Clean Up Your Environment

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Why is it that we take better care of the outdoor environment than the environment in our homes? I’ll tell you why –Because our society has made working for a clean environment a noble cause. Having a warm, inviting, organized home isn’t a noble cause anymore. Imagine being at a large office party. Say someone comes up to you and asks what you have been doing today. If you answer "saving the environment," they would probably be terribly impressed and ask you to tell them all about it. On the other hand, if you said "cleaning the house," there wouldn’t be one person asking you to tell them about it.

I’ve always had this uncontrollable urge to say: "I’ve been saving the environment." "Oh! Really?" they’d say, "Tell me about it." "Well, I shoveled the trash from my daughter’s bedroom, cleaned the air by emptying the diaper pail and washed the pile of blankets and sheets the toddler wet on last night. I also helped save the fish by cleaning out our goldfish Leroy’s tank and took care of the world’s wild animals by feeding my children and teens their dinner. The hardest part of the day came when I tried to train a Homo sapien by explaining to my husband how to put his dirty socks in the hamper. This was quite challenging because we’ve been trying to master this trick for about 10 years now."

Our homes should be beautiful, peaceful, inviting and welcoming places, but so many of us fear going home because of the mess we will face when we get there. I’m not sure at what point in history it happened that the place we live went from being a home to a just a place to sleep and change our clothes. Somehow, it went from a place where we could find peace, relax and renew our bodies, minds, souls and spirits to a place of confusion, disorganization, frustration and continual fighting and bickering. Instead of the home being the place we can hardly wait to get home to at the end of the day, it is a place of tension and anxiety.

We work harder at having a clean environment than we do at keeping our homes clean. If you don’t believe that to be true, walk into a few homes and look at the dirt and clutter. Compare that to what you see on our highways. Most of us don’t dream of throwing our garbage out the car window, but we throw trash all around our homes and leave it lying about for extended periods of time. Even the air in most homes smells worse and is more impure than the air outside. Most foul smells in homes come from improper cleaning or no cleaning at all.

It’s important to realize that in the same way we work for other things in our lives, we need to work to have peaceful homes. We work hard to earn money, to have a good marriage, to be good at sports, to have the perfect figure or to get a good education. How many of us spend more time at learning a new craft or working out at the gym than we do cleaning or learning to clean our homes?

We live in a world where housekeeping is usually the last priority on the list, but I believe we need to wake up and smell the coffee. (If you can find the coffeepot!)

We worry so much about doing healthy things-from the food we eat to the air we breathe to exercising all the time. But we aren’t using common sense. Many people wouldn’t dream of drinking anything but bottled water for fear of the bacteria in tap water. But those same people use tap water to brush their teeth, wipe their counters or wash their vegetables. Then, they take their bottle of water and set it in a refrigerator that hasn’t been cleaned for a couple of months-or more-and is full of all kinds of bacteria and germs. They think nothing of grabbing a damp sponge that has been sitting on the counter-growing bacteria all day (or week)-and swiping the counter with it. They take that same hand that has touched the sponge and stick their fingers in some frosting that then goes in their mouths. I’m glad their water is bacteria-free because that’s probably the only thing in their homes that is.

We complain about our children breathing secondhand smoke (I don’t smoke and don’t recommend that anyone should), but then we turn around and don’t change our children’s sheets but once a month. Many of us don’t realize that they can develop extreme allergies from dust mites.

We shower ourselves silly every day and are obsessed with clean bodies, but we stand in a shower we never clean. Then, we walk across a dirty floor, picking up all kinds of fungi on our way. Then, we proceed to use a sink and toilet that has who knows what growing on it.

We become totally unglued when our children touch the doorknobs in a public restroom, but in our own home, we leave piles of dirty, filthy underwear and sweat-soaked clothes lying around our bathroom or bedroom to be stepped on and touched.

