While I am a person who takes great pride (and even a good deal of enjoyment) in keeping a tidy home, the fact remains that cleaning can be a real bee-atch. Stuff piles up when you don’t want it to, mountains of dishes and laundry are a daunting, constant reality and then there’s the paperwork. It can feel like a lot sometimes, especially if you don’t have any systems in place to help take the edge off. Enter ‘Lo-Fi’ Cleaning!
Some of what I’m about to say may shock you, whether because you had never thought about it before, or because it’s so basic and rudimentary you wonder why on earth I would ever spend the time to write about such things that everyone already knows. Nevertheless, I beseech you, read on and perhaps find a useful nugget to take with you on your next adventure in the doldrums of housekeeping.
Step One- Have Less Stuff
While this may fall under the ‘fairly obvious’ category of information- I do think that it bears repeating, and often. The simplest way to make the task of keeping your home generally tidy is to have less stuff in your home. The world and age we live in make it so very easy to accumulate things. Take control of your consumption habits and get into the routine of asking yourself before you bring or accept something into your home:
- Do I need this? Do I have an actual, real, intended use for this thing?
- Do I want this? Will it bring me happiness or some level of ease/comfort in my daily life?
- Do I have a place for this? Will this thing have an obvious place to live?
- What about when I’m done with it? Will it make sense to store it/will there be a convenient storage space for it?
- What will this thing look like in 5-10 years? Will it still be in use either by me or someone else or will it be taking up space in a landfill?
The simple fact is, less stuff in your house equals less time picking up, putting away, dusting, organizing, storing, fixing, looking for and worrying about. Not only does this leave your floor/counter/table/shelf free of clutter and the need to clean, but it really frees up a lot of space in your mind, which is the most precious commodity.
Step Two- Everything Has a Home
For the stuff that makes the cut into your intentionally curated home- it needs a place to live.
Everything that you own should have a clearly defined and designated ‘home’ to be put away in. Everything I own has a place that it belongs, a place that it can be put away, comfortably. If a thing doesn’t have an obvious home, I don’t need it. If a ‘home’ has become too cramped/uncomfortable for the things living in it- it’s time to purge.
This Marie Kondo-esque dogma I have created for myself really makes things very black and white and therefore, easy. This practice, in my opinion, takes a lot of the edge off when it comes time to pick up. It completely eliminates the possibility of the ‘piles’ getting out of control, because everything has somewhere it belongs.
All of our kids’ stuff belongs in our kid’s room. We do not have a ‘playroom’ or a ‘toy room’. Thankfully for us we don’t even really have a basement so there’s nowhere for overflow to pile up. At the end of the day, any of the kids’ stuff that has wound up in the ‘living room’ including toys/crafts/books etc goes back to THEIR room where it lives. If their rooms become too full/unorganized/unmanageable- it’s time to purge. (are you sensing a theme here?)
To some people this practice might seem a bit extreme or even a bit selfish and you know what, it is. And that’s ok. While it is a little bit extreme it also leads to a very cozy shared family space where we can all relax together and connect with one another. It leads to our kids having ownership and accountability over their own things and it leads to them having way less stuff than is currently deemed typical in our modern day which makes them (in my opinion) more independent, more creative and generally happier.
Step Three- Drop Zones
Create small, intentional spaces in your home to let things live temporarily before they are ‘homed’.
I have a couple of specifically laid out drop-zones in the house where things are allowed to (very temporarily) accumulate before being dealt with or put in their homes. This helps give me a little bit of breathing room on the day-to-day picking up train but also makes it impossible for me to let stuff go too long without being handled.
