Cleaning a house with kids around is a task that never ends, but these quick “how to clean” tips will help you tame the mess and give you more time to enjoy those messy kids.
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Let me be clear from the start: my house does not constantly look like the cover of Magnolia Home. I wish it was always spotless and free of clutter, but the reality of raising kids is that our house has people in it…quite a few people…several of whom are small and make lots of messes every day.
My house tells my family’s story…and I accept that messes are part of that story. Many days, our house looks like this…
Truthfully, I’d rather have a house that reflects the living going on inside than one that looks like an empty (albeit perfectly decorated) model home.
Still, I can only handle so much. I thrive in spaces that have order, and it makes my heart do a happy dance of joy when my counters are actually clean (Why is it that my kids think moving something from the kitchen table to the island counts as putting it away?…Nevermind, that’s a question for another day).
My point is, when I talk about having a clean house, I’m talking about maintaining a reasonable level of cleanliness…not sparkling perfection 24/7.
Realistic expectations, people…it’s the secret to happiness.
That being said, I believe that it is possible to find a (mostly) happy medium. Chaos may erupt regularly when we are busy playing, creating, and exploring, and I’m okay with that. But for me, it’s also important to have a system that reigns in the disorder.
Here are some ways that I combat the clutter in my house without spending endless hours cleaning every day:
Mom hacks to simplify your cleaning routine
1. Create a schedule so you don’t have to think about it.
Make a list of the basic cleaning tasks that you want to complete each week and then assign them to a day (e.g – Mondays are bathrooms, Tuesday is kitchen, etc.). Each day, just look at your schedule and you know what needs to be done! It might look something like this:
|Sat||Meal planning & outside chores|
|Sun||Day off! (you deserve it!)|
Making a schedule has two huge benefits:
First, it cuts down on decision fatigue. Sometimes, when the house is a mess, it’s hard to know where to start. Without a plan, I often end up puttering around doing a little here and a little there (which leaves me dissatisfied because nothing looks much cleaner).
Second, it cuts down on guilt. Having a cleaning schedule helps me focus one or two tasks each day, and gives me permission to let anything else slide until its assigned day.
2. Set a timer!
Timers work wonders for kids, but they also work for adults. Tell yourself you will spend 15-20 minutes doing your daily chores, and set a timer for it! It’s amazing how much more productive I am during those 15 minutes if I know that I’m going to give myself permission to stop after that time.
What if you don’t accomplish everything on your list before the timer goes off? Stop anyway. Then, just start with the undone things the following week. It’s okay if you don’t clean your bathtub every week. Really.
5. Get your kids to help.
Don’t underestimate kids’ ability to contribute to the household!
If your kids are young toddlers, they will probably love helping you clean. Give them a damp rag (I like these basic microfiber ones) and they’ll happily wipe walls and windows. Toddlers may not actually clean much, but it will allow you to clean while they are awake, which frees up time while they are sleeping for you to do something for yourself.
If your kids are older and the magic “fun” of cleaning has worn off, they can still help. Better yet, they are probably old enough to actually be useful! Need help keeping them motivated? Try my simple chore system for kids that actually works! I’ve found that it works best to have my kids do their chores at the same time I do mine. Working together helps with motivation, and allows me to monitor and help teach cleaning skills.
4. Do a “10 minute tidy” every day (preferably twice).
In addition to my daily chores, I try to do a general pick up twice a day. I do this with my kids. Usually we do our “10 minute tidy” right before quiet time, and again before dinner.
You can set a timer (I recommend it) or just encourage the kids to get all their toys picked up. Make it fun by turning on music or playing my favorite secret agent cleaning game.
The key is that we clean together. My kids have a tendency to get side-tracked playing with the toys they are supposed to be cleaning up, so it doesn’t work for me to give orders from across the room. I give specific assignments (e.g.- “Please put the playdough toys back in their box”) and sometimes I directly hand them things to run and put away (“Your mission is to take these shoes back to the mudroom!”).
Note: I do often add a third 5-10 minute tidy after the kids are in bed. I never feel like cleaning by that time of day, but it makes me feel much better in the morning to wake up to a clean(ish) slate and five minutes is short enough that I can handle it…most days.
5. Use a laundry basket to gather miscellaneous items. During our daily pick-ups, I’ll often grab a laundry basket and walk through the house picking up anything that doesn’t belong. Once it’s all gathered, it’s much faster to sort.
I position myself in a central location and hand my kids things from the laundry basket to put away. Or sometimes I just tell them to look through the laundry basket and put away anything they want to keep. Anything leftover at the end gets thrown out! It’s a good way to get rid of random party favors and art projects that have been piling up.
6. Keep supplies close. I used to keep all my cleaning supplies in my laundry room. The problem was that I would notice that the counter was really messy in the guest bathroom (the only bathroom we have on the main floor) and want to clean it, but that would require walking upstairs, getting a cleaning rag, walking back down, wiping the counter, and then putting the rag away. That was way too much effort for me when a toddler was already calling “Mama, I need yooooou!” from outside the door.
I finally got smart and solved the problem: I put a few microfiber cloths in the bathroom drawer and spray bottle of (non-toxic) cleaner under the sink. Easy!
Now, when I notice smears of dirt or who-knows-what all over the counter, I can grab a cloth, wipe the counter, and be on my way in 10 seconds. Wahoo! When I clean the whole bathroom once a week, I replace the cloths. It’s such a simple thing, but it makes a huge difference in how clean that little bathroom looks day-to-day.
I did the same thing with my kitchen. I moved my kitchen cleaning supplies from the laundry room (upstairs) to the top shelf of my pantry…out of reach of the toddler, but close enough that I can grab them when I’m ready to clean the kitchen.
What makes sense for your home’s layout will likely be different than mine, but try to put the cleaning supplies as close to where you plan to use them as possible (while still keeping dangerous chemicals out of reach of little ones).
7. Clean the bathroom when kids are in the tub.
When my kids are in the tub, it’s tempting to use the time to relax and scroll through social media. Because by bath time I. am. TIRED. There’s nothing wrong with that. But, truthfully, I usually end up feeling like I wasted time, and it’s not that relaxing anyway because I’m usually interrupted by little squabbles and reminders to “keep the water in the tub!”
If this sounds like you, try using bath time to multi-task. While your kids splash away, clean the sink, counters and mirror (obviously not the tub itself). You can talk and sing with them while you work, so you get cleaning time, and they get more of mom’s attention. Win, win!
8. Buy a robot vacuum…seriously.
Yes, it’s a splurge, but I would splurge again a hundred times. I bought my robot vacuum on Amazon Prime Day a few years ago, and I LOVE it.
After the kids are in bed at night, I usually do a quick pass through the main floor of the house (picking up any random items) and then set the robot vacuum to work. It’s a beautiful feeling to lay in bed hearing the soft whir of my floors getting cleaned while I relax with a book and a bowl of ice cream.
I also often put it in one of the bedrooms upstairs during the day while we’re playing downstairs. It’s good motivation to get my boys to clean up their floor when I warn them that “the robot vacuum is coming!”
That’s it! Eight simple cleaning tips that help me clean more efficiently so I can spend more time doing the joyful things in life!
Do you use any of these strategies to keep your house clean? What other tips do you have? Share in the comments below!
Want more help with cleaning woes? Try these articles…
- My “super secret” cleaning game for kids
- A simple chore system for young kids that really works! (free printable!)
- How to get kids to clean up: 6 tried-and-true strategies