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Systems for household management

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Here's my story. We've been out of town for several months for my husbands work. We arrived home last week and my eyes were opened to the incredible amount of clutter and filth that my family has been living in. I feel terrible about it. I'm realizing that I'm really bad at ordering my household. It's not as though we have dirty diapers lying around but there are cobwebs everywhere, dust on many surfaces that I've simple never dusted, crayons in the crevices, legos behind every piece of furniture, and just way too much stuff. Most of our stuff is sort-of organized but we're short on space so things tumble together. Both dh and I just hate throwing out stuff that might be useful someday. When I walk around with a cold assessment of our situation, I suspect that I have about a month of intense work to climb out of this pit. We're looking at the possibility of leaving the country for 6-9 months within a few months so I really want to get this dealt with before we would leave. I also have a slew of little children. To add insult to injury, I suspect that I'm on the spectrum with some executive function issues.

I've tried fly lady before but it really didn't work for me. I think that I intuitively realized that if I took the advise of focusing on one room each week that I would hyper fixate and the other rooms would fall to pieces before I got back to them. Are there alternative systems out there?

I wonder, how do you all remember to do periodic chores like washing your sheets or mopping the floor? Do you just notice that they're dirty and clean them or do you have a system? I find that when I finally notice that they need washing I'm already preoccupied with some other work and then I don't get to them right away. Then a heap of these sorts of chores pile up on me and I feel like I'm sinking but then I ignore them so that my children actually get educated. I've been thinking of making a calendar and scheduling these sorts of chores alongside the daily chores.

My older children do a fair share of the chores. I'd like to train my little ones to be more help but they're still really little. Dh is really busy and helps out however he can. I don't think that he has a minute more to squeeze out of his day.

Thoughts?

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Instead of the FlyLady, the Sidetracked Home Executives, which is where the FlyLady got her start. You might be able to find the book at your local library.

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I deep cleaned my house last summer.  It took about 6 weeks, but from what I recall, you live in a very tiny cabin (and travel in a bus for a few months? Is that you?). So, it will probably take you a month if the littles don’t distract you too much.

I touched every surface and every item in my home while I cleaned.  Everything.  Took all the pictures down from the walls and cleaned them, and then cleaned the walls.  Cleaned the top of the window frames (hadn’t been done in the 14 years we’d been living there, because it hadn’t dawned on me to clean them).  Everything.  And as I did so, I wrote down all the tasks completed in each room.  Everything.  (Cleaned utensil drawer/dusted top of wardrobe/wiped down walls/etc.)

Then I thought through how often I felt the job should be done (I’m ok with tops of window frames being done once a year).  And I took a number of hours to create my own little charts of what needed to be done when.  (June—window frames.  June and December—dust top of wardrobe.  Every week—wash towels.  Daily—-clean litter boxes. Etc.).

And I broke the charts into jobs that only I could do vs jobs that the boys could do.  And each month, I can look at my own little charts, based on my own house, and based on the skills of my helpers, and I create a to-do list tailored to us.

A lot of work to get started, but once it’s done, you can go on autopilot and tweak as needed.

 

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Home Routines app.  Love it.

 

i tweak it so rather than spending a week in a zone, my zones rotate by day of the week.  I still spend as much time in each zone, just not a week at a time.

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Creating an elaborate system set me up for failure. It was too much work to maintain, especially with the demands of many young children.

I think you should pick one thing and be good at it to begin. Maybe it’s that you always clean the table off entirely, wipe it down, and sweep the floor after the meal and take care of the dishes. Those chores can all be assigned out with you supervising. If that is going well, perhaps it’s that bedrooms are tidied every morning. Build on your success on the big things.

For me, once the basics were down, we introduced a morning (before lunch), afternoon (before dinner) and evening (before bed) tidy where all toys and things out of place were put away. We set a 15 minute timer.

I set aside half an hour after lunch daily to clean on rotation: bathrooms one day, kitchen another, and so on. By going by zones everything got done weekly.

As far as stuff goes—everything that you own has additional ongoing maintenance costs—the time you spend cleaning, organizing, or fussing about it. Don’t undervalue your mental peace. In many ways large families mean that you must own less. 5 items per person out of place quickly overtake a home.

Start with the legos and crayons tomorrow.  Set a 15 minute timer so that you will stay focused on the task at hand. Get them gathered and tuck them away. 

Good luck!

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I have a rotating schedule and when I have time I just do the next thing. It goes - Master Bath, 2nd Bath, Dust, Vacuum and Mop, Kitchen (and often I'll only get to one of these a week, but then I move on to then next one). However, and this is a BIG however, we don't have a lot of stuff, so it's much easier to let things go for a little longer then. We do keep things picked up by all pitching in several times a day. 

