Babci’s Cleaning and Storage Tips for Slobs

by Sandy L on August 23, 2011

When you go to Babci’s house, for the most part, it looks tidy.  Here’s a little secret I’ll share with you.  She is actually a slob.    I think it’s due to a combination of growing up in a tiny house with no storage and having to work around the clock with manual labor. First on the farm, then at the factory…both jobs were very labor intensive and tiring.  When you don’t have time to clean things right, you cut corners.

Here are some of the things she loves to do to keep her house tidy.  Most of them I don’t agree with, but who knows, maybe if you’re a slob too, this might do just the trick when  you learn about a surprise visitor coming to town.

Cleaning and Storage Tips: Dirty Dishes

On more than one occasion, I have come home, decided I needed to bake something and automatically turned on the oven to pre-heat it.  At Babci’s house, this is a very dumb thing to do.   “What’s that smell?”   I open the oven and there are dirty pots and pans stored there.   Thankfully my annoyance had gotten to the point where she stopped doing that sometime when I was in college.  She still stores her pots and pans in the oven.  I suppose that’s a viable thing to do if you have a tiny kitchen.  I prefer my $40 pot rack as I don’t have to empty and clutter my counter with pots and pans every time I decide I want to bake something.

She also used to store her circular items like Pie Plates in the microwave, although she got rid of the microwave all together earlier last year.  She decided it takes up too much space and she never uses it anyway.   She has a lot of kitchen storage these days so I’m surprised she still does this stuff.

Cleaning and Storage:  Hooks and Nails

I think this is also a trait leftover from her days of living in a one room farmhouse with 10 other people.    She has 3 closets sitting mostly empty yet there are hooks and nails on the back of every door, on the walls, along the stairs down to the basement.  She loves her hooks.    I can see the practical aspect of this both from a space and convenience standpoint.  You can just look at a wall and find something instantly vs rummaging around in a closet or drawer somewhere.   You need to put something away, on a hook it goes.  Alternatively, it gets hung on the back of a chair somewhere.

Cleaning and Storage:  Clutter

Another way babci has kept her house looking relatively clutter free is having a designated area to ditch her extra stuff.  In her apartment building, there was not enough room to have a “spare room” to throw your junk in, so she closed off 1/2 of her back porch and made a giant shed to put stuff in.  This was where she stored all her jars and random things that might be useful someday.  Her fabric she kept in garbage bags behind and under furniture.  Once I moved out, she took over my bedroom closet.  I don’t know how she ever found anything with this method, but it enabled her to keep all her stuff.   When she moved, I splurged and bought a dozen clear tote bins and sorted fabric by color or material type so she can find something quickly.  Everything was folded so you can see a layer of that fabric from the side of the tote.  She still uses the tote bins but they are all a jumbled mess now from rooting through them.   I tried.

Cleaning and Storage:  Take your shoes off

It’s a lot easier to keep the floors clean if your not tracking in dirt from your dirty garden shoes.  We always take our shoes off as soon as we enter in the door.   I think this is quite common with many cultures.   Babci gets annoyed though that I don’t have slippers at her house for the kids.  She hates anyone being barefoot.  Apparently she thinks walking barefoot (and sitting on concrete)  causes rheumatism.   I should get her some new slippers this winter.

So in Summary here are the main tips from Babci.  Use at your own risk

  1. If you don’t have a place to store something, stick a hook on a wall and hang it up.
  2. If your closets are full, then utilize other spots for storage like underneath the bed or behind the couch,  Any hidden cubby hole is instant storage.
  3. If company is coming over and you don’t have time to do the dishes, quickly rinse them off and put them in the drying rack to rewash proper later, or hide them somewhere til you can get to them.
  4. Hanging clothes on the back of the chair looks neater than throwing them on the floor.
  5. Making your bed instantly makes bedrooms look neater.
  6. If all else fails, keep your kitchen, living room and bathroom clean, and close the doors to the other rooms.

