HOW I FINALLY GOT CLEAN . . . with a little help from my friends.

Welcome to our Spring-Cleaning Series! If you are just joining us, here’s what you’ve missed so far:

From SLOB to . . . SHRIMP ?

Yesterday, our currently ocean-obsessed kindergartener said to me:

“Mama, you’re like a Peacock Mantis Shrimp! You really are such a neat-freak!”

Being likened to a Mantis Shrimp (even a peacock one) wouldn’t normally win too many points with me. But in this instance, I will happily accept our son’s observation and crustacean-comparison as a compliment on my spring-cleaning efforts this week!

Mantis shrimp, come to find out, are very particular about all the little pebbles around their doorways and such. Thank you Ultimate Ocean-pedia. His statement made me laugh, one because it’s funny when a little kid spouts off “Peacock Mantis Shrimp” in normal conversation (I never knew there even was such a thing), and two because I am not even close to being considered a “neat freak.”

Truth be told, I used to be quite the slob. It’s embarrassing, but true. My poor mom. She kept after me day after day, month after month, year after year when I was growing up . . . but to no avail.

I’m sad to say that I stubbornly stuck to my messy ways until I think it was maybe a few weeks after our son was born. Suddenly, as a first-time mom, I saw our home through a totally new light —as a playground of peril! And so . . . I got help.

Meme Creation: Marie Kondo Meme I Love Mess

Getting clean was no easy task for me. I had to start at the very beginning. And there’s no way I could have done it alone. It took three (yes, three!) land-dwelling Mantis Shrimp to reform me of my bad habits. I’m referring to minimalist and tidying experts in a human form: Francine Jay, Karen Kingston, and Marie Kondo. Sadly they didn’t come to our apartment and smack me upside the head personally. A girl can only dream! No . . . I had to get slammed through the pages of their books, which I read cover to cover . . . some of them twice. Yup. I can be that dense sometimes.

Several books and a few years later, I had finally gotten it together. Now . . . I do not consider myself a tidying expert by any means. If I was, I wouldn’t be needing to do a fairly major Spring-Clean now, would I? Nor have I mastered the art of minimalism. The full-to-bursting Penske truck we recently drove across the country was proof of that. No, if I were to win a minimalist medal it would only be perhaps for “Most Improved.” So, be assured that I am still learning and putting good habits to practice, and I probably will be for the rest of my life. But I am a slow, steady, stubborn work in progress, and maybe you are, too!

And just as the best math teachers are often not mathematicians but rather the students who struggled in math class . . . and just as the best reading teachers are often those who overcame dyslexia or a strong childhood aversion to reading . . . so too may a reformed slob (that’s me!) have a unique ability to help others on the path to get clean. And if I was able to clean up my act, then seriously ANYONE CAN.

So, today I’m sharing my very favorite tips and takeaways from my three favorite tidying and minimalist experts . . . the ones that helped me finally get clean!

My Favorite Tidying Tips & Home-keeping Habits:


In her book “Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui” (yeah, that was a trip), Karen Kingston outlines her method of systematically decluttering the home by sending all of your belongings in one specific area at a time through sort of a self-made filter: labeled boxes. In a nutshell, this box system helps with indecision, confusion, and general disorientation which are all common issues that plague the decluttering process (especially for recovering slobs like me). By picking up one item at a time and not allowing yourself to put it down until you have selected a box/category in which to place it, this method holds you to completion down to the very last paper clip.

This system has been transformative for me and my tidying efforts. I have a tendency to drift when I clean (I’m a creative soul, what can I say). Let’s just say I often wander . . . flitting around the house pinching a thing here or there to discard, beginning an organization project in one closet, then getting side-tracked and starting to work on a drawer . . . you get the idea. The box system, however, grounds me to one location and one task at a time and helps me stick with it to completion. It also saves me valuable time and energy spent running about the house on an errand to put seventeen stray items to their proper homes.


My favorite takeaway from Francine Jay’s “The Joy of Less” is her emphasis on creating an “inner circle” and an “outer circle” for every single item in every single area of our homes. She explains how often we reach over, under, and around things that we rarely use to get at things that we use every day or even several times a day! It seems so obvious, but I had never realized before just how often I was doing this very thing, and how much time and frustration it was costing me!

For example, I make myself a minimum of three cups of tea a day. Before reading this book, I was getting my tea down from one cupboard, grabbing a tea mug from another cupboard, grabbing a saucer from yet another cupboard, and taking the entire collection to the simmering kettle. Three or more times . . . a day. After reading this book, one of the first changes I made was to create a “tea station” for me and a “coffee station” for my husband. We now have a cupboard divided in half where everything sits together. In ONE place. I chose the cupboard closest to the tea kettle’s home. In the cupboard are mugs, tea, coffee, strainers, bobbers, etc. So that each of us can make our hot cup of morning cheer from ONE standing position in the kitchen. Our “inner circle.” It’s not rocket-science . . . but it’s perked up our daily routine.

This principle can be applied to every area of the home from the bathroom to the art cupboard. Keep closest at hand that which you use the most often, and put further back (even as far out as the garage or in storage) that which you use less and less often.


I’m not on board with everything that is championed by the Marie Kondo method. It’s a bit too . . . disposable for my tastes. I’m not a fan of the whole “if you don’t love it, just dump it” movement. I find it wasteful and offensive to those who don’t happen to live in a first-world country and have the luxury of discarding something simply because it doesn’t . . . you know . . . “bring them joy.” That being said, I absolutely LOVE Marie Kondo’s quest for creating beauty in every area of the home. Here are two of the ways she teaches us to give fresh breath and lovely life to every corner of our homes:

1.) Ditch the plastic baggies:

Marie Kondo removes everything from it’s plastic bags upon it’s entry into her home . . . from toilet paper rolls to a bag of apples. Instead, she displays everything in it’s naturally lovely state; toilet paper rolls in a lovely woven basket, apples washed and placed in a ceramic bowl. I even put this into practice in the craft cupboard . . . freeing paint brushes, popsicle sticks, googly-eyes, modeling clay, etc. from their shrink-wrapped misery and placing them in washed out spice and sauce jars. It’s amazing what a difference this one tip has made in our home . . . visually, and accessibility-wise!

2.) Boxed, bowled, and basketed:

Want exquisite organization? Then this tip is for you. Marie Kondo practices putting every single little last thing into it’s own pretty tray, box, bowl or basket . . . from earrings to paper clips. She makes a drawer of office supplies look like a Bento Box. It’s amazing. Recently, I’ve even started doing this with all our son’s math manipulatives. And I have to tell you . . . it makes be stupidly happy.

I hope these tips bring as much breath to your home as they have to ours!

Happy Spring-Cleaning! Join us later this week for our 12-Step Spring-Cleaning Routine!

Thanks for reading!

Love, ~Our Holistic Homeschool~

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