You guys, my kitchen is a disaster zone. It’s. a. mess! Today I’m going to walk you through a 20 minute tidy up of my kitchen table.

So, last week, I was trying to vacuum the living room, but getting extremely frustrated by how much furniture I had to vacuum around. First, there was the typical stuff: couch, arm chair, coffee table. Then there was the extra stuff: giant ottoman that doesn’t fit in front of the arm chair and Christmas tree–

Yes, it’s mid-January. Yes, I still have my Christmas tree up. But it’s dreary and cold and the Christmas tree makes me happy, okay? If you’re going to judge me on that then you’d really judge me on the year we never got around to taking down outdoor Christmas lights. By the time July rolled around we figured we were closer to the coming Christmas than the last Christmas, so we’d be best to leave it up.

Anywho, back to vacuuming. Then there was the kid stuff: toy motorcycle and kid table and chairs. If I had my way, every room would be empty when it’s time to vacuum so I could make those perfectly straight vacuuming lines like the professionals. But alas, there is life in this house and things to vacuum around.

I figured one great way to make vacuuming easier would be to move the kids table and chairs, which my son had been sitting at to eat meals. Ever since my second was born, we’ve been eating most of our meals in front of the T.V. Yikes! We’ve been wanting to get out of this habit and get back to eating dinner at the kitchen table.

In this moment, my head slowly turned towards the kitchen table. The table was piled high with craft supplies, toys, bills, pens and a myriad of other things.

Here’s the before:

The only reason there’s some empty space is because that’s usually where my computer sits. The table in its current state was not really conducive to calm family meals.

Waiting for the perfect time

I’m always waiting for the perfect time before I start tidying up. Waiting for my kids to nap at the same time or waiting for there to not be a human attached to me. Sometimes I’m waiting for motivation or inspiration, which never comes.

Honestly, I should set my expectations that I will have a child attached to me for at least the next couple of years. I will never feel inspired to clean my house, nor will I get past the feeling of “I don’t wanna.”

Waiting for the perfect time means I’m choosing to give up on family meals or having a space to color and play games. It is a choice, conscious or not, to live in the current mess, even if it drives me insane.

Perfection doesn’t exist. Yet, we keep striving for this unattainable goal. Why? So many of us are so focused on waiting for the perfect time that we never even take the first step in our journey. Focus on progress, not perfection. Every step — no matter how imperfect — is a step towards achieving our goals.

So, I set the timer for 20 minutes and imperfectly cleaned up the kitchen table. I did this while babywearing a four month old and quickly serving dinner to a three year old. It’s not perfect; it’s not glamorous. Yet, I was able to do more in 20 minutes than I thought would be possible.

20 Minute Tidy Up — Kitchen Table

First, I picked up the items that could very easily be put away. This includes putting the craft supplies in the playroom, the books in the kids’ rooms and pens to the pen holder in the office area. I found a book that I meant to return to a friend and put that on the counter where I hang my keys.

Next, the less obvious items were moved to areas that made more sense. Sanitary pads on the kitchen table? Doesn’t make sense. Putting them in the bathroom even though the bathroom counter is a mess from my incomplete decluttering session? Makes more sense.

For these items that don’t have an obvious home, I don’t take much time trying to figure out a good home for them in that instant. The goal is to work quickly. Is it ideal to take clutter from one room and just make it into clutter of another room? No. But does it get me one step closer to my goal of a clean house? Yes.

Lastly, I was left with items that required some sort of action from me. This included some bills, cards from family that I wanted to write a thank you for, and some notebooks that I wanted to look through the contents before filing away.

I took all these items and sorted them into a neat pile with the most urgent items on the top. Later on, when I was watching TV after the kids went to bed, I pulled out some of the to-do items and started working through them.

After 20 minutes, my kitchen table looked like this:

See how much you can get done with 20 minutes? What do you do if you only have ten minutes? Or maybe only five? You can still make progress, putting a few items away that don’t belong on the kitchen table. Whether you have a chance to come back later in the day or not, your table is still a little bit tidier than it was before.

It’s an ongoing process.

Here I am, a few days later, writing about how I tidied my kitchen table. Has my kitchen table remained spotless? Um, no. There’s worksheets from preschool, my calendar, and a receipt from the grocery store that I never got around to throwing away.

But — It looks better. And I betcha it wouldn’t even take 20 minutes to straighten up this time around.

The bad news is that cleaning your house is not an event, it’s an ongoing process. It’s not something that you can roll up your sleeves and declutter the house once and for all.

But the good news is that you aren’t late to the party. You haven’t missed the boat. Just start where you are and focus on progress. Even making small, consistent progress can make a big difference.

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