Everything In Its Place

Library books to return

Library books in their own spot

About 18 months ago, I created a housework list. Rom and I shared and alternated the tasks. We quickly got into a routine and didn’t need the lists anymore. But then we started backsliding. It is time to reinstate those lists!

Most people would say we keep a clean and tidy house. That is mainly because we don’t invite anyone over unless we’ve done a good cleaning! Our daily routine helps us keep up with the housework, though.

When I visit other people’s homes (especially on the spur of the moment), one behavior always stops me in my tracks. I have friends who have simply never developed the habit of putting things away. There are mild instances, like hanging a jacket on the stair post, and (to my mind) significant examples, like leaving empty chip bags on the couch. For days.

If there is one thing you can say about me – I put stuff away! Just for fun, I took a mental walk through my day and noted all the things I have to pick up and put away.

Clean dishes on drying rack

Clean dishes to put away

I get up when it’s still dark and the first thing I do is collect the toys that the cats have strewn everywhere in the night. They also drag socks and tea towels around if they find any! After feeding the cats and putting the cat food away, I put away yesterday’s dishes from the drying rack. Then I get ready and head out to the gym.

When I get back, I put away my gym clothes, or hang up swimming gear and towels. It’s warmer by the time I go to work, so I often switch jackets, as well as shoes. I plug in my headphones to recharge and put my car keys with my work keys so I’ll remember both!

I take the cat litter out and wash up before breakfast.

Then I make coffee, make lunch for work, make and eat breakfast, clean up, and put all the food items away.

As I get ready for work, I use all kinds of toiletries which are then stashed away again (moisturizers, hair gel, toothpaste, etc.)

Then off to work!

When I get home from work, there is so much unpacking, it’s like I’ve returned from a journey: jacket, scarf, gloves, and shoes; backpack and lunch bag; water bottle and travel coffee mug; lunch and snack containers; library books coming and going.

I feed the cats and sometimes fill the bird feeder and store the big bags of food away again.

Free local newspapers

Free local papers waiting to be read

I sort and deal with the mail, usually just bulk mail – flyers, coupons, charity pleas and banking confirmations that duplicate online versions. I shred anything with my name or address on it. File the occasion item. Recycle the rest. I read free papers I pick up at work (like our local weekly entertainment listings), leave them out for Rom to browse, and eventually recycle them, too.

I change my clothes so my work outfits are not exposed to cat fur! Put away my earrings, watch, and other jewellery. (Perk of office job: getting to wear jewellery again!)

I make a cuppa tea and start making dinner. Between the start and end of the meal, I’ve used and put away the tea fixings, the recipe, the ingredients, the prep bowls and equipment, and the leftovers. Washed the pots and pans and put them away too. Took out the recyclable containers, the compost and the garbage. Swept the floor and put away the broom and dustpan.

Over the course of the evening, I read and put away books and magazines, eat snacks and put away snack containers. Eventually I fold up the TV blanket, return the many remote controls to their basket, the landline handset back to its cradle, and my cell phone to its charging spot.

Before bedtime I do a visual check to ensure there is no food left around that the cats could get into, and no clothing items (like gloves or socks) they could chew. Because they would.

Then another round of personal care items – moisturizer, toothbrush, Waterpik, etc.

In the course of this very ordinary day I have used and put away at least 50 items and that’s not even counting things I use at work!

I was thinking about the things we don’t use any more, or rarely: maps, stamps, coins, photos, phone book.

We have such a quiet little household: no children and their mountains of gear; no dogs with their toys and leashes and coats and brushes; no medications or health equipment; no boats or bikes or skis; nothing waiting to be sold on Kijiji. I haven’t done any crafts for years. Rom has his guitars and his big collection of Magic cards (which must be endlessly sorted, catalogued and valued).

