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Welcome to The Smart Mom Manual. I'm Winnie Yu, mom blogger at CompletelyYou.com. My daughters, Samantha and Annie, are 14 and 12. Like most moms, I'm still trying to perfect the balancing act that we all know as motherhood in the modern world. Please don't hesitate to write to me as you read my blog. You can also tweet me @Completely_You. I look forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Taming the Mess

By Winnie Yu for Completely You

Quick, look around your house. What’s lying around? Here on my kitchen table, I see an open newspaper, a lunchbox, a pen, a pencil and a set of ear buds. On the kitchen counter, there are two credit card solicitations, a magazine, a box of cereal, a plate and four SpongeBob toys. Our dog’s food is sprinkled around its dish, and one of my daughters has left a coat hanging on the chair. And that’s just the kitchen.

Other rooms are no better. I find textbooks on the dining room floor, shoes strewn about in the foyer and sheet music on the living room couch. I don’t even dare look in my daughters’ bedrooms or the library. There simply isn’t enough space on this blog to write down all the stuff that’s out of place in those rooms.

I like to tell my family that we’d have an immaculate house if only we could adhere to these two simple sayings: “Give everything a home” and “Put everything away and you never have to clean up.”

Reality however, is another story. Most days, I’m flitting from one activity to another. I put down the mail so I can start dinner. I toss the bills on my desk so I can get to work. I throw clean laundry on my bed so I can get to the gym. Everyone else here does the same thing.

The result? I’ve become the resident picker-upper, scooping up everything from stray shoes to cookie crumbs.

I don’t like this aspect of motherhood, this picking up after the family business. On my lazy days, I let it all slide. So what if there’s stuff lying around? Isn’t it more important that I meet my deadlines, go to the gym and walk my dog?

But on my productive, I-should-have-a-cleaner-house days, I become a whirling dervish, tearing through the house and picking up everything that’s out of place and tossing it or putting it away. Sadly, it doesn’t happen often, and it eats up half my day.

A better solution has been to put things away the minute I’m done with them. As in now. Unwanted mail goes directly to recycling. Receipts are filed away as soon as I come home. Laundry is folded the moment I empty the dryer.

Being a do-it-now picker-upper spares me the trouble of picking everything up later, when it could take hours to put everything away. Now I just need my family to do the same.

How do you get your family to pitch in and keep the house neat? Share below or tweet me @Completely_You

For more great health and lifestyle content, visit the parent site of my blog,
Completely You!

Winnie Yu is Completely You’s mom blogger. She has two daughters and is the author of seven books, including New Mother’s Guide to Breastfeeding and What to Eat for What Ails You. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Woman’s Day, AARP Bulletin, Prevention and WebMD. 


  1. Training my 3 year olds early - we don't play the next game or do the next project until we've cleaned up!

    1. Good move. One thing at a time!

    2. Perfect age for training them to pick up!

  2. our daughter's young enough to still enjoy putting things into containers, so we sing the "clean-up" song and make it fun. As for my things, I review mail immediately, but do leave a bit too much lying around - though at least it's mostly piled in one place. My husband and I could both use help with creating those "homes" for the many things we come home with in any given week.

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  3. That's fabulous! Keeping it fun makes it much easier.