Keeping your house clean when you have little people constantly ruining all of your progress faster than you can clean is…frustrating to say the least. You don’t have much time and when you actually try to put in effort and precious time to clean and it doesn’t last long, it’s hard to stay motivated.
I am NOT a naturally tidy or clean person. My husband is very much so. So, living with him has definitely helped me get better in this area of life and grow in virtue. But a big part is honestly taking advice from a book my mom gave me when I got married (shoutout to you, mom!). The book is called Sink Reflections: Overwhelmed? Disorganized? Living in Chaos? Discover the Secrets That Have Changed the Lives of More Than Half a Million Families… and it’s by a magical woman who calls herself “Flylady”. She basically shares her system of keeping her house organized, clean and tidy in a very low-stress way by doing small maintenance tasks daily.
I used a mix of inspiration I get from The Flylady System and the book A Mother’s Rule of Life to create our cleaning system/routine/schedule/whatever you want to call it. Those two books are kind of my motherhood bibles aside from the actual Bible itself…so if you haven’t read either and are looking for direction and motivation you definitely should. They both make cleaning an entire house with many people in it seem way less stressful and both promote the little-things-each-day mentality when it comes to taking care of your home.
Now, what matters most for my sanity is things being tidy/picked up. Having at least our main living area/kitchen picked up and tidy does wonders for my mood, so that part is motivating to me. The actual grime that builds up I honestly wouldn’t notice which is why having a system I follow helps it actually get clean. I don’t clean because I am super mom or really love cleaning, but it really truly does make me feel on top of things and less overwhelmed. So even though it is totally okay if you are someone who cleaning does not matter to, I urge you to just give some of these tips a try, I really think they can do wonders for a mom’s mood and help you feel less frazzled and more put together. And you will be more encouraged to welcome people into your home and enjoy the goodness of community: a win-win.
So, here are my top 10 tips to keep your house clean and tidy even with those little monsters taking everything out and making messes constantly:
1. Leave your house often (& eat outside)
This is my NUMBER ONE tip for keeping your house clean with littles running around. If you are in your house less, there is less time to make messes. There are countless reasons I think it is so helpful to get out of your house daily with small children despite the hassle, and this is definitely a HUGE perk of getting in this habit. Go to the Library, the park, a playdate, run errands… just get out! Plus, playing somewhere else makes the toys that you do have fun to play with when you are home. If we had a backyard, my boys would probably not even be allowed in the house and I would just hose them off before they came in at the end of the day. Get those kiddos out!
Having picnics, even if it’s just on the driveway or on our porch, is a favorite of ours for lunches. Having one less meal that I need to clean up after is great. If we are going to a park that day, you can bet we are bringing a lunch so that we come home to no dishes and no sticky table. And, if the weather is great, we like to eat dinner outside, too.
Something that I do that has been life-changing is leaving the house clean every time we leave (at least the main living areas). Both for small outings and big trips. This way, when we get home for naps or dinner, I’m not swamped and stressed with tired kiddos and a messy house. We come home to a low stress, relaxed environment. So, strap them in the carseat, put on a couple of songs, and go hard for a couple minutes picking up last minute things and throwing the dishes in the dishwasher. (I have an attached garage, this tip may not work for everyone. If you have one too you should totally try it!)
2. Own minimal things
MMMMMM. Y’all. This tip has changed our lives. Evan and I have moved 3 times in our marriage, and it has made us fall in love…with getting rid of everything. (I will say, neither of us are extremely sentimental, so having meaningful knick knacks out that we just can’t get rid of is not really something we struggle with.) We are constantly going through the things we own and giving stuff away and keeping only the things we need or really really like. We are pretty no-mercy when it comes to this concept. Yes, we are those people who immediately give away gifts that we will not use. We don’t want something to sit in our house that is not bringing any value to anyone, it should be with someone who loves it! Get rid of things when they break or actually fix them, go through your clothes every once in a while, and if you think you’ll use something in five years, you probably won’t.
Within the same idea, we are ruthless with what comes into our home. All the way from putting the junk mail in the recycle bin before we even walk into the door, to choosing toys very intentionally. A way to keep clutter at bay is to not allow it into your house! We do not own any decor from our dorm rooms, old high school t-shirts or extra sets of sheets. We really just own what we use and our closets are pretty empty. This makes managing our stuff way less intimidating!
But toys…the toys, y’all. Owning minimal toys is key to not getting overwhelmed with kid clutter. Don’t keep all of the toys. And if you do, look into rotating them so they are not out all the time. They will take them all out if they are there to be taken out. Don’t let it happen! You can do this. Kids don’t need everything to be happy and can play with very minimal toys.
