House Chores – Do a little see a big difference ~ by Andréia

One of the things I have discovered with decluttering is that house chores are not all that hard and don’t take that much time. You might laugh and say I am lying and a couple of years ago I would think that myself, but it is not so.

First of all we always have to consider, with house chores, the amount of stuff that we have to a) put away; and b) clean on shelves. That is the key. If you have 3 full wardrobes of clothing your laundry day (or days) will be nightmarish. If you pair down your clothing and that of your family there is a lot less to use, but there is also a lot less to clean.

In the kitchen I have also found that rule to be true. I used to have so many plates that our family could eat for 2/3 weeks without doing the dishes. Of course that is not hygienic nor it is advisable, but with too much of something it gets hard to keep a clean sink, for instance, because the excess in cutlery, china, glasses, cups will end up out of place and cluttering up the sink (even if they are washed) or on your table. As I have a small kitchen, any clutter screams out at me because it robs me of precious space.

As I have two small children I had struggled a lot with toys. Toys in the spare room, toys in the living room, toys everywhere. Sometimes I had the urge of just walking away from the toys… However the toy mess was my fault. The kids had no proper place to store the toys, no system. You see, even young children will learn to use a simple system. Set an easy place for them to store their stuff. A box under the bed, a shelf on the lowest part of the closet or wardrobe accessible to them and make it easy for them to take the toys out and put them away. If one system does not work, try another. Don’t fret about small stuff, get one or 2 boxes and sort by general type of toy. As long as it put away, don’t concern yourself with details (like arranging minuscule lego pieces into order – it is not going to happen!), just get it organized. Set an example and they will follow (not everyday – it is not perfect, but for the most part). My room is always tidy, my shoes are in place and I don’t have stuff strewn on the floor, so they follow my lead. 

I learned that sometimes we see good ideas on TV shows and sometimes we don’t. About 7 years ago I saw a Peter Walsh show where he suggested a box for shoes under the bed. I bought the box, but it did not work for me. I am visual and I like things easy and it was hard to remember what shoes I had and to put them away at the end of the day. Now I have an open closet, I can see all my shoes I paired them down a lot and put them away as soon as I get home.

I do a little everyday. My kids put away their toys, I don’t leave clothing lying around the house and the messiest we get here now is when I don’t do laundry for 3 days (with children laundry is everyday to keep on top of it). At its worst it takes me 3 hours to get the house in order. At its best, about 30 minutes. I am thankful that I have a housecleaner that comes once a week, but that is for bathrooms and heavier cleaning. However, if I could not have that luxury, my husband and I are pretty confident that we could take care of the house ourselves. And declutter a lot more to make it even easier.

Today’s Mini Mission

While watching something on commercial television jump up in the ad time and find something to declutter in your living room. Perhaps go grab a handful of DVDs, go through a coffee or side table drawer or perhaps you have a pile of magazines near your chair that you could sort through and find something to declutter.


“If we do not feel grateful for what we already have, what makes us think we’d be happy with more?” — Unknown

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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. I completely agree with you Andreia. Before I started decluttering it seemed like my cleaning chores took much longer because I had to move so many knick-knacks and items of “stuff” out of the way to dust all the surfaces. Now that I have removed so many things I no longer dread the dusting and it is done so much more quickly. I have just been doing the kitchen this morning and was really noticing how quickly I got around now that there is so little on the countertops. Plus I find it a lot more calming to my eye to have less stuff on display everywhere.

    I no longer have to deal with toys now that my sons are off at college but I well remember how quickly the playroom could descend into chaos with the floor covered in train tracks, small cars and Lego. We just got into the habit of cleaning everything up each evening and then they could have stories before bedtime. It did feel overwhelming at times. We did get the Lego organized into clear plastic drawers, one for each color, and my boys enjoyed that system and kept it going for years. Now that they are living in very small college accommodations they both seem very aware of keeping clutter under control and have both cut down on the number of clothes they have so that they keep up with their laundry rather than letting it pile up, just as you also said.

