| |

Real World Organizing: How to Keep Your House Tidy {with kids, pets, jobs, & a life}

This post has been niggling at me for a long time. Living in my brain… slowly forming itself into being.

For months now.

It’s tough to write about this topic because, frankly, I’m not perfect at it. I don’t have a “completely-purged-organized-everything-in-adorably-labelled-baskets-and-matching-storage-containers” home.

But you know what?

It’s pretty good around here. It’s definitely organized. It is quite clean. And, aside from a few key drop zones, our home is usually very tidy.

What more could you ask for, really?

Just like I say with decorating “Home isn’t built in a day. Enjoy the journey”; having an organized and tidy home is a journey as well. It’s ongoing. Constant. And daily.

So that’s why I decided to go ahead and share my methods with you all. Because I’ve had some friends who really, really, really struggle with this whole thing. They’ve asked me for tips about how to keep on top of their own homes. And I wanted to be able to break down the process I use on a daily basis to keep things manageable. Tidy. Calm. And welcoming.

Because that’s what we all want, right?

Our homes to be lovely but also to be real places that we really live in and use and love and enjoy.


These tips on how to keep your house tidy in the real world will change your life - 15 awesome habits to develop so you can quite struggling with a messy home

I’m going to touch briefly on some of these points and then come back to them in future posts, because some of these are pretty big ideas and really require their own whole focus.

But basically, the thing I think everyone needs to start with is a good, big, old fashioned PURGE. And I’m not talking about purging those chips you just scarfed down. I’m talking about purging your STUFF.

Less Stuff means less to organize less to tidy less clutter and less mess - more space for you and more space for life - tips on how to get there at thehappyhousie.com


We don’t want to store and organize JUNK that we don’t need and often don’t even actually want!

Get it out of your house.

I know there are lots of tips and posts on purging out there right now, so I’m not going to go into a lot of detail in this post (as it will take over the whole post), but I will share my thoughts and methods for purging really soon. I will say, that if you haven’t read the Marie Kondo book “The Life Changing Journey of Tidying Up” yet, then it is a good place to start. Although I wouldn’t say I subscribe fully to her ethos and method, it is definitely thought provoking and helps your look at purging in a whole new light. And, it’s absolutely amazing what a clean, organized space does for our mental clutter and well-being.

Have nothing in your home quote by William Morris


A habit is something that happens naturally. It doesn’t take conscious thought. And it requires very little energy.

Each of the habits I’m sharing below are things that I have come to do naturally. That I don’t think about anymore. And that take next-to-no-effort for me.

To change your life you must first change your habits

The list may feel overwhelming at first. But start with one habit at a time. Commit to it. And when it becomes natural add another. And another.

These are the habits that will help you keep your house in control and tidy. Not perfect. But manageable. Calm. Lived in and lovely to live in.

15 habits to help you tackle clutter and keep your house tidy once and for all

My favourite habits for keeping our home tidy are…



Don’t leave purging to a once-a-year thing. Become a habitual purger. When you see things that you don’t need, don’t like,and don’t want, get rid of them. If they are garbage, throw them away. If they can be recycled or donated,  even better. Keep a box for donation items in your garage or storage space and drop it off regularly (maybe couple of weeks). Turning purging into a habit means that you won’t be faced with overwhelming piles of stuff to sort through once per year. It also makes you more mindful before you buy new things.



And buy less. I’m not saying to buy nothing because, frankly, I’m not exactly the poster child for minimalism. But THINK, really THINK before you buy and listen to that niggling voice inside you about whether you really need/want/love something. When I go shopping I see SO MANY THINGS that I love – but when I force myself to think of WHERE I can use the item and WHERE it needs to be stored etc… well, needless to say, I talk myself out of buying a LOT of things {despite my husbands belief that I buy everything I see that I like -he has no idea how many things I actually put back on the shelfs or racks}.



Once you have gone through and purged, the most important thing to do is to group like-items together. And find a PLACE for them. They need a HOME within your home. Designate a drawer, basket, shelf… whatever it might be. Don’t let items straggle all over.

Keep all coats in one closet. Keep all technology together (cords, chargers etc.). Keep office supplies together etc. etc. The time you spend on finding a PLACE for everything and grouping like items together will pay you back in dividends, I promise! How much time do we waste looking for things? Well, if you first get rid of everything unwanted and next find a place to store like-items together, then you will no longer waste that time searching!