It took quite a bit of head scratching and analysis to figure out why Babci prefers to hang things all over the walls and chairs while keeping her closets and dressers empty.  In her city apartment, I never noticed this because it was a tiny space so you had to do these things.  But now that she lives in a big house with 3 huge closets, I completely didn’t understand it for years.  Then it donned on me…she never had dressers or closets growing up so it was like teaching an old dog new tricks.  It seemed so simple once I figured it out.  Usually there is always a simple answer for even the most puzzling of mysteries.

Here’s my go to method for picking up the house:

  1. Start with the easiest room first.  This will either be the smallest room or the room that’s the least dirty already.
  2. Gather up all the things that don’t belong in that room and put them back into the rooms or places they belong.
  3. Clear all horizontal spaces and pick up things off the floor.
  4. Do the things that take the least amount of work but have the biggest impact first.  Make the beds, clean off the counters, put dishes away, sweep the floor.
  5. Prioritize labor intensive things last.  Don’t decide to tackle your paperwork pile or ironing pile til the very very end or better yet a completely different day altogether.  Just stuff it in a folder or put it in a bag and move on.  Consolidate those things in one area until you have the time to tackle them. I usually gather up my loose mail and paper and dump it all on my desk. My desk is always the last place in the house to get organized.
  6. If I was super organized, I’d ad a special task to every cleaning session.  These are the things that never get done but should…like dusting blinds or washing windows.   Theoretically if I washed one window a week, it wouldn’t be such a daunting task.  I have yet to incorporate that idea into practice though, because once I start, I can’t stop.  I’m like that vampire that can’t stop picking up sunflower seeds until they are all off the ground.  You might as well call me in 2 hours when I’m done with the whole house. If you’re the type of person that can stop midway through a project though, it’s not a bad strategy.
  7. Sometimes it’s a good idea to time yourself and say “I’m going to clean for the next 20 minutes.”   That way, you don’t have to feel like you’re spending all your free time cleaning, but 20 minutes is actually enough time to make a big dent in general messiness.
  8. Multi-task when possible.  I find that I tend to unload our dishwasher while the kids are eating their breakfast.  I’ll also clear off our drying rack when I’m waiting for tea to boil.  Those little 5 minute tidying sessions really do put a big dent in the overall appearance of your home.

If you’re looking to get more organized, I hope these little tips were helpful.    If all else fails, be like babci, get a 12 pack of hooks and hang it up on your wall.

Do you have any tips for the slovenly?

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Lindy Mint August 23, 2011 at 6:13 PM

My mom does the same thing with storing dirty cookie sheets and pans in the oven, and she’s a pretty neat person, I don’t quite get it.

I’ve always loved the traditional use of Shaker peg racks around an entire room. There’s just something so blissfully functional about it.

I’ve recently established family cleanup time right after dinner. I one day realized it didn’t make sense for me to spend 40 minutes cleaning the house, when I have all these other able bodies around to help. We now clean the house in 10 – 15 minutes flat every night.


Sandy L August 23, 2011 at 6:54 PM

Lindy – what a great concept. I try to do something similar before bed, but usually the kids are too cranky by then to be efficient at it.


Kellen August 29, 2011 at 12:00 PM

As a kid, you really need instructions and specific tasks that you do – it’s hard to figure out what to do on your own. But if you set the table every night, for example, that’s not so hard. Same as if your job is to wipe the counters once the dishes are cleaned up.


Sandy L September 1, 2011 at 3:33 AM

Kellen – great tips. My 6 year old is now able to do a whole lot to help around the house. He has a bit of an entrepreneurial streak though and is always trying to make a buck when he helps out. I think the distinction I made is if you’re part of the reason I need help (because I fed you for example), then you don’t get paid for cleaning up after yourself. Helping at Babci’s, picking up pinecones, those kinds of things are money worthy.


Niki August 23, 2011 at 10:43 PM

My mom does the same thing with the dishes in the oven, if there is surprise company.

