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Help needed from Domestic Goddesses...(a bit long)

(40 Posts)
deleted203 Sat 29-Sep-12 19:46:18

I desperately need advice from folks who are really good at housekeeping - because I'm hopeless. Basically, despite considering myself fairly intelligent, I seem to be incapable of running a home. We have a large, old, Victorian vicarage (7 bedrooms, 18 rooms in total) that is FULL of clutter and extremely untidy. I just have no idea where to start. It's just ridiculous that I left home almost 30 years ago and I'm still so rubbish at housekeeping. I don't seem to have any routine, and although I DO quite a lot of cleaning up, etc nothing ever seems to look any tidier/better. Is there anyone out there that can maybe suggest a routine for me, or some tips for me so that I can manage to keep on top of things better? I'd be jolly grateful. I find myself getting depressed looking round the place because I honestly have no idea where to start. I would LOVE to live in somewhere that was tidy, organised and didn't seem to take my entire life keeping on top of without ever looking much better.

DorisIsWaiting Sat 29-Sep-12 19:54:16

What's your storage like?

If you are cleaning and it doesn't look any better does everything have a (discrete) place?

Your home is enormous but if you do not declutter and do not have adquate storage it will still look a mess.

deleted203 Sat 29-Sep-12 19:59:20

I think this is one of my problems, Doris. We don't have an awful lot of storage space and I seem to vaguely shift things into piles or move them from one place to another. Decluttering is probably a priority. At the moment I am sitting in the study which is 15ft x 18ft and has wall to wall bookcases. And yet I am looking at probably another 100 books which are heaped in piles all around the edges of the room. And I know my dining table is covered with papers and letters (and probably a plastic ray gun, an old apple core, a plastic bag with someones PE kit, a discarded sweater, a couple of books, lots of felt pens without lids, etc). At some point I will end up piling everything into an untidy heap at one end, but it NEVER goes away somehow.

MKP1 Sat 29-Sep-12 20:05:15

OK, you are not going to be able to keep the place clean/tidy without doing a big blitz first!

First buy some big strong bin bags - you are going to be ruthless and throw things away!. And some nice, stackable plastic storage boxes (try IKEA, B&Q or homebase). And some box files and clear plastic folders for paperwork. Lots of big sticky labels, post it notes and a big black marker pen.

Set aside a chunk of time (at least 2 hours), and pick a room.

Now, start with everything that is sitting out on a surface. If it is paperwork start organising it. Start with who it belongs to - you/DH/DCs etc. Every piece of paper needs to go into a clear plastic folder depending on what it is related to. So you will end up with folders like "My Car", "DH Car", "My bank stuff" etc. Don't be too micro organised at this point - just get it into folders/box files.

Make sure you label all the files as you go along (I find a post it note stuck to the inside of the file makes a good label - you can see it from the outside but it doesn't fall off and isn't permanent).

Throw away any pieces of paper you don't need to keep. Cuttings of recipes you are never going to cook? Bin. School news letters? Bin. Bank statements from more than a year ago? Bin (you can always get duplicates from the bank in an emergency). Throw away all the old magazines you are hoarding for no good reason.

You should now have a nice neat pile of clear folders with paper in. Put them in box files - one (or more) per person. Put the box files in one of your big stackable boxes and put them somewhere.

Go and have a cup of tea and a nice cake.

Are all the surfaces clear? No? What else is there? Books - decide where they are going to live. If it's not this room put them in a box for now and put them where they live. Ditto CDs/DVDs/computer games.

Now go and look at the furniture. Do you like it? No? Arrange to get rid of it - if you think it might be worth something then sell it, freecycle it or take it to the dump. If you like it - do you need it? That might not be something to answer until you have done more rooms. If it's in bad condition arrange to get it fixed or put it straight on the junk pile.

You now have one room clear. You can make this your organisation room - find/buy a bookcase to put all your nice box files on.

Repeat for each room. Throw away as much as you can (bear to)..and get nice places to put everything you need to keep! Storage is your friend! And labels - otherwise your DH will use you as a living authority on where everything is!

Once you have organised everything you will find it so much easier to keep clean and tidy I promise! Then your routine needs to be "always put things where they belong as soon as possible" and you'll be able to stay on top of things!

Good luck!

MKP1 Sat 29-Sep-12 20:06:38

PS If your books are not already double stacked, stack the excess ones on the bookshelf anywhere you can - get them off the floor onto the shelves!