When we don’t take care of our cars, they won’t function properly or do the job we bought them to do. In the same way, our homes can’t do what they’re meant to do if we don’t give them proper maintenance and care. If I don’t keep good tires on my car, the chances are pretty good that I’m eventually going to get a flat tire. Do you know how much discomfort a flat in the dead of winter will cause me? What about the extra work and being late to everything for the rest of the day? Compare that to if I had kept good tires on my car. I won’t be stuck in the freezing cold trying to change a tire or be late to where I’m going. Having a home that’s not properly cared for will cause you the same discomfort, the same problems and lots of extra work, keeping you constantly behind on your schedule.

If you live in this type of toxic environment, set aside time with the hazardous materials team to focus on getting your home clean! Don’t let yourself get discouraged. If you’ve let it go for a very long time, it may take a little extra work at first, but once you’ve gotten it in order, it is much easier to simply maintain it from week to week. You’ll be surprised how much simply cleaning up your "home" environment will reduce the stress in your life!

If you don’t know where to begin and need some tips to help you (or if you just need a little inspiration), visit Getting and Keeping Organized where you’ll find lots of information to get you started!

Now go do it!



  1. says

    What a GREAT article! I never thought of it like that. We all do the necessary things: laundry, taking out the trash, cleaning up the kitchen when finished cooking,etc. I think you hit the nail on the head- sometimes it’s just OVERWHELMING! How did it get to that point? Doing a little each day works for me. Of course getting rid of clutter is key. Keep these articles coming and with a little work we can all have a peaceful,stress-free place to come home to.

  2. rose says

    yes i agree dorothy… excellent article…
    i have been trying to deep clean and declutter my house for the last 2 weeks… so far, only 2 rooms are done… my son is helping me and said to me just the other day “mom i didnt realize we had so much stuff, where did it all come from?”… i told him we had thrown out 3/4 of our stuff when his sister moved out yrs ago and i knew then we could have thrown out even more… and now really looking at all we do have, i realize i can throw out even more! …
    i told my son, we will finish with each room (even if it takes another 2 weeks) and then we will go thru the rooms again and again until just about everything we dont really need or want is gone… my motto is: if i havent seen it, touched it, thought about it or even smelled it (if there is such a thing) out it will go…
    yes it is very overwhelming… and i cant belief we truly moved all of htis stuff from one house to another… its just too mind-boggling to say the least…
    jill, its really awesome that you posted this on the blog/website … bc my neighbor is thinking of getting one of those pods to store all of their excess items… she says she has no more room in her house and its cheaper than selling the house she is in and buying a bigger home… i recommended that she have a yard sale or somthing like that … and she said she couldnt sell all of the keepsakes she has collected over the years…
    well, i am hoping to have a deep clean and cleaner house by no later than sept 1st! that is my goal… 😀 … hopefully i will reach that goal…

    thanks for posting 😀

    • says

      Rose you keep plugging along. You need to let us know each time you get a room done so we can cheer you on. It can be daunting especially if things seem out of control but boy does it feel good when it is done. I’m sorry but every time I let a corner or room get out of control and I finally break down and get it cleaned it is like this big weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I really didn’t realize how much it was weighting me down until I had cleaned it. Right now I’m looking at my basement hoping to get motivated soon. I really need to practice what I preach huh?

  3. Tracy W says

    I enjoyed reading this i got a good laugh with your husband and his socks
    I do have a suggestion on a saturday morning hide all his socks
    Tell them their all still in the washer
    and he needs to run it or he can wear your socks
    Dr phill gave this idea in one of his books
    Because a teenager wouldn’t agree to washing or cleaning their rooms
    parents removed all the clothes and they had to earn back their designers jeans I didn’t know how your husband would handle not having socks for a day
    Some have a cow over it some are understanding and just smile or laugh
    But i do like your web site and read the post every day
    It very helpful and humoring also

