It’s Not Magic… It’s Maintenance

posted by Andrea | 09/2/2016
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its not magic

We officially made it through our first week of school with Dave gone all day (Nora hasn’t started yet).

Since this time of year is often extremely busy and hectic for so many families, I thought it might be the perfect time to update and reshare an older post with one of MY favorite life-simplifying tips 🙂

Whenever I’m asked to share just ONE tip to help simplify, organize, and get control of our homes and lives, I always preach “maintenance”…

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It’s not magic… it’s maintenance.

When you take off your clothes, put them away instead of dumping them on the floor.

When the mail comes, recycle or trash it (or take action) instead of saying you’ll do it later.

When a bill arrives, pay it.

When the laundry is clean and dry, fold it… and put it away.

When there are dishes on the counter, wash them or put them in the dishwasher — and then dry them and put them away.

Where there are papers sitting out, look through them and recycle or file them.

When toys and books and games are making a mess in the living room, pick them up.

Yes, I realize none of us are jump-up-and-down excited to do any of the things I listed above. But if we don’t do them, who will?

Plus, if you really stop and think about it, most of the things I mentioned above could be completed in 15-20 minutes (or less) if done regularly throughout the day.

It’s not magic… it’s maintenance.

Even if your house is in total disarray, you can still start to maintain the current state so it doesn’t get any worse… and yes, you can start that RIGHT NOW!

Change your ways to maintain the current state of your house (not adding additional mess) and then, little by little, start working towards cleaning up and organizing small areas while still maintaining the rest.

Take 15 minutes a day and work at the problem area. Set a timer; get your family involved.

I know these suggestions are not life-altering or extremely exciting; but they are very simple… and they work! 

After all, it’s not magic, it’s maintenance 🙂

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But the fact of the matter is we would rather have a quick-fix.

We would rather pay a professional to come in and make our house look amazing (at least for one day) than to own up to our mess and start cleaning it up little by little.

We would rather go out and buy fancy, expensive organizing tools to put our clutter in versus taking a little extra time to purge… and realize we might not even need any extra bins after all.

We would rather read a book about what we SHOULD do then get to work and realize what we CAN do.

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If only I had a dollar for EVERY time I’ve heard someone say something like:

“I wish I had the time to keep my house organized.”

“There just aren’t enough hours in the day to keep up with house work.”

“I’d love to have a cleaner, more organized home but I have too many other things going on.”

“There’s no way I’d ever have time to keep my home as neat as _______’s house.”

“I wish I had the time to meal plan so we wouldn’t need to resort to fast food or takeout all the time.”

“I wish I wasn’t so busy all the time and had some wiggle room in my schedule.”

Yes, I realize there are always exceptions to every rule — but as I’ve shared before, we ALL have the same amount of time each day and it’s how we choose to spend that time that makes all the difference in the world. If something is important enough to us, we’ll make the time for it, no matter what.

It’s not magic… it’s maintenance.

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Along the same lines, this concept can also be applied to weight loss, financial struggles, relationship issues, and more.

Yes, there are often “quick fixes” with immediate gratification followed by empty promises and often even bigger struggles. Or, there is good old-fashioned hard work. Getting down and dirty and owning up to the fact that (in most cases) we got ourselves into this predicament and WE need to get ourselves back out again. We can’t buy an organizing bin, or a pill, or a book, or a motivational CD to do the work for us.

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It’s not magic… it’s maintenance!

What will you do today to move one baby step closer to a simpler, more organized home and life?

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I’m taking Monday off to enjoy the long Labor Day weekend home with Dave… but I’ll be back on Tuesday with another Peek Into Our Week post!

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27 comments

  1. Penny

    09/05/2016

    Thanks! I needed to read that today!

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  2. April

    09/02/2016

    I LOVED this post, it was well-written and easy to understand…however, I’m curious what you would recommend in a situation like mine. I come from a house that was never clean (my mom is literally a hoarder). So I’ve had to struggle to learn these habits. And I’m getting better, but it’s still not very natural. Any tips to make it easier?

    My other issue is that I have 4 little kids at home (6, 4, 4, and 1). It seems like every time I get something clean and/or organized, my littles undo my work and make it worse. How can you keep your kids involved in this or at least give me some time to try to improve the systems we have to make it smoother in the future?

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    Andrea Reply:

    Wow, that’s a BIG question! I would say pick one or 2 things to focus on right now — maybe keeping the kitchen counters cleared off and keep your bed made and clutter-free. Make sure you stick to those goals until they become habits — then pick 2 more things to focus on.

