The Box That Cleans My House

“When my brain is cluttered, I need my house to be tidy. If my brain and my house are cluttered, everything falls apart.”

When my friend said this to me a few weeks ago, I knew exactly what she meant, although I had never put it into words so well. For years, I’ve felt a bit guilty about my need for order and tidiness in our home – as though having a clean house means I’m neglecting my children, or I’m materialistic and consumed with having a Pinterest-worthy home.

But in the last few months, my brain has felt more cluttered than ever before, and I’ve felt as though a tidy home is actually part of survival. At times when I’m hanging on by a thread, something as simple as a clear counter top can remind me there is still open space and orderliness in the world.

It’s unfortunate that this increased need for orderliness comes at a time when I’m busier than I’ve ever been. I don’t have time for running after my dear family members who are very intent on leaving trails after themselves all over the house. I’m tired of nagging and reminding.

Miraculously, a friend came along at just the right time, with just the right suggestion. She told me about an idea she’d read about – any objects left lying around are put into a container, and must be “bought” back by doing an extra chore around the house.


I already had a list of chores posted on the fridge for the girls to choose from when I need them to do some housework – it seems to work much better when they get to choose for themselves what chore they’ll do. Adding the box was very easy – pick a chore from the list for each item you want back. (Ben asked if building a new garden box for me would count for more than one item, but I told him I wouldn’t be confiscating his stuff, so he didn’t need to worry!)

At first, the girls were not impressed with this idea, but they have adjusted to it very quickly, and by Day Two, I was already hearing Anika saying, “I’d better clean this up so Mommy doesn’t take it away!”

And yesterday, she said, “It’s actually fun to get our stuff back after we do a chore – it’s like getting a prize!”

So now they’re happier, and my cluttered brain is happier, and the solution was as simple as a cardboard box.:)