Stop procrastinating it. Just do it. And do it now. Or as soon as you can. Put those dirty clothes into the laundry basket. Wrap up those unused charge cords and put them in the basket. Open that mail and read it and either act on it or file it. Put away that clean, folded pile of laundry.

Did you know that procrastinating is actually just a way of postponing decision making? Decision can be tough. But procrastinating is just putting it off. You are still going to have to decide eventually. So instead of living with clutter-that-is-postponed-decisions, just start getting in the habit of making the call and doing things now. You would be amazed at home many little jobs you can squeeze into your daily life if you just act on them right away instead of putting them off until they build up and up and up and now you have a mountain. Give it a try and challenge yourself for the next week – to ACT. Put things away. NOW. And not “later”.



Our daily lives involve a lot of stuff. Things. Papers. Bills. Magazines. Toys. Backpacks. Lunch Kits. Etc. Figure out a way to manage that. Where the stuff can go when it comes home and needs to be dealt with… and not just heaped up on your kitchen floor and kitchen counter.

I have a drop zone into our laundry room for things that need to LEAVE our home – library books to return, things that I need to exchange at the store etc. I keep those things there because we leave through the laundry room into the garage. Even a little basket near your exit door to place those things in will help free up space elsewhere and keep those items that need to leave together in a place where you are more likely to remember them. Our laundry room also acts as our mud room for storing coats and backpacks out of the way until we need them again.

Our second Drop Zone is our Command Center Closet.  We turned the coat closet between our front entry foyer and our kitchen into a Command Center and it was the best decision we ever made. All the mail, charging cords, kids schoolwork, filing, papers, etc. etc. live there and not spread around our kitchen counters or dining room table! If you don’t have a whole closet, then think of another spot that can become a central location to manage life’s “stuff” – check out my 20 awesome command centers post for more ideas!



Like, everyday. Not just when people might come by. Or you change the sheets. It might sound crazy, but it is amazing how much more in control, calm, and tidy your house will feel with neatly made-beds. I promise you! Try it for a week and you will see. It’s totally addicting.



Load your dishwasher immediately. The dishes do not, I repeat, do not need to have an airing out time on your countertop first. It is absolutely OK for them to go immediately into a dishwasher. And if the dishwasher is full?!? Well, then unload it. Like now. Unless you’ve got to be somewhere then just do it. It takes less time then you think it will. And speaking of dishes, keep on top of the dishes in the sink too by washing them as they appear. I like to use a soap activated sponge like this one to keep on top of my dishes – and then they never build up.

Often people find it easiest to tackle this habit by setting a time of day they want to deal with the dishwasher. For example, always run it at night before you go to bed and then unload it each morning. Turning it into a regular habit takes the thought out of the process and suddenly dishes become a non-issue.



Try to keep on top of your laundry. In some households this may mean a load or two a day. In others, like ours, we can get away with a load every couple of days. And once it is washed and dry and folded, put it away. Right away. This is where having a purged and organized closet and dresser come in – it’s much more fun to put clothes away in an organized bedroom then in a room where you fear for your life if you shove another shirt into “that drawer”.



Be on the Lookout. This is a great habit. I am like an eagle eyed detective in my home, constantly spotting things out of place and quickly shifting them back to their rightful spot. Just by keeping on top of it consistently you will not end up with a crazy messy place to begin with. And this doesn’t all fall onto your lap. Get in the habit of asking family members to put away their belongings too. I’m going to dedicate a whole post to how to train your kids {and other family members} to be more tidy and organized.



My mother is an amazing cook. But she is also an amazing dish maker. She somehow manages to use every pot in the entire kitchen when she cooks and I think it might have something to do with that old rule about how the cook doesn’t have to clean.

Well in our household, the cook seems to also clean. Which means that I clean as I go. I also usually make the next days lunches while I’m cooking dinner. And often unload the dishwasher if it’s been run while we were at work/school that day. So the point is – do things as you go. It’s amazing how many little jobs you can squeeze into a chunk of time if you just go for it. And then you end up after dinner with a clean kitchen, lunches packed, and some time to actually relax and unwind before bed.



A couple of times a day, do a “power tidy”. That means you take about 5-10 minutes, maximum, to zip through your house and put away everything that is out of place. You can involve the family in this as well, and there are two times of day that I best love to do a power tidy – though I do them randomly as needed as well.



