Keeping Shared Spaces Tidy

It’s easy to love your family, but living with them is another story! It can be tough to share space with others, especially when you have different ideas about cleanliness, where to put things, or the aesthetics of a room. If you want to enjoy a tidy, serene space, you will need to get everybody on board. Here are some tips to help you work with your partner, spouse, or kids to achieve the environment you want, without driving each other crazy!

Make sure items have a home-You may feel like you’re constantly reminding everybody to put their stuff away, but what if the problem is there’s no designated spot to put it? Make sure items have a “home” that they can be returned to consistently. Otherwise, stuff may just end up crammed into a random drawer or closet, making it much harder to find the next time around!

Find the path of least resistance-Work with people’s habits, instead of against them, and they will be more likely to put things away. For instance, if your kids tend to throw backpacks, jackets, and shoes onto the floor the minute they get inside the house, even though you have a large coat closet in the adjacent room, meet them where they’re at and create an entryway storage system right by the door. When encouraging others to be organized, you want as few barriers as possible. It is much easier to hang a jacket on a hook by the door than to walk down the hall, open the closet door, take out a hanger, put the jacket on it, place the jacket in the closet, and close the door. Open shoe storage in an entryway  is more likely to be utilized than a bench seat with a lid (which tends to attract clutter on top, which then needs to be moved every time you need to open it...you get the picture). Simplify!

Recognize what they’re doing right-Sometimes we get so caught up seeing everything that’s “wrong,” we become blind to things that are working. Recognize and praise your loved ones for the good things they’re doing. Instead of saying “You always leave the kitchen cabinets open!”, say “Hey, thanks for putting the dishes away, that was really helpful! Would you mind closing the cabinets when you’re done?” Encouragement is much more effective for shaping up good habits than criticism.

Motivate them!-Give them a reason (other than “because I said so!”) to stay tidy. Tell your kids that if the house stays clean, you would be a lot more amenable to having their friends over more often. Tell your spouse that you could have much more quality time together if they took a little time to help out. Show them that it’s much easier to leave the house on time if they put stuff away and can find it when they need it. Emphasize why a tidy house benefits everybody, and they just might start to embrace it. Of course, if subtlety doesn’t work, you could always “bribe” them with a fun family trip, or something else they’ve been wanting! Set up a goal, say, 5 days of keeping the living room clear of “stuff”, track their progress, and reward them for their accomplishments.

Find where you can compromise-Sometimes we don’t get the results we want because our expectations are too high. It may be unrealistic to expect your loved ones to embrace a completely pristine house, but you can meet smaller goals. Together, designate certain rooms where family members need to be more conscientious, and others (like their bedrooms, or a den) where there’s more wiggle room. Or start out with just one or two specific “No Stuff” spots, (such as the kitchen table) where backpacks, purses, lunchboxes, etc. are not allowed to “land.” As everyone gets better at keeping certain areas clutter free, see if you can expand to more areas of the house.

Praise, praise, praise!-Habits can take a while to change, but it’s just like anything else, the more you do it, the better you get. As you see your family’s habits change, make sure to praise them, and celebrate their progress. They might just get hooked!

Wishing you a happy (and tidy!) home,

Alissa