Tackling Messes with Mindful Tidying
Updated: Aug 21, 2022
As a mom of three amazing yet wild children between the ages of two and six, my house is almost always in some state of disarray. Want a glimpse into my version of "disarray"? Well, my eldest is an avid collector of all things nature-related and practically leaves a trail of rocks and shells wherever he goes. More than once have I found dissected owl pellets on my kitchen counter and snails--like, living snails--on my dining room table. My daughter goes for the big stuff, like taking off all the couch cushions and using them for "Floor is Lava" stepping stones, or bringing all of her bedding and stuffies down to the living room to make resting areas for just about anyone who walks through the front door. And then there's the baby, who is the typical dump-and-run toddler. Ok, so he'll play with the toys for a little bit first, but then he's off to the next shiny object.
As I type this all out I cannot help but to smile over how much I love my babies, the things that interest them, and the ways their imaginative thoughts pour out of them; of course, they are my whole world. But when all of this cute stuff is happening at once (which it frequently is) it tends to bring me a lot of anxiety. That's just the honest truth. Not only is the visual of everything being everywhere overwhelming for my brain, but the thought of having to clean it all up is truly exhausting.
Can you relate to any of this? I'm sure many of you can. So, how can we make the process of tidying up seem less exhausting while also gaining the buy-in (aka help) of others in the household? By practicing mindful tidying.
What is Mindful Tidying?
To be mindful simply means to bring focused, deliberate attention to something in your physical, bodily, or mental space. In the case of tidying, it means bringing attention to what most of your daily messes comprise of and then tackling them accordingly. In other words, when you look closely at the items that build up around you, you can identify categories that they fall into and, in turn, create a plan for straightening them up.
When I look around my home on a typical day, the categories that my family's everyday clutter falls into are as follows:
Having an understanding of this helps me to check things off of my mental, tidying to-do list and to feel like I accomplished something, rather than looking around and wondering where to even start.
When I begin the process of straightening up a room in my home, I select one category to work on until it is complete. For example, I'll look around for anything that needs to be thrown away (ie. empty applesauce packs, boxes, junk mail, broken crayons) and work in a circle to gather up and toss those items.
Check. The "Trash/Paper" category on my tidying list is done with and I can either take a break or move on to the next one.
How can I gain more tidying assistance from my family?
Once again, becoming more mindful of the categories of daily clutter that build up in your home allows you to establish where to start in the tidying process. At the same time, it helps you to delegate specific jobs to the other members of your household without overwhelming them. Your significant other, for instance, could be placed in charge of collecting anything that falls into to "Laundry" category (for me, this includes all cloth items, from scattered socks that need to go into the hamper to couch blankets that need to be thrown into their designated basket). At the same time, your children can be given the task of just collecting and putting away any items that fall into the "Toys" category.
As a parent myself, I know that telling your children to collect and put away their toys can be a laughable request. If this is too high of an expectation to set for your kids, you could consider identifying categories that their toy clutter falls into and assigning them just one to focus on tidying up at a time. Perhaps the categories are "Upstairs Toys" and "Downstairs Toys", or "Dolls", "Blocks", and "Puzzles". Whatever they may be, identifying one very specific group of toys to work on collecting and putting away may be the best place to start to gain the buy-in of the little ones in your home.
*Bonus Tip: When having your children tidy up, give them a bag or basket so they can collect and transport more of their toys at once. This decreases frustration.
By building the habit of giving everyone one category to focus on during the tidying up process, you are dividing and conquering your daily clutter while establishing family expectations.
Real-life is messy. Things pile up. We all know how this feels. But becoming more mindful of your home's common daily clutter and tackling it one category at a time can really help to make the process less stressful.
I challenge you to look around your home in order to determine which clutter categories exist; I can guarantee that they are there! After identifying these categories, give mindful tidying a try to see how it makes you feel. Leave a comment here to let me know!