3. Have a place for everything
Organization. This is the biggest secret I have for our house seeming always picked-up. Labeling and organizing things in bins and baskets is kind of my love language, and it really helps everyone put everything in the correct places. Our living room has toy bins clearly labeled so that they are easy to quickly throw toys into when we are moving on to something else. Our pantry has bins that are clearly labeled so I never end up yelling at my husband asking where he put something. The kids clothes are organized so that anyone can find them if they need. Organizing, y’all…it just reduces so much stress before it is even able to happen. I know this is a little intense of a tip for some people, but in life, especially in motherhood, I am on the hunt to utilize anything that will reduce friction in my day and in my family. I want the systems in our house to lend to cleaning and tidying being extremely effortless and very easy for everyone to be a part of.
So, give it a try! Get some bins or cute baskets to hide whatever gets crazy and strewn everywhere in your house. The things in my bins may be total chaos, but at least (to an untrained eye) the room is a low-stress environment that we are able to relax in. I will have many organization tips to come on this little blog and many printable labels for you to use, too! I love making organization solutions inexpensive and very easy to do. (TIP: The Dollar Tree has great bins for organizing any space on a budget! You can start now without spending a fortune.)
4. Use a timer
YES! DO IT! SET THE TIMERS! 5 minutes does wonders! Heck, 60 seconds does wonders. Setting a small amount of time to do a quick clean up before you leave or while the kids are eating breakfast or before you go upstairs can literally be life-changing. Cleaning doesn’t actually take long if you are doing regular, small maintenance. Ask Alexa to set a timer for 5 minutes and clean up all of the toys on the floor with your toddler. Set a timer for the first 10 minutes after bedtime or nap time to do a quick cleanup of the dishes and actually be able to relax or get work done knowing that you don’t have lingering dishes that in your head are going to take forever.
Setting aside small amounts of time throughout the day can be so helpful for your sanity and motivation. We even have a visual timer on our fridge that is partially for my toddler and partially for me. Everything seems way less of a big deal when you’re only doing it for 5 minutes. A quick sweep, wiping down bathrooms, folding some laundry…you can make a huge dent in way less time than you think. Try it!
5. Teamwork makes the dream work
This is essential for busy families. If you are not all on board, your house will be chaos and you will all yell at each other about it. Okay, maybe you won’t, but we sure do when we all point fingers about whose job the cleaning is. The answer: ALL OF OURS! Including the tiny children. When you take it all on yourself, it is very overwhelming and you will probably end up giving up. (Or you’re amazing and do it all yourself and that works great for you…!)
My husband knows that Mondays are our cleaning day. It would be great if I got everything done during the day so that we could enjoy our evening together without lingering cleaning tasks, but life happens. So when he gets home on Mondays, after the kids are in bed we take about 30 minutes and divide and conquer. This actually ends up being pretty fun and kind of (I said kind of) like a mini date-night.
Another tip within this is having your kids help. My three-year-old always takes his dishes to the sink, puts his dirty clothes in the hamper, and puts his toys back in the bins before we go upstairs or leave a room. I end up resenting the people in my household if I end up picking after the people who can pickup after themselves. Believe in your kiddos (and your husband, ha!) to do small maintenance tasks that end up being a huge time-saver for you. It will quickly become a routine and you will look forward to mealtimes more when you know you don’t have to make 50 trips back to the table after each meal to get all of the things to the sink. It’s small, but it makes you less crazy.
6. Have a cleaning schedule & Choose a cleaning day
And keep it on your fridge or in your binder! A place where everyone in the household knows where it is and can easily follow it. Having things you do daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, etc is SO helpful to not forget anything. It also breaks up your entire house and makes it seem way less daunting. AND, if you are busy one month and miss a week, you will get back to it next month and all will be well. I have an easy-to-follow and most importantly, easy-to-keep-up-with printable cleaning routine that you can download and print at the bottom of this post. This list is inspired by the books I mentioned and my husband’s incredible knack for staying on top of every little thing in our house so that nothing is overlooked.
Now, for choosing a cleaning day. Some people prefer the route of doing a couple of tasks daily. Personally, that method doesn’t work for me because I get stressed out if we end up not being home at all that day and then the tasks keep piling up and I end up doing none of it and get discouraged. It has helped me to have a day in my head that I don’t make any plans and know that I will be home staying on top of things. For us, that day is Monday since we usually have busy weekends and its nice for everyone to have a “reset” day. I throw in all of the weekend laundry on that day, take out the trash, refill the toilet paper and clean whatever “zone” I need to clean for that week. I will have a checklist of our weekly maintenance tasks that I do on Mondays in the printable cleaning routine below! Here’s a little sneak peak:
If you would like an editable version so you can add your own needs to these lists, checkout my family binder template found in the Etsy shop. There you will get all of these to customize for you and your family. I highly recommend a family binder to stay on top of all of the cleaning!
