My mother has always kept an impeccably clean and organized home.  I remember stories of how my mother’s friends would hesitate to come visit with their children in my parents BC (before children) years.  This was because, despite her invitations and willingness to host, they all felt like a tornado of disaster walking through her door.   Their kids would leave a path of destruction (as most kids do) and my mom would cheerfully follow behind wiping up spills and sliding coasters under drinks, picking up as fast as little fingers pulled down or dug into the house.  One of her friends re-counts how the first time she ever saw my mother’s home with the dishes undone and clutter about the living room, that it “did her heart good”.   

On the flip side, I known more than one person who has said they prided themselves on the fact that their home was drastically more unkempt. They said the lack of cleaning was intentional so that people would feel comfortable if they happened to spill something, track in mud or knock something over accidentally breaking it.  All of them thought the mess was actually more inviting than a clean home.   That worked for the kids who frequented their homes, however, myself and my friends were always afraid to touch anything for fear of being covered in pet hair or something sticky.  We weren’t sure if we should stand or move a pile of laundry to find a place to sit.  We didn’t want to take our shoes off at the door because our socks might never be the same!  At some point messy becomes disgusting and clutter becomes hoarding; both a potential health hazard!

I find it intriguing how people accept the various levels of cleanliness (or lack there of) as normal and acceptable.  I’ve found that I swing through different stages of both extremes throughout periods of life.  However, my mother’s genetic tendency and influence toward a clean and organized home are predominant in what I desire, even when I’m failing to adequately achieve such a lofty goal.  I find the advice of many psycologists concerning this issue rings true for me: a clean and organized home make it possible to have a clean and organized mind.  When your mind is free from the burden of clutter, you are better able to accomplish and create to a more full potential. I find that living in a mess makes me cranky too.  A certain measure of order in my home sets a tone for peace.

The thing is, if you aren’t careful, you quickly can find yourself with an overwhelming task.  Here are a few tips that I have found to be helpful so that I’m keeping a clean home and not having to spend an inordinate amount of time cleaning a disaster area.

It goes without saying, the less you have, the less you have to pick up…. So get rid of what you don’t need, want or use.  Then make sure there is a place for everything.  Every item you bring in your home should have a space that it belongs.

• Clean as you Go:  No matter what chore it is, do not procrastinate.  Do as much as you can as soon as you can. 

• Beds get made before we leave the house in the morning. Pajamas get put away or thrown in the laundry.

• When groceries come in the house, I unpack and re-package them for storage or use immediately. Boxes get broken down and put in recycle and bags get folded and put away. 

• When cooking, I prep and clean as I go.  If the dishwasher is full of clean dishes, then I rinse and stack the dirty dishes so they are ready to go in the dishwasher as soon as I empty it.  Usually I empty the dishwasher while food is cooking, or randomly throughout the day, if I catch a few minutes between tasks.  Just like with laundry, I’ve abandoned worry about making sure the load is full – I just run it if it’s close.  I also clear the table, store the leftovers and do the dishes as soon as any meal is done.

• I’ve given up sorting colors (for the most part) when doing laundry, and just wash in cold.  All dirty clothes, towels, etc. get tossed into the washing machine or basket before they hit the floor.  There is a spray bottle of Bac-Out on a cart next to the washer and I also keep a small bucket filled with oxiclean and water in the bathroom closet to toss stained clothes into until there is enough in the washer to run a load.  I keep a couple sets of 4-tier hangers with clips next to the washer too and immediately hang anything that can not go in the dryer.  As soon as I remove laundry from the dryer it gets folded, sorted and put away.   I have found if I put it on the bed, or in a basket, I will end up with several loads and piles of clean clothes – it really is much faster to run smaller loads more frequently and just get it done.

• Shoes and coats get put away as soon as we come in the door – no shoes in the house!  This also cuts down on the amount of dirt that gets tracked in, making keeping the floors clean easier as well.

• I often sweep as soon as I notice a mess, but otherwise, it gets done in the evening before bed.  We invested in a Rumba Pet Series vacuum that I often turn on while doing other chores.  There are times a regular vacuum would be more efficient and I’ll likely get one when we move into the next house.  However, the Rumba has been a life saver, especially with keeping the shedding from our dog much more manageable. 

• In the evening, I do a sweep through each room of the house, picking up random items, toys, clothes, etc. and at least making sure they are in the rooms they belong, if not actually put away.  I finish up any last dishes, laundry, and floors before bed too.  It is a relief to go to bed, knowing I will start the morning on a clean slate. 

There have been periods where life was so busy that I would not have survived without my Mom and even friends popping in to help me get back on top of the cleaning chaos.  I even hired a woman to come clean for a while to get us caught up and do some of the deep cleaning I hadn’t had time for.   She was absolutely worth it – but that was because I had gotten to a place where my house needed to be cleaned.  If you need that extra help – budget for it.  Now I’m in a place where I can focus on simply keeping it clean.  Usually, it is just me committed to this lifestyle, and there are times I resent that my husband and the girls are not as excited about helping me stay on top of keeping the house clean.  Though at times the kids are great about picking up and doing extra.  It’s an on-going conversation and exercise for all of us.  I admit, there are times I really just do not want to do it…. But I’m building a habit.  I believe the pay-off is worth it.  I’m modeling a way of life for my girls.   I remember my mother saying, “If the dishes are done and your bed is made, the house is clean.”   I think that’s because it’s the basics.  Start with the basics.

Dr. Summer Beattie,ND was born and grew up in Southeawst Alaska – it will always be home.  A 2004 graduate of Bastyr University, she served two terms on the board of directors for the Washington Association of Naturopathic Physicians, and has worked in a variety of primary and specialty care settings.  This has given her a broad wealth of experience that she now uses in a unique clinical practice with a focus on rejuvenative physical and aesthetic medicine. Dr. Beattie,ND offers comprehensive care as it relates to physical rehabilitation from a Naturopathic Orthopedic perspective. You can find her and on-line patient programs at