My one big daily thing I do every night is run the dishwasher and wash anything that can't go in there. Then I and my kiddo put the dishes away in the morning while waiting for coffee to brew (he does the utensils after he's eaten). 

I read "How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind" by White last year and thought it was really good... I'm not quite in your boat but think it could be an encouragement to you! 

Edited to add: you asked about periodic like washing sheets... I have to put that in my planner, I do laundry on Tues and Friday, on Tuesdays I do one rooms sheets (this means each bed only gets done every 3 weeks but that's good enough for me ? ) 

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In theory I wash sheets on Tuesdays.  In reality since I've had kids and dogs and it's a muddy spring it happens when they get visibly dirty, which is typically more frequent than that. It's amazing how fast kids and dogs can get sheets visibly dirty.

It sounds to me like the most frustrating thing for you is having too much stuff.  You cannot clean clutter.  You can make it more pretty with storage solutions - hiding it in matching baskets, etc.  But first step IMHO is paring down stuff you don't need. If it's something you cannot get rid of in case you might need it in the future, that's fine.  Get some boxes (free from grocery stores, or pay for bankers boxes or matching moving boxes from the UHAUL store or plastic storage totes if you'd rather), and put EVERYTHING you don't love or use right now in boxes in storage. Get it out of your main living area. Label and stack the boxes in the shed or garage or basement or anywhere else, even a rented storage unit.

If you're tight on space a rented storage unit might be the best solution, because when you eventually go back to sort that stuff it will be easier to get rid of if you're paying to store it once a month rather than thinking that you might have to pay for it again in the future. That way it's not simply emotionally fighting the sunk cost fallacy, it's actually costing you money every month to keep the junk. Making it much easier after 3-6 months to just get rid of all but the 2-3 boxes of things you actually miss before you leave for your trip.

Then evaluate what you have still at home.  Give everything a home. If you're not used to things having a home, label the spots.  Seriously, hand label with cheap Avery labels or buy a fancy label maker, it doesn't matter. You just don't want to re-think where things go when kids and husband pull things out and you need to put them away again.  This could be as simple as a garage sale label with a #3 written on the bottom of a thing so your whole family knows without bugging you this item belongs in cabinet #3. 

It's difficult to develop the habit of keeping things in their home, as opposed to the closest horizontal surface when you used it. Create an alarm in your phone and spend 5 minutes 3 times per day putting things in their away until all horizontal surfaces are clear. I'd give it less than 3 weeks before you find it easier to put the stuff away in the first place rather than wait until your 5-minute tidy time. Nagging your family to put things away immediately is more likely to take between 3 months and 3 years after each kid moves out, depending on their personality.

You'll find that cleaning is MUCH easier and faster if you don't have clutter. Instead of spending 3/4 of the time moving around stuff to clean the surfaces underneath, you just get a duster or vacuum out and wipe down the cobwebs and window frames in mere seconds, as well as any other less than pristine surface.  All of which are much easier to notice when everything else is in its place. Without clutter I bet you can clean your whole home to a white glove standard in 1-3 hours, depending on size and frequency.

After you've developed those habits you can make other choices to make cleaning easier. For example, I joined Grove Collaborative to get discounted environmentally safe cleaning products.  I find myself much more motivated to clean with Method's grapefruit spray, which smells great and seems to work better than homemade versions than I do with Windex all-surface, which stinks. I also found a stainless steel spray through them that actually removes fingerprints from appliances. The effectiveness motivates me to actually wipe them down more often. Similarly, I got a cheap cordless knock off Dyson D7 vacuum  from Amazon that I use for cobwebs, dusting high spots or cleaning up random dust bunnies (mostly composed of dog hair at this time of year) which makes it SO much easier and faster than dragging out the huge vacuum that I use once a week.

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Routine.

Every morning:
scrub toilet, wipe out sink - I've learned to keep a stack of cleaning cloths in each bathroom along with a bottle of windex for each. I rotate through the bathrooms all week instead of doing them all at once.

start coffee, empty dishwasher - I'm in the kitchen anyway and waiting for the coffee to finish.

make bed, tidy room, fold laundry from previous day - we all do these chores at the same time in our house.  Since I can tidy quickly I have time to fold things and take them down the hall to the kids still working.

shower, wipe down bath area - if I do a quick squeegee after my shower I don't have to deep clean it as often.

