Picking Up Around The House

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Picking Up Around The House

Many years ago, way way back in the last millennium : ) (that sounds impressive doesn’t it?), as a young bride (that sounds depressive – am I really that old?), I read one of the best tips on cleaning and housekeeping.

The woman who wrote it was an older woman and said she had been an awful housekeeper until she asked her friend who had a spotless house what her secret was. Her secret was that she never stopped picking up. No matter where she was walking to and from in her house, she automatically picked things up to take with her and put away. It really works.

Some of you are saying, “My kids and husband just need to pick up their own stuff.” I agree that the family needs to be responsible, but the reality is that kids and husbands have their heads in the clouds when it comes to these things. There could be an elephant in the room and if you ask them, “Why didn’t you pick that up?” they would say, “I didn’t see it there.” Duhhhhh!!

God has given us all different gifts and seeing the things that are out of place is not one He gave to kids and husbands so, in the same way I need them to help do things in the areas where I’m not as gifted I need to help them in their weaker areas. : ) That doesn’t mean they are off the hook when it comes to picking up. It just means I need to do a little extra.

For example, each morning, before anyone gets fed, their rooms must be picked up. Sometimes during the day or evening if things are getting out of control, we have a “pick up” time where everyone jumps in and helps. I usually try to make a game of this. Then at night before their snack and bedtime story the family room and, once again, their rooms get picked up.

I also taught everyone to clean up the bathroom after themselves and take care of all their dirty clothes and dishes so, as you can see, I am not solely responsible for all of the picking up. The type of thing I’m talking about is picking up that stray toy in the corner, that piece of paper or throw pillow on the floor and all those small odds and ends which so often get overlooked or that everyone refuses to claim as his or her own. With those things, it’s not worth the time to wait until the family gets home to demand to know whose it is. It seems everyone in the family is waiting for someone else to do it and then it never gets done. As the mom, you have to just do it and pick it up. It saves so many headaches.

As I walk through a room, let’s say on my way to the bathroom, I will scan the room as I go through to see if anything is out of place. If it is, I pick it up to deposit where it should go on my way to the bathroom. When I come out of the bathroom headed back, I pick up things from in there that need to go to the other end of the house.

Most of the time this takes me less than a minute. It has become such a habit that I didn’t realize how much I did it until I was over at Tawra’s the other day and started doing it at her house. As I was walking along, I spied a marble, then a Lincoln log and grabbed those up… next, a scrap of paper. I put the paper in the trash can that I passed on my way to the boys’ room, where I put the other things. I was headed that way anyway and it didn’t take me 5 seconds to scoop, grab and put away. It is such a habit that, even when I am tired, I do it without thinking.

Try doing this with one room. If the room is mostly picked up go in, scan the room and pick up those little overlooked things and see what a difference it makes in the room. Then get into the habit of always picking up those little “out of place” things. You will be surprised how many little things there are laying around and out of place in your house. One word of warning: Be careful of piles. I have the bad habit of piling things at the foot or top of the stairs and planning to take them up later but that is my weakness – not seeing the pile when I head upstairs – so try to do as I say and not as I do and keep the piles under control.

-Jill, the lean, mean, picking up machine

photo by:  whgrad


  1. says

    I do the same thing. I don’t even realize I am picking things up any more. With a 19 month old, it would be impossible to step through our living room and not get hurt if I didn’t constantly pick up. She is learning to pick up her things and put them back so, I work with her on that everyday. But, for the most part, I pick stuff up all day. My husband I think is the worst culprit in not picking things up. Like you mentioned, he does the whole, “I didn’t see it” thing. I actually believe him and it totally amazes me! LOL I am always thinking to myself, “How can you NOT see that??”.

  2. kerry browning says

    Words of wisdom. Keeper of order. Just an acknowlegement–I always greet the custodians at my school. We couldn’t teach if they weren’t constantly picking things up.

  3. Lesley Carol says

    Play the game and pick up was always my mantra which I repeated to my now grown sons when they were littering everywhere with their toys. They learned from this advice and I follow it myself. I too constantly pick up. One further tip: To save steps, collect things that are to be returned to the same place. Use a basket for this task and it’s much easier than just roving the territory empty-handed. I collect organic scraps in a bowl as I prepare meals and THEN take the bowl to my composter. Here’s to tidier, cleaner homes for us all!

  4. Alicia Webster says

    I do this also, and it really makes a difference, and saves me a lot of embarrassment when people “drop by” unannounced for a visit…I asked my husband why he walks right past items that are lying on the floor (or he even has to step OVER them sometimes), and he said this: “I see them, I just don’t like to bend over…”
    And I do ?? Good grief. It’s a good thing that my hubby is wonderful in so many OTHER ways :)

    • says

      That’s too funny Alicia (well maybe not for you) :( but it is so true. I don’t know what it is with husbands and kids and picking up. :) :) You got to love them anyway.

