How to Keep a Clean House When Your Kids Are Little

Throw it in the trash.


But seriously. How does one keep a clean house when there are little ones running around trying to undo everything that you try to do? I feel anxious when my space is messy, but I feel guilty when I spend all day cleaning and neglecting my children. There has to be a way to have kids and a clean house, right? RIGHT?

My house isn’t perfectly clean, but I am able to keep it at “breathable levels” much of the time. It isn’t easy, and it took awhile to come up with some sort of system. But I think I’ve finally discovered a few ideas on how I can keep my house clean-ish even though there are small children living in my home.

1. Ask for help

Sometimes my anxiety about the mess reaches “Code Level Red Mama Is About to Lose Her Mind.” Quite literally, I will jump up out of my seat, and exclaim, “I am about to lose my ever loving mind. We need to clean this house, and clean it NOW.” And my family jumps into action. Sometimes things get so out of control that I just can’t do it on my own. I want to be superwoman and do everything by myself, but I really need my family to help me keep my sanity. I am still trying to learn how to ask for help BEFORE I get to “Losing my mind” levels, but I am a work in progress.

2. House Blessings

I discovered FlyLady when my first child was little. When it comes to advice, I like to follow my own best advice about advice: Take what you like and leave the rest. FlyLady can be super overwhelming, but I do love a variation of her house blessing days. On Mondays I like to catch up from the weekend, and on Fridays I like to prepare for the weekend. This is where I tidy up all of the rooms, and I run the vacuum in high traffic areas. It doesn’t have to be perfect vacuuming. Just where people see and walk.

3. A Load a Day Keeps Chaos Away

This is another FlyLady principle. Chaos stand for Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome. I try to do at least one load a day on most days, but just like everyone else, I don’t always accomplish this. Sometimes I have to do the old Louisiana tradition of having Mondays be wash day. There was a time I even cooked red beans & rice those days. I’m trying to eliminate white rice these days, but sometimes devoting a day to laundry is still part of my repertoire. I’ve forgotten about laundry in the washer and have had to re-wash loads more times than I care to admit. I think I’ve finally come up with a system that works for me. You’ll find one too.

4. Pick one thing

Sometimes all I can do is accomplish one housekeeping thing a day. Sometimes that is all the floors. Or laundry. Or dishes. Or the kids’ rooms. But some days I just don’t feel like cleaning. I give myself grace and allow myself to just accomplish one thing that day. And sometimes that might be many days in a row. And sometimes, I tell myself I only have to do one thing, but that inspires me to do more. But really. What is your one thing today?

5. Try a cleaning schedule

This one kind of goes together with #4. I used to have a cleaning schedule, and I am not quite sure why I stopped. I’ve been mulling over doing it again. It went something like this:

Monday- Front Bathroom/Kids’ Rooms

Tuesday- Back Bathroom/Master Bedroom

Wednesday- Living Room

Thursday- Kitchen/Dining Room

Friday- Floors

I was pretty lenient with myself on the schedule thing. If I had to miss a day because of a birth or having to be away from home for awhile, I’d just pick it up the next week. No biggie.

6. Set a timer

Cleaning is boring. I play games with myself to try to make it more interesting. My timer usually gets set to 10 minutes, and I try to clean as much as I can in that amount of time. Once the timer goes off, I’m done. I usually hate leaving a job undone, so that motivates me to get it done as quickly as possible. Plus it is a mental game. It’s only 10 minutes of my life, so then I get to do something I like to do. Like read. Or something. Maybe. The only downside is that I can fill up an entire day of “Just 10 minuteses” until an entire day gets away from me.

7. Purge frequently

This is a life-saver. I hate clutter with a fiery passion. Hate. It. I purge the kids’ toys more frequently than anything else, but if it doesn’t get used in my house, it probably won’t be living in my house for very long. FlyLady taught me it is okay to throw things away, and I totally do. The only big tip I have for this is to not let your kids see you doing it. If you KNOW they really don’t give a crap about the thing you are about to throw away, suddenly it will become their most prized possession EVER if they see you throwing it away. If they do give a crap about something, keep it. If throwing things away on the sly like that isn’t your cup of tea, I have also told my kids that it was purge time. I told them to pick 20 toys that they wanted to give away to other kids who didn’t have toys. They did fine that way too.

8. While You’re At It

If you are in your bedroom and need to go to the kitchen, go ahead and grab those few cups on your nightstand…while you’re at it. If you are in the kitchen, and you need to go to your bedroom, grab those books that belong on your nightstand that somehow made their way to the kitchen counter…while you’re at it. While you’re waiting for some water to boil and you have nothing else to do, go ahead and unload the dishwasher…while you’re at it. Multitasking at its finest.

9. Let the kids help

Now this is going to take some practice. Many years of practice. Kids have this magical way of making things take way longer than they need to in the name of “helping.” My kids love to help me clean. So I fight the urge to bite my own arm off and say yes. I take advantage of their natural desire to help Mommy while it is there. It also teaches them exactly how to help. In my family, everyone helps. If we had a motto, it would be “Everyone helps.” Even my two year old grabs a towel to clean up his own spills. He can’t talk or wipe his own butt, but he can take his dishes to the sink when he is done eating. Even without asking sometimes. He knows how to throw his garbage away. He knows the way our family operates. Everyone helps.

10. Embrace the season

Yeah, I had to go there. I’ve had to learn how to accept that my home is a living entity. It grows messes and gets cleaned. There are ebbs and flows to the rhythm of our messy life. Our home reflects the goings-on of our family’s life. Sometimes we are super busy and stressed, and our home reflects that. Sometimes we are super chill and relatively stress-free (summers), and our home reflects that, too. I’ve had to learn to tolerate some constant messiness and embrace the idea of “breathable levels.” That’s the minimum amount of clean that my home needs to be in order to feel comfortable being in it, and we live somewhere right around there.

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