There are routines for after dinner, too, and I do all sheets and towels on the same day each week.  The floors are swept as needed (dining room after each meal by a kid, kitchen after dinner during family tidy, and the rest about once a week)

I have learned I can do anything for 5 minutes, and a lot of things for 10 minutes.  I don't work longer than that.  I can take a room in small bites.  I'm terrible about dusting, but if I focus on just the bookshelf or just collecting and sorting all papers in the room, I can get something accomplished.  If I put on a tv show I'll work during commercials.  Or I challenge myself to do a small square or do 10 things.  I keep a giant box in the upstairs closet to toss things in for donating.  When it gets full, I don't sort.  I call up the charity truck and bag everything in the box. Out it goes to the curb and my box is still there for next time.  And it sounds terrible, but I rate chores based on time.  If it takes me the same amount of time to do a chore each day vs. a chore each week (like sweeping the basement floor), I'm not going to waste my time each day.  That time gets used for things I do need to do in increments to keep up: like wiping the shower.  It's less time for me to run a cloth or squeegee over it for a minute, than to scrub hard water stains off after building up.

The goal is to feel good about the baby steps, because eventually the kids stop making so many messes and they become more permanent.

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8 hours ago, Garga said:

I deep cleaned my house last summer.  It took about 6 weeks, but from what I recall, you live in a very tiny cabin (and travel in a bus for a few months? Is that you?). So, it will probably take you a month if the littles don’t distract you too much.

I touched every surface and every item in my home while I cleaned.  Everything.  Took all the pictures down from the walls and cleaned them, and then cleaned the walls.  Cleaned the top of the window frames (hadn’t been done in the 14 years we’d been living there, because it hadn’t dawned on me to clean them).  Everything.  And as I did so, I wrote down all the tasks completed in each room.  Everything.  (Cleaned utensil drawer/dusted top of wardrobe/wiped down walls/etc.)

Then I thought through how often I felt the job should be done (I’m ok with tops of window frames being done once a year).  And I took a number of hours to create my own little charts of what needed to be done when.  (June—window frames.  June and December—dust top of wardrobe.  Every week—wash towels.  Daily—-clean litter boxes. Etc.).

And I broke the charts into jobs that only I could do vs jobs that the boys could do.  And each month, I can look at my own little charts, based on my own house, and based on the skills of my helpers, and I create a to-do list tailored to us.

A lot of work to get started, but once it’s done, you can go on autopilot and tweak as needed.

 

I love this idea!

I'm going to be spending this summer doing a deep clean of my whole house.  Most systems are completely wrong for our house, our set-up and our lives so the idea of setting up my own is likely to be much more useful. 

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A Slob Comes Clean - free podcasts and blog. If you want to buy her books, they're available in digital form and at least one is on Audible.

Her theory is that once you establish routines, you can conquer clutter and projects.

1. Wash the dishes Run the DW or wash by hand every night. Put away in the morning.

2. Sweep the kitchen floor. 

3. Declutter the bathroom(s).

4. Do a 5 minute pick up. 

 

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1 hour ago, Angie in VA said:

A Slob Comes Clean - free podcasts and blog. If you want to buy her books, they're available in digital form and at least one is on Audible.

Her theory is that once you establish routines, you can conquer clutter and projects.

1. Wash the dishes Run the DW or wash by hand every night. Put away in the morning.

2. Sweep the kitchen floor. 

3. Declutter the bathroom(s).

4. Do a 5 minute pick up. 

 

ITA. Flylady would drive me insane Nony from a Slob Comes Clean spoke more to my personality type. If you have time, go to her blog and go back to start at her very first post. 

Im like Katy with things like sheets and cat boxes and rabbit cages etc. I have a day designated for each, which will sometimes come sooner some weeks and they might be done twice in the name of routine because I’d rather change the cat box twice in a week than do it a few days early and then have it go 10 days the next week. I’ve tried using electronic checklists but have yet to find one I stuck with. I finally shelled out for an Erin Condren lifeplanner last year, bought a bunch of pretty changeable covers and that’s what I’ve used and have actually stuck with to track everything I need to do and check it off. It’s the first time I’ve used a paper planner for more than 3 months simply because I don’t get tired of looking at it! 

I also might be in the minority on this, but as far as chores for children under 5, I say it’s not worth your time for most cases. They take SO much time and oversight and it just adds work for you. If you have one kid that loves to clean, hand them some baby wipes and let them have a go at it, but if they aren’t interested I say wait until they’re 5 for the assigned chores beyond picking up their toys (and I think a lot of them still need direction at that or it’s overwhelmimg where to start). It’s not going to damage their work ethic to wait. We also do the pick up time, but because my kids are pretty little we do 5 minutes instead of 15. They’ll wonder off if it’s too long, but 5 minutes works well. For kids over 5 I’m a fan of the permanent chores that lack remembering who does what. “You do this until I tell you do do something else,” and then there is no arguing over “it’s your week to do dishes!” “ no it’s not it s your week!” Sort of thing because honestly my memory isn’t what it used to be. ? 

