Clutter & chaos is spoiling my family life - any advice please

(66 Posts)
Jemster Mon 11-Jan-16 17:57:33

I feel like my life is out of control due to the chaos & clutter in our home. It 's starting to affect my mood now as I feel like when I'm not at work all I do is tidy up, move things around & moan at everyone else for leaving a trail of destruction behind them. I am tired, grumpy & miserable! I've spent the whole weekend trying to get on top of things including a stack of admin & finances that I never seem to have time for.

My dc's are 8 & 3 and don't have a clue about keeping things tidy which of course they have probably learnt from me. DH is very good at keeping the kitchen clean & tidy & doing washing/ironing but even then there is a constant mountain of it pouring out of the laundry basket. It just never seems to go down! He is not keen on DIY so if things need fixing they often stay that way for ages which doesn't help.

Me & DH decide over Christmas that we need some house rules to help us get things in order & to get them to respect their things & our home more.
First though I think we need to sort things out so there is some kind of organisation but I don't know where to start. I usually start one thing & then I get distracted by another area or go off somewhere and never finish what I started! If I'm not at work I'm looking after a very demanding 3 year old so it's impossible to get much done.

We often end up buying things we already have as we can't find them so we're wasting money too. We have had arguments about where things are that we can't find and we are often late for things because of this.

I have bought several books on decluttering but never get a chance to read them so now they just add to the clutter!

I really want to sort this out but it doesn't come naturally to me so I wondered if anyone could give me some advice please? Our home doesn't feel very happy right now so I'd appreciate any suggestions.

BloodyDogHairs Mon 11-Jan-16 18:00:50

I'd start by hiring a skip and going thru every room, chuck anything that is not needed/never played with. Routines are so much easier if you live clutter free.

littlewoollypervert Mon 11-Jan-16 18:06:38

The January Cure on Apartment Therapy is useful - I did it last year, and am doing it again this year. You get an email a day with a small task, and a bigger weekend assignment.

I didn't realise till I did it again this year that the first time gave me some permanent new (and good!) habits round the house. So there's much less work in it this time round.

I believe Flyladyis good too.

Also check out the Marie Kondo threads on Mumsnet - I'm still waiting for the book from the library, but picked up loads of tips from the threads.

yomellamoHelly Tue 12-Jan-16 05:58:39

For me it was getting stuck into the decluttering / organising in the kitchen. (MIL had unpacked that area when we moved in several years previously and dh does most of the cooking for him and me so very much felt like his area.)
It's then gradually spread out from there. (Book I feel most afinity to has you spending a month in each area of your house sorting it out so that by then end of the year you've done the whole lot.)
Am three years in and am nearly there (very much working at my own pace!) and really quite pleased with where I am. Things I have left are the really tricky bits for me (memorabilia / dh's memorabilia / photos / childrens' momentoes), but I think I'm ready to tackle them soon.
Have very much gone down the organizing areas by task at the same time. So admin area, homework station, launch pad, trying to keep everything related to that person in their room (Kondo style) ..... Was always losing my keys and tracking round the house looking for my stuff before we could leave the house which was really frustrating. etc ...... Not necessarily the prettiest way of arranging your home, but very practical when life just keeps chucking itself at you.
Found my hard work has really helped as we've worked on the house as I've known what I need to do to get that area working for me which has kind of reinforced what I've done.

Know others will send you to the Kondo threads. Depends what chimes with you I guess.

NateGreen Tue 12-Jan-16 10:48:34

I would start with decluttering first. Throw everything, and I mean everything, that you don't use or use in extremely rare cases (you can always borrow stuff from friends and family).
Starting clean is always the best way to incorporate some house rules. Bear in mind, though, that you'll have struggles teaching the kids these rules. I suggest you reading the first chapter of "7 Habits of Highly Effective People", the author had similar struggles with his kids and you may get some ideas from the book on that matter.
When I was little, I was horrible at keeping my room clean, but the fact that the other part of the house was always spotless learned me to appreciate tidiness after all, and now, as a grown-up, I can't stand piles of clothes and dirty dishes and I have a strict cleaning routine.