I have really gotten off a cleaning schedule lately, we were just discussing maybe paying someone to clean the house, because I hate dusting and anything to do with floors. This is the real reason I wanted to get out of debt, so I could hire someone to clean my house:)


Sandy L September 1, 2011 at 3:37 AM

Niki – I pay someone to come every 2 weeks and do a thorough cleaning as well. It was difficult to come to terms with that decision, but it really makes my husband happy and now that I’ve had it for years, I can’t see going back. I even was embarrassed to even admit it on the blog because I’m so frugal in other areas.

My person went on maternity leave for a month and I did the deep cleans myself and the problem with me is that when I clean, I’m very thorough and it took the whole darn weekend to get through it and time is so limited during the week, it took what little I had left away. It’s definitely something that helps reclaim some time. Plus you usually have to make a point to pick up the house before he/she comes over, which is a motivator too. Seems like a great way to reward yourself for debt freedom.


Money Beagle August 24, 2011 at 7:47 AM

Number six is a great idea and something I try to do regularly. When I work with my wife on cleaning the house, I’ll always try to do one extra. Sometime hand cleaning under the kitchen cupboards, other times running a wet rag over the baseboards to get rid of the dust that collects there. Maybe cleaning next to the fridge or under the washing machine. Little things like that I think make a big difference because then you don’t feel like you’re hiding filth.


Sandy L September 1, 2011 at 3:40 AM

Money Beagle – my mini blinds have been taunting me. They are covered in a sticky dust. I really need to do those soon. I should just do one at a time. I just moved the whole upstairs around…wow those dust bunnies get pretty big when they are behind a heavy bookcase you can’t reach. It’s good to just rearrange furniture periodically to so that you can do a deep clean once in a while.


Molly On Money August 24, 2011 at 8:10 AM

My Mom is much cleaner and less cluttered than I am. I love a clean house but I hate doing it all. I’ve had to make concessions because I do believe the only way my kids are going to learn how to pick up and clean is by doing it. They don’t scrub as hard as I do, they don’t get way back into the dirty little corners, but they do clean! Picking up after themselves is a whole other ball of wax. They seem to drip items off of them. I don’t even see it happen!
In the kitchen we have hooks everywhere. I like it, although it does make it look cluttered. When I bake I can get all my utensils within an arms reach and I don’t open one draw.


Sandy L September 1, 2011 at 3:40 AM

Molly – you are babci incarnate. I am not surprised you are a hook gal.


Everyday Tips August 24, 2011 at 8:15 AM

Fun post First Gen! I almost wonder if she feels she is ‘saving space’ by putting things in the oven and such. I know how frugal she lives, so maybe it is just ingrained in her to use things for multiple reasons and save space in cabinets/counter tops.

For me, it is amazing how dirty dishes totally ruin how a kitchen looks, but it only takes a few minutes to load the dishwasher. Actually, most tasks only take a few minutes, but sometimes looking at a cluttered countertop just looks overwhelming. So, people walk in another room instead so they don’t see it. My motto is ‘if you see it and it bothers you, take care of it right then and there’. Not very poetic, but it works for me.


Sandy L September 1, 2011 at 3:42 AM

Everyday Tips – Yes, dirty dishes make a huge difference in the look of a kitchen…and they smell. I think Babci just likes having multiple uses for items…hence her perchant for mulching sticks with her lawnmower.


Linda August 24, 2011 at 10:03 AM

I am a clutterer. I have a hard time tossing stuff out. It also doesn’t help that I’m a die-hard when it comes to the three Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) and we have no recycling pick up in my area. So I hang on to boxes, jars, papers, etc. partly because I think I find another use for them and partly because I have to let recyclables accumulate until I can make time to bring stuff to the recycling center.

While I don’t usually have an issue with cleaning the house, I could certainly do it more often. And I do hate to dust, so most of the time I don’t do it and just do a big dusting/cleaning every few months. Vaccuming floors and cleaning the bathroom happens every week, although sometimes that stretches out to two weeks depending on how busy I am. Seeing piles of dog hair on the floor really bugs me, though. And not wearing shoes in the house is definitely a help in keeping floors clean. I always ask people to take off their shoes.