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Thanks everyone for your ideas. I knew that getting some advise here would get my mind working and hopefully help me never be at this point again.

 

11 hours ago, Garga said:

I deep cleaned my house last summer.  It took about 6 weeks, but from what I recall, you live in a very tiny cabin (and travel in a bus for a few months? Is that you?). So, it will probably take you a month if the littles don’t distract you too much.

I touched every surface and every item in my home while I cleaned.  Everything.  Took all the pictures down from the walls and cleaned them, and then cleaned the walls.  Cleaned the top of the window frames (hadn’t been done in the 14 years we’d been living there, because it hadn’t dawned on me to clean them).  Everything.  And as I did so, I wrote down all the tasks completed in each room.  Everything.  (Cleaned utensil drawer/dusted top of wardrobe/wiped down walls/etc.)

Then I thought through how often I felt the job should be done (I’m ok with tops of window frames being done once a year).  And I took a number of hours to create my own little charts of what needed to be done when.  (June—window frames.  June and December—dust top of wardrobe.  Every week—wash towels.  Daily—-clean litter boxes. Etc.).

And I broke the charts into jobs that only I could do vs jobs that the boys could do.  And each month, I can look at my own little charts, based on my own house, and based on the skills of my helpers, and I create a to-do list tailored to us.

A lot of work to get started, but once it’s done, you can go on autopilot and tweak as needed.

 

Yeah that was me. We do live in an exceptionally small cabin (~800sq/ft) but we also have a single wide mobile home on our property that acts like a large shed/shop.  I love this idea. I think that it would work for my personality. I'll tweak it a bit. I'm thinking that I might make a chart of all the chores and then list out how frequently they need to be done. Then when I'm home I'll just schedule them at whatever frequency they need to be done. We'll see though. I'm still working through how to handle this. I guess that I should go and get to it. :)

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12 hours ago, rose said:

I wonder, how do you all remember to do periodic chores like washing your sheets or mopping the floor? Do you just notice that they're dirty and clean them or do you have a system?

I don't clean by system and time table; I clean when something is dirty and needs to be cleaned. I sweep the floor when there are crumbs and mop when there are spills or stains that require mopping. And I wash big things like comforters and sheets when it's perfect laundry weather - dry and sunny, so that large items will dry quickly on the clothesline.

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I am currently reading a book that speaks to me, but I have the sense of humor of a 12 y/o boy so it may not work for you. It's called "Unf*ck Your Habitat" by Rachel Hoffman. It recommends NOT doing a giant cleaning marathon, but starting out the way you'll be continuing--short bursts of cleaning followed by a break. There are lists of things to clean and instructions for basic cleaning tasks, and directions like "clean all the sh*t off the top of your nightstand." I like it, many may not. lol

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1 hour ago, regentrude said:

I don't clean by system and time table; I clean when something is dirty and needs to be cleaned. I sweep the floor when there are crumbs and mop when there are spills or stains that require mopping. And I wash big things like comforters and sheets when it's perfect laundry weather - dry and sunny, so that large items will dry quickly on the clothesline.

For some of us, we don't notice the crumbs or the dirt, so that leads to chaos rather quickly. A Slob Comes Clean talks about lacking cleaning intuition, lol. So people like that need rules. 

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The only thing helping me is ADHD medication, lol. I've always known logically that putting something away when done, or doing someone "now" versus a nebulous "later" is better, but only on meds is that actually happening. It's kind of amazing, actually. Even better, after being able to do that all day (yay medication) the habit is starting to carry over to the end of the day, even when the medication is worn off. 

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The ToDoist app is very helpful for me. I've told it to tell me to make sure DS changes his sheets on Saturdays and lo, he has clean sheets every Saturday night. And so on. And you can schedule appointments at a specific time, and prioritize chores by giving them importance ranks of 1-4 (or none). Then as long as I look at the app, I have a good idea what ought to be done. You cross things off when they're finished and they disappear. (If it doesn't get done, it's easy to move it to tomorrow or another day.)

Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is a decluttering system that can work well--it did for my clothes, for example. Libraries have it and it's a quick read.

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7 hours ago, Ktgrok said:

For some of us, we don't notice the crumbs or the dirt, so that leads to chaos rather quickly. A Slob Comes Clean talks about lacking cleaning intuition, lol. So people like that need rules. 

I don't even get how it would work.  I look around my bedroom and I see, dust on the ceiling fan, fingerprints on the glass mirror doors, a stain on the quilt cover, milipedes that have come on the floor overnight, a pile of dhs clothes that may be clean or dirty and a washing pile that is double the height of the washing basket.  That's just one room of my house! As I take the quilt cover to laundry I walk through three more rooms all with similar levels of dirt!  If I deal with it my kids will be getting educated by minecraft and YouTube.  My house generates more cleaning in a day than I can do so having a system at least means some of it gets done...