    • says

      LOL my husband has that problem with me! I fell down the stairs and hurt my back with baby #3 and it’s never been the same. I will let stuff sit right in the middle of the floor all day just for that reason. Dumb I know but the thing I hate the most about housekeeping is picking up!!!!!

  5. says

    my husband had a really bad habit of getting the paper which was about 4″ thick and reading every page.
    I would go in the living room and it was wall to wall papers.
    Finally we left that city and now live in a small town so he reads his news paper on line.
    Saves me time, money and frustration.
    Papers online are free, no paper mess and I don’t have to fight with the cats to get it to the garbage. They loved to make beds with it.

    Now if only I could get him to not take his socks off and toss them under his desk while sitting there.

  6. Alicia Webster says

    Tawra–you reminded me of something when you said that you fell down the stairs and hurt your back…When I was first married to my husband and trying to impress him with what a fabulous housekeeper I was (HA!), I thought I would buff our hardwood floors to a high shine…So I used Pledge furniture polish. Can you believe it?!! I know, I know, but I was new to the whole cleaning biz, and I was clueless. Well, the floor was shiny alright..and as slippery as walking on butter…my husband came down the stairs, took one step, and went flying…he flew up into the air, and when he landed, it was right on his tailbone…to this day, he rubs his backside, and complains about having married an “amateur”…

    • says

      Alicia don’t feel bad we have all been then and done that. As a new bride I thought I would do the same to my floors with pledge and almost killed my husband. It is amazing that so many husbands survive those first years of marriage between cleaning and cooking boo boos. :) :) To funny.

  7. says

    My husband said my big gendron stroller squeaked and drove him nuts so he took a can of I think it was silicone and sprayed the wheels. Certainly no more squeaks but he sprayed it in the entrance to our apartment. the entrance was tile. Even after several scrubbings you could take a step and slide right through the kitchen.
    He never did it again and the squeaks came back but the baby slept much quicker when we were out walking. Something about the squeaks sent babies to sleep.

  8. mary says

    One granddaughter can walk right by a stack of dirty dishes on the counter while the other one stops and starts loading the dishwasher immediately. The first one will do the job if it is called to her attention but literally doesn’t see it otherwise.

  9. Karla says

    When my grandkids make a mess of toys while I’m tending them, we play I spy by color. The first one to run and pick it up and put it away gets to be the “spyer”. They love it because they are usually faster than me.LOL. Their mom really appreciates coming home to a cleaner house.

  10. Kevin says

    It’s not all husbands. I work a full time job and come home to a mess. And, I’m a clean freak. Monk the second. And, trying to get the kids and wife to help is a nightmare.

    • says

      There is a happy medium. You may have to relax your standards and what makes you comfortable a little and your kids and wife may need to help more. We have lots of info on the web site and in our Kids e book if you need more.

  11. Grizzly Bear Mom says

    Perhaps some people really can’t see messes. Stop fighting with them and collaborate on developing cleanliness standards and assign tasks in accordance with their sight. This is adding on to what I saw on this website. It could be Bedroom/bathroom “dirty clothing in appropriate color laundry basket. Wipe shower and sink after use. Hang towel over shower rod.” The “blind” husband and daughter could dust/vaccum and mop; and do laundry. The seeing one could wash dishes and pick up. Remember that you are an important person, wife and mother not a slave.

  12. kathleen says

    I am so tired of picking up after my husband. He says I sound like his mother. I said I am tired of being your maid. We sat down and assigned tasks years ago. He now says he doesn’t feel like doing them. Help!

    • says

      This kind of a question requires not just a simple answer but a whole book on the subject but I will give a couple of main points and then maybe sometime in the future I could write and article on it. Some of these tips will work for some husbands and others won’t. That is your first tip – know the enemy. You probably already know what buttons to push to make him upset and what ones make him responsive. If you don’t study him and if all else fails ask him.

      Absolutely nothing under the sun will be changed or gained by nagging, harping, complaining or whining as you have already found out. You will sound like his mother who he probably started rebelling against in his teens.

      One method I use with my boys (and men are just grown up boys) is to pull out the weaker vessel card like “I was going to put away those boxes in the garage but they were so heavy I didn’t know what to do.” Men love coming to our rescue. I know women don’t like using these old fashion methods and turn their noses up at them but I am sorry men still have a cave man mentality no matter how liberated we think we are. If this weren’t true I wouldn’t recieve so many questions like this all the time.

      Sometimes it could be you need to change something. For example my husband always, always would throw his clothes towards the hamper where they would pile. It drove me crazy. Why couldn’t he walk a few feet and lift the lid and put them in. On a trip to visit his parents we stayed in his old room and I noticed the hamper in his closet didn’t have a lid on it like ours at home did. I went home and took the lid off of the hamper and his aim was always perfect and the clothes got in there every time. You could do something like this too if he is always losing his keys, make sure there is a place to hang them or put them when he walks in the door.

