Monday, April 6, 2009

Three-Second Tip for a Clutter-Free House

Hate to Houseclean? Me too! I’d rather spend my time writing. Because we’re following a spring theme for these posts, I thought I’d share one of my secrets for keeping clutter to a minimum and reducing the amount of time I need to spend cleaning.


The hardest part of cleaning usually isn’t the vacuuming or dusting, it’s fighting your way through the mountains of clutter that accumulate during the week(s) (or months?) between cleaning bouts. I can sympathize. With five children, a full time job, and many hobbies and activities; I never had enough hours in the day. Housecleaning came lowest on my list of priorities. But, people were always amazed when they dropped by my house unexpectedly.
If I heard it once, I heard it a hundred times: How do you manage to keep your house so clean with this many children? In the midst of our chaotic schedule, our house almost always looked neat (even if dust bunnies resided under the furniture and the carpet hadn’t been vacuumed recently), because of my SECRET OF THREE.

I started training our children to clean as soon as they could walk. Even toddlers aren’t too young to learn. Make it a game, and they’ll soon be doing their share to minimize clutter. And our kids reminded each other. If someone walked out of a room without following the rule, a sibling would ask, “Where are your 3?”

Here’s the simple rule: 3 items in 3 seconds

Never leave a room without grabbing 3 things to put away. Every room you walk through, pick up 3 things and return them to where they belong. It’s amazing how fast your rooms get clean by making that a habit. It only takes 3 seconds of your time. Challenge yourself to try it.

Here’s a typical day. I get up. 1) Pick up the pillow that fell on the floor & pop it on the bed. Toss 2 dirty socks in the hamper as I head to the bathroom. 2) Bathroom: Put cap back on toothpaste & put it away. Pick up dirty tissue someone left behind & toss it in trash. Throw towel on floor in hamper. 3) Kitchen—breakfast bowl into dishwasher; toss banana peel and used tea bag into trash 4) Into mud room to let out dog—pick up pair of boots & an umbrella left out to dry last night, stick them in closet; 5) Back to bedroom to dress—hang up yesterday’s outfit (2 pieces) and as I leave room, grab youngest daughter’s teddy bear to return to her room 6) Daughter’s bedroom—throw three toys into bin before leaving room; 7) Into bathroom to turn off water someone left running—put away shampoo bottle, teen’s acne cream & hairbrush 8) Pass through living room on way to car—stick 3 bills into secretary desk in corner of room. Youngest son is with me—he grabs 3 pieces of junk mail to put in shredder (his favorite job—but we have to make sure he only shreds stuff we want shredded). Middle daughter takes stack of library books to car.

How long did it take me to do all that? 3 seconds per room at most. And although I picked up some of the kids’ stuff, they also picked up some of mine. Teen daughter came in to use our mirror while her brother was in shower. She hung my bathrobe on its hook, put away the wrinkle cream I’d left on my dresser, and took her hairbrush with her when she left. Younger daughter had dropped her teddy bear in our room when she came in to snuggle in our bed early in the morning, but she put away the sneakers her dad left out after his morning run and returned her brother’s matchbox car when she passed his room.

It may be a simple habit, but it’s one that’ll pay great benefits. Try it for a week. I guarantee you’ll be hooked. Keep up the practice, and it won’t be long until your house is a clutter-free zone.

3 items in 3 seconds = 3 times less clutter

[And here’s a bonus tip: If you can’t find anything to put away in a room, do a quick 3-second chore—make a bed, swish the brush around inside the toilet, swipe a sponge across the kitchen counter, run a feather duster across a dresser. Come cleaning day, you’ll have trouble finding much to clean.]

Have a quick and simple spring cleaning tip to share? Leave a comment with a cleaning suggestion (or even your reaction to this post) to have your name entered in drawing. The winner has the choice of handmade molded soaps or a free copy of Spark of Magic. One SECRET OF THREE commenter will be chosen tomorrow and one on the last day of April, so check back both times to see who that lucky person is. If you have more than one tip, or you’d like to respond to additional posts, that’s fine too. Each comment will get you an entry in the drawing.

To hunt for those hidden eggs (hope you checked around my site for one), be sure to check out Teri Wilson’s site tomorrow at

And when you’ve found all the hidden eggs, remember to sign onto Skhye Moncrief's blog at for the winner of the huge grand prize drawing. Who knows? Maybe you’ll win both! Contest details are posted below.

And if you’d like a chance to win a Sony e-reader, check out the details about Spark of Magic below “A Tisket, A Tasket.”

To enter to win prizes from the authors donating treasures to the grand prize (see each day's post for what an author is donating to the grand prize), find the four Easter eggs in the A TISKET A TISKET, PUT ROMANCE IN YOUR BASKET blog event.

You will be searching for an egg like this one. Just visit all of the authors' websites, locate the 4 eggs, make a list of their locations by pasting the urls to the website pages in an e-mail, then send the entry to by midnight CST on May 1st, 2009. The winner will be randomly drawn and announced May 2nd at Tip #1, subscribe to to learn if you're the winner! And don't worry. If you start on the blog event late, just head back to Silver James' blog on or after April 1st at to begin your website search for the Easter eggs. Don't miss the fun! See you next to the burgundy tulips.


Judy said...

That is a "neat" rule. I am not so organized on mine, but I believe if you put away what you get out before leaving the room (if possible), there is not as much to pick up. This also only takes a few seconds at the most.

Judy (

Skhye said...

I'm the same way, Judy! ;)

MarthaE said...

That is a great tip! I am going to start using it tonight when I get home. And here to day at the office too!! I may put away what I use but my DH and college age son sure don't! I will have to train them with this tip!!

Pam P said...

I hate cleaning, but I have been trying to follow this more often as I walk room to room.

robynl said...

sounds so simple and probably is if everyone does their share.