Reading books on decluttering won't help you much, except making you more anxious about the mess in your home and the fact that you are unable to do much about it. Cleaning is like working (some types of jobs) - unpleasant and time-consuming, but necessary. You just have to do it, that's all.

You can get help with decluttering for the first time, especially if you can't devote your whole concentration to the task and you get distracted. So yes, professional help might be best in your particular case. For my yearly spring cleaning, I book these guys that do cleaning services in London ( www.atozcleaning.co.uk/ ). I prepare a thorough list with all the cleaning that needs to be done and let them work with it while I do my thing.

ilovetosleep Tue 12-Jan-16 14:20:28

Are you me? My DH is great at the kitchen too, and washing, but doesn't understand my fear of embarking something as epic as The Big Tidy Up. I actually get palpitations thinking about where to start. Its easy for people to say 'chuck stuff out' but where the hell to start? I am doing the January Cure too which is nice a bite sized, and also I have found giving myself small managable tasks really helps my motivation and sense of acheivement, even if the house on the surface doesn't look much different yet. Eg a few days after christmas I did a huge clothes cull. Didn't even say to myself that I'd tidy the bedroom, just the hanging stuff in the wardrobe. Completely cleared it out - felt so good and made me realise chucking stuff out isn't that scary. Next few days I did box by box in the playroom (expedit storage), 10 mins here, 10 mins there, managed to chuck out loads and make space for new toys. I'm on a bit of a roll and since starting have also done underwear drawer, larder, under DCs bed, a lounge cubpoard and this afternoon am doing the tupperware cupboard in the kitchen (yikes).

So my advice is start small. one little thing at a time. It feels so much more manageable and don't expect a house transformation over night, I think it will be a few months that I start to see a real difference in our living space.

As for day to day jobs, DH can keep doing the kitchen! I am starting an easy daily routine of putting one wash on while DC2 naps and putting a basket of clean clothes away while the DCs bath. Other than that I agree that the house needs sorting out before routines and rotas come into play.

nilbyname Tue 12-Jan-16 14:25:06

Start small
Be thorough
Once it's been organised/tidied keep it that way.

If you have the ££ get a cleaner. It forces you be tidy as most cleaners clean and need a house to be tidy.

PicnicPie Tue 12-Jan-16 16:13:04

Take it one room/area at a time so you don't get overwhelmed. Just remember it will be work in progress for a while.

What worked for me was finding a place for everything. From where to store spare toilet roll to where to keep say, the children's nail cutter.
Once everything has a home it become so much easier to keep on top of and manage daily. Before I buy things now I think: do I need it? Do I have it? Where will I store it?
For me life with two toddlers is so chaotic that we ended up like you - arguing over where something is and then not finding it and getting late. So this has worked for us.

specialsubject Tue 12-Jan-16 16:19:02

eat the elephant one step at a time

easy stuff first: finished having kids? In which case everything outgrown GOES. Charity shop, clothes recycling, whatever. If more kids are planned, think hard, very hard about what you need to keep.

stop buying books. Especially ones about decluttering! Stop buying anything, in fact, except food and essential clothing/household items.

set all paperwork to online only. As soon as it comes in; envelopes in the recycling, anything unwanted straight in the shedder.

3 is not too young to put toys away. Make a place for them to go. 8 is definitely not too young.

why so much ironing? One work shirt a day for each of you, that's it. Kids clothing doesn't need ironing.

make a task list once kids are in bed; in small chunks (e.g. 'empty filing tray'). Then when one of you takes the kids out at the weekend, the other does that. Boring for a while but once its done, it's done.

LeaLeander Tue 12-Jan-16 16:25:11

Can you get someone in to watch the child while you work on decluttering? Or, take turns with your spouse? I know what you mean about getting sidetracked; you must be able to concentrate for at least a few hours a week to get on top of this.

Getting rid of a lot of stuff will help. As others have said, stop buying! Even food for a while if you can possibly eat out of your pantry and freezer no matter how weird the meals may be. Stopping the habit of purchasing/obtaining things as a problem-solver is crucial. "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without" for the next couple of months at least, though I live by that maxim every day.

Do not buy storage containers/systems until you honestly get rid of everything you can.

