Call me crazy, but I used to enjoy cleaning. I found it somewhat therapeutic. Plus there’s the whole instant gratification thing. You put some work into it, and everything sparkles and looks better immediately.
With kids, well… that’s just not the case most of the time. Let’s just say, our house looks “lived in” throughout the day. If you look closely at the background of most instagram pictures I post, you will see an appropriately messy house. Toys and laundry and books strewn about. I’m okay with it. We don’t have a toy room, my kids are little, they dump everything out. It is what it is.
I don’t know.
But, tons of mess makes me feel a little nutty. Not when my kids are playing with the mess, but it’s the aftermath. When there is clutter everywhere, it’s hard for me to concentrate. I might be a borderline “neat freak.” 😉 And although my kids have forced me to relax a little bit in this, I’ve figured out a few tricks that work for us to keep the house relatively clean but not spend a bunch of time cleaning it… ain’t nobody got time for that.
BEFORE I LIST THEM, HERE’S A DISCLAIMER
I read this article recently, A clean house and a wasted life. And I really like a lot of what he says. You should read the whole thing if you haven’t, but the author ends with this:
Like so much else in this life, you cannot have it all. You cannot have perfect order and perfect productivity. You cannot have a home that is warm and full and inviting, you cannot have every child fed and cared for, while also having every dish done and every sock laundered. You just can’t. Of course this isn’t to excuse slovenliness or laziness. But you need to understand what Derek Kidner says, that “Orderliness can reach the point of sterility. This proverb is [a plea for] the readiness to accept upheaval, and a mess to clear up, as the price of growth.” Growth, or productivity, as the case may be. Is a clean house proof of a wasted life? Not at all. But a tidy house isn’t necessarily evidence of a well-lived life. If you do the things God tells you to do, messes will inevitably follow. But take heart: According to the wisest man who ever lived, these messes are not proof of a wasted life, but of a productive one. “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox” (Proverbs 14:4).
Along those lines, please don’t read this post and think you have to clean your house more or you should clean like me. If you don’t care or don’t have time, don’t do it.
WHY I CLEAN
- I like a clean house. I blame my mom for this. She used to make us clean a lot and I guess it was contagious.
- I also like stuff in its place. There are few things more infuriating to me than not being able to find what you need when you need it. [Ahem: keys, wallet, pacifier, or baby wipes.] It’s right underneath how much I dislike talking to the the “customer service” people at an internet/cable company.
- And I want my kids to take care of their stuff. I don’t want a bunch of extra stuff sitting around that we don’t use. Like I said… neat-freak.
Now, don’t get me wrong. My house is not always clean. 2 kids in, I’ve just accepted that fact. It would not be unusual to see some dried yogurt on the floor that I forgot to wipe up 5 days ago. Or tiny little shriveled up peas in the corner of the kitchen. And please don’t look closely in places like corners or baseboards or, I don’t know, the top of the refrigerator. (This is the kinda sorta clean my house part.)
I recently had some mom friends over for dessert (who had been over a few times before with their kiddos) and they said “woah, you’re house looks different without toys everywhere!” Ha! Good friends can tell it like it is 😉
So, these are not tricks for having a magazine-worthy-sparkling home my friends. Sorry. For that, you’ll have to go elsewhere. These are tips on what works for me. Maybe they’ll work for the average-family-with-littles. Maybe not.
THIS IS HOW I SPEND AS LITTLE TIME AS POSSIBLE CLEANING ONLY WHAT I DEEM NECESSARY
#1 – Clean when it looks dirty.
It seems like some people have a cleaning day and some people clean a little every day and some people don’t clean. I used to have a cleaning day, but as my kids have gotten more active, I prefer to just do one thing per day. It tends to make the house feel kinda clean all the time rather than just for 3 hours after I finish a top-to-bottom house cleaning.
Here are the things I rotate through:
- bathroom (we have 1… small house perks)
- wiping surfaces of furniture
- vacuum upstairs
- wash floors that aren’t carpet (only the kitchen and bathroom)
- vacuum and tidy basement
I don’t have a day of the week that I do each of those tasks. I just clean stuff when it looks dirty and I generally don’t do more than one of those tasks each day. Each individual task takes 10-15 minutes max. If I’m on a roll, sometimes I’ll do 2 or 3 cleaning tasks one day. But generally, I just stick to one per day.
#2 – Toy tidy every night.
We don’t have a play room – all the toys we own get kept in a storage hutch in the living room and with the exception of a few in Addie’s room. They get played with and dumped out all day every day. We do “10 minute tidy time” at night before bed. The kids help. It usually takes less than 10 minutes.
#3 – Dishes after every meal.
I prefer to do this rather than letting them pile up all day. Partly because our old house with old windows and weird smells seems to attract bugs when it’s warm & old food piled up on dirty dishes doesn’t help. Plus Ben often does dinner dishes & it seems unfair to have him do all our dishes from the whole day. Ha! (Actually, now that I think about it, that seems like a good idea…) After dinner, we wipe down all counters, sink, and stove. Dishwasher usually runs overnight and I empty the next morning.
#4 – Laundry (almost) every day.
I run a load of laundry start to folded and put away most days except weekends. Every so often I remember it’s been a while since I did towels and sheets, so I throw in a load of those.
#5 – Deal with Clutter Right Away
If something is visually cluttery, I try to deal with the clutter when I notice it. No mail piles, no paper holder where we can shove a bunch of stuff. No junk drawer. Stuff like that gets thrown on either the kitchen counter and table, and I try to deal with it when I see it instead of letting it pile.
#6 – Only Keep What I Use
I try not to have a lot of stuff around that we don’t use on a regular basis. I air on the side of throwing things out or donating them, so this might have happened at our house once or twice:
#7 – Pick up after yourselves systems for the kids
Well, Addie for now, Emma eventually.
- Montessori “work shelf” work always gets put away right away after finishing.
- Coat on hook and shoes by the door or in her bedroom closet when we get home from an outing.
- If she colors at some point, crayons and markers go back in the little containers on the the coloring table.
- Dishes to the counter after a meal.
- If we get out play-dough, paint, or another special type of activity, we put it all away when we’re done.
- After brushing teeth, tooth brush and tooth paste go back in “her” drawer in the bathroom and stool gets put away.
A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING
I really like the saying “a place for everything and everything in its place.” I choose not to spend time and energy stressing over a mess. Instead, we try to pick up after ourselves, minimize the extras, and clean when it looks dirty. And if I skip the yogurt on the floor for a few days in a row, oh well.
Sometimes you clean and sometimes you just embrace the mess.
So, do you clean? How often? I can’t wait till my kids are old enough for more chores! 😉 moms of older kids – bring on the tips and chore charts galore!