      Don’t take it personally. If he can’t find his shoes because he took them off someplace he shouldn’t have let him find them himself. Just ignore him. Don’t pace after him wringing your hands, hollering and trying to find them. Like kids sometimes he needs to have consequences to his bad behavior. If he is late for work enough times he will eventually figure out he needs to put his keys up.

      Retrain him. If he picks up even one pair of undershorts or towel, thank him and pat his arm or give him a kiss. Slowly but surly he will start associating his good behavior with something that gives him pleasure. On the other hand if is he under foot all the time when you are trying to get dinner fixed or work done instead of stepping around him start giving him a job to do. He will quickly start staying out of your way.

      Change your tone of voice and how you ask him to do something. Don’t demand, holler or nag but instead ask him to do something like you would your best friend. For example You could say,”I am running so behind this evening would you mind picking up your shoes over there while I work on picking up this section of the room? I would really appreciate it.”

      Pull out your ace card. Sex. Men are really a lot like our dogs (I really don’t mean to insult them because I did love my dog and think he was the smartest bravest thing but it was the best example I could come up with) there are 3 things important to them -sex, food and their toys (tv, cars, electronics). I had no trouble getting my husband to help me because he knew at the end of the day he would get one of his favorite things. : ) He was more then willing to help clean up the kitchen or help with the kids because he knew what was waiting for him when it was all done.

      Part of the secret to a good marriage is not keeping track of who is working the hardest or always feeling like you are being treated unfairly. It is always thinking of the other bending over backwards to go above and beyond the call of duty for your spouse. In normal marriages if you start doing to make you spouse’s life as good as it can be they usually will return the favor because the are so grateful to you but if you do things grudgingly thinking this isn’t fair, whining and complaining, you will have a cycle that will never stop and you will be miserable.

      Now all that being said some spouses are just plain slobs and they may never change. If that is their only fault and you love a clean home then just learn to be willing take the 5 secs. and pick up those undies and clean it up yourself instead spending all evening arguing about it or fuming about it.

      I find most of the time though in a truly loving and caring relationship if you come to your husband in love, not in anger and lay your cards on the table by saying something like, “I love you so much and want your home to be nice and comfortable for you and even though I am trying to make it that way I am so worn out at the end of the day I can’t seem to get it all done. What do you think I should do or how do you think I can fix it?” You aren’t accusing him or saying it is all his fault but asking for his help and advice and men love giving it and sometimes are wiser then we give them credit for in their answers. We need to be willing to listen and be open minded that what we want may not always be what is right for the whole family.

      One last practical thing make a list of 10 things or more of what jobs that you do and have your husband list them in order of importance to him.
      Here’s and example
      House neat and clean
      Wife happy and good-natured
      Wife’s appearance neat and attractive
      Laundry washed and put away
      Meals on time
      Wife develop her talents
      Spends time with children
      Spends time with husband
      Wife active in church, PTA and other activities

      My husband put spending time with him 1, wife happy and good- natured as 2, spend time with children 3. The clean house and laundry was last on his list. It made me pause and think about my priorities and where I was maybe missing the boat.
      Like I said there is no way I can even begin to cover this subject or explain completely but these might help get you started.

  13. Loradona says

    My aunt always picks up. It exhausts me to be around her sometimes. When I set my coffee cup down and go to the restroom,the cup will be clean in the cabinet when I come back. But, I love going to her house because it’s pretty and clean. So, I just have to do this myself. It helps to have a home for all of your things. It’s work no matter how you look at it,lol. I love the encouragement of these house keeping posts. Thank you for posting. I read most of it to the children. We are all putting this into practice. I’m sure it will be a life long habit their wives will appreciate.

  14. Jacqueline says

    Dear Tawra and/or Jill,
    Something that has helped me – most especially when I hurt my back, was a set of tongs – not the kind you use on the grill but a king-size version of the same. From Google I found http://arcmate.com/kingtongslitterpickuptool.aspx. I am not marketing these; since having a mental picture helps me,they were the image I found. [Mine are another ‘flavor’. Some varieties are strong enough to pick up cans!]Perhaps this gift from my husband can ‘help’ another.
    Thank you for all you do to help others!

  15. Sister says

    I work all day & the last thing I want to see when I walk in the back door is a messy kitchen. So – I came up with this. Believe me when I say it WORKS.
    I made a rule that if I walk in the kitchen and I see any dish or pan dirty – I am going to assume everyone has eaten & I do not have to cook that evening…
    Kinda have to giggle when I see the dish washer going. But at least I got their butts in gear.

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