    As for organizing with kids — yes, they will undo everything! I do most of my “projects” while they are sleeping or when Dave is home. Nora can kind of help me, but Simon and james are way too young so I really don’t even try to get them involved yet. They can help “pick up toys” but not do an organizing project.
    If you’re just looking for a little time to finish a quick project (and you can’t do it while they are sleeping) my best suggestion would be ask a friend or grandparent to come over for a couple hours, or find a movie the older kids can enjoy and let them watch it while the little kiddo is napping 🙂

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  3. Christine @ The (mostly) Simple Life

    09/02/2016

    I love this! I sometimes feel silly blogging about decluttering or cleaning or organizing because it’s not all that mind-blowing or exciting, you just have to do it!

    It’s all about creating systems that make it easy for your to stay on top of things, but at the end of the day, you make it a priority and you make it happen.

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes, exactly! Sometimes I feel so ridiculous typing up some of my posts that I think are common sense — and then I get a boatload of comments and emails saying that people had never thought of that before. Crazy for me, but I’m glad it’s helpful 🙂

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  4. It’s not Magic; it’s maintenance – Holly's Organizing Tips and Tricks

    10/06/2014

    […] This lady tells the truth in here blog post “It’s not Magic… It’s Maintenance.” There are things you can do every day that will help bring/keep order in your life and space. It’s all about the maintenance. Read her blog post here. […]

  5. Laura

    09/25/2014

    Wonderful post! Thank you so much. You have been inspiring me lately to get things in order. I’ve already purged most of a craft room, a bunch of clothes and my office area. I’m working on our important binder and a friend is helping me redo the craft room so I have a useable space in which to build my design business! I have a 16mo old little girl and work from home. Using your lovely blog to help motivate me to get organized has made me feel so much more in charge of my life lately! I have such limited time right now with a toddler, so I want to take advantage of the time I DO have and an organized house will so so help with that. Thank you times a million! xo

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Laura — and congrats on getting more organized. It’s not always easy — but little by little, you’ll get there and it will be SO worth it when you do!

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  6. Diana

    09/25/2014

    You are so right, and one difference between me and the “effortlessly clean” people (of which I am not one but my mother-in-law is–and I’ve been learning from her!) is that they automatically do the maintenance. It doesn’t seem to feel like a struggle for them. 🙂 I am doing so much better than I used to, thanks to blogs with encouragement like yours!

    Two notes that crossed my mind while reading: Sometimes even that 15-20 minutes is too much. When I was pregnant, even 5-10 minutes of the up-and-down motions that cleaning requires was enough to thoroughly exhaust me. I did my best, but things were not as neat as I wanted them to be, and I was ok with that. (And I know you’re totally cool with giving yourself grace as needed, I just wanted to mention it for anyone in that situation who’s reading the comments 🙂 )

    Also, you’re absolutely right that we all have the same amount of time in a day. But some of us can finish certain tasks more quickly than others. It may take me 15 minutes to wash the same amount of dishes that you can do in 7-8 because I’m a klutz and have to be careful not to move too fast lest I break every dish I wash 😉 Multiply that through sweeping, dusting, mopping, neatening, folding laundry, making beds, collecting laundry, etc. and my housework might legitimately take longer than yours, leaving me feeling like I don’t have enough time to finish it all. If you have any tips for how to increase the speed at which we DO our tasks, I bet many people would enjoy a post like that too!

    Thanks SO much for this reminder! I needed it today–things are starting to spiral downhill around here, and I need to start that maintenance now. Let me go start by unloading the dishwasher so it’s ready for the breakfast dishes 😉

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    Lauren Reply:

    I agree with your comment, Diana. Sometimes I read lists of the chores people accomplished in a certain amount of time and I’m blown away by how many things they got finished. I’m certainly not being purposefully slow, but I feel like a turtle compared to some people! I too have wondered what I can do to complete the same tasks more quickly.

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    Andrea Reply:

    VERY good point Diana. Not trying to brag — but I am definitely one of the “effortlessly clean” people you describe. I’ve been doing the maintenance steps for SO long that it is 100% natural to me and I rarely even realize what I’m doing. Plus, I really enjoy cleaning and organizing so it’s honestly fun for me (I know, I’m crazy!)

    And honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever really stopped to think about your point that for some people the same exact tasks could take significantly longer than for other people. But again, you are completely spot-on with how you describe it. I would have to say that in general, I am a extremely efficient person and put a lot of effort into learning the best and fastest way to do something since I know it will save me so much time in the future.

