If you have kids you have undoubtedly wondered if cleaning is even worth it. You just cleaned up a room only to find a bin of blocks dumped on the area you just picked up. Or you spent time you didn’t have cleaning the kitchen, bathroom, whatever only to find the area that the kids were playing in is completely ‘destroyed’. As a mom of three kids, I completely understand the frustration that can come with wanting to have a tidy home while still wanting the kids to play and have fun. Or being so tired at the end of the day that feels impossible to pick up the blocks that you already picked up earlier that day.
It’s hard to clean with little ones around which is why people say things like this:
Cleaning a house when you have kids is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos.
or this one…
I’ll clean when the kids are grown, right now we’re making memories.
Cleaning up with kids around is like shoveling during a blizzard.
Depending on your personality type and cleaning style, you either love those quotes or you hate them.
Those quotes and quotes like them really bother me for a number of reasons, but the biggest one is that when my kids were babies those quotes made me feel like I was a bad mom for wanting a clean house in the season of babies. When my husband and I were both working full time jobs, I thought that keeping our little apartment clean was difficult. But then we had a baby and I was still teaching full time and I started thinking that a clean house would never happen again. I tweaked my cleaning routine and figured out some systems that worked for us and came up with a routine and rhythm that worked in our home. Then things changed and we had two babies and was at home with them, I tweaked the routine more and came up with simple little things that we did multiple times a day to keep the home somewhat tidy all the time. A few years later I had started Clean Mama and was working full-time and pregnant with our third baby. The cleaning routine worked and I realized that the little systems we had in place were working for us even though I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath on some days let alone clean a bathroom.
Throughout this post I’m sharing what has worked for us through various ages and stages but the two things that really helped are:
my mindset – I realized and embraced that things weren’t going to be perfect – ever. I re-framed my expectations of a perfectly clean home and concentrated on what I could get done quickly to keep the house clean and tidy most of the time.
consistency – I realized that picking up needed to be constant – we clean up a little bit all day long. If we are enjoying our home and having fun in it, we needed to be consistent with our tidying up. This is why on my cleaning routine I have 5 daily tasks that repeat – daily. Clutter, laundry, check floors, wipe counters, and make beds are simple daily tasks that keep those messes picked up and the house looking good.
I’m here to show you how to have a clean house AND plenty of time to spend with your little ones.
I am definitely not a person that cleans all day long – I clean quickly and efficiently and get on with life. Inevitably, we are picking up on and off all day long, but that’s the secret to keeping a clean house with kids. I want to share tips and tricks that have worked in our house and help you confidently and quickly tackle homekeeping tasks in your home.
Make cleaning up a game. Set a timer for 5 minutes and race to do a quick pick up. Put on music and make it fun. If you have little ones, they can help clean up too. They’ll need help but they can definitely learn to put their toys back. We still do a nightly clean up even though the kids are all school-aged. It works!
Clean up as you go. Be intentional through the day – it’s always easier to tidy up as you go rather than try to clean everything up at the end of the day. This can be applied to kids picking up one thing before starting another or in other areas of the home too. When the kids were little we reset the area we were playing in multiple times a day. This helped them learn to clean up as you go and it made it so much easier to clean up a little instead of a lot. Kids like to be involved in cleaning – here’s how I put together a kids’ cleaning caddy. The same principle can be applied to the entire home: as you are preparing dinner, be putting the prep dishes in the dishwasher, instead of leaving toiletries on the bathroom counters as you’re getting ready for the day, put them away as you’re getting ready.
Be consistent. If you decide that it’s helpful to do a quick clean up before rest time or nap time every day, take the 5-10 minutes that it takes to do that little clean up. Being consistent helps to build habits and it helps to make it easier to clean up when you’re doing it regularly.
When the house is clean…get out! This is something that I did when our two older kids were little. We’d do a quick clean up before lunch and naps and head out to the park for a picnic lunch and playtime. This did all of us good – fresh air and sunshine and a walk for me. In inclement weather we’d head to the library or I’d take the stroller to the mall to walk around. Then it was back home for naps and a little quiet time for me. If you are working outside of the home, you can do this after dinner too!
Write it down. If you feel like you get to the end of the day and you didn’t get anything accomplished, start checking things off a list. I started using a weekly docket way back in the early 2000s when I was teaching. I liked keeping track of what I did during the week and then when I looked back on the week and felt like nothing got done, I could see that I actually accomplished quite a bit more than I thought I had. When I started my cleaning routine, that’s what really helped keep a little rhythm and routine through what at the time felt endless at times. Now I use my Homekeeping Planner and love being able to reference it all year long.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s trite and overstated but really, it’s so true. So what if you have to order pizza because everything went south. Didn’t do the laundry every day this week? No big deal! This is why I built Fridays as a Catch-All Day into my routine. A grace day built into a routine that has room for LIFE. It’s refreshingly simple – just use the next day to start over, or the next week – there’s always room for the unexpected.
If you have little ones and feel overwhelmed with trying to keep the house clean, cleaning a little bit every day is the key to staying on top of the mess. My cleaning routine takes the guesswork out of what to clean and when to clean it. I share my routine in a free monthly calendar here and in my Homekeeping Society subscription here.
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