Unless you’re a natural born homemaker, vacuuming, dusting, and swishing toilet bowls may not be at the top of your priority list. However, living in a clean house MAY be on that list, in which case, something has to give. 🙂 I find that when my home is neat and orderly, and somewhat clean, my head is clearer, I’m more relaxed, and I am a kinder soul to be around. But, in the busy-ness of life, how do we accomplish that? My approach to maintaining a clean house is very much in line with most any task of motherhood. Below are my tips on keeping a house that is JUST clean enough.
1. Set realistic expectations.
When I first transitioned home from my corporate job, I felt like I was running on a hamster wheel trying to keep the house clean. It blew my mind how much food and dirt could accumulate on the floor, how many toys were strewn everywhere all.the.time., and how much of my time I was spending in the kitchen. Then, as I was explaining my first- world problem to my friend Kathy, who is retired and always offers me invaluable perspective on life, she said, “Well, yeah, but you’re using your home more often now, too.”
Oh my goodness! We WERE home far more than we had been before. Of course it was messier. I was washing more dishes, vacuuming more often, and it felt like I was making meals all the time (which I WAS!). YES!
So, the real key to keeping a handle on your house is to decide what your ‘handle’ will look like. And once you’ve established that, take a second to reflect on whether that actually makes sense for the season of life you’re in. If you’ve got little kids home with you all the time, maybe it’s not realistic to expect that you’ll dust and vacuum the whole house every week.
My handle is making sure that the house is clean enough that I’m happy to have people come over without needing to do a huge pickup. There may be more dust than I prefer right now, but I am busy loving on my family and working a business that keeps me home with my kiddos.
2. Do some pre-planning.
If you’re a busy mom, chances are you’re not going to end your day trying to fill up a free chunk of time. For me, it works far better to come up with a simple schedule that helps me keep my house clean enough. I originally got the idea and the basics of my schedule from Becky at http://www.cleanmama.net/. You can make yours as simple or complex as you want, just as long as it works for you.
So, what’s that look like for me? Right now, with 4- and 6-year-old kids, I shoot to vacuum and dust the whole house once every two weeks, although the downstairs easily gets vacuumed twice a week. For bathrooms, I do a quick clean of them weekly, so I rarely have to do a full-on detailed cleaning. Do I have a set schedule for windows, ceiling fans, or curtains? Ummm….no. Windows get cleaned when I can’t see my neighbor’s house across the street through them (true story) and ceiling fans get cleaned right after I’m done reading, because that’s when I spot the dust. Truth teller, here.
3. Simplify the process.
I used to have wild ideas of having a labeled cleaning caddy that I’d carry around with me as I joyfully cleaned my home. But the reality is, as a work-from-home mom with kids who are not both in school full-time, I’m usually only able to carve out snippets of time for cleaning. So, when I dust, I dust an entire floor all at one time. When I vacuum, I drag that machine upstairs once and get to work. I used to try to clean one room at a time, but I found that I’d rather devote a bit more time and knock out a task completely, rather than break it up and have to clean daily.
I also simplified by cutting down on the types of cleaning products I use. Microfiber cloths are perfect for dusting, and we don’t use any spray to go along with them. By simplifying, I’m eliminating any obstacles to getting the task done. I also keep some of the bathroom cleaning supplies in each bathroom so I won’t need to go grab the rags from a closet somewhere else if I want to wipe down the counters. I see a ring around the toilet? No worries, the brush is right there.
Obviously, if you own less, you’ll have less to clean and maintain. Although it’s tempting to consider a huge year-long decluttering project, I’ve found my biggest successes have come when I just remove a couple of items per day from our home. Sure, there are times when it makes sense to tackle a bigger project, but, in general, if you take 10 minutes a day to go through one area of your home and remove items, soon you’ll have less ‘stuff’ to dust, to move when you vacuum, and to fold when you wash clothes. Plus, I’m convinced empty space is good for the soul.
5. Get help.
This can come in the form of paying for help (my dream) or having family members help. If you can pay for someone to clean and that sits well with you, go for it. When I worked, we had someone come every two weeks and IT WAS GLORIOUS, for the most part.
Now, though, I’m seeing huge value in getting the kids on board. There are plenty of age appropriate chores for kids that will actually contribute to keeping a clean house. Here’s what my 4- and 6-year-old kids are able to do:
- Set and clear the table for meals
- Vacuum after meals with a cheap Dirt Devil upright vacuum
- Unload the dishwasher (they stack dishes on the counter if they can’t reach the cabinet)
- Swish toilets with a brush
- Wipe bathroom counters with a microfiber cloth
- Pick up toys
- Dust their rooms using a microfiber hand mitt
- Fold towels + sheets and match socks.
The key here is not to aim for perfection, but to teach them that part of their responsibility as a member of the family is to help keep a clean house. And, truth be told, most days they love the responsibility of having a ‘job.’ And, don’t forget your partner or spouse. My husband handles most of the outside work, dumps the trash, and will pitch in to help on inside work whenever I ask, which is a huge help for me.
6. Pick a couple of daily basics.
Dana White, who blogs over at http://www.aslobcomesclean.com/ is a huge proponent of daily habits and, thanks to her, I am, too. Over time, small daily habits can really make a huge impact on your home’s cleanliness. Daily habits can include running your dishwasher every night, putting in a load of laundry, and making your bed. If you start small and pick one habit to start with, you’ll start to gain confidence that you can keep a tidy house. And, miraculously, as you keep up with these habits, your house WILL become tidier.
7. Just start.
There’s no need to spend a ton of time doing lots of research, making a schedule, or creating a chore chart for your kiddos. It’s better to just pick one of those daily tasks and do it. Where are you going to start? I’d love to hear which task or room is going to be the first for you to tackle. And, pictures are totally appreciated. 🙂