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My Number One Rule of Homemaking

My Number One Rule of Homemaking 2

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There are umpteen gazillion books and magazines and blogs and websites out there that tell women how to “properly” do homemaking. For me, it boils down to one rule.

My Homemaking Rule

Put it all away, every day.

This is the cardinal rule around our house. We don’t leave the house unless it is picked up. We don’t go to bed unless the house is picked up.

That isn’t to say that things don’t look a bit lived in at various points during the day. We do have a toddler, you know. We are teaching Caroline to put things away before she gets something else out, but it is a lesson in progress.

But when we get up in the morning, it is to a picked up house. When we come home from church or grocery shopping or running errands, it is to a picked up house.

A Picked Up House

Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping HouseHome Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House

Notice I didn’t say clean or immaculate or pristine. I don’t dust as often as I would like. I don’t vacuum as often as I would like. I don’t clean the bathrooms as often as I would like. I don’t wipe down the floors as often as I would like. I have small piles on my desk at times.

But the house gets picked up every day. The dishes get washed before we go to bed. Everything is put in its place. I can probably count on two (maybe one) hands the number of times we’ve broken this rule due to illness and such over the past thirteen years. And once you get in the habit of picking everything up every day, it becomes second nature.

So, that is my tip: Put it all away, every day.

My Number One Rule of Homemaking


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  • We have this same rule. Sometimes the house isn’t as picked up on Sunday mornings when we leave for church because we are rushing out the door. I’m a little more relaxed during the day with two toddlers but I make sure everything is picked up before my husband gets home. There’s nothing I despise more than coming home or waking up to a messy house. It depresses me.

  • Same here, too!

    And I absolutely make my children clean up their own toys. If they’re big enough to make the mess, they’re big enough to clean it up. We have a one-toy-out-at-a-time rule and they know this very well. They can scatter Power Rangers all over the playroom for all I care, but they cannot move onto something new until every Ranger is put back in the box. Very few of their toys are missing pieces or have been misplaced because of this. It helps them just as much as it helps me.

  • Oh definitely! I’ve been pretty good about the picking up, but the one thing I slack on is laundry. I am now trying to keep up with that, do a load every day and put it away THAT DAY!

  • What a great rule. I’m pretty messy, but love tidiness and am married to a tidy man (thank You, Lord!) It’s not second nature to me, but I hope to more and more build the habit of putting things away right away. “A place for everything, and everything in it’s place”…another rule I strive towards….

  • I agree and am fastidious about tidying up. I think that’s why our current kitchen renovation is driving me batty, I have lost complete control of the state of my home. At least it’s temporary but lately we’ve been living with new, boxed appliances in the living room, a stainless steel work table in the dining room, cabinet contents filling up the office, and no counter space or kitchen sink — that’s not a recipe for tidiness!

  • Christian – Home renovations. Ugh. Especially the kitchen when it is everywhere in the house except the kitchen. We’ve done every square inch of this house over the past eight years, a few spots more than once. Never again. I have a whole post about that topic that I keep meaning to get to. Maybe soon…

  • This is my #1 too………

    The only expection to it would be if we are living someplace that has a “playroom” I have been known to let them destroy that room, and I just keep the door closed so I don’t have to look at it, until it is so messy they don’t want to play in it and then when they are invading the rest of the house I make them clean it.

  • If only I had followed this rule, my house wouldn’t look like it does. In my defense, I have six children under 10 in about 1000 square feet and we homeschool. BUT, I don’t like the way my house looks and feel totally overwhelmed at how to get to the “everything put away every day” state.

    My older children are good helpers, but when things have gotten to the state they have in my house…where to even start? I am determined to use the month of August to declutter and organize, even if I have to bribe my children to help and beg my dh to take the two littlest ones to his mom’s for the day so I can focus on the job.

    Sorry for the ramble, this has just been bugging me so much lately. I’d love to see any tips or advice on starting from “hit by a tornado” condition.


  • Gosh rebecka- I would say pick a room- the room that gets you down teh most- and blitz it and focus on keeping that one ‘picked up’ Then you can move on to another one- don’t try it all at once!

    There is nothing I like less than finding washing up in the sink in the morning (not me your honour!) I do try to ‘pick up’ every evening..although sometimes it slips……

  • Rebecka, I understand! I am de-cluttering at present as well. I have 3 weeks until the little boys I watch (along with my 2) come again full time. So my plan is to thin out the toys, make a new bin system for toys (using a current wire bin shelf unit) and then put pictures on the bins so the majority of the kids can tell what goes where.

    I just get overwhelmed with all the stuff we need to send elsewhere like the clothes for so and so, the toys for such and such and the library books. So that’s my goal this summer before we head into fall and really get busy. My kids have birthdays in fall so we get new toys right about then as well.

    Sallie, I love your plan, but I need to get rid of a lot more to be able to put it all away everyday. I think I would like to do that!


  • I’ve always wondered how that works, with putting away, say, the Power Rangers before going on to something else. What if the Power Rangers are going to have a Lego house built for them which will sit on a few sheets of paper taped together to make a road map and the plastic farm animals will be put into a Lego pen and the toy train set will wind all around it? That is how my grandchildren tend to play with their toys and how my children did as well. And, often they would like their Lego structures or their buildings made of boxes to stay around for awhile.

