There was a time (a couple weeks ago) when cleaning was the last thing on my list, and the first thing to get skipped. Just looking at that huge mountain of tasks to be tackled was overwhelming, and enough to keep me from actually doing anything about.
Perhaps you can relate.
Are you embarassed by your house? Have you stopped inviting people over to your home? When anyone knocks at your door, do you only partially open the door so that your visitor can’t see the full extent of the mess? Do you feel scattered, unable to find even the simplest of items because they aren’t where they’re supposed to be? Are you being relied on to finish all the housework and it is just getting to be too much?
Welcome to my world.
Over the past several weeks, I have been perfecting a system that is actually working in our house. While I haven’t yet met the absolutes of perfection, I’m happy to say that the overwhelming mess no longer exists. And I even have help from the kids. Here are the things that are working for me:
1. Make your bed.
You’d be amazed at how much this one simple task makes your room look neater. It only takes a moment, and will make collapsing at the end of the night that much easier. Instill this habit in your kids early on so that each room, even if trashed, has a nice, neat bed to go to sleep in at night.
2. Do a load of wash every day.
If you have kids, there is no doubt dirty laundry piling up in your house at all times. The best way to tackle this is to throw a load of wash in every evening after the kids are bathed and in their bed clothes, or in the morning before you get them up for the day. It’s better to have one load of laundry to wash and fold than to save it all for the weekend. And it’s less overwhelming.
3. Keep a shower scrub brush easily accessible in the shower.
Get rid of that soap scum and ring around the tub while you shower. Just 5 minutes of scrubbing several times a week can be more time efficient than saving it all for the weekend. But be careful: with small children you will want to keep all cleansers and brushes away from curious hands and mouths. Be sure to store these out of the little ones’ reach.
4. Wash dishes during cooking and after every meal.
Washing dishes doesn’t really take all that long. It’s when the whole day’s dishes are littering your sink when it becomes ultra overwhelming. There is always time during cooking when you are waiting for water to boil, the chicken to finish baking, or the rice to simmer. Utilize that time to take a swipe at the pots and pans you have finished using. If your kids are old enough, let them help you clear out the dish rack so that you can wash more. And after the meal is over, have the whole family clear the table and put food away while you or someone else is on dish duty. Another hint: while your coffee is brewing in the morning, take that time to unload the previous night’s dishes out of the dish rack.
5. Keep a junk box.
Don’t have time to go through it? Throw it in the box for later (be sure to see next step). This will free your countertops of unnecessary junk mail and trinkets that haven’t found a home yet.
6. Make a chore sheet for the week.
Dedicate certain days to certain cleaning activities. For example: Tuesdays and Thursdays – vacuum. Fridays – clean toilets. Mondays – Mop kitchen and bathroom floors. Wednesdays – go through junk box. Saturdays – wash windows, dust, wipe fingerprints off walls, and tackle at least one clutter area you’ve been putting off (closet, corner of house, table you haven’t seen in years…)
7. Take 15-30 minutes a day for the family to get together and clean.
Set a timer and race to the finish! Have the kids take all their belongings that migrated to the front room and put them in their room. Clear off those bathroom counters. Wipe down the kitchen table. Sweep the crumbs from the kitchen floor. Wash the windows. Rescue the Lego’s from the couch cushions. Fold the laundry and put it away. Take out the garbage. Use this time to instill a habit in your family to put their things away. Make it part of the routine by cleaning at the same time every day. With everyone pitching in, 30 minutes will be enough time to get everything done, especially if it’s done every day. This works even better if you have a plan of attack for the day (see step #6).
8. Remember that a tidy house creates a tidy mind.
Feel like there isn’t enough time in your day? Feel guilty when you sit down to take a breather, as if breathing is too much of a luxury when there is so much to do? It is impossible to relax when there are laundry piles taking up the space on your couch, or your child is playing in the middle of the floor, surrounded by every toy they own. Tackle the mom guilt by creating a cleaning process that works for you. If you have set times and days to get household chores done, you will have time to sit and relax and play with your kids, or just enjoy a good book on a cleared off couch in a clean room.
9. Understand that it will never be a perfect process.
You have small children. And they are messy. You might need to vacuum on a non-vacuum day. You may get sick and have to leave some of the cleaning for another day. There will come a day (or 3 or 4 days) when it is necessary to wash more than one load so that the kids have clean underwear, or you will have to mop up that juice they knocked over. You will have times when you need to leave the house a mess while you get errands done. Stop beating yourself up.
And this leads me to:
10. Remember your priorities.
It is nice to have a clean home to live in. But what are your kids going to remember? Time with you. If you have a small window of time in the day, and the choice is to either clean or spend time with your child, by all means, put the scrub brush down and go make some memories.
Are you struggling with the upkeep of your home? Or do you have some tried and true methods for easily keeping the house clean? Share your tips and woes in the comment section.