How tidying one cupboard will change your life

Kinderling News & Features

This last weekend a miracle occurred. We had no plans which meant two full days of nothing to revel in. 

So what did I decide to do? 

Tackle that cupboard in the kitchen, of course! 

It had been brooding in the corner for about a year, its shelves stuffed to overflowing with bills and children’s art, sticks of Blu Tac and staplers, an old laptop and a broken mechanical pencil sharpener.

It was time to take control.

What is your level of acceptance when it comes to mess?

Parents are often told we need to let go of our irritation with mess.

As one friend put it, cleaning up after children is like shoveling snow in a snow storm.

I’ve done my best to let go of my desire for a tidy house, but sometimes I can’t help myself.

I just can’t deal with the level of stuff strewn across every room and when it all gets too much, after a day of sorting and storing I feel immense satisfaction.

Then two days later it’s like nothing happened, and once again mess is everywhere.

Decluttering is worth the effort – it gives you time and peace

Anita Birges is a professional organiser at Mise on Place. Her eyes actually light up when she sees the chaos that is my home. She loves to help people get on top of their mess.

Anita says we all spend an hour and a half looking for things - every day!  If you have an organised home, and you know where everything is, you get back that time.

When you have less things around because you’ve been decluttering and you are organised you then gain time, which for me is the most precious thing we have besides our health. Time is what we have.”

The other thing a good declutter can do is bring us greater peace.

“It reduces your anxiety levels. Every time you open up the pantry and you can’t find things, and seeing that you've bought things twice. That makes us frustrated and it makes us anxious. Relieving that is so beneficial to us as a mum but also to our unit as a family.

“The benefits are just unbelievable. It really is life changing.”

Effective decluttering needs family buy-in

I often feel like I’m fighting a losing battle. Anita says that’s because I don’t have proper family buy-in. Keeping your home decluttered and organised is not for one warrior alone.

The first step in getting your family involved is creating a system that works.

This might be putting toys in a spot children can reach, and clothing drawers where they can get what they need, without needing you.

Then label everything. If your child can read, write it out. If they can’t, use pictures.

After you’ve worked out the best system take them through it.

Anita says, “Take them through it step by step. Then we're giving them the power of knowledge. We're not just expecting them to know where it is. Taking them through the system we've done helps them take ownership of it and get on board with us.”

Children won't always follow instructions

Most instructions I give to my children need to be repeated several times.

If I’m in a rush I will often do what I’ve asked for myself, because it’s quicker.

Still, if they don’t learn to contribute, then life will remain as it is: with me feeling frustrated and resentful, needing to take days to clean up the flat. 

As Nelson Mandela once said “resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” Not that my family is my enemy, but you get the picture.

Anita has a solution for this as well. It’s about putting in a system where every day the kids clean up after themselves. Put it in place for a week, and be vigilant. Once they get used to it, it won’t be as difficult to get them to follow through.

I’m taking baby steps, but it still feels amazing

Back to that cupboard, sitting like an unwelcome visitor in the corner of my kitchen.

We’d been eyeing each other off for several months. I was determined not to give in. I was the one who routinely lost my shiz and cleaned the kids' room. I was over making things tidy for everyone else.

But give in I did. There I was on a beautiful Saturday morning with the detritus of our kitchen odds and ends scattered across the floor.

Marie Kondo, author of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying: The Japanese Art has said that “The objective of cleaning is not just to clean, but to feel happiness within that environment”.

Oh Marie, how right you are. I still get a tiny thrill each time I walk past the now-neatly stacked shelves of my kitchen cupboard. It was a Saturday where I lost the pleasure of sunshine, but gained some sense of peace in my pocket of the world.

Now all I need to do is bring my family along with me.