    • Hi Christine! I have a lot less clothing now that I have two children than I did when it was just me and my husband. I used to have excess stuff. Pairing down was what did the trick for me. I have set a “one in one out” rule with the toys as well as the clothes. As they are still very small I want them to understand that we have to live in the space we have. I have set a rule of playing with one toy at time. And if there is too much out I tell them that I am grabbing a bag so we can donate the excess. It makes the toy be put away in quite a hurry! 😀

  2. Andreia, this is a good post. You are so right about all of this. I’m so glad we have come so far that we don’t have to deal with much of this any more.

  3. It sounds like you have come a long way, Andreia. I remember when you were setting out. Good job, and what an inspiration!

    • Thanks Jo H.! I do remember when I first came to the blog and just walking around my house I can see I came a long way. I still can see myself progressing a lot more, but now I can take the slow and steady approach.

  4. Good post Andreia. I used to have a cleaner come once a week, it was lovely, though I admit that the night before was spent ‘tidying up for the cleaner’ as there was so much stuff lying around. It would take a large chunk of the evening. That improved as we decluttered and it became much easier to tidy up and my husband felt we now could spend the same time to do the actual cleaning, especially as the kids are old enough to divvy up the chores. I do miss coming home on a Friday to a sparkly clean house, it all being done in one swoop, rather that spaced out over several evenings or waiting for me to do over the weekend but it is a savings. If my kids were younger, I would definitely endorse having a cleaner for a working mum, spending time with children is more important and the less stressful the evenings are, the happier the whole household is.

    • Hi Moni! I love having a clean house once a week and just keep the maintenance the rest of the week. My children are learning to help, but you know how demanding young children can be on our time. I don’t “tidy up” for my cleaner anymore, but I used to have to, 2/3 years ago. She (the cleaner) keeps saying that my house is getting better and better to clean with each passing week and that it is making her have more time to do the stuff I don’t do (bathrooms, kitchen walls, kitchen cabinets, windows). My decluttering helps me save money. Back 4 years ago when she first started here, I had her come twice a week (I would pay once and my Mom would pay the other day), because it was so much to do (so many clothes to iron, so much stuff to pick up and clean, so many dishes to wash) that she could not do it in just one day. Now just one day a week is fine and when she can’t come it is not awful by the next fortnight when she comes. Decluttering does help a lot.

      • Andreia – I was feeling some cleaner-envy all day yesterday and when I got home I opened the door and discovered my older daughter had done all the housework as she had the day off school. She wanted to do something to show her appreciation for being looked after while she was injured.

  5. Oh man. Decluttering the kitchen was a huge improvement on chore time. That and having a dishwasher that works (I hate to hand wash dishes). We were terrible about letting dirty dishes pile up in and on one side of the kitchen sink while clean dishes stacked up in the drainboard and on the other side of the sink. I remember this one time it took my mom and me three batches of dishwashing to get all the dirty dishes clean. Embarrassing but true. I realized pretty recently that we keep the dishes under control because 1) we have a limited amount to use (and we rarely use paper plates) so we have to wash them regularly and 2) we have plenty of room in the cabinets for the dishes to have a place so we can put them in their place.

    • Hi Rachel W.! That is exactly what used to happen in my kitchen. At one point I had so many dishes that it took me 3 hours to wash all the dirty dishes. Then I had no place to store them because I had too much and it ended all over drainboard and it left me feeling a slob and it made me feel discouraged. So I decluttered and decluttered untill I could store all and had a little more than my needs, but all nicely stored. 😀

  6. I really enjoyed this post Andreia, it’s great reminder that less clutter equals easier clean up. My kitchen has been decluttered for awhile now, I love that it’s so easy to find and put things away. I also agree about systems, it’s important to find the one that works for you. For example, I tried various methods of storing my shoes in the closet – shelves, on the floor, etc. I finally bought clear plastic “shoeboxes” and keep my shoes in them on the closet shelf. I can easily see all my shoes neatly stacked – of course, decluttering them has helped a lot too. Much easier to find the right shoes when there are only a half dozen pair!

