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House(keeping) Call

Yael Wiesner

Is your messy house making you sick? The doctor is in! Learn the source behind your housekeeping ills, along with the prescription to fix them

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

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Symptoms Piles of clean baby clothes on the changing table, spilling onto the floor; drawers overstuffed with clothing of all baby sizes, cloth diapers, receiving blankets, and small pacifiers; toys for three-month-olds jamming the shelves, blocking the one-year-old’s toys.

Source of Infection Mommy is not keeping up with baby’s new stages. Unlike older children — whose closets need an overhaul maybe one to two times a year — a baby grows and develops in leaps and bounds, and his clothing and toys of the current stage quickly become obsolete.

Diagnosis There is no proper hand-me-down storage system set up in this home.

The result of this common ailment is that the changing table becomes a useless storage unit for old baby clothes, and there is no room to store the clothing and toys in current use. Even folding laundry becomes pointless since the pile will topple over as soon as it hits the changing table. There is also no proper place to change diapers, so Mommy’s back hurts regularly from bending over her bed. Mommy needs to reevaluate her baby’s stage on a regular basis, and declutter and reorganize accordingly. 
Prescription Find an appropriate place to store hand-me downs — often, the basement, the tops or backs of closets, or under the beds. This is not enough, however. You also need a systematic and effortless way to process the baby’s quick advancement from one stage to the next in the room itself. The solution is to set aside space in the baby’s room, ideally two drawers at the bottom of the changing table. (If that’s not enough space, use two large boxes under the crib.) The first should house clothing in the size the baby is growing into, while the second receives clothing the baby is growing out of. As soon as Mommy sees an outfit is too small, she tosses it into the “too small” box. When that becomes full, it is moved to her hand-me-down storage location, and now the “growing into” box graduates to become the “too small” box, and the process continues.

SymptomsPiles and piles of neatly folded, clean clothes in the laundry room, slowly spreading to the upstairs steps, the dining room table, the living room couch... The laundry is getting done and even folded, but it’s not getting put away. The kids have to search through the piles each morning to find what they need, often toppling the clean laundry to the floor to be washed again.


Daddy, who doesn’t have the time to go digging, typically leaves the house wearing mismatched socks, hoping no one notices. 

Source of Infection The laundry room is downstairs and the clothing belongs upstairs in the bedroom closets. There is no convenient strategy to put the clothes away where they belong.

Diagnosis There are two problems going on: 1) Whether conscious or subconscious, Mommy thinks she’s done with the laundry as soon as it’s folded. She needs to make a brain switch. 2) No one naturally does anything that is inconvenient, so the kids (or Daddy) shlepping piles of clean laundry up the stairs is not going to simply happen — a plan must be put in place.

Prescription If relocating the laundry room upstairs is an option, that would be preferred. It’s easier to get clothing into the laundry and then back into the closets when everything is on one floor. Another unconventional idea is to create an official clothing center in the laundry room and store the family’s clothing there. Each evening the kids can pick out their clothes and bring them up to their rooms. These two choices are less likely to happen since both require an investment of space and money. The most realistic strategy is to set up a stackable or sliding basket system in the laundry room, with an open front for easy access, and store each child’s folded clean laundry (or each bedroom’s clean laundry) in their assigned basket. At an allocated time during the week, each child is responsible for putting his pile away in his room. At the very worst, it’s easier for them to find clothes in the morning in their baskets.

If it is not feasible to ask every child to do this, this job — putting everyone’s laundry away — can be assigned to a specific child or to your cleaning help. The sorted baskets make the job more manageable, and also keep your laundry room functional until the clothing is returned to the closet.

Excerpted from Family First, Issue 579. Yael Wiesner, founder of the “Yael Wiesner Professional Organizing Team,” is the author of “How Does SHE Manage?” (Feldheim 2012, 2016) and teaches women worldwide to manage their homes through her home management teleconference courses.

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