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Keeping your house clean can be super overwhelming. It’s easy to look around and feel like you’re never going to be able to see your floors again – where did all these toys even come from?!?!
I hate to be the one to tell you this, but, realistically speaking, you probably won’t ever have the perfectly clean house you did before kids. That lived-in look is most likely here to stay awhile.
HOWEVER. I do believe that it’s important to put some systems into place to keep it clean-ish. It just feels good when you can be proud of your home.
Plus, when you have systems in place so that you’re not constantly cleaning, you’ll be managing your time more effectively, so you’ll have more time to do things that you love to do.
Let me start by saying that I, too, get overwhelmed by the mess. Over the years, however, I’ve tried a hundred different cleaning habits and routines, and I’ve found a few that really do make a difference in my cleaning productivity.
I no longer feel like I spend my entire day cleaning. I can almost always be ready for company within 30 minutes. And I’m even mostly happy with how my house looks!
What are my secrets? And can they work for you too? I’m pretty sure they can!
How to Keep Your House Clean with Kids Around – 12 Habits to Implement Now!
#1 – Decide What’s Actually Important to You
Having a clean house means different things for different people.
By now, I’m sure you’ve figured out that a magazine-ready home that’s completely spotless, with no toys in sight, just isn’t a possibility. Unless, of course, you’re somehow willing and able to spend your entire day cleaning.
So what does matter to you? Is it neatly made beds? A toy-free living room? Freshly vacuumed carpets every single day?
Add those items to your daily to-do list.
It’s important to me that my kitchen and bathrooms are clean, so that’s where I focus my daily energy. I wipe down the kitchen counters every day, and I clean the bathroom sinks and toilets every other day.
My friends think I’m crazy because of the bathroom thing, but it’s sooooo nice to have bathrooms that are always clean-ish!
Pick out those cleaning tasks that are most important for your health, happiness, and sanity, and make those your priorities.
The rest can probably wait.
#2 – Have Realistic Expectations
First and foremost, keep in mind that your house is never, EVER going to be completely clean 100% of the time. You live in your home. You have kids. Kids are messy.
Your kids are likely still young and still learning how to pick up after themselves.
The goal here is not perfection – just shoot for mostly clean, most of the time. And give yourself plenty of grace – some days, it’s just not possible for the house to be clean, and that’s okay.
When setting a cleanliness / tidiness baseline, shoot for that point where you wouldn’t be embarrassed to have a good friend stop by. You’re not looking for the level of tidiness that you’d want if a new acquaintance were to come by, and you’re not looking for the messiness that you’d allow if, say, your mom came over.
For me, this means that there can absolutely be dishes in the sink, but maybe not spread throughout the entire kitchen and dining room table. There can be toys everywhere, but the dog drool on the walls should probably be handled. (I know, it’s gross. I have a great dane – he’s a serious drooler.)
And while we’re talking about having realistic expectations, remember to stop comparing your home to others! Remember that everyone has their own pinch points that matter most to them 🙂
#3 – Find A Schedule That Works for YOU
I figured out a long time ago that trying to do a little bit of cleaning every single day doesn’t really work for me. I was never able to stick to a schedule that required me to do the bathrooms on Monday, vacuum on Tuesday, dust on Wednesday, etc.
If you’re the type of person who can stick to a schedule like this, that’s amazing – and you should totally continue. I wish it worked for me.
In my house, I have a daily list of things to clean and straighten. (On my list – make my bed, scoop cat litter, prep as much dinner as I can as early as possible, put away any laundry I did the day before, clean my kitchen.)
Then on Saturday mornings, my husband and I take about an hour and a half to bust out some cleaning. We focus on the deeper cleans that need to be done by the grown-ups.
In the mornings, my kids are more likely to play pretty nicely with each other, which helps us get the cleaning done. I’m also extremely lucky that my husband is willing to help – I know that, in a lot of homes, all of the housework falls on mom’s plate.
Don’t stress about holding yourself to a specific cleaning schedule created by someone else. Be willing to try different cleaning methods and see what fits most naturally into your daily and weekly schedule.
#3a – Find A Laundry Schedule That Works for You
Same goes for laundry as it does for the house. Some people insist that you should do a load of laundry from start to finish every single day. Some people choose a day when they’ll be home for the whole day and do a marathon laundry day.
I’ve done both depending on the season of my life. Right now, what works best for me is neither of the above options. I divide my laundry up into loads that need to be done (bedding, whites, towels, kids, and parents), and assign them a day when I’m doing my weekly planning. Mondays have always been my whites and towels day, but everything else floats depending on needs.
As a silly example, my kids’ laundry needs to be done every 3 or 4 days. Why? Because my son has four pairs of pajama pants, and he refuses to wear the same pair two nights in a row. So in order to keep him from raging, I have to make sure he has clean pajama pants 🙂
I also wash and dry one day, then put it away the following day.
There are a million different ways to do laundry – if it’s seriously stressing you out, try something new!