  4. says

    My clutter problem is gadgets. I have a hard time doing housework and for a while I hired someone to come in once a week for 2 hours to vacume (how do you spell that word) and make the downstairs look good. She also swept down the stairs and cleaned the bathroom. Not bad for $20.
    But then I went into remission and stopped that but I was able to clean and started to declutter.
    Got rid of a lot of stuff but still there is clutter I can’t get rid of. Books take up one room in the house and are found in all rooms. We are a family of readers and keep almost all the books we buy and read them again and again.
    My living room has one corner for the Rod and Gun Club office. I am the membership chairperson so that is a necessity. My own personal computer is on one of the coffee tables so it is handy for me.
    We have a corner couch quite small and a love seat and a small wooden rocker and another chest for storage and coffee table. Lights and a wine cupboard and wine fridge all this in a 12X10 room.
    All of it is necessary but it sure does get cluttered looking.
    My husband buys all sorts of things to help me with my independence in keeping the house clean but some work and others don’t and they add to the clutter.
    We have a small house and I love it but there is no storage. When it was built they didn’t even build in the closets so they stick out of the walls and have no doors on them and no way to put a door.
    I am working on my husband to start getting rid of things that we don’t use but it sure is an uphill battle.
    If anyone can suggest ways to get someone to part with things it would be helpful. He won’t even let me into his office to clean sure glad it has a door that closes.
    When the boys left home I figured it would give us more room all it did was give us two extra rooms to fill with stuff. We kept the master bedroom as a bedroom and changed their two rooms into a big office and area for my husband and the other room is a guest room library and office for me. the only other room upstairs is the bathroom.
    I think the only way to get rid of stuff and not add to it is to get rid of my husband. But I love the man and after 34 years he still puts up with me so I can’t do that.
    any suggestions would be welcome.

  5. says

    my last post was full of excuses.
    just found this quote and I think it makes a lot of sense.

    “Excuses are monuments of nothing, built
    upon bridges to nowhere. Those who use this tool
    of incompetence are masters of nothing.”

    so no more excuses I will just get down to work and finally get it under control. except for one excuse I can’t wash things as the doctor told me to keep my hands dry until the exema clears up. He says 3 weeks but it will have to be sooner or I will go nuts.

    • says

      LOL! You sound just like me! If you need to wash things you might try rubber gloves if that will work. Not sure but thought I would mention it so if it would work one more excuse will be gone. :-)

  6. says

    Allergic to them. guess I could hire back my friendly cleaner or maybe my husband could take over washing out the sink at least.
    I was washing all dishes by hand first thing in the morning since the hot water helped my hands get functioning. Guess the dishwasher will be used more often.
    I have a funny husband. Years ago I was confined to a wheeled office chair since my knee locked and took a week to unlock.
    He and our sons 2 and 4 spent the day cleaning the apartment. Beds made laundry done vacuming to perfection.
    They wheeled me through the place and it was spotless. We came to the kitchen and the dishes were stacked and soaking.
    I laughed and they couldn’t figure out why I was laughing at a sink full of dishes.
    This man scrubbed the toilet bowl but didn’t want to do the dirty dishes.
    He now washes pans and the dishes on the nights he comes into the kitchen to help.
    But I still laugh when I picture him cleaning the toilet and curling his nose up to do the sink of dishes.

    • says

      I really appreciated your story Grandma because my husband use to be the same way. He would clean the bathrooms, vacuum, pick up even clear the table but not the dishes. He would even rinse the dishes so good they were almost clean but would stack them and never wash them. I use to laugh at him so much but like you I couldn’t complain because he always did so much to help me in other areas.

  7. Sandi P. says

    I just moved to a smaller apartment, and sent about 15 boxes of stuff to Goodwill and filled several trash cans. I’m a packrat, but with this downsizing I had to get brutal. I’ve kept all my yarn and only my favorite books, and kept my sewing machine, rolltop desk, and file cabinet. That and my few clothes fills up my side of the closet and bedroom. Our grown son has the other bedroom, and it’s almost empty. (He’s afraid of clutter after living with it all his life.) I try to clean the house and do laundry on weekends (I work full time at my husband’s shop, mostly sitting down), but the rheumatoid arthritis has damaged my knees horribly, and even the little things take so much time. Monday is always hard because I go to work with sore knees from working all weekend. This Monday my husband shocked me when he volunteered to empty and refill the dishwasher! We’ve been married well over 30 years, and that is the first time he’s done dishes! And he even did a passable job of it! Will wonders never cease!