7. Habit Stacking
If you haven’t read the book Atomic Habits by James Clear, it’s a good one. It makes you feel empowered to start new habits and not feel like you’re ‘just not a ___ person’ so can’t do the things you wish you could. One of the big things he talks about in the book is “Habit Stacking”. This concept is all about tacking on new habits that you want to have to old habits that are already there. For instance: doing 10 pushups before you get in the shower. You already shower, so why not do a new habit you want to do right before it so you never forget it.
When it comes to cleaning, habit stacking has been essential in making me feel like I have time to have a clean home amidst the busyness of family life. Some of my favorite habit stacks that I’ve created, and now maintain themselves mindlessly, are:
- Cleaning out the car while I pump my gas
- Unloading the dishwasher while my kids eat breakfast
- Wiping down the bathroom counter after I get ready for the day
- Tidying up after meals
- Tidying up before we leave the house (as I mentioned earlier)
- Never going upstairs without something in my hands
- Cleaning out the fridge before putting the new groceries in
If you think of some things that already happen in your day, like meals, and tack on a new habit you’d like to implement, it helps it actually stick.
8. Just do it then
THIS IS HUGE. I am NOT someone who naturally just wants to get things done. I am a huge procrastinator and if there are dirty dishes in the sink, they are not calling my name and bothering me the way they do my husband. But this habit, after much practice (and I am still practicing every day!!) has been so helpful. Just do it then. You want to sit on the couch but the dishes are still on the table? Just do it then. Just bring them over. You want to run upstairs quickly, but just take that extra second to grab the pile that has accumulated throughout the day at the bottom of the stairs. Just do it then! If you don’t, it will be an even bigger, even more intimidating monster to tame later. See what things you can do in the moment, and don’t just walk past something that is easy to pick up then.
9. Zone Clean
Don’t try to do it all at once! Section out your house or your tasks and only do a little at a time. If you wait all year and then try to spring clean all in one day it is so overwhelming. I have our zone cleaning schedule and checklists for each room in easy printables at the bottom of this post. It has a checklist for each room of your house. Each week, I do one zone. The first week of the month I do zone 1, second week zone 2, etc. I find that I don’t need to do everything on these lists if I am doing the maintenance regularly. There are a lot of specific things on these checklists simply so I don’t forget to do them eventually. I do not do every single one of these items every time! Just the most pressing few. I like to do my zone cleaning on my cleaning day, and just get as much as I can done on the list. If I don’t get it done, no biggie, next month I will finish what I didn’t the month before.
10. Use products that make cleaning easy & fun
This is a huge tip that makes cleaning much less daunting. If your cleaning products are difficult to get out, hidden up in a faraway closet, or ugly, you probably won’t be motivated to use them. Things that are easy or fun to use will be used much more often. Here are some products that make the big tasks a lot less intimidating:
- Cute bottles – Amber glass spray bottles and pump bottles can make everything look cute and uniform in your cleaning cabinet. I also love clear glass ones. With your own bottles, you can even make easy DIY vinegar solutions to keep your cleaning products extremely inexpensive but still cute to keep out.
- Cute labels – I get mine from Etsy! Here are our dish and hand soap ones I love.
- An all-purpose cleaner that smells good – Mrs. Meyers is cute on your counter and makes you excited to spray it with all the fun scents. There’s always a deal going on at Grove Collaborative to get a free cleaning set that gets you motivated. I don’t have a membership personally because I don’t need new stuff all the time and usually do my own cleaners or get cheaper ones, but free stuff is always fun.
- A Steam Mop or a Swiffer – Way less stressful than getting out a mop and bucket
- A Cordless Vacuum (In my dreams I would get this!)
- Disposable Toilet Bowl Cleaners – I know it’s not environmentally friendly, but if you have one of these conveniently by each toilet, you can easy stack this task on another habit
- Clorox Wipes to clean the bathrooms – Then washing icky rags doesn’t push you away from quickly sanitizing your bathrooms
- An easy car vacuum that you can keep in the car and use quickly at gas stations
I hope these tips and this cleaning routine is helpful to you! We are going to be moving soon and will probably be making a whole new routine and checklists for our new home. I’ll be sure to share the updated one here soon! Please comment down below and let me know your best cleaning tips for managing it all!
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