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Ever lived in the Bermuda Triangle? I have.

…At least that’s what my wife affectionately called our home. Things got in, but they had a habit of disappearing whenever you went looking for them. It didn’t matter what they were—shoes, books, keys, clothes—all went missing at one time. She even joked that the sofa would’ve gotten lost in the chaos that was our home if it wasn’t so big.

I blame myself for how disorganized our house had become. I had always struggled with organization, preferring to amass jumbled piles of magazines, socks, clothes and other assorted household items rather than placing them neatly away.

Drowning in Clutter

What was the point of putting them away when I was going to need them again? I thought I was saving time by leaving them where I last used them. That way I could find them easily.

Except that’s not what happened. Our house just got messier, until it started taking a toll on other aspects of my life. Being a work-from-home dad, having an untidy house seriously put a dent on my schedule. We were almost always running late in the morning because our kids either couldn’t remember where they’d placed their books the evening before or couldn’t locate their shoes or clothes. When it came to my own work, I wasted precious time trying to find paperwork or files and would lose contact information.

It was no way to live. The house felt drab and the clutter was driving everyone nuts. Even worse, my kids were starting to emulate my messy habits. I was disappointed in myself. I wanted them to grow to become responsible adults equipped with basic life survival skills and here I was teaching them that it was okay to live a disordered life.

So, finally, as the new year rolled around, I made the decision to kick my disorganization in favor of living a more proactive, organized life.

Creating Order from the Chaos

I proposed to add a bit more order to my family’s life and increase harmony at home by finally getting my act together. Here’s how I did it.

1. Go slow and keep it simple.

I couldn’t hope to tame years of chaos and clutter in one day, so I decided to make small gradual changes. One week, I tackled the jumble in the entryway, the next I started implementing a weekly meal plan.

It took commitment to get things underway, especially when my boys realized that they’d have to put in a little more time and effort to put things in their place. As a family, we also discussed and decided on a plan to declutter and organize at a pace that was manageable and comfortable for everyone.

2. Plan the purge.

Before organizing the house, I first had to figure out what to keep. Sorting through our stuff and purging what we didn’t need was brutal. It was tough having to let go of some items that held sentimental value, so I saved a few representative pieces.

Part of killing the clutter involved sorting items into three piles—those I wanted to keep, those that would be thrown away and those that would be donated. My family set aside two hours each Saturday morning of the month for us all to tackle a living area that needed purging. It was a tiring process, but we all felt relieved afterward.

3. Establish a household routine.

To keep on top of the organization, I incorporated regular household maintenance into my weekly routine and got the family involved. I set aside different days for different duties depending on everyone’s schedule.

For instance, Thursday was the non-negotiable laundry day, so if my kids wanted clean clothes, it was up to them to ensure their dirty ones made it to the laundry pile. With my older teens, I took the time to teach them how to handle their own laundry. When it came to mealtimes, no one was excused from the kitchen until dirty dishes were rinsed and placed in the dishwasher and place settings wiped clean.

4. Recruit my kids into the program.

In order for my new cleaning and organizing routine to work, I had to recruit my kids. They had to learn to put their dirty clothes into hampers instead of their bedroom floors, to put their books back into their backpacks before bed, stow away their shoes correctly, hang up their coats and keep their rooms clean.

We added daily room checks to our bedtime routine each night and would offer personalized incentives to those that put forth the effort to keep things tidy. Additionally, I decided to teach them responsibility by assigning age-appropriate chores. That way, all of us got to contribute to keeping the house neat.

Eventually, after weeks of cleaning and employing clever storage solutions, I managed to tame the clutter in our house. What was once a messy space transformed into a comfortable (and livable) living area and through teamwork, my family and I have managed to maintain our newly developed organizational habits.