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13 hours ago, Ausmumof3 said:

I don't even get how it would work.  I look around my bedroom and I see, dust on the ceiling fan, fingerprints on the glass mirror doors, a stain on the quilt cover, milipedes that have come on the floor overnight, a pile of dhs clothes that may be clean or dirty and a washing pile that is double the height of the washing basket.  That's just one room of my house! As I take the quilt cover to laundry I walk through three more rooms all with similar levels of dirt!  If I deal with it my kids will be getting educated by minecraft and YouTube.  My house generates more cleaning in a day than I can do so having a system at least means some of it gets done...

Oh wow. Thankyou for actually saying this. You described just how my place is right now and I didn't know anyone felt like I do when looking around their house. 

And I agree....doing what needs to be done would never work for me because there is just TOO MUCH. 

A system is seriously required!!

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3 hours ago, LindaOz said:

Oh wow. Thankyou for actually saying this. You described just how my place is right now and I didn't know anyone felt like I do when looking around their house. 

And I agree....doing what needs to be done would never work for me because there is just TOO MUCH. 

A system is seriously required!!

 

My ds13 was commenting that we have too much stuff, and his tone was slightly accusatory as if the reason we have so much stuff is my fault.  Um...no.  

I didn’t react to the accusatory tone, but we walked around and I cheerfully told him how each room would look if I lived alone and only had the stuff in it that I wanted/used.  Turns out, I use only about 1/6 of the stuff in the house.  There are 4 of us, but I use less than 1/4 of the stuff.  If it was just me, a bunch of stuff would be carted away, and three rooms could be chopped off the house.  

I have already decluttered everything that I can.  The rest of any decluttering to be done is up to the other people in the house.  

Meanwhile, I’m sorta in charge of keeping up with things, just because I’m the adult in the house all day long.  Fortunately, my dh likes to putter around tidying, so it doesn’t fall entirely on my shoulders, which would make me feel resentful.  The boys don’t like cleaning, though.  So....routines and charts and to-do lists and I have to spur them into action to get things done.  Blah.  : )

 

Then again...just today ds13 left his lunch fixings on the counter and I was thinking I’d have to track him down to tidy them up, but after he finished eating, he came back and cleaned it all up, unprompted.  So, things are looking up!

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I just downsized by 50% and will move into my new home on Sunday, so deciding what to get rid of and what to keep has been my life for a couple of months now.  I've become more and more minimalist in the last 5-7 years.

Clutter is going to be tougher to deal with for you with your age spread and number of kids, but you can't really clean a house that's cluttered.  Remember that all of our greatgrandparents likely had a a happy houseful of half a dozen or more  kids who grew up to be lovely people with only a fraction of the material possessions you probably have.  (I say that assuming you have as much stuff per person as the typical American. )

First, I would address the mindset:

I would start by acknowledging that every made object could potentially be useful because it was designed for some sort of use, but that's not useful thinking in a decluttering situation, so it's time to put that mindset aside. The question is: Is it useful enough to my individual situation that it's worthy of my time, energy, and space? Time, energy, and space are incredibly valuable. If it doesn't rise to that level, it should be made useful to someone else by donating it to charity or selling it used.  (Facebook Marketplace is amazingly easy to use!)

There are very different kinds of value, and being aware of them can help:
Sentimental Value: warm feelings/memories triggered by an item
Use Value: how frequently the item is actually used (Not to be confused with how frequently the item could theoretically be used in the possible future.)
Monetary Value: how much money someone is currently willing to pay you to buy that item from you. (This is not to be confused with the original purchase price or a list price. The original purchase price is completely irrelevant when assessing how much an item is currently worth.)

In a situation with the ongoing issue of limited space and lots of hands on parenting of littles, I would prioritize use value above all else.  It just doesn't sound like you have the luxury of time, space, and energy to spend on an item that hasn't already been proven to be extremely useful to you.  You can look into what the current, actual resale value is on items in your area, but be realistic.  The resale value is what people are paying to buy them, not what are they listed for. There's a difference, so pay attention to that.
Most people over estimate how much someone is actually willing to pay for those "valuable" unused items. Check FB Marketplace, Craig's List, Ebay and maybe a resale shop or two to get a solid idea of resale value.

