Children (and partners) can sometimes seem to be actively working against you, undoing your best efforts at getting the house under control faster than you can tidy. Here are five tips to help you fight back.

Define spaces

Slice up the house into zones. Abandon some. There’s wisdom in picking your battles, and your kids and spouse need space where they can be themselves without creating conflict. Define chaos zones and police their borders. It could be a child’s room, where you’ll let them run wild for a month at a time as long as nothing slips past the door into the rest of the house. It may be a corner of a room, where the toys can multiply and tangle to their hearts content, as long as they don’t travel past the edge of the rug. It might be that one chair where your husband loves to pile his worn-but-not-ready-to-wash outfits for days at a time.

The important thing is to identify those spaces to everyone involved, contain them and negotiate the terms of your treaty; utter lawlessness within the boundaries in exchange for a compact that the mess won’t spread. You’ll also need some consequences if the terms of the treaty get violated. More on that in the next tip.

Purge regularly

Things accumulate. It’s a very special subset of dark magic; you can’t stop it. The best way to regain some measure of control over your home is to schedule regular purges to void the excess. If you’re a super clutter-busting warrior, you may not need to schedule the weekly/monthly/quarterly/annual purge. For those of us who aren’t saints and find ourselves falling behind, a calendar item can help remind us it’s time to take matters into our own hands.

Donate, recycle, or discard excess immediately. If it’s not being used, doesn’t have a clear plan for use, and doesn’t make someone happy, it needs to go, and it needs to go now. Inadequately purged items have a way of creeping back in from their piles near the back door or in the garage and sneaking off to hide in the dark corners of your home. Pro tip: automatic purging is an excellent way to police the borders of those defined chaos zones you negotiated in the last tip.

Tackle it in chunks

Whether you’re preparing for a scheduled purge, shepherding a family member through an unavoidable clearing of their established chaos zone, or trying to beat back the forces of dust and grime, it pays to tackle the adventure in bite-sized chunks.

Go room-by-room, and section-by-section within each room to turn an epic quest into an accessible side adventure. This applies to cleaning and tidying, purges and reorganizations, and the dreaded painting and redecorating. Taking on the worst, highest-priority messes first also makes the time you do put in more strategically effective. Organizing your home will be more manageable if you break the tasks down and do a little bit at a time, and you’ll be less likely to hide from the chore and hope it wanders off.

Invest in storage

Depending on your family, your luck, and your powers of mystical energy, you may be able to negotiate a loved one’s chaos zone right down into an enclosed space like a toy chest, cabinet, or closet. Good storage is accessible, has low visual impact, and hides its contents to create the illusion of minimalist peace and tranquility. Especially if you have visual design elements like a feature wall or a focal art piece, good invisible storage can help keep attention where you want it, and away from the clutter.

Hooks, pegboards, hanging pails, and open shelves create easy-to-use landing places, but do tend to add visual clutter. Drawers, doors, and curtained closets or cabinets look tidier but can be a barrier to organizing.

Make it a game

Create a system of rewards and penalties around organization. Competition works wonders for some personalities. Get a cute chalkboard or notepad, hang it in a high-traffic location, and get yourself a pack of 10 chalk pens of different colors to make it creative. You can use the colors to identify family members and/or types of content for at-a-glance ease of use.

Depending on the ages and interests of your children (or spouse), allowing artistic enhancement of this organizational hub may add to its mystical motivating powers. Using your chalkboard to also write personal notes, encouragement, goals, and inspirational quotes can also help position it as a fun part of day-to-day life and keep attention on it.

Creating a more organized family home can be a challenge, but negotiating some boundaries, cutting down on clutter and cleaning a little bit at a time, investing in storage that your family will actually use, and building some fun, interactive games around the ongoing process can help you in your quest.