FreshWest Sat 29-Sep-12 20:09:08

It sounds as though you need to clear up the clutter first before you could attempt any kind of routine. I know whereof I speak! My tip would be to not look at the bigger picture or you will be overwhelmed and just think sod it (if you're at all like me).
Just pick one area that gets on your nerves the most and start there, but only do a bit, like 15-20 mins, then stop. I set my phone to play dance music which gets me shifting (you may have other tastes smile ). Then have a break, admire your handy work and then start again.
Bin the crap too, who needs an old apple core or pens without lids that will probably have dried out. grin

TunipTheVegemal Sat 29-Sep-12 20:16:30

Get some more storage before you start to declutter, so that when you go through a pile of stuff you will throw some away and put the rest into nice boxes, rather than simply end up with a pile of clutter that is 50% smaller.

leeloo1 Sat 29-Sep-12 20:17:10

Wow, you have a huge house - lucky you! (genuine envy there!)

Definitely decluttering is the answer, once you've done that you can spend time cleaning instead of just rearranging stuff into piles.

I'm trying to do this at the moment and its scary amazing how much you can take out of a room and it still looks full! At the moment I'm focussing on my DS' room, as its always had 2 bookcases full of my books (stacked 2 rows deep) that got increasingly fuller. Before Xmas I took 13 bags of books to a charity shop, to clear a couple of shelves for his toys... 2 months ago I took another 4 (bigger) bags... today I took another 6 (big) bags! Now only about 5 of the shelves have my books on (still mostly double spaced) and the rest is clear for his toys...

Its not like the room now looks empty (sadly far from it) but it does look better and there's now space for him to tidy away his own books and toys. I've always loved books and loved to collect them, but I felt I had to realise the effect my 'hoarding' would eventually have on him - and thats more important to me than my love of 'stuff'.

Can you take it room by room - maybe start with the room you use first? And start to bin/charity shop what you don't need (be ruthless!) and set up homes for what you really need to keep. Once an item has a home you can take it back there (and train others to do so) rather than having to waste time hunting for important things that are getting lost in the mess. Enlist family and friends and don't be disheartened if its slow progress - your house didn't become like this overnight, so it won't change overnight. smile

Any help?

deleted203 Sat 29-Sep-12 20:19:27

MKP1 that is probably the best and most practical advice anyone has ever given me! Many, many thanks. And FreshWest - you understand me sooo well! I do indeed look at everything and think 'sod it'! I think tackling one room at a time is the way to go and I'm feeling a lot more inspired. Once I get clutter free (she says optimistically) do you folks have a regular cleaning routine? Because there seem to be so many jobs that I never get round to. I remember my granny doing washing on a Mon, ironing on a Tue, etc and I never seem to have managed this. Seem to spend my bloody life washing and frantically hunting for things in 5 overflowing ironing baskets when DCs need them to be honest. Things like washing the windows blush are jobs I can't remember when I did last.

Bilbobagginstummy Sat 29-Sep-12 20:23:43

With a house that size I think you should get yourself domestic help.
Cleaner at the least - to take up the load of the routine stuff, and give you the time and mental space to spend on organising the house. Count the servants' quarters at the top of the house - houses this size weren't meant to be run by one person: probably a housekeeper, cook and a couple of maids at a guess. With the vicar's wife to just be in charge and deal with the parish.

I am not sure I agree about doing it a room at a time in a place as big as yours. I would think about storage for (say) books, and get all the books in the house into place; then move on to (say) ornaments & brasses and get them sorted. Leave one room as the dumping-ground, to take the stuff evicted in favour of books/ornaments/whatever, and do that last.

mirpuppet Sat 29-Sep-12 20:23:44

MKP1 gives great advice.

She is probably an organised person -- I am not. I recently had a professional organiser come by and it was fab.

10 bags to charity; 10 bags recycling; 6 bags of rubbish.

New filing system created; basement -- where I kept my clutter is clear.

I kept on moving things around -- once I hired someone I made decisions and since we had goals for what would be done in 3 hours it was.

Good luck -- one room/ area at a time. Sloe & steady wins the race.

deleted203 Sat 29-Sep-12 20:25:34

Oh leeloo that too, is brilliant. Really grateful for all the help, folks. I know I am a hoarder and untidy (and sadly so are all 5 DCs). DH is actually quite tidy naturally, but has given up over the years and because he works 14 hour days has resigned himself to living in chaos, I think. I know he would like it to be tidier though. We had a bit of a row earlier this week when he was unable to find a matching pair of socks despite hunting through my 5 baskets when he ended up shouting 'For Christ's Sake - I cannae ever find anything in this damn house!' and I ended up shouting, 'Who made me f***ing sock monitor? I don't want to be SOCK MONITOR! I AM NO GOOD AT THE JOB!' grin. I shall take the advice given.

Bilbobagginstummy Sat 29-Sep-12 20:27:12

OK - cleaner plus laundry-woman/ironer.

Will change your life. I admit I am assuming you can afford it.

deleted203 Sat 29-Sep-12 20:27:50

I would love domestic help, or a professional organiser, sigh.....I'm so rubbish. Can't afford it, sadly. The trouble is I'm really bored by housework, I guess. And far too easily distracted from it. I shall have a go at the de-cluttering.