I am committed to keeping the kitchen clean above all. Dishes go into the dishwasher every night and if I need to hand wash a few items I do that before bedtime, too. I think of keeping the kitchen clean as a hygiene issue.


Sandy L September 1, 2011 at 3:45 AM

Linda – yes I forgot to mention that. Having little bits of something stick to the bottom of your feet definitely results in the immediate reaching for the dustpan. I love my dustpan.


retirebyforty August 24, 2011 at 5:48 PM

We try to minimize our stuff in general, but it’s a constant battle. I used to keep my pots and pans in the oven too because I don’t bake. My wife use the over though so now all the pots and pans are in their proper places.


Sandy L September 1, 2011 at 3:46 AM

Rb40 – yes with baby rb40, there is new stuff coming in all the time and old stuff needing purging. It is a struggle.


Crystal August 25, 2011 at 12:24 AM

I didn’t read all of the comments yet, but my husband and I are a step above slobs…but it’s a very tiny step. So we hired a biweekly housekeeper. Her name is Jacqui, she is from Britain, and she keeps our home looking like we actually care for $60 every 2 weeks and $120 twice a year to get the deep clean (that’s when she even dusts the empty wine bottles on top of the fridge and stuff like that). 🙂


Sandy L September 1, 2011 at 3:48 AM

Crystal – yes, I have one too..see comment to Niki. It was one of those compromise things I did for my husband because he really liked having one. It really does make a big difference on my amount of free time.


laura August 26, 2011 at 4:37 PM

Ha I keep my baking sheets in the oven….must be copying my mum, although I’m not sure, I need to ask her! I thought everyone did it :):)


Sandy L September 1, 2011 at 3:50 AM

Laura – I guess it’s pretty common after all. I used to keep them in the broiler too but it was always a pain to get at them. UK kitchens are typically a lot smaller so I can see how you need multi purpose storage places. One of my splurges when I redid my kitchen was to get one of those cabinets where you could stack your baking sheets vertically. I love that thing.


Andrew @ 101 Centavos August 27, 2011 at 8:36 AM

Hey, nice to see Babci back. Surprising that she’s a closet slob (pun?), seeing as how the garden is so neat and tidy. I’m with her on hooks and nails, it saves space to go vertical.


Sandy L September 1, 2011 at 3:52 AM

101 – her garden is tidy because she spends like 8 hours a day tinkering in it. Anyone’s garden would look great if they had that much time to dedicate. God, you should see her sewing room. She doesn’t like to put projects away til they are completely finished so there’s fabric and 1/2 ripped apart things everywhere.


frugalscholar August 28, 2011 at 8:15 PM

I can use all the help I can get!

Thinking of you during Irene–hope all is well.


Sandy L September 1, 2011 at 3:53 AM

FrugalScholar – miraculously our homes were not impacted except for a little water in the basement but it seems like if you went any direction 15 minutes away, it’s utter devastation. Vermont, NY, and NJ are still a mess 5 days later.


Denise @ The Single Saver August 29, 2011 at 10:05 AM

One of my Great Aunts used to stick her dirty dishes in the refrigerator. I guess she figured it helped keep the smell down. 🙂


Sandy L September 1, 2011 at 3:54 AM

Denise – wow..I’m surprised she had room. I never have room in the fridge for extra dishes.


Kellen August 29, 2011 at 12:02 PM

My friend’s mom is chinese and we always got guest slippers to wear around their house. They’re were pretty comfy, and floors get pretty cold in Massachusetts, so it was nice that they provided those. Makes it clear that you are not to wear shoes through the house too.


Sandy L September 1, 2011 at 3:56 AM

Kellen – yes, if I were polite, I’d have slippers available too. We don’t make it mandatory for guests to take off their shoes but most do anyway.


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