Most of my dresser drawers are only 1/4 full now, for example - I used to have overflowing drawers and plastic tubs of excess clothing. yes my wardrobe is limited and repetative but who cares? I don't as I have so much more time now for reading, gardening, doing fun things on weekends etc. Same in other areas of the home.

LovelyFriend Tue 12-Jan-16 16:57:58

Like most of us, most of your problems will be caused by owning too much stuff.

Think about it, we buy stuff all the time. The success of our entire (capitalist based) society depends on us buying stuff - it's drummed into us at every turn. But there is no similar outgoing mechanism, so we collect more and more stuff and our homes get filled up very quickly.
Add a couple of DC to this and things can get rapidly exponential.

We also get very attached to stuff and then we don't want to "waste things".
And all this stuff starts to make us feel claustrophobic and burdened and unhappy.

Reading books such as Marie Kondo (bonkers but essentially spot on about so many things)

The antidote, the cure, is stuff must go. You can organise your possessions all you want but still your mess/clutter etc will not be cured until you have less stuff.

Focus on making that mental leap - get that point, really really get it. THEN start shedding and stop buying.

Eventually you get to a place where everything has a place. So you have a place to keep tape - sellotape, masking tape, packaging tape etc. So instead of having 20 different lost rolls of tape, you have 3 rolls of the kind of tape you use, kept where you know you can find it. And when one roll runs out, you replace it.

Also aim for EVERYTHING, and I mean everything, having a "home" - it's own space in your home. If there is no space for an item to live then clearly the item has no place in your home and must go. This is common sense. Also, once everything has a place to live, clearing up is really quick as you as simply returning stuff to it's place. Once that has been done, cleaning is pretty quick and easy.

Moving forward own less - less clothes for the DC, less clothes for you. I have 2 pairs of jeans (work & gardening). I replace the work jeans when I need to, old work jeans become gardening jeans, 3rd pair get chucked. Bedclothes and towels - mostly I get the same bedclothes back on the bed the same day I wash them. I do keep a spare set for illness, but only one spare set per bed.

Scan paperwork - you don't need to keep many originals these days.

I'm a naturally messy person, but I have learned all of this over the last few years, and I have really dramatically improved the quality of our home in doing so. I have donated, given away or tossed many many many bags of items - it's a fantastic feeling. I still have the urge to buy - that is now (largely) kept in check by my awareness of it.

If you feel overwhelmed use the timer on your phone - set it for 15 or 20 minutes and get busy on something for that time. You can do anything for 20 minutes - and it is amazing what you can achieve in 20 minutes. I use this all the time -very effective.

makes lists of anything you want to buy and then WAIT. Usually you don't really want or need it and quickly lose interest. I bought something today I've wanted for over 6 months - I saw it in the shop, I knew I really did want/need it, it had a place to live, so I bought it. Otherwise, don't buy stuff.

"Do not buy storage containers/systems until you honestly get rid of everything you can."
^ THIS IS VITALLY IMPORTANT ADVICE!

You can do this.

fuzzpig Tue 12-Jan-16 17:08:44

I have no advice only sympathy!

thanks

Jemster Tue 12-Jan-16 17:43:37

Thank you so much everyone for the replies & helpful ideas. I will be back later to write more once dc are sorted.

RunRabbitRunRabbit Tue 12-Jan-16 17:47:23

Chuck stuff out. Lots of stuff. Marie Kondo is brilliant. The book is short, funny (she is bonkers) and properly tackles emotional attachment to things. You could get it as an e-book.

2016Bambino Wed 13-Jan-16 06:42:17

I've been having great success so far with the Kondo method. At least 20 bags of stuff have left the house in the last few weeks and I'm starting to see the benefit of 'a place for everything and everything in its place'. Still a long way to go but the house already feels bigger and less claustrophobic and j can find things. I'm going to keep chipping away as and when I can (baby due imminently).
Good luck smile

SavoyCabbage Wed 13-Jan-16 07:01:35

What helped for me is trying to stop associating the stuff with money. So what if I paid £17 for a sandwich toaster. If I have to keep it on the bench and move it every time I use the microwave then it's not making my life easier. Keeping it is not going to save me money or recoup the money I spent on it.