TunipTheVegemal Sat 29-Sep-12 20:32:58

sowornout, when I'm trying to get on top of my messy house I try to do one non-routine job per day, whether it's cleaning some windows or clearing a cluttered table. Your situation sounds too big for that and you do need to set some time aside for a blitz, but the blitz should give you a headstart and some momentum.

deleted203 Sat 29-Sep-12 20:33:39

Nope, can't afford it, Bilbo unfortunately. We are living beyond our means, probably, lol. We are very fortunate in having a big old house in the country, but we bought it because we have a large family and it was very cheap and run down. (Still is!) We have to get buckets out when it rains, cos the roof leaks, lots of damp in various rooms and it costs a ruddy fortune to heat. But we do love living here. Just would like it not to be so untidy. (As an aside - it is so untidy that I have occasionally come across strange teenagers who have possibly moved in unnoticed over the years grin. Having such a large, rambling place means that there are often lots of friends of DCs staying over)

dementedma Sat 29-Sep-12 20:33:46

Sock problem is easy to solve. Go out and buy a job lot in black. That way they match all the time.
Other option is that life is too short to wear matching socks. Can't remember the last time DS wore matching socks.really not a big deal.
One less thing to worry about

RandomMess Sat 29-Sep-12 20:35:16

Have you a friend who would help you and you could help her do something in return? Somehow having an appointment slot to declutter does make it easier to get on and do it.

deleted203 Sat 29-Sep-12 20:37:08

Right. Feeling positive. I'm going to go and start on clearing out my bedroom. I've got piles of clothes slung over the chair (and everywhere else) and lots of stuff that doesn't fit any more. I shall get my bin bags!

FreshWest Sat 29-Sep-12 20:38:35

Once you have managed to get things into a state you're happy to live with I would then recommend the HomeRoutines app (if you have an iPad or iPhone, I'm not sure what android equivalents there are). I got this recently and it has helped focus me on what needs to be done and when.
You can add tasks to it to suit you and your house. It also has a to do list. I'm not going to pretend its made me into a domestic goddess overnight but I'm certainly more organised and aware of what needs to be done because of it.

FiveOrangeFlowers Sat 29-Sep-12 20:39:39

MKP1 I think I love you.

I am very organised (with the odd 'Monica cupboard' grin) but couldn't have described the process anything like as well as you did.

My hero <happy sigh> stalks MKP1 for the foreseeable future

Bumpstart Sat 29-Sep-12 20:39:58

Have you seen fly lady?

I think everyone else said great things about declutter ing.

I am also a deeply untidy person with no discipline as far as housekeeping goes. I do like some of the fly lady habits though. It has not yet converted me into a super organised person, but the fact that the kitchen sink is always clean, the bed is always made, and I don't float around in a dressing gown makes me feel much more businesslike about my housework, and once I've dropped the kids off at school, on my day off, I try to treat housework as my job. And then chill out with the kids after school because dinner is already ready.

Good luck, you will love your home much more when you have got a few tidy zones in it!

Bilbobagginstummy Sat 29-Sep-12 20:41:36

If you can't afford domestic help - only one thing for it.

Enlist the offspring as slaves helpers, with a manageable job each to be done each week.

I grew up in a house that was nearly as big as yours, and my very organised & energetic mother kept on top of it all (& 3 children & full-time job) with 4hrs a week cleaning/ironing help. She never stopped, even so. I think you're trying to achieve the impossible and should give yourself a break about feeling you have to be the perfect domestic goddess.

FreshWest Sat 29-Sep-12 20:41:41

Agree with dementedma on the socks too. DH has all matching black socks which are much easier to pair.

RandomMess Sat 29-Sep-12 20:43:07

We're a family of 6 and my best tip with regards to washing.

First job of the day (pretty much every/most day) is put a load of washing on, reduce the spin on the cycle, ensure you are there when it ends and hang the clothes that can be straight onto clothes hangers. Hang up to dry then get dc to help put away. Socks - I have all girls, they have 10 pairs of school socks each all different to each other so they are easy to sort into piles. AGain they help with this playing sock snap, and putting their clothes into piles etc. Next top tip - do not get them too many clothes - once you are washing most days you don't need many clothes as they wear their favourites over and over again.

It isn't labour intensive, I used to get up in the morning go down make my coffee put a load on get ready for the day by which time it was finished and it could be hung up, no ironing, no piles of clothes - sorting and putting them away can be part of bed time routine if they are still of that age. If you have the space they could each have a crate of their own for clean & dry clothes, the small items that you have to tumble (can't go on hangers) sort them straight into the crates - their responsbility to take their clothes upstairs kind of thing, 1 crate for things you don't know whose is who.

At one time I did have to use iron labels to name their knicker smile

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