  8. Grizzly Bear Mom says

    Elizabeth Elliott points out that you can only marry a sinner, and even though you get to pick, you should be happy if you get 80% of the behavior you want. I would have loved to only complain about my ex husbands’s no dish washing or sock dropping and am too saddened to list them here.

  9. says

    I hear this one. Yes, clutter relaly does clutter our lives…this week was stressful, and I think coming home after work to a completely disorganized house only increased my stress level–not surprisingly, I got a cold in the mix too. What a great idea…I might start cleaning my kitchen this weekend too, if I can only get the energy…

    • says

      You are right Vanessa getting the energy and motivation is half or more of the battle towards getting something done. If you can you might read a few more or our how to get organized posts to help you get motivated and to show you how to do it when you have zero energy. One to get you started is How to Get Organized II. Having CFS I really know what a lack of energy can do to a person’s mind and body and it is hard.

      You start with just one small thing that will take only about 5 minutes (you will be shocked at what you can do in 5 mins.). Then make yourself rest. Do 5 more minutes and then just see what happens. Chances are when you see the results of the first 5 minutes you will be so excited and motivated after seeing what you can get done in 5 mins. and how nice it looks and feels you will not only keep going but be energized. Try it. Tell yourself you are going to at least do 5 mins. then do it and see what happens.

  10. gertrud says

    I recently stopped at an estate sale, just curious!, apparently is was an older woman who had died and the family was trying to sell everything, Most of the furniture was already gone but the rest was pretty much still around. I went throught the whole house and the only thought I had was to get out! get home! and clean out more of my “stuff” which I had done quite a bit already.
    The estate ‘house’ was depressing, so much ‘junk’, old papers, dishes, decor, clutter in general etc. I just thought I can not do this to my children.
    Well, the Salvation Army will soon get more of my things!!!

    Love your posts, read them everyday and think of you and everybody else as my out of town friends. Take care, Gertrud

  11. Liz says

    I love Gertrud’s comments. I’ve got SO MUCH stuff and much is paperwork. I took the name of a charity who is coming to my neighborhood next week to pick up what I hope is a lot. I try to “save” things for garage sales because of a loss of a job for almost a year, and needing the money, but the time it takes me to find things due to the clutter, I waste a lot of “money” in time looking for things. I have two grocery bags of papers to take to the recycle bin at my son’s school. Went through a large recycle bag of papers and other stuff that got pitched into it “during the holiday”…last 4th of July! I’ve already collected some Christmas gifts I’m not able to return and don’t want, and don’t want to find the space to regift next year for the charity coming. Can’t wait to be rid of this stuff!

    Another problem…my husband is a school custodian. He works in a very affluent school dist. and the teachers and students are always throwing away very usable things in good to excellent condition. He brings them home for us to either use or pass on to someone who can use them. Last winter, the school had about 6 large garbage bags of coats, jackets, etc. that a donation center was suppose to pick up. They never did, so my husband brought home about 150 items, mostly coats and jackets. Top dollar items! (North Face, Gap, Nike, Under Armor, etc.) We gave many to single parents or families we knew were short on money. The rest we washed and gave to our church’s clothes closet. It’s hard to throw away something that is needed by someone else. I’ve trained him well to conserve, but sometimes it’s the cause of the clutter. :(

  12. shelley says

    Thank you girls, once again for showing me the beauty in running the house and making it a home. With 4 kids, i am often overwhelmed, but you two remind me to quit making excuses and get moving… In the past year, since I have been getting your e-mails, I have been cooking healthy meals at home, menu planning,using leftovers (that would have previously been thrown away) freezer cooking, and in general running my house in a much more efficent manner….I have saved a signficant amount of money over what i would have normally spent at the grocery store, I can’t believe I was blind to these things before!!!

    • says

      Way to go Shelley. Love to hear stories like yours. It is hard with 4 kids I know. I spent the week helping Tawra try to get some of the chaos under control that comes with 4 kids and it can be a challenge to say the least. Keep up the good work.

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