If they do have some resale value, remember that we have a currency system, not a barter system.  If someone is willing to pay you $75 in cash for that dresser you haven't been using for year or more, you can sell it and put that money aside in an account and buy any type of goods or services you actually do end up needing in the future.  You can only use a dresser for dresser purposes, and if you're wrong about needing the dresser in the future, you have lost $75 cash you could've sold it for, you've lost usable square footage for something you really could have used, you've lost precious time and energy cleaning a useless item, and you lost the daily peace that comes from living in a clutter free environment.  Consider that with each item.  We are currently in a glut of stuff flooding into resale shops from The Greatest Generation and older Baby Boomers going into care.  If you desperately need a dresser in the future, you can pick one up for free and up to around $75 around here because I just sold one very ornate one. 

If you're keeping sentimental items as memory triggers, but don't actually use them for their intended purposes, then you can take digital photos of the items, upload them to an online photo book business like Shutterfly or whatever the kids are using these days, use the automatic setting to place them in the order they were uploaded, and have them print and ship the book to you.  Last time I looked it was $30-$40 which is a great deal for keeping memory triggers in an efficient format and keeping your space clutter free.  There are other options to add captions to each pic which you could do, but if you just need to image to remember, it's easier to do the automatic thing.

That doesn't mean you have to get rid of every sentimental item, but your space is incredibly limited, so keep the sentimental items limited to a contained space.  I have a cedar chest for that.  Once it's full I have to take items out before I can put new items in.  It's a good way to cull stuff over the years.  Five, ten, fifteen years out some things aren't as important as some of the others, so it's easier to let them go.

When you're on the fence, an essentialist would tell you it's either Hell Yes! or No. 

Next I was address redundancies

Prioritize items that do more than one job, avoid items that only serve one purpose.  Some examples: one cleanser that can clean multiple surfaces is better than several cleansers that each clean one kind of surface.  One top that can be worn with casual shorts, dress casual pants, and a dressier skirt you already own and regularly wear is far better than a top that only goes with one skirt that you own.   One set of dishes with a seasonless design is better than the Christmas dish set plus the every day dish set.  At Christmas use the seasonless ones at Christmas dinner and buy some cheap cut fresh flowers in red and white at the grocery store or maybe a red table runner which takes up little space.  I pay $4 for a grower's bunch, so when the 25-30 people are at my house for Christmas or Thanksgiving, I have out my plates in white with silver trim, white table clothes, and 3-4 grower's bunches in seasonal colors for decor. I can't reuse the flowers, but they're very inexpensive and I don't have to store them.

Avoid very similar items.  Yes, kids like to color and draw, but you don't need crayons, colored pencils, scented markers, and gel pens.  Pick one or two of those and say no to the rest.  Don't let any come into your house later until you've used those up.  Same with paints.  You don't need watercolors, oils, tempera, etc. Stick with one-whichever one is easiest for your situation and say no to the rest.  A set of plastic drinking glasses for littles plus a set of clear glass ones for everyone else including guests and the littles when they get older is plenty.  Have a few extras to replace those that break.  You don't need large drinking glasses, small juice glasses, tumbler glasses, plastic cups from the movie theater, beer pint glasses, plastic tumblers, etc. yet a shocking number of people do.  Cabinet space is valuable so having clear tall glass drinking glasses that work for every day plus holiday meals are all you really need. 

I schedule daily, weekly, and monthly chores around our activities schedule and stick to it. It's so much easier to just do it regularly than it is to dig out from under the pile up.  We have a regular chore time each weekday after school.  When we're on a break it's part of the morning routine. Chores are assigned for the month and rotate them between mom and kids 6+ years old. Kids 4-5 are Mom's assistants in training, and it is training.  I explain what to do and demonstrate by doing half of it.  Then the preschooler does the other half under my supervision. I have them redo it until it's acceptable if necessary. I'm a very big believer that one of the most important life skills is being at peace with doing things you don't want/like to do, so there's no dividing the chores based on personal preference as the norm around here.

We divided the chores with the kids involved.  In my situation 3 kids + mom means 4 chore lists that rotate each month.  (My husband works 10+ hours a day and pays for lawn service and does his own laundry.) I wrote one chore on each notecard, daily chores on one color and weekly chores on another color, and told the kids they needed to decide how these could be equitably divided into 4 lists and to remember that they would have to do each of the 4 chore lists over the course of 4 months, so really think it through.  I made actual lists of what they came up with.  They can go in a plastic sheet protector or get laminated and you can use a wet erase marker to write the kids' names on them at the beginning of the month.  At the next month just rotate the names.