Also I Marie Kondo-ed all of the clothing drawers. I only did one at first but I found I really liked it. The dc know how to do the folding and it's just become part of what they do.

Soooosie Wed 13-Jan-16 07:13:44

I bought Mariekondo book and followed it to the letter. Took me 4 months and hours weekly to declutter the whole house. 120 hours maybe but I was on a roll. I got addicted quite quickly.

I basically got rid of anything that wasn't essential or bought me joy. So about half my possessions including done furniture. The kids and adults only have 3 drawers of clothes each now too. I sell unused toys.

I then sorted storage out Marie Kondo style, which is easy to keep tidy.

I then introduced a new rule which we all follow - tidy up after yourselves. It means making beds once out of them, putting toys away once finished with them, the kids putting their nappies in the bin straight away, not sleeping or going to school on any mess.

It works but has been a massive change for me. I can now think without all the crappy clutter and I get on with more interesting things these days.

Soooosie Wed 13-Jan-16 07:24:43

The Marie Kondo book changed my life. These days I don't let any potential clutter over the threshold and I have an on going charity shop bag

Trumpton Wed 13-Jan-16 07:35:55

The best tip I ever read was the toothbrush one !

In the most chaotic house people always know where their toothbrush is. This is because it is always put away in the same place...it has a home.

Clothes washing.. We tend to wash clothes on every wearing. Undies yes, but top clothes ? Take them off , give them a shake ,and a quick sponge if school clothes and wear them again.

Ironing ? Pah ! DH does 5 business shirts . Nothing else gets ironed.

Sneaky culling of plastic tat .

Clarella Wed 13-Jan-16 09:12:38

I'm mulling over this and the tooth brush point is a good one. I'm thinking of looking at mk too - but something I've learnt through teaching children with autism is the set up of the room - everything in a predicable, clearly defined place, easily accessible by all, easily grabbed, easily put back. Work from top to bottom, left to right. (TEACCH) We take it to another step and colour code or create markers for things to be replaced so you can see it's missing.

But what I've gleaned from MK is similar.

We have started at home with a specific key pot for main keys, deep so it's not too noticeable in case of a break in but predicable. I think it helps actually putting things away. My husband is appalling and really needs to learn these methods. I've lost count of the number of keys we have lost!

I've got on top of ds toys (his room is v tiny) by defining clear drawers - people, cars, trains. Duplo, now play Mobil. Jigsaws. Seems to help finding things and clearing up. And has prompted me to 'loose' some as we had to make space for the playmobil influx.

Being a primary teacher and an artist back ground I'm a terrible hoarder as so much stuff comes in useful when I move year groups/ abilities. I don't have a classroom anymore either. I'm going to have to properly ponder how to manage that stuff.

Jemster Wed 13-Jan-16 16:31:37

Thank you everyone for the replies. It's nice to,know I'm not alone in feeling like this & that other people have managed to sort things out, there is hope!

Two things really ring true for me. Firstly we have too much stuff & secondly we keep buying more! The worst areas are clothes & kids stuff eg toys, books, football trading cards, games, puzzles. My daughter has been given more puzzles for Christmas so she now has four boxes of peppa pig puzzles but says she likes all of them so I don't like to get rid of any. She has a tiny box bedroom so most of her toys have to be kept downstairs in the living room. She does have a small expedit storage in her room but if we put things in the baskets & store them in there she forgets about them as she can't seem them & so they never get played with.

My son's room also has a wardrobe in which DH uses so it's often got bits of his clothing scattered around too. His wardrobe is bursting at the seams! My son has lot of bits & bobs everywhere which looks messy. He has a large IKEA bookcase but this has everything shoved on it whereas I think it would look better if he had an expedit storage thing so that things could be hidden away in the baskets. What do other people do to store things in kids bedrooms so they are tired but also so they don't forget about all the nice things they have to play with?

Another area I struggle with is, is school paperwork & other bits of admin. Our kitchen is not big enough for an area for this stuff & we only have one living room so no study or playroom. I am good at binning junk post when it arrives but there's always some stuff I want/need to keep for example; school info about events/reminders for payment etc, stuff that needs reading when I get a chance, stuff Ineed to action (when I get a chance), vouchers/coupons etc. Also dd brings home several pieces of 'artwork' from nursery every day. I just have nowhere to put it but she is so proud of it, I haven't the heart to chuck it. Where's best to keep all this admin stuff so it's not spread all around the house? Also how about wrapping paper, cards, sellotape etc. I have bits all over the place.

