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How I Kept a Clean and Tidy Home After Having a Child

Freelance writer Maita de Jesus discovered that her neat freak side had to take a backseat when she became a mom, finding that a happy home was much better than a tidy one

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Photography: Dairy Darilag

Organizing and tidying up is a hobby and my form of stress release. When I was childless and living alone in a compact studio, nothing was ever out of place. A friend of mine who came over one day even said that everything had its place, and there was a place for everything.

After giving birth, my daughter and I spent two years in my parents’ 300sqm house. We then moved into a 68sqm unit, with just enough space for my now four-year-old, my parents, and me.

I am still much of a neat freak until today, but anyone who’s got a child with no house help or yaya to pick up after them will know that keeping a tidy and spotless house all the time is out of the question. And after four years of struggling with the stress of toys strewn all over the floor, paint smears and stickers on the walls, and forgotten piles of clean clothes left out of the closet for days, this is what I’ve learned in order to keep my sanity:

1. Keep only what you need.

Our move to the condo was very abrupt. We didn’t have the luxury or time to pack and move everything in one go, and instead moved what we needed in batches during the weekends. I allotted one last day to get everything I needed, which I discovered wasn’t a lot. I’m thankful that I was forced to severely downsize because we simply had no space to put all our belongings in. It gave me the opportunity to look at every object that I owned and, just like any student of the KonMari method asked, “Does this spark joy?” and if it didn’t, out to a future garage sale it went.

2. Separate your child’s belongings from your own.

For a while, my daughter and I shared the same closet space because her clothes were tiny and few enough to fit in my closet. Same thing went for her shoes, bags, accessories—everything, really. But eventually her things spread on mine like a disease, and both our things ended up in piles of giant messes. I gave her a separate clothes closet, a shoe rack, a bag area, and an accessories drawer now. These don’t take up much space, but if you’re looking into creating more storage space, a box for her things would do—you can use anything to separate your items from each other. I’ve realized that this makes it easier for me to not just tidy up, but to clearly see how much stuff we have, and what we can get rid of.

3. Pencil in some spring cleaning.

Children grow out of their clothes so quickly that I almost always take a couple of pieces of clothing out of her closet whenever I open it to get something for her to wear. But nonetheless, it will be more helpful if you set aside some time to go through each item that your child owns. I do a more thorough cleaning every couple of months, which means, more baby stuff to sell. More money, yay!

4. Tidy up when they’re done, and get them to help out.

I’ve discovered that it’s frustrating and never-ending to pick up after a child who’s not done playing yet. The floor will disappear and your child might end up toppling over his or her own toys, but it will be a lesson learned for them to create only a mess that they can deal with. If your child is around three years old, they’ll be able to help you out and pack away on their own (but if you’re meticulous like me, put it back in its actual place when they’re away—more often than not, they won’t tidy it up the way you want them to).

5. Teach your kids to discover, not destroy, stuff.

You’ve seen children who let out an evil laugh when they topple over a pile of blocks, or homes with walls filled with doodles, paint, and stickers put up by toddlers who are “unleashing their creativity.” I made this mistake too, and now I still have stickers and paint that I’m yet to remove. It takes a lot of time and patience (and scrubbing!) to get children to respect your things and their home by taking care of them, but they’ll benefit greatly from knowing their boundaries.

6. Make the choice.

We’re faced with so many decisions everyday, and with only a day to do everything. Would you rather put your kids’ clothes inside their closet, or sleep? Do you want to sweep the floors or help your child with homework? There will always be a choice to make, and the best choice should reflect what matters to you the most. I’ve learned to close my eyes and ignore the mess sometimes, if it meant more time to snuggle beside my baby and get more sleep. Choose the option that matters most to you, right now.

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