Each day there are daily chores to do like putting away the stuff you got out, loading/unloading dishwasher, cleaning the kitchen after meals, pet care, etc. plus each weekday there is one weekly chore for each person to do like vacuuming, mopping, laundry, and cleaning bathrooms, etc.   I look at the schedule of activities on my desk calendar on the fridge (I cut off the cardboard back and hang it with really strong magnets)  and consider how much time we have each afternoon.  Chores are done after school just as regularly as school. It's worked out that each person just does one weekly chore on weekdays we don't have an activity (usually 3 weekdays.)  It's usually done in less than an hour, but an hour of chores 3 days a week is nothing.  I know, I grew up on a farm. The odd monthly chore is usually done on Saturday.  So on weekends we usually just do daily chores.  The advantage to doing weekly chores during the week is that they can be done in an order that leaves the house company ready at 4pm on Fridays. If people come over on the weekends I just have to do a meal.  Easy. If people don't come over, I just relax.  Even easier.

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3 hours ago, Homeschool Mom in AZ said:

I just downsized by 50% and will move into my new home on Sunday, so deciding what to get rid of and what to keep has been my life for a couple of months now.  I've become more and more minimalist in the last 5-7 years.

Clutter is going to be tougher to deal with for you with your age spread and number of kids, but you can't really clean a house that's cluttered.  Remember that all of our greatgrandparents likely had a a happy houseful of half a dozen or more  kids who grew up to be lovely people with only a fraction of the material possessions you probably have.  (I say that assuming you have as much stuff per person as the typical American. )

First, I would address the mindset:

I would start by acknowledging that every made object could potentially be useful because it was designed for some sort of use, but that's not useful thinking in a decluttering situation, so it's time to put that mindset aside. The question is: Is it useful enough to my individual situation that it's worthy of my time, energy, and space? Time, energy, and space are incredibly valuable. If it doesn't rise to that level, it should be made useful to someone else by donating it to charity or selling it used.  (Facebook Marketplace is amazingly easy to use!)

There are very different kinds of value, and being aware of them can help:
Sentimental Value: warm feelings/memories triggered by an item
Use Value: how frequently the item is actually used (Not to be confused with how frequently the item could theoretically be used in the possible future.)
Monetary Value: how much money someone is currently willing to pay you to buy that item from you. (This is not to be confused with the original purchase price or a list price. The original purchase price is completely irrelevant when assessing how much an item is currently worth.)

In a situation with the ongoing issue of limited space and lots of hands on parenting of littles, I would prioritize use value above all else.  It just doesn't sound like you have the luxury of time, space, and energy to spend on an item that hasn't already been proven to be extremely useful to you.  You can look into what the current, actual resale value is on items in your area, but be realistic.  The resale value is what people are paying to buy them, not what are they listed for. There's a difference, so pay attention to that.
Most people over estimate how much someone is actually willing to pay for those "valuable" unused items. Check FB Marketplace, Craig's List, Ebay and maybe a resale shop or two to get a solid idea of resale value.

If they do have some resale value, remember that we have a currency system, not a barter system.  If someone is willing to pay you $75 in cash for that dresser you haven't been using for year or more, you can sell it and put that money aside in an account and buy any type of goods or services you actually do end up needing in the future.  You can only use a dresser for dresser purposes, and if you're wrong about needing the dresser in the future, you have lost $75 cash you could've sold it for, you've lost usable square footage for something you really could have used, you've lost precious time and energy cleaning a useless item, and you lost the daily peace that comes from living in a clutter free environment.  Consider that with each item.  We are currently in a glut of stuff flooding into resale shops from The Greatest Generation and older Baby Boomers going into care.  If you desperately need a dresser in the future, you can pick one up for free and up to around $75 around here because I just sold one very ornate one. 

If you're keeping sentimental items as memory triggers, but don't actually use them for their intended purposes, then you can take digital photos of the items, upload them to an online photo book business like Shutterfly or whatever the kids are using these days, use the automatic setting to place them in the order they were uploaded, and have them print and ship the book to you.  Last time I looked it was $30-$40 which is a great deal for keeping memory triggers in an efficient format and keeping your space clutter free.  There are other options to add captions to each pic which you could do, but if you just need to image to remember, it's easier to do the automatic thing.

That doesn't mean you have to get rid of every sentimental item, but your space is incredibly limited, so keep the sentimental items limited to a contained space.  I have a cedar chest for that.  Once it's full I have to take items out before I can put new items in.  It's a good way to cull stuff over the years.  Five, ten, fifteen years out some things aren't as important as some of the others, so it's easier to let them go.

When you're on the fence, an essentialist would tell you it's either Hell Yes! or No. 

Next I was address redundancies

Prioritize items that do more than one job, avoid items that only serve one purpose.  Some examples: one cleanser that can clean multiple surfaces is better than several cleansers that each clean one kind of surface.  One top that can be worn with casual shorts, dress casual pants, and a dressier skirt you already own and regularly wear is far better than a top that only goes with one skirt that you own.   One set of dishes with a seasonless design is better than the Christmas dish set plus the every day dish set.  At Christmas use the seasonless ones at Christmas dinner and buy some cheap cut fresh flowers in red and white at the grocery store or maybe a red table runner which takes up little space.  I pay $4 for a grower's bunch, so when the 25-30 people are at my house for Christmas or Thanksgiving, I have out my plates in white with silver trim, white table clothes, and 3-4 grower's bunches in seasonal colors for decor. I can't reuse the flowers, but they're very inexpensive and I don't have to store them.

