown, it looks way sloppier than a blanket with the corners matched up. Don't ask me to explain it, it's just a thing I've noticed.
9. Hide the ugly.
This is terrible life advice, but it's good for cleaning. Your cabinets and closets have doors for a reason. You can stash things away for later organization! That way if your cups get out of order, you can just close the cupboard. If the playroom is a wreck, and you can, just close the door! Sure, it won't work forever, but we're not always worried about forever. This is about now.
I used to think that dusting was a pointless activity. But that was before I had children who a) left trails in dusty surfaces, and b) made things sticky so that dust builds up in those spots. Trust me on this: dust is like the static of things. If you don't want to go crazy "listening to" it, get a cloth and clean it up!
Obviously there are many facets of cleaning. But if you have to start somewhere, make it a place where you can conquer.