    • Couldn’t agree with you more Barbara! I have decluttered a lot of shoes and the shelves system has really worked for me. As I am in the shower I visualize the clothes I am putting and the shoes that go with it. But having less has helped me have only what I really wear and not some shoes I “aspire” to wear (like high heels) and never will.

  7. OK… so here’s my issue, maybe somebody can come up with a brilliant suggestion for me. I find that I need to keep more of certain clothing and dishes items around than I actually “need” because I run out of them before I have enough dirtied to do a load. For example – I used to have just one set of bike clothes. But the thing is, I ride several times per week, and if I only have one set, then I either have to wash them by hand (which I used to do after every ride) or do a very empty load of laundry in order to have clean bike clothes for the next ride.

    So I finally broke down and bought a few extra sets of bike clothes and life got much, MUCH easier! Same deal with cat food dishes – I have a seemingly ridiculous amount of them. But even so, there are times when I run out before I have enough dishes to do a load. Just before reading this post I was contemplating getting an additional cup to use in the bathroom because I have trouble timing the dishes so that the bathroom cup is clean when I need it to brush my teeth, and I really hate not having a cup to use when I brush my teeth. And don’t EVEN get me started on underwear!

    So I just wonder how do other people deal with this problem? Maybe it’s easier to avoid if you have more than one person dirtying up clothes and dishes? Maybe other people aren’t as compulsive as I am about making sure the laundry machine or dishwasher are full before running them? Maybe other people just do a lot of dishes and laundry by hand? Maybe other people have smaller appliances? I thought about a smaller washer, but then how do you deal with the bedding? I’m just not willing to haul it off to the laundromat.

    Anyhow, I would love for my cupboards and drawers to be less full, but I just haven’t figured out how to do it without making the cleaning chores much more complicated. Maybe I should just accept that I need to own more of certain things than I really think I do? I’d love to hear what all of ye minimalists have to suggest on this one!

    • Eco Cat Lady – good topic. I find I go thru stages where minimal levels work and then something hiccups and I have to expand the plan to keep things functioning. Fortunately whichever option is still safely in the range of minimalism. At the moment I am experiencing such a shift. For months I have happily run my pantry on a “the supermarket is my pantry basis” without any major hassle. Then out of the blue over night it didn’t seem to work, maybe the planets didn’t align or ??? but suddenly I am stopping by the supermarket daily and then the other night I ended up making three visits! It’s ridiculous. So I’ve decided to stock up a bit more for now, at least until things have settled back down.

    • Hi EcoCatLady! Depending on what you are using you can wash by hand. I have a lot of clothes everyday, so I never or very rarely do a almost empty laundry cycle. You did right with your biking clothes. Clutter is only that when you don’t use it. As you said you use them all, so it is just to make your life practical and we are all for that. As for dishes, I don’t have a dishwasher, so I do them by hand. I can say, in my modest opinion, that you could wash your cat´s dishes by hand and have a lot less of them. As for underwear, I wash mine with my bedding sometimes. When my boy pees on his bed I wash his pajamas and his underwear with his set of bedding. I have two weeks worth of underwear (maybe more), but I have children and a husband, so it is never “a little” when they are washed and I never wash them alone. As for your bathroom cup, you can, as with your cat’s dish wash it by hand. As I have children I do own a lot of stuff that minimalists may not. So I think, as Moni suggested, you should try to install a system and try it and change it until it works for you. Hope my suggestions help. 😉

  8. Agh yes – I need to thin out something in my kitchen cause it always seems there’s some handwashing on the bench (or I need to get over my annoyance that the dishwasher that doesn’t dry plastics, so I hand wash and let drain).

    I also like visual shoes – I can’t fathom how my parents manage to get theirs’ back in their closet! Mine live visible on a rack in the hallway (second house to do that) and I share the rack with the BF now. Works for the both of us.