    I kept a clean and tidy house but it was important to me to encourage creativity. It wasn’t easy because I am a perfectionist by nature. Even when I was raising children in the late 70s and 80s, I read about making them clean up one category of toys before opening another but it didn’t work well for us (I have two daughters and there were no Power Rangers then but the same situation arises when little girls are ‘playing house’, for example).

    I’m just curious about how this works when the toys overlap.

    PS: One nice thing about being a grandmother is being able to send the ‘crafts’ home! :mrgreen:

  • Rebecka – I agree that clearing out all the excess is the only way it will work. We have had to get rid of many things I would have liked to have kept if we had a bigger basement or an attic. But there is only so much space and breathing room is critical for me when it comes to our possessions and not feeling like they are taking over the house. You definitely have a challenge with a larger family in a smaller home. But if you take one room or one section of a room at a time and are really ruthless about getting rid of stuff, it will definitely help. If at any time you aren’t sure about getting rid of something, put it in a box and put the box in the basement with a note to check it again in a month. That way you can get it out of the way, but won’t have purger’s remorse if you change your mind.

    Sabine – David frequently makes things for Caroline out of her TinkerToys and I do allow those to stay set up for a time. I just make sure they are either in a corner of the living room or in her closet. Thankfully, she isn’t into large spread out projects at this point. Truthfully there is nowhere in this house for her to do anything like that and keep it out long-term. We live literally hourly in every square inch of our house. It is one of my biggest concerns about homeschooling in that there isn’t a good place to keep projects and stuff. I keep hoping and praying we will move before we get into schooling in earnest. All that said… I do have a very large play kitchen (5 feet long and 4 feet tall) that lives in my living room. Thankfully the colors are very similar to our decorating colors and it kind of blends in! 😆

  • I do keep some of the grandchildren’s things (that they ask me to keep or that are made as gifts for me) hidden in closets until they forget about them. And there is a wicker laundry basket of dolls sitting on our hearth. It looks cute enough, though. I always re-dress the dolls (I’ve made most of their clothes) and arrange them in the basket after the children leave.

    I understand your concern about space for the homeschooling projects and stuff. My daughters both homeschool their children and I can see how much more stuff there is in their homes compared to the amount I had to deal with when they were in public school (I remember the bags of stuff they would bring home on the last day of school, though! 😯 ).

  • You said it so well. We follow this rule in our house as well, and although I’ve been feeling a little guilty recently as I’ve noticed dust in various corners & realized it has been very, very long time since I’ve cleaned the entire floor (rather than just spots), your post reminded me that perfection isn’t necessary. My house isn’t necessarily clean, but it is tidy, and that’s a victory in itself.

  • Very encouraging post. I was raised this way but married a man who was not. So I have learned that there are times when I have to relax about the clutter and he has learned that having a wife who can bring order to chaos is a gift indeed!

  • I love this topic as this is always a struggle for me as a homeschooling mom of 4 who is not innately organized, but very creative. Yet married to a man who abhors clutter of any sort and is fastidiously tidy! We have been married 18 years and I believe this has been one of our biggest challenges. There has been a lot of give and take on both sides. He just does not “get” why we don’t just put things away after we use them. I, on the other hand, feel like we don’t do it on purpose, but just get caught up in the next activity.

    So, my question is this? For those of you that do this naturally, how do you reinforce for each child the picking up of their things. I have tried dilligently to instill this, but never seem to able to. For example, if the little guys are playing nicely in their room, then I call them to breakfast, then we start lessons, then eat lunch, then run errands…before I know it, it’s time for bed and their room is a total disaster and I am tired and just want to get them down for the night. I always feel like I am causing more distraction when they are off on their next activity to make them go back. Yet I want them to be tidy and feel it is important, so basically I try to do most of it myself, which is difficult. Any help would be appreciated!

  • Kerry,

    Part of it comes naturally for me and part of it comes from being a former teacher. I simply factor in transition time to ensure that we have enough time to pick up before whatever is coming next. So if we are going to run errands, I factor in enough time to pick up as well as get ready to get out the door on time. So maybe part of the transition from breakfast to lessons for your boys would be picking up whatever they were doing before breakfast.

    Caroline just turned three so we still help her a lot with the picking up. Eventually I will expect her to pick up all her own things, but right now I’m more concerned with developing the habit. And she has developed it pretty well for her age. We’ve been doing this since before she was one so for her it is a natural part of the way we do things. She doesn’t know any difference. In fact, she will stop herself to pick something up because it is so ingrained in her thinking. I think it can become a habit for basically all children if given enough modeling and time.

    I hope that helps!


Sallie-Schaaf-Borrink-060313-B-250x250I'm Sallie, teacher by training and now homeschooling mom of Caroline. My passion is to provide products, encouragement, and information that helps others discover and do what works with their children. I also write about living a cozy life as a highly introverted person. Welcome! ♥

My Gift to You!

“We who live in quiet places have the opportunity to become acquainted with ourselves, to think our own thoughts and live our own lives in a way that is not possible for those keeping up with the crowd.”
Laura Ingalls Wilder

“After Laura and Mary had washed and wiped the dishes, swept the floor, made their bed, and dusted, they settled down with their books. But the house was so cozy and pretty that Laura kept looking up at it.”
Laura Ingalls Wilder
On the Banks of Plum Creek

“They were cosy and comfortable in their little house made of logs, with the snow drifted around it and the wind crying because it could not get in by the fire.”
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Little House in the Big Woods


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