Keeping a clean home can be a daunting task when you have so much else to do, but these seven simple cleaning tips will help you keep your home in order without spending all day scrubbing.I used to be a clean person. I like things tidy: my house, my car, my life plan, everything.
I am, after all, the girl who spent most of her recesses in fifth and sixth grade organizing books in the school library (yep…nerd to the max, and proud of it!). The girl who ordered and numbered all the movies in her house, and then typed up a list to keep track of them all. The girl who reorganized the kitchen as a Mother’s Day gift in high school. The girl who fought so much with her sister over the cleanliness of their bedroom (among other things) that they had to be moved into separate rooms (sorry, Mom).For much of my life, I’ve been able to keep things tidy without too much trouble.
Then I had a baby, and I was home all the time with a wonderful bundle of joy who created more laundry than a football team. Shortly thereafter, said bundle of joy became mobile, and I came to truly understand the phrase “toddler tornado.” This tornado was full of giggles and excitement, but he left a pile (or more often, piles) of debris in his wake. Now, four years later, I have two crazy little tornadoes who love dirt, noise, and destruction. Someone help me…they’re multiplying. 🙂
The reality of my life with little kids is that it will not be perfectly clutter-free, nor will my windows be free of fingerprints. That’s okay with me. I love my kids, and I would much rather have happy, healthy kids than a clean house.
However, there is a limit to how much chaos I can handle. When my home is neat, I feel like my mind can focus better and I feel less stressed about everything.
But how can you keep a clean home with crazy little people going around making messes all the time and keeping you so busy that you don’t have time to clean them up?
Here’s what I’ve learned in the last four years of motherhood.
Note: I have a 3 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath house. I feel like I can reasonably keep this space clean-ish using the tips below. Obviously, the more space you have, the longer it will take to clean. Hopefully, if I ever have a bigger house (or if we ever finish our basement), my kids will be old enough to pick up some of the extra chores.
7 Cleaning Tips for Busy Moms
1. Have a schedule
Several years ago, I came up with a cleaning schedule to keep myself organized and focused on the most important cleaning goals on any given day. Before I had a schedule, I would find myself spending so much of nap time cleaning and organizing (because there’s always something dirty, right?) that I never got a break for myself. I was not balanced, and I was grumpy because of it.
It’s important to note that the goal of my cleaning plan is to keep a reasonably clean home. I don’t keep my house perfectly deep cleaned. Please do not look on top of my fridge or in any other deep, dark corners…I haven’t done so in who knows how long. However, I am able to keep it looking presentable…clean enough that that I can be ready to have company come over in 15 minutes when needed.
To make my schedule, I made a list of the basic tasks that I wanted to complete on a weekly basis and then assigned them to whichever day of the week made the most sense to me. Each day, at the beginning of nap time, I look at my schedule, and I get to work on whatever needs to be done. By having a schedule, I can focus each day on one or two tasks, and I give myself permission to let anything else slide until its assigned day.
Here’s my cleaning schedule:
Monday – plan the week’s meals, clean out fridge, and collect trash
Tuesday – clean bathrooms
Wednesday – laundry & bedrooms
Thursday – kitchen
Friday – floors & dusting
Saturday – swing day/catch-up day
I don’t always do things on their assigned day (e.g. – sometimes laundry needs come up before Wednesday…especially while potty training), but this schedule helps me keep track of what needs to be done each week and keeps me on top of the basic cleaning tasks.
2. Set aside a little time each day
Decide how much time you are willing and able to dedicate to cleaning each day, and set a timer for yourself. It doesn’t have to be a long time. I decided to allot 20 minutes a day at the beginning of nap time. Because of my time limit, I am much more productive for those 20 minutes, too, and then I stop and allow myself to pursue other interests in life. If I don’t accomplish everything on my list during that time, I stop anyway. Then, I just start with the undone things the following week. It’s okay if you don’t clean your bathtub every week. 🙂
3. Purge excess belongings
A couple of years ago, Marie Kondo took the world by storm with her book, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up. Now, if I’m completely honest, I think a lot of her book is hard to apply to families with little kids, but I love the overarching idea of only having things in your house that bring you joy. It’s so much easier to clean if you have less stuff in the first place. If, as you’re cleaning, you realize you don’t have a place to put something, either find it a permanent home or get rid of it. Stop keeping things “just in case,” and instead simplify your life by getting rid of the things that don’t add to your quality of life.
4. Make your bed first thing
There are two camps on bed making: those who say “I can accomplish anything once my bed is made,” and those who say, “Why make the bed? I’m just going to get back in it tonight?” To be honest, for many years, even with my love of cleanliness, I didn’t regularly make my bed. It was hidden from view, after all.
But now, if I walk in my bedroom and the bed is a mess, I have to make it. My bedroom is my sanctuary, the one place in my house that does not get overrun with toys and sticky fingerprints, so I want to be able to relax there. I now see the wisdom of U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McCraven’s advice to graduates of the University of Texas, “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.” Extreme rhetoric? Maybe, but it’s a small victory that gives me a jump start toward a good day. Besides, it takes less than a minute. You can handle that.
5. Get the kids involved
Little Man (4) is old enough to be assigned chores now, and I love making him my helper. He is learning to put away laundry, unload the dishwasher, pick up his room, wipe counters and doors, etc. If you need ideas for your own kids, this post has a great printable list of age-appropriate chores kids can do with you. Even young toddlers can get in the habit of putting their toys away.
I love having my kids do chores with me for two reasons. First, it teaches them hard work and appreciation for the work mom and dad do. Second, it allows me to do some cleaning while they are awake. Even if they aren’t actually helpful, giving kids a rag to dust with can keep them busy while you do the real cleaning. If I get my chores done before nap time, it means more free time for mommy!
6. Tame the toys 2-3 times per day
I set a side a few “quick clean up” times each day. Usually we do this before lunch, before dinner, and before bedtime. Read more here about how I actually go about getting my kids to help with this process. It’s all about working together, setting expectations, and making it fun!
7. Do a “ten-minute tidy” each evening
In addition to my nap time chores, I try to take 10 minutes right after I put the kids to bed to clean up any residual clutter around the house. I put away dishes that were left drying on the counter, organize paper clutter, put away rogue cars that I find poking out from under the couch…whatever.
If there is a lot of stuff, I’ll grab a laundry basket and walk through the house picking up anything that doesn’t belong. Then I sort it and put it away. Again, having a time limit keeps me motivated and productive (because who really has much energy for cleaning by the time the kids are finally in bed?). After things are tidied up a bit, I’m able to relax better for the rest of the evening without having to look at a bunch of clutter.
Need some more cleaning help? Check out these helpful articles:
- How to Get Your Kids to Clean Up
- Top 10 Time-saving, MacGyver-style Cleaning Tricks
- 9 Unique Uses for Magic Erasers
- The Lazy Girl’s Guide to a Clean Enough House
- Declutter 365: A Year of 15-minute Cleaning Missions
Do you have any brilliant cleaning tips or tricks? Please share in the comments. I’m always happy to learn ways to spend LESS time cleaning.
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