Do a little blitz around your home every night before you go to bed. Put things back in their places. Put the dishes in the dishwasher and run it (if it’s full). Fluff the pillows on the couch and put away the blankets (yes, I really do that every night). And just generally tidy up the place. Waking up in the morning to a tidy home will set you off on the right foot for the next day.



I can’t stand those crazy days that start off on the wrong foot and we come home to the breakfast dishes on the counter, beds un-made, and a generally untidy home. Give yourself a few extra minutes in the morning to do a few chores and tasks so that when you arrive home it feels calm and welcoming. Coming home when you’ve taken 5 extra minutes in the morning to do a power tidy will start your evening off right and will help you fall in love with your home all over again.



This will help you keep your sanity. You should not shoulder the entire burden. Children can learn to help pack or unpack their own lunches, to make their own beds, to tidy up the bathroom and their bedroom. Start teaching them to develop the habits they will need to manage a tidy and organized household for themselves one day (boys and girls!). There is definitely a lot involved in this training process and I plan to dedicate a whole post with some free printables to use next week.



Remember, you are not aiming for perfection. You are not aiming for a constantly-immaculate-completely-organized-nothing-out-of-place-everything-in-it’s-labelled-basket home.  Well, if you are, then you need to go read a different post. Because, frankly, that’s not reality.

This whole thing is a process. You need to purge. Get yourself organized. And start changing habits.

John C Maxwell Quote

By adding in new, good, habits you start to crowd out those bad ones. Focus on One step at a time. One day at a time. And you CAN do it. It can get better. Your home can become both Lived in and Lovely to LIVE IN.

Your physical environment has a huge impact on your mental and emotional well being. By committing yourself to developing these habits, you are actually making a life change that will positively impact not only you, your home, and your families well being but also your own feelings of ease, calm, and success.

I also have a 10 week organizing challenge if you are looking to systematically purge and re-organize your entire house! Check out the details here!


Join the challenge!

Sign up to have The 10 Week Organizing Challenge sent to you weekly!

Want to remember this article??

This is awesome! Pin it to remember it!

How to keep your house tidy with kids pets jobs and a life - an organizing plan for those who live in the real world


signature and quote

pinterest  facebook  http://instagram.com/krista_thehappyhousie  twitter  bloglovin  google+  rss


I may link up at some of these fabulous places below, for more info check out housie partiesMonday Funday Inspiration MondayNifty Thrifty Tuesday, Project Inspire{d} , Inspire Me Tuesday, The Scoop, Hit Me With Your Best Shot,  Wow Me Wednesday, Whimsy Wednesday From Dream to Reality, The Inspiration Exchange, Wow Us Wednesday, Live Laugh Rowe Live Laugh Linky, Thursdays Are Your Days, Inspire Me Please, Catch as Catch CanFabulously Creative Friday, Party Junk,  Pinworthy Projects , Link Party Palooza,, Weekend Bloggy Reading, Strut Your Stuff Saturday, Spotlight SaturdaySuburbs Mama , That DIY Party


Similar Posts


  1. Very impressive tricks on how to organized house tidy… I really like what you did on your house.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing these tips. I find it really difficult sometimes to plan everything and I will use your post.

  3. I totally find keeping my house mostly clutter free is the best way to keep it from getting super messy and to make cleaning it later SO much easier and less overwhelming!

  4. Did you ever do the post about training your kids to keep things tidy? I’m new to your page and couldn’t find it.

  5. Thank you for this great and beautiful post! I would love to see your post on training children to clean. My boys are 6 and 7 years old. I am seeing that everyone is accustomed to me doing IT ALL and I need to train my household to work together. I would love your wisdom. What is the name of your post on this?


  6. This is such a great post! I’ve been reading organizing books for years but your advice here is so practical and doable. Thanks for posting this!

  7. Loved your personality coming through in this post! I’m looking forward to the post about getting your kids involved in clean up because I’ve been working on this but pulling out my hair a little because no one wants to clean up!

  8. Thanks for this article- The guidelines are easy to follow and not only will make your house tidy but also can make your child responsible.

  9. Hi Krista, These are great habits to develop. Years and years ago I read Confessions of an Organized Housewife by Deneice Schoffield. Same principles- make it a habit and you’ll make it stick.

    1. Hi Katy! It definitely is a process – an ongoing. Glad you are joining in – I’m thrilled with the changes into our home; now to keep it up! I’ll be writing about that, as well:) Good luck!