A big thing that piles up in our house at this moment in life is school papers. We have two second grade daughters and the amount of paperwork that comes home from school is just insane. Bulletins, informational flyers, event announcements, sign-up sheets, homework, projects, permission slips, it goes on. While I try to handle this mountain of stuff the way I handle most other unpleasant tasks (just a little bit each day) sometimes it goes by the wayside for a few days (or even a week) at a time. I keep allll of the papers that come home from school in a tidy pile on one of the unused chairs at our kitchen table. This is their very temporary living space. Every few days, the stack gets gone through. Lots of things are recycled, kids’ work that they want to save goes into a ‘keep’ bin in their bedroom and gone through about once a year, and anything important that I personally need to deal with ASAP goes on a clipboard in my ‘office’ which is actually just a linen closet that we converted into a small shared office space (#smallspaces #lofiliving).
Another drop zone I have is the tiny little shelf ‘landing’ at the top of our stairs near the bedrooms. It’s a cute little decorative corner of our house that I’ve intentionally made beautiful (to me) so that it doesn’t pile up with crap. When the landing is clear, I feel happy whenever I pass by it. It’s well lit, has a beautiful handmade decorative piece that was handed down to us from a beloved family member and a family photo taken by our friend/business photographer- Mike Talyad
But the shelf is also used as a very temporary living space for either:
- Things that were upstairs that need to be put away in their downstairs home OR
- You guessed it! Things that were downstairs that need to be put away in their upstairs home.
Because I’ve set this little counter up to be a thing that brings me true joy to look at un-encumbered by clutter, it never stays cluttered for long.
Step Four- PURGE baby, purge (purging inferno)
GET. RID. OF. STUFF. YOU. NO. LONGER. NEED. OR USE. OR WANT. OR HAVE ROOM FOR. BE IT PHYSICAL OR EMOTIONAL.
I have a donation bin going at literally all times. This takes the form of an empty box from the most recent trip to Costco. It lives in the garage and when it’s full, I donate it and grab a new empty box the next time I’m at Costco. I donate our re-homeable items to Goodwill. I know a lot of people take issue with this because they are a ‘for-profit’ retailer BUT:
- They accept almost anything and if it is something they cannot sell in their physical store they will go to lengths to either recycle it appropriately or to get it where it can be donated.
- They hire tons of people, many of which would be unable to find employment elsewhere whether due to disability or incident.
- They make it really easy to drive-through and donate at any time instead of scheduling and having to wait/deal with logistics.
- I love shopping there.
I know this because I have spent extensive time on their website reading about their donation and retail policies and because I shop there (a lot) and chat with my favorite cashiers probably a little too much.
Purging goes beyond donating, though. It is also a wonderful way to connect with other people in your immediate community whether by selling or by giving something away on Nextdoor or the like. The fact is, many things in our homes no longer serve a purpose to us, but could be just the thing someone else is looking for. Another fact is that many things in our homes have simply become junk from neglect, the cruel hand of time, or any one of a number of other possible factors. As much as it pains me to say, sometimes you do just have to throw it away and move forward with a renewed sense of intention.
This is the part that gets really corny but sometimes you need a little corn in your life. When it comes to universally un-enjoyed tasks like dishes and laundry, things get a little bit harder. Sure there are ways to minimize the workload. Having less stuff is one of them. If you own fewer clothes and dishes, you will simply have to do many smaller loads as opposed to fewer enormous loads, and that’s a choice to make for yourself.
I personally own very few clothes but dishes are one thing I own a boatload of because I love them. I love to cook from scratch, make cocktails, host parties, own a catering business and have kids so A+B+C+D= A CRAP TON OF DISHES ALL THE TIME. There’s just no way around it. Sure the dishwasher pitches in a bit but let’s be real- I spend many hours each week standing at my sink, flock-lined latex gloves donned, ready to do battle. My lo-fi answer to this is gratitude. As corny as it sounds, I really try to use that dish-doing time not to be resentful of the dishes or the fact that others in my home don’t pitch in with the gusto I might like. Instead, I try to feel deeply and seriously grateful that I have dishes to clean, from meals I made with care, for the people I love most. This all done in a safe, cozy, warm house with clean running water, and a little kitchen window that looks out on to my scrappy garden. These are my moments of reflection and meditation, and a reminder of how fortunate I am to have the task of dishes be one of the most daunting parts of my life.