Avoid very similar items.  Yes, kids like to color and draw, but you don't need crayons, colored pencils, scented markers, and gel pens.  Pick one or two of those and say no to the rest.  Don't let any come into your house later until you've used those up.  Same with paints.  You don't need watercolors, oils, tempera, etc. Stick with one-whichever one is easiest for your situation and say no to the rest.  A set of plastic drinking glasses for littles plus a set of clear glass ones for everyone else including guests and the littles when they get older is plenty.  Have a few extras to replace those that break.  You don't need large drinking glasses, small juice glasses, tumbler glasses, plastic cups from the movie theater, beer pint glasses, plastic tumblers, etc. yet a shocking number of people do.  Cabinet space is valuable so having clear tall glass drinking glasses that work for every day plus holiday meals are all you really need. 

I schedule daily, weekly, and monthly chores around our activities schedule and stick to it. It's so much easier to just do it regularly than it is to dig out from under the pile up.  We have a regular chore time each weekday after school.  When we're on a break it's part of the morning routine. Chores are assigned for the month and rotate them between mom and kids 6+ years old. Kids 4-5 are Mom's assistants in training, and it is training.  I explain what to do and demonstrate by doing half of it.  Then the preschooler does the other half under my supervision. I have them redo it until it's acceptable if necessary. I'm a very big believer that one of the most important life skills is being at peace with doing things you don't want/like to do, so there's no dividing the chores based on personal preference as the norm around here.

We divided the chores with the kids involved.  In my situation 3 kids + mom means 4 chore lists that rotate each month.  (My husband works 10+ hours a day and pays for lawn service and does his own laundry.) I wrote one chore on each notecard, daily chores on one color and weekly chores on another color, and told the kids they needed to decide how these could be equitably divided into 4 lists and to remember that they would have to do each of the 4 chore lists over the course of 4 months, so really think it through.  I made actual lists of what they came up with.  They can go in a plastic sheet protector or get laminated and you can use a wet erase marker to write the kids' names on them at the beginning of the month.  At the next month just rotate the names.

Each day there are daily chores to do like putting away the stuff you got out, loading/unloading dishwasher, cleaning the kitchen after meals, pet care, etc. plus each weekday there is one weekly chore for each person to do like vacuuming, mopping, laundry, and cleaning bathrooms, etc.   I look at the schedule of activities on my desk calendar on the fridge (I cut off the cardboard back and hang it with really strong magnets)  and consider how much time we have each afternoon.  Chores are done after school just as regularly as school. It's worked out that each person just does one weekly chore on weekdays we don't have an activity (usually 3 weekdays.)  It's usually done in less than an hour, but an hour of chores 3 days a week is nothing.  I know, I grew up on a farm. The odd monthly chore is usually done on Saturday.  So on weekends we usually just do daily chores.  The advantage to doing weekly chores during the week is that they can be done in an order that leaves the house company ready at 4pm on Fridays. If people come over on the weekends I just have to do a meal.  Easy. If people don't come over, I just relax.  Even easier.

Thanks for writing all of this out. Some of it really spoke to me. I think that alot of my clutter is items with a lot of use value but I have way too much redundancy. I just tackled our tremendous shoe pile. My ds15 built me some shelves. We hauled them all out into the yard and then did a big sort out. We probably had 200-300 pairs of footwear. I'm sure we have more shoes then our local thrift store! We took a picture. I'll upload it later. I pared it back to one pair of sandals, one pair of mud boots, one pair of sneakers and one pair of snow boots for each size. Gender neutral was favoured. Occasionally I kept a pair for each gender. They're now in nice rows on the shelves in storage. The rest is in boxes, ready for the yard sale. Then they'll fill up the thrift store.

I think that the source of some of this problem, at least for us, has been that it been years of accumulation and much travelling. When we travel, things break or children grow out of things like shoes and then we buy new ones. When we get home I don't manage to get into the storage to see if we now have redundancy. We also do far too much thrift store shopping. When I find something that this is better than what I'm currently using I pick it up with the intention of getting rid of the old one but then I don't get around to it. That's why I now have five sewing machines. It's really quite stupid. I could probably also outfit two or three kitchens simultaneously. I'll get to the bottom of this. It's just going to take me a long time. I'm excited for the yard sale. I feel so determined to change this. I WILL!

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