  10. Hi there! This post was discovered during my daily (most frustrating) struggle! I could use some advice on how to train my husband to be tidy. He literally doesn’t clean up after himself.. like .. EVER! It’s worse than a child and I can’t deal anymore:( if you have a post on that please direct me to it, this far I feel like there might be hope after reading this:) thanks in advance!

    1. My husband celebrated his 75th birthday yesterday. He does not clean up after himself and I am a neat person. All these years it has driven me crazy and i am partially reconciled to the fact he never will learn. He is a type B personality and is just sloppy. I really doesn’t bother him although I have actually considered divorce. If you should come across any tips, please let me know. I have tried everything.

      1. You did say he’s 75, right? I’m pretty sure he’s not going to change. Do yourself a favor and embrace the things you love about him and forget the rest. Life is too short to be frustrated! Just my opinion!

      I just came across your blog for the first time this morning and read “Real World Organizing…”. Throughout my lifetime (and especially since the Pinterest era) I’ve read innumerable articles in my quest to successfully organize my home and life, but before today, I’ve never been successful at it. As I read your simple, wise, enlightening words this morning, I actually felt like a hidden light switch in my brain was being turned on that allowed me to finally ‘see’ for the very first time why and how I can be successful at it! The quotes you shared were absolutely profound to me, especially about how we MUST change our habits and routines in order to change our lives! So again, THANK YOU…THANK YOU…THANK YOU! I truly believe that now, thanks to you, I can start a brand new journey to an organized life and home…and remembering that ‘home wasn’t built in a day’, I also hope to thoroughly enjoy my new journey and make the most of every new day God blesses me with!

  11. Hi there, thanks for this great post! I am wondering if you can let me know the link to the post about training kids? I can’t seem to find it. Thanks!

  12. I am at a place in my life where I’m ready to get it together. Love the 15 steps. One thing at a time. Years and years of so much to purge. But I’m ready to just pick the first spot. Hall closet sounds good. Coats somebody needs and impulse holiday sweaters. Here I go!

    1. It can be a huge task – I spent many days helping my good friend reorganize her home this summer after never having been organized at all. Best of luck with the undertaking. If you take it one area at a time and then continue to be organized in that area as you move on to other areas, you will get there!

  13. I read your blog for the first time this evening, after fixing a nice dinner, dishes in the dish washer, kitchen tidy, husband watching TV, I’m writing you. I have to tell you, you are soooo right. It is the exact way I have lived all my adult life. Had to or go mad. years of 3 kids, an antique business to run, and a house and gardens, animals, on and on. With out organizing daily I would never had made it. Today at 71, I still run a tidy home with lots of interest and hobbies I keep up with, plus family and friends. I also raised my kids the same way. Keep the good word going. In the long run we end up with as much free time as we need and desire. Thanks.

  14. Thanks so much for taking time to post this! I know my house could be in such better condition and feel lovely to live in, and I appreciate you bringing that to my attention. However, I have 3 kids, ages 5 years, 2.5 years and 15 months. Also, two little inside dogs, of which I will not purge!! These little mess makers (mainly children) have made me feel like there’s no point in trying to keep it tidy. I’m one of those people who hide when the doorbell rings because our house looks like a tornado hit. It’s embarrassing. My poor husband has to come home from work to such a mess everyday. I can’t load up the dishes for the kids climbing in or pulling things out. Although there are times I can, most times aren’t as easy. When they go to bed, I usually go straight to bed with them! It’s exhausting, and I look forward to the day I can routinely stay on top of it. I’m already in the process of a huge purge, yet that can by quite tricky too as all of sudden they love that particular happy meal toy or whatever it may be as soon as I put it in the discard pile! Thankfully were having a yard sale next month, maybe we can get our friends to keep the kids so they don’t see what all I’m giving away. I’m heading now to find your post about training the kids, as I believe the earlier they learn the better it will stick.
    I certainly don’t want to sound so pessimistic. It’s hard when you clean constantly, yet it still looks a mess. it’s also hard when I’m the only one doing it!
    Thanks again for these 15 habitats! I have a lot of work to do and continue thinking “oh it’ll get better as they get older”, but NO WAY. I need to get it under control NOW!

  15. Wow! Thanks for sharing so many great ideas….there are several of them that I already do, and most of the others were so “common sense”, and things I can start thinking about and doing today! Always enjoy your blog posts….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.