Birthday cards to deal with

Birthday cards a month old

Of course, there is another category of things to put away – less than daily – sometimes weekly or just occasionally. Without doing an entire household inventory, here’s a list I came up with:

  1. Groceries
  2. Wine, beer, cider
  3. Tablet
  4. Camera, tripod
  5. New purchases
  6. Packaging from new things
  7. Packaging from things used up
  8. Reusable shopping bags (return to the car!)
  9. Receipts, manuals and warranties
  10. Documents e.g. insurance policy
  11. Cards and gifts received
  12. Gifts purchased to give later
  13. Gift wrapping and packing supplies
  14. Items to be returned (refunds, exchanges, return to owner)
  15. Items to be repaired
  16. Mending supplies (needle and thread, glue)
  17. Items missing pieces
  18. Items to donate (clothes, etc.)
  19. Sports items (skates and helmet, snorkel and mask)
  20. Baking supplies & equipment
  21. Less common kitchen gear like waffle maker or spiralizer
  22. Ziploc-type bags to reuse
  23. Vacuum cleaner
  24. Laundry supplies
  25. Laundry hampers, sorting baskets
  26. Clean clothes
  27. Cleaning supplies
  28. Gardening supplies
  29. Lawn mower
  30. Watering hose
  31. Pressure washer
  32. Snow shovels, salt
  33. Deck furniture
  34. Bird feeders
  35. Summer/Winter tires
  36. Christmas and seasonal decorations
  37. Hardware (picture hangers, light bulbs, etc.)
  38. Tools (drill, pliers, etc.)
  39. Paint
  40. Batteries
  41. Flashlight
  42. Keys (shed, etc.)
  43. Records (LPs)
  44. DVDs
  45. Board games
  46. Candles, matches
  47. Table cloths, place mats
  48. Spare/portable tables & chairs
  49. Luggage
  50. The remains of a tree that fell in a hurricane! (logs were quickly snapped up for firewood, still dealing with small branches)
Tree branches

Small branches remain from hurricane cleanup

Now we’re at about 100 kinds of items to find homes for and take care of.

I am more convinced than ever that putting things away is the crux of housework. It can be tedious to always pause and return things to their place. But it means I see them, I remember I have them, I don’t re-purchase things I already have, items last longer, it’s safer, and it’s much easier to clean when surfaces are clear. As a bonus, no one notices if your house is immaculately clean, as long as it’s reasonably tidy!

There’s a lot to be said for right-sizing the number of things you own so you won’t have to spend all your time caring for the stuff!

I have one caveat. I don’t believe in packing away “works in progress.” If your child is making a magnificent fortress, if you’re quilting, if you have a game of Monopoly that goes on for days – it is entirely no fun if you put the whole thing away and bring it out (or start over) the next day. Sometimes you need some momentum. That just doesn’t apply to the chip bags in the couch cushions 😊

Do you tidy throughout the day? What stuff do you have to put away that I haven’t listed?

22 comments

  1. Haha. You’re back with a vengeance with an exacting list of things!

    My sons and husband are maddening. Not only do they not put things away, they leave cupboard doors open! It makes everything look so messy. On my list to do today is to put things away. Literally that is what I wrote on my to do list. Not clean up. Not tidy up but put things away. The first night we came home from Europe (about 11pm Friday) I emptied my bag and put on a wash. Saturday was hairdresser and sleep. Today is putting things away!

    As much as I moan about my sons and husband, Im not the best either. I need to get into a routine at evening/night of putting things away.

    • Leave cupboard doors open – the horror! My dad was a safety officer so in my world that is unacceptable 😁 My worst tidying habit is that I rinse dishes and stack them by the sink where I leave them for days. I really have to push myself to hand wash those dishes that need to be hand washed.

  2. I’m terrible about coats and scarves. There is no coat closet on the main floor of the house I live in, so my tendency is to drape them over the backs of chairs every day until they drive me crazy enough that I’m spurred to cart them all downstairs and put them away.

  3. Fiona

    My husband and son are just slightly more maddening than Lucinda’s. Not only do they not pick up, nor close cupboards…they leave lights and ceiling fans on. Our house is like an archeological dig. You could bring students here with worksheets to reconstruct our past week or past month from the scattered debris. I’m not an immediate picker-upper myself but after a day or so I swoop in like a hotel service and become obsessive. Interesting days ahead as I now have a spare, part-time house available if my family continue to ignore my pleas to pick up their own mess!!

    • Aagh, Rom leaves lights on everywhere too. I am always following him and putting us in the dark. Even though whatever room I’m in, I like very brightly lit!

      Please tell me the rest of your family don’t leave smelly sports gear lying around the house and car! 😆

  4. Fiona

    P.S. no pressure but so happy to see a post update! 😊

  5. I try to put things away as much as possible, too. That bit in which you said there’s so much unpacking when you get home from work, it’s as if you’ve returned from a journey, had me chuckling. I feel exactly the same; there’s the water-bottle, thermos, lunch-box, snack containers — one for morning, another for afternoon. Then sartorially, there are, like you mentioned, coats and scarves and gloves, stockings/socks and shoes and clothes — and I’ve only been to work!