I do need to stop buying storage containers, I have so many! I always think oh yes that will be perfect to store such & such but it never solves the problem!

I find it very hard to through perfectly good things out even though I know my dc have probably outgrown them; favourite baby/toddler books I am struggling with at the moment.
Also clothes mistakes I have bought for me that never get worn but are nice, I find it hard to get rid when I think of the money spent on them (not expensive but it all adds up).

The ideas given have spurred me on to sort this house out but time to do it is tricky. In the past I have spent my afternoons sorting & tidying and then feeling guilty for ignoring the DC especially my dd who likes me to play with her after I've been at work. Weekends are busy & I want it to be family time. I feel though I won't be able to properly enjoy family time until I get on top of things. Catch 22 really.

I have got myself the Marie Kondo book on my kindle so will start reading tonight and hopefully be inspired!

LovelyFriend Wed 13-Jan-16 16:47:24

school info about events - put in diary and take a photo on your phone
reminders for payment etc - pay it, put in diary/photograph
stuff that needs reading when I get a chance - do you ever read it? More likely you don't? Do your or you H work in an office? If so I'd say scan it and create a "to read" file (if you really must).
stuff Ineed to action (when I get a chance) as above. Keep a small stand up file (magazine style) for stuff you must keep to read. Date it. Notice how you actually don't read it. smile
vouchers/coupons etc what for stuff to buy? smile chuck em and stop buying stuff. For vouchers you think you will REALLY use, put in your wallet/handbag.

re the storage you have, after I had gone through our flat I had so many storage containers, boxes etc left over. It is a common affliction of the over stuffed.

kids artwork - create a "best of file". Hang on wall. Send to GP's. Photograph it. When my DD1 was very prolific I used to use her "work" as gift wrap, which she loved.

Kids stuff is hard - try and get them involved. But focus on your own stuff first. lead by example.

www.becomingminimalist.com/a-parents-tip-sheet-for-owning-fewer-toys/

LovelyFriend Wed 13-Jan-16 16:53:31

This is a great example/idea which really stayed with me.

If you google "storage solutions for gift wrap" you get all these results and acres of blogs telling you how to brilliantly organise your gift wrap etc - like this

However it doesn't really solve any problems, though it looks great.

What solves problem of space and mess is to buy ONE ROLL OF GIFT WRAP FOR ALL PURPOSES (OK I buy Xmas wrap too). So I buy silver gift wrap, and some nice ribbon. Suitable for all uses. No storage "solution" is required.

Obvs it's just an example, but it highlights the major difference between putting energy into "storage solutions" and simply owning less.

LovelyFriend Wed 13-Jan-16 17:02:05

I find it very hard to through perfectly good things out even though I know my dc have probably outgrown them; favourite baby/toddler books I am struggling with at the moment.
Kondo will help out massively here. You thank them and send them on their way. Also take photos of objects you feel sentimental about. And/or put them in a box and seal box and date it. In 6 months you can open it and keep all the stuff - or simply donate it (clue you will just donate it).

I've felt all these things you have and can now hand on heart swear I don't miss a bloody thing.

When you struggle with something think about it like this - would you rather give over a space in your home to this item you wont use and don't need, or have lovely clutter free living space? You can't have both - make a choice. Start to VALUE and prioritise space.

LovelyFriend Wed 13-Jan-16 17:08:55

Also clothes mistakes I have bought for me that never get worn but are nice, I find it hard to get rid when I think of the money spent on them

Again Kondo will break you down here.

The money is spent. They money is already "wasted". Keeping items you don't want or need isn't making the clothes any less of a mistake. It just means the mistake continues to impact on your life negatively, and on a daily basis, by taking up precious space in your home.

Donating/getting rid of the unwanted/unneeded items is a space solution.

The solution for wasting money on clothes you don't need, is to not buy the next lot of clothes you are drawn to buy.

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