    At least I have less clothing, I always think you need a ‘limiting factor’ which is something big – ie will fill a load. 16 pairs of knickers or socks won’t!! So don’t have too many shirts or jeans, lest you can DO without washing for far too long. So I always have possibly far too many socks and knickers, but I’m happy with that 😀

    • Hi Snosie! My limiting factor to all my decluttering was space. I love space. I love the feeling of emptiness. So I had to declutter to get that feeling and every time I feel like I have too much of something I start to analyze why I am feeling that way and declutter it. I also discovered in my journey that I love to have a clean organized space. Messy places make me nervous. However I am also a fan that we have to be practical. I don’t like to put a number on what I have, I have what I can fit in my space and I am comfortable with. Like you I have a lot of underwear, but I am ok with it. Also I have 4 pairs of jeans and I am not decluttering them. So we have what works for us. I am all for that! 😀

  9. This is a great post and so true! I am not a minimalist by any stretch of the word, but with less junk all over the place, cleaning takes no time at all. I know that is true because sometimes I play a game with myself and set the microwave timer to see how long it takes me to get a task completed. Of course, when I want to do a thorough deep clean, yes, that takes a little more time.

    Like Andreia, I tried a technique I had heard about and didn’t like the end result. An idea of not stacking tee-shirts in a drawer, but rolling them up individually. Well, my drawers don’t come all the way out so I couldn’t see the ones near the back and I have a lot of gray tees with different designs and I couldn’t tell one shirt from the others. So, back to stacking. LOL

    I have no problem with EcoCatLady having more of a certain item to make the end work result easier/better/more efficient. I have lots of cat dishes, too. What works for one person, may not work for another person. I’m happy to try a new technique, but if it doesn’t make sense in the end result, I’m not going to keep doing it.

    • Hi Michelle! I am not a minimalist either! 😀 😀 😀 I think we have to work to have an environment around us that works for us and not set us back or make us feel overwhelmed. I suggested to EcoCatLady that she might wash her cat dishes by hand. As I don’t have a cat I might be giving a stupid advice, but like you said, we can always try a new system. I am not comparing, but I used to have lots of baby bottles (like 4) and sometimes all of them were dirty…So I can relate, but I promised myself that by the next baby, even if I have 4 bottles I am not letting them all go dirty at once! 😀

  10. You are so right! What a difference it makes when there is less to clean and move around. I am finding my old love of “decoration” dwindling down to a few favorite pieces as a result.

  11. I don’t really sort our laundry like some people do, but depend on the dye catchers sold in the detergent section–there are several brands–they can be reused until they are dark purple–and will keep colors from getting on other clothes. When our children were small, everything that was wet or damp went in first and then other stuff until it was a full load. An older friend whose youngest was a friend of my second told me she limited the number of changes her children had–this was good advice and seldom mattered since we washed every day. Now they are grown and gone, and often I will wash one sheet with other things to make up a load. I don’t think most of us are minimalist, just tired of so much stuff, but what is enough for anyone is going to vary. So having 3 changes might be your enough and maybe 4 would be even better. That is strictly for you to decide.

    • Hi Nana! I don’t buy excess clothing for my children, but they have plenty and washing, as you said has to be done every day, no matter how many clothes they have. I am not a minimalist and I still have a lot of stuff in my house. The thing is I don’t have junk lying around. I used to have so much clothes that when they were all washed and ironed I had no place to store them and they would just stay in the spare bedroom on the bed. I had so many dishes that I had no place to store them. It used to take me 3 days to get my house in reasonable order to welcome guests and even then there were “forbidden rooms” where I used to throw all the stuff… So no, I am not a minimalist, just a person like you, who was tired of being surrounded by clutter. I set no numbers, because I believe everyone has their own system and household. Thanks for commenting!

  12. Hi everyone! Sorry I did not come here before to answer to you all. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  13. Andreia, I was still thinking about EcoCatLady,’s quandary when I wrote the comment but your article and comments apply to everyone and are true in my experience. I wash dishes by hand and we don’t keep very many to use since once they are washed all are available for use. We often use the same ones for all three meals. I know it takes more dishes if you use a dishwasher so you will have a full load.

  14. If I clean with small ammounts, roommates will make it dirty again so I would never finish. So we actually organise big cleaning days and clean everything from top to bottom. Luckly we have a dishwasher