    And yes, we don’t realise how much putting-away one does each day, until you start spelling them out. One thing I am not good at putting away, though, are drafts of writing I have lying around in the study. Even after posting them on the blog, I tend to hoard them, like antique. 🙂

    PS: I’ve always enjoyed peeking at the spines of people’s books. And yours has made me smile.

  6. I am pretty good at putting stuff away as I go- when I was a teenager my parents had to nag me all the time to tidy up, but once I lived in my own house I realised the wisdom of unpacking my bag when I got home from work, and so on! I do have a bad habit of throwing things into the wardrobe to put away later, which makes the room like tidy when really it is not!

    My partner is a cupboard leaver-opener too…and not a natural putter-awayer of shoes and bags etc. I tend to go round the house each morning and evening putting things away that are out of place. Our house isn’t always sparkling clean, but it’s not usually messy!

  7. It’s a never ending battle at home with 2 young adults still living here! Glasses are the bain of my life, always a clean glass and always left where the finished their drink ! I really like the idea of the housework list ! may give that a go.

    • Oh yeah! I can imagine! On the plus side, if you find glasses everywhere, at least you are not buying all single-serving bottles to be thrown away. I like having a housework list – you can point to the list and it feels more objective than mom having to be the reminder all the time.

  8. Margie from Toronto

    Living on my own certainly makes things a lot easier – and like you, I try to tidy and out things away as the day progresses. I make my bed, put away the dishes that have dried overnight, wash breakfast dishes, put all toiletries away after use and hang up clothes!
    My one weakness is my tote bag and purse as I come home – they tend to end up on my chaise – as does any paperwork, magazines etc.
    I dust and vacuum every 10 days or so – and clean the bathroom at least once a week. I also quite deliberately ask people over on a regular basis to force myself to do a deep clean!
    And I hate any doors left open!!!

    • Having people over is the only thing that makes me do a thorough cleaning these days. Clearly I should do it more often! I also prefer to do more household tasks in the morning, even if it means getting up earlier.

  9. Sunday – that’s when I make an effort to get everything back to their rightful places.

    Which isn’t to say I don’t put milk back in the fridge, but for example, sometimes the container of oats will stay on the bench. And gently worn clothes. Ironing to do is hing neatly in the bathroom – this solution pleases me.

    Funnily, i’ve been known to leave cupboard doors open, but I do live alone, so no one to annoy!!

  10. Kris

    Please write some more about Rom’s Magic Cards … I’m intrigued!

    • Hi Kris! Rom has a massive collection of Magic the Gathering cards which he’s been actively collecting since 2010. He buys a certain number of booster packs of each set. He has an MTG YouTube channel on which he does unboxings. He used to spend a lot of money on products just to unbox for the channel but he has cut back dramatically (he can’t keep pace with the sponsored YouTubers who are given free product to review). Rom doesn’t actually like to play Magic with other people very much! Sometimes he plays online, but he is mostly just a collector. I don’t love playing but I see the appeal of drafting and deck building. Nevertheless I am very well-educated about MTG and if you didn’t know better, to hear me talk, you’d think I was a player 🙂

  11. Mary

    I feel compelled to tidy up, too. Most of your routines are the same as mine. Visual eye clutter drives me mad–not to say that my house is the cleanest on the block–but most of my spaces are tidy enough. DH on the other hand…well, let’s just say that I don’t go into the the TV room downstairs–his lair–or what I not-so-lovingly call his black hole of Calcutta (just close the door). And like Lucinda, I am forever closing closet/cupboard doors he’s left open or, like you, turning off lights–another sticking point–especially considering how he ranted about that issue when the children were around. Now that I am retired, I still follow the pattern I did when I worked and carried a briefcase–if I have plans for the next day, the evening before I will put things together on my home office chair (e.g. handbag, library book bag with items to return, items to take for grandchildren–anything needed for the next day) so that I\m ready to go. When I return home, everything gets returned to its allotted place. Ahhh. 🙂

    • Glad you are like-minded, Mary! It makes me feel agitated to have a chaotic environment. I don’t like the feeling of trying to relax while knowing so many things are out of place or waiting to be done. It improves my life dramatically not to have that tension!

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