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Cleaning House

Parental indiscretion

Spring cleaning illustration

About a year ago, I developed a habit of perusing the Home Décor category on the social media site Pinterest, looking for unconventional decorating ideas, maybe some cool furniture for our backyard.

Instead, I got a massive complex.

Pinterest was the gateway drug to home-organizing blogs, in which freakishly organized people show off profound creativity in the most mundane realms: pantry ordering, laundry room beautification, and closet organization. They’re doing unnatural things with shower-curtain rings and towel racks, picture frames and crown molding, Altoid boxes and nail polish—items that, conscripted by these obsessive-compulsive geniuses, find meaningful second lives.

It’s no small irony that, as I sat marveling at the ingenuity on display, I had disorderly boxes of files and office supplies and other detritus piled up along a wall of my bedroom nearly a year after we’d moved into our new house.

"Pinterest was the gateway drug to home-organizing blogs."

I finally vowed to be the change I wanted to see in my house. On the theory that it takes three weeks to change a habit, I set out on a 21-day organizing challenge for me and the kids. (My long-suffering, already organized husband didn’t get his hopes up; it’s not the first time I’d made this pledge.)

Struggling against sloppy genes (yes, I’m blaming nature) and armed with a year of education from those detestable bloggers, I devoted three days and many trips to Home Goods, Target, and Ikea, designating a place for everything.

I lined the laundry room wall with hooks for backpacks, jackets, and purses so they wouldn’t be plopped down in the living room. I bought a console to hold office supplies and reordered the linen closet, storing sheet sets in their pillowcases like a pro. I designated a basket for absolutely everything—dog accessories, mail, supplies of all kinds. I hung a magnet board and message board to keep track of the kids’ school papers, permission slips, etc.

Next, I just had to reprogram my fellow congenital slobs. (It’s genes, I tell ya!) I resorted to bribery—every day they kept their rooms in order, without being told, they’d earn a dollar.

The organizing challenge wasn’t without problems. My son had two consecutive panicked Sunday nights after he forgot about his homework all weekend (out of sight, out of mind) and I dropped the ball on several things I feel sure I wouldn’t have if all my papers and books weren’t tucked neatly away.

But knowing where the Scotch tape is when a gift needed to be wrapped and the stapler when I printed documents for a client felt like tiny miracles. People dropped by unexpectedly, and I welcomed them right in without even a twinge of shame.

After 21 days of constant nagging, we got the common areas under control. I’m doing twice-daily sweeps through the house to put things in their places. My kids have earned $0, but they came darn close a few times.

My laundry room is worthy of having its photos pinned on Pinterest. I won’t, though; I don’t want to make slobs feel bad. After all, they were born that way.

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