    I’m very competitive so I’m always “challenging” myself to come up with ways to do something quicker, faster, more efficient, with less effort, etc. Even simple tasks like peeling potatoes, slicing fruit, dusting, loading up the groceries, I have my “best” way to do them and I try to always do things that way until I learn or come up with an even better way.

    This probably sounds overwhelming for someone like you — but for me, it’s really exciting because I’m always try to better myself and make it into a game.

    All of this to say, “Yes, you are exactly right!” I can probably do things faster than a lot of people but I don’t know why. I’m also not sure how to help or teach others how to be exponentially more efficient because it’s just how I’m wired.

    Does that make sense? Hopefully it helps a little!

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    Diana Reply:

    Thanks, Andrea! I actually really like the idea of trying to something the “best” way every time. I’ll have to try that in a couple areas and see what works for me 🙂

    And maybe for people like me, it’s better to choose to do fewer things slowly than try to fit in everything. For example, making a one-bowl dessert recipe instead of a fancy one so there are fewer dishes to clean. Or make extra sure to have fewer clothes so there isn’t as much laundry to do. Or have fewer knicknacks to dust. Or not spend as much time on hobbies so I’m not rushing to get supper made/cleaned up. Hmm….sounds like what you already do anyway, so maybe that’s part of your secret! 🙂

    My hubby is used to a house like yours, and I’m just NOT naturally wired that way like you are, so I’ve been trying to come up with coping strategies that I can make into habits that will help us both feel comfortable 🙂 I like to think I’ve come a long way in the last 5 years, so I’ll keep on plugging away! I appreciate your help so much!

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    Trudy Reply:

    What I have found helpful in speeding up my cleaning routine is how I set up my home. For example….my mail comes by the front door. When I get it, in my foyer is a cabinet, next to it is a trash can for recycling….I drop the junk mail into it immediately and have a tray for the rest of the family to go through. By not having to carry it around, it’s less likely to get dropped somewhere. I have cleaning supplies in each bathroom for a quick cleanup……by looking at how I do things and having them close at hand…it helps me

    [Reply]

  7. Susan

    09/24/2014

    I totally agree with your post. I would add that sometimes the problem is that folks don’t have a place for where their belongings “live.” If everything has a place, it’s much easier to deliver it “home.” This means a consistent but low-grade maintenance of deciding where something will go when it meanders across your threshold. It also helps one decide when buying something new. Where will it live in your place?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    YES Susan!
    That’s one of my main points whenever I do speaking engagements. You need to “make a space” for everything, otherwise it will sit out and be clutter!

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    Georgia Reply:

    That was what my Mom said my Grandfather’s motto was, “a place for everything and everything in it’s place.” If it does not have a place you have only two choices, find a home for it or get rid of it.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I fully agree with your Grandfather!

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  8. Natalia

    09/24/2014

    I have 2 activities scheduled for after work tonight: Wednesday’s Meal Planning for next week and laundry (including putting away – which I tend to drag…!!)

    Thanks to your… reminder, I will also clean up the fridge while planning the meals (plan to use up some stuff hanging around in the freezer, too), and I will weed through my closet and donate a few items I barely used this summer, before bringing in the clean laundry.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    sounds like good things to accomplish and cross off your list!!

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  9. Julie H

    09/24/2014

    Great post! Such a nice way to tell people to get off their hineys and get to work. Lol!!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — yup!!

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  10. Siobhan

    09/24/2014

    I’ll work on my photo clutter for 10 min.

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  11. Barb

    09/24/2014

    Excellent post Andrea! The title is a great saying to remind myself that “Maintenance…not magic” pays off, even when I don’t feel like it. Love the challenge at the end! I’m going to have a daily 15 minute date with paper clutter. 🙂

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  12. Michelle

    09/24/2014

    Today I will tackle the paper clutter on the kitchen counter … and set aside 15 minutes nightly to take baby steps in the right direction!

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  13. Paulette

    09/24/2014

    And…once we get it into shape, it’s SO Much easier to maintain. You’re so right, Andrea!!

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    Amanda Reply:

    My husband had this exact conversation last week. Once it’s clean and decluttered, taking 20min daily to maintain it makes life so much easier than letting it all fall apart and spending several hours (or more) getting it back into shape.

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  14. Deni

    09/24/2014

    I needed to hear this post! I’ve got to stay focused on what’s important to keep things running, like meals, laundry and our family calendar. Planning is key! I have so many distractions during the day, so I have to remember to use my “top 5 list” for the day. This list helps me sooo much!!!

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