Organize & Clean

Dirty Little Secrets of Tidy Families

updated May 5, 2019
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(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

I have a friend who has more kids than me, whose husband works longer hours than mine, who cooks and bakes more than I do, and yet her house is tidier than mine, always tidier than mine. What gives? I decided that this week, it was time to get to the bottom of it: what are the dirty little secrets of those tidy families?

I have been watching all my tidy friends and taking notes. Here’s what I have observed that is common to them all.

1. Their whole family has less stuff. And by less, I don’t mean “boy, I really should get to cleaning out that coat closet”: I mean, drastically less stuff. Think of all you own. Now halve it, and you’re getting close. A friend of mine with four kids lets each kid have one shelf above their bed for toys and books. The kids share one closet. They are some of the happiest, most well rounded kids I know, and their room is always clean.

2. They surf the internet less. Pretty much all of my friends who admit to spending too much time online are also in the messy camp. Pretty much all of my friends who are completely clueless about the latest meme and who I rarely see on Facebook are tidy. It’s easy to have valuable cleaning time slip away while you’re hanging out online.

3. They do let their kids watch TV, but they choose the time wisely. I know, I know: “Argh! Who uses TV to babysit their kids? Not me!” etc etc. Well, honestly, from time to time, we all do. The question is, when? I recently caught one of my friends, who I would never guess in a million years ever has her kids watch TV, setting up a DVD while she was prepping dinner. 30 minutes of TV for older kids is okay. Tidy Moms think carefully about how to use this time to their tidy advantage.

4. They are sometimes messy! However, binge messiness is always followed by fervent cleaning. Sometimes the house gets messy, and I wallow in it for days, feeling overwhelmed about how on earth I will get it back to a state that’s livable for the family. Tidy Moms and Dads get messy sometimes, too. However, just like healthy eaters understand that they need to cut back on sugar and put in the time at the gym after a crazy dessert party, tidy Moms and Dads seem to get up in the morning after a messy night and clean it all up. Mess doesn’t have time, then, to hang around and turn into other mess.

Tidy folks out there, have I got it right? What is your secret to a tidy family home?

(Re-edited from a post originally published 6/18/2013 – JL)