In every small thing we do and omit, we set the tone of our home.
A well-made bed means that the person appreciates what it means to finish what he starts and that he prefers a job well done to haste and laziness.
Alicia Iglesias, a professional organizer and organization coach, is an expert in teaching people how to turn a house into a refuge where we feel relaxed and happy.
On her Instagram profile @ordenylimpiezaencasa, she proposes ideas and suggestions for turning our house into a haven of peace.
How can an organized and clean house influence a family?
A messy home is a constant source of conflict. Any of us can think back to our childhood (and many to adulthood) and discover hundreds of arguments with parents, siblings, partners, or roommates about picking up the bedroom, the mess in the living room, who will do the dishes …
How could we change our life by making these tense moments disappear from day to day? For me, home should be a refuge, the place you love to come back to after a hard day, a place to relax and feel good.
Instead, we tend to get home to fight, even with ourselves. What do we feel when we go through the door of the house and we see a room in disarray and the pile of dishes in the sink?
On the other hand, how do we feel when we arrive and everything is clean and tidy?
Throwing stuff away is absolutely necessary when putting things in order. How can we explain its importance?
This is perhaps one of the most difficult parts of how we have been educated in accumulation. I’ll try to show it with an example.
Imagine that we have a normal house, about 2,500 square feet, for a family of three, and three small closets. Typically, you’ll find the closets overflowing. Finding the clothes you are looking for each morning will involve pushing other clothes aside. Some will fall off the hangers and others will end up folded. So, when you finally find the clothes you were looking for, they’ll be wrinkled, and then you’ll have to iron them.
The living room will be small and stuffed. We also have the habit of buying too large a sofa for the space we have. The coffee table will have papers and other things on it that should not be there. I’m sure it sounds familiar.
The reality will be that almost half of the things we have are surplus. We will have many clothes that we almost never use, things we didn’t even remember were there … There will be arguments because there is nowhere to put a dish. The mess will increase stress, and conflicts will come up that could end up being irreparable.
What will be the family’s diagnosis? “This house is too small for us.” Typical. You can be ready to let go of a house that you love, with a low rent or mortgage and in a neighborhood that you love, and get into trouble (because a more expensive place and a worse situation is always a problem) just to hold a lot of things you don’t really want or need. In addition, you’ll end up with the same problem a few months later (because you keep on accumulating more things).
Do children eventually recognize the effort involved in keeping a clean and orderly home?
Not always, unfortunately. They might realize it when they experience the contrast of a disorderly house and an orderly one, or if they notice there are fewer arguments and a better environment, or if it gives them certain advantages (like more flexibility when it comes to getting home and things like that). Teens especially are very practical and need to see tangible benefits.
They will really appreciate it only after they begin to become independent, when they have to keep their own house in order. Then they will take their routines with them and, once you are used to order and simplicity, it’s hard to fall back into accumulation again.
They will be very aware of the effort when they have children or have to share their home with a partner who does not share their sense of order.
However, and this is very important, children and teens are imitators who learn by example. If they see that one half of the couple carries all the weight while the other doesn’t bother, they will do the same.
What goals can we set to start a new plan of “order and cleanliness” at home?
Small goals, always. The typical mistake when deciding to conquer disorder is that we want to solve everything in one fell swoop.
We give ourselves a beating over a weekend, we go nuts organizing everything and we feel proud of ourselves … and in two weeks everything is back to where it was before.
The best approach is to start with small changes and maintain them, create routines. I always say, if order is hard for you, start by organizing your sock drawer.
It is something small, simple, and controllable. If you are not able to maintain something like that, how do can expect to keep order in a living room for a family of five?
Small changes make you feel good. They give you a feeling of control, a sense that “you can,” and they encourage you to take another small step. Even the longest path begins with a first step.
Would you recommend any motivational sayings or ideas for undertaking these tasks as a family?
What is the first law of the pack? Everyone takes care of everyone (it’s from the movie Ice Age and I use it a lot with my family). It’s about being aware that our family life and our tasks and problems are everyone’s business, that we are a team and that we are there to help.
What advice would you give us to create our own routine of family order and cleanliness?
Make everything very visual (with a planner that the whole family can see, and that shows who takes care of everything). Start with small things that are easy. Don’t start with polishing the crystal or cleaning out the storage room. You have to go little by little.
I would make a list with all the tasks that we want to distribute (once again, if you see that there is something huge and overwhelming, don’t put it on the list, because it will be demotivating for whoever ends up with it).
Once you have the list, everyone has to choose a task, starting with the youngest and ending with the oldest. When they finish, they choose one task each in the same order, until they are finished.
This will create a natural balance in the distribution. Also, children (who choose first) will feel that they have an advantage and that they can get rid of what they least like (try to make it that way, especially at the beginning). In case the distribution does not suit everyone, repeat this procedure at the beginning of each month. That way, you can change up the roles.
This article was originally published in the Spanish edition of Aleteia and has been translated and/or adapted here for English speaking readers.
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