#4 – Keep Up With the Bathrooms
Kids are gross, y’all. They leave toothpaste globs all over the sink and counter, and don’t even get me started on the toilets and the floor around them. I clean my sinks and toilets almost every day. When I keep up on them, it really only takes a total of 10 minutes for all 3 of my bathrooms. And then I never have to worry that they smell or if there’s pee all over the floor.
Of course, the tubs need to be done and the whole thing deep-cleaned every so often as well, but this daily clean is so helpful.
If you have 10 or 15 extra minutes in your schedule, I highly recommend this one!
#5 – Have A Place for Everything…
You’ve probably heard this saying before: “A place for everything, and everything in its place.”
It really does work, but only if everyone in your family knows its place. The real secret here is to make the place make sense, both for you and your whole family.
Make sure that everything in your home has a home. And try to make those homes make sense.
Store all of your coffee mugs right above the coffee maker, and your glasses near the refrigerator water dispenser. Keep your broom near the kitchen, since that’s the room that needs it most often.
I keep a spray bottle of my homemade all-purpose cleaner, a bin of rags, and a roll of paper towels upstairs in the kids’ bathroom and downstairs in the kitchen so I’m easily able to grab it if I need it, no matter where I am in the house.
#6 – …But Make Sure the Places Work for Everyone
Beyond having a home for everything, you need to make sure the homes work for everyone. Everyone has to know where everything belongs.
One way to do this is to include your family in the decisions – have conversations about what places make the most sense.
But the real life-changing way to do this is to OBSERVE.
When you notice that your kids are throwing their coats on the mud room floor instead of hanging them in the closet, consider hanging some coat hooks next to the door – it’s a heck of a lot easier to get them to use the hooks than it is to get them to hang their coats in the closet.
Do your kids throw their dirty clothes on the floor, just like mine do? Never mind the fact that there’s a perfectly good hamper sitting in the closet. With the door closed, it’s so nicely tucked away. And completely invisible to the kids. Solution? Find a spot for it that isn’t hidden in the closet. Yes, it may not look quite as nice out in the bedroom, but clothes are much more likely to find their way to the correct spot!
Observe your family’s habits and organize your home in a way that fits those habits. Their habits may be (probably are) different from your own habits, and that’s okay. In order to work, organization needs to work for EVERYONE in the family.
#7 – Pick Up Toys Only Once (or Maybe Twice) A Day
I’ll be honest – this one drives my husband crazy. He’s of the mindset that everything should be picked up and put away the second you’re done using it.
But I have four kids. And unless I want to be on top of them every. single. second, I have to be okay with some messiness.
When they were younger, I’d do twice daily cleanups – once right before naps, and once right before dinner. Now that they’re older, we do it once a day right after we’re done with school.
When you have kids, there’s always going to be something out that’s not being used right that second. Let it go!
#8 – Don’t Go Up or Down the Stairs Empty Handed
There’s always, always, ALWAYS something that needs to be carried from one floor to the other.
And if you don’t have two floors? This rule can be changed to say “Don’t ever leave the room empty-handed”!
This habit is all about handling the clutter that ends up in the wrong parts of the house. And the beauty is that it really doesn’t take any extra time – you’re just making use of the time you spend walking around the house!
When you don’t leave a room or a floor without taking a basket of laundry, an empty water glass, or a stray stuffed animal with you, you’re getting those items closer to where they belong while you’re going about your day.
Just go where you were going anyway, but carry whatever you can. No extra trips!
#9 – Make Some Rules
When you’re trying to maintain a clean home with kids underfoot, it definitely helps to buy items that are easier to clean and care for.
Beyond that, though, it’s important to establish some household rules that limit messes and dirt.
The biggies from my own home are these:
- Take your shoes off and put them away as soon as you come inside.
- All food and drinks need to be eaten in the kitchen or dining room, preferably while sitting down (we do make some exceptions to this one – apple slices are okay in the living room because they don’t make a mess, and we’ll do family movie nights with popcorn, of course!).
- If you spill something, clean it up or ask for help immediately.
I’m not super crazy about having a ton of rules – the less there are, the more likely they are to be followed 🙂 But these rules help keep messes concentrated in a couple of areas – no mud and crumbs throughout my entire house.
#10 – Involve Your Kids
Kids can (and should!) help out around the house. After all, they live there too.
Admittedly, my kids could probably do more. They’re mostly just responsible for cleaning up after themselves (this includes wiping up anything they spill), putting away their own laundry, and emptying the dishwasher.
So this one is a work-in-progress for me. But I’m still adding it to this list because it’s a huge time-saver for mom!
As a reminder when cleaning with kids – they may not do the job as well as you would do it, but it’s still done. And remember, done is better than perfect!
#11- Follow the “One-Minute Rule”
The one-minute rule states that any task that will take a minute or less should be done NOW, without hesitation.
Don’t stop to consider. Don’t tell yourself you’ll do it later. Just take those few seconds and do what it is that needs to be done.
These aren’t major things – they’re those little things that don’t even make it onto the to-do list. They seem insignificant, but if you consistently practice the one-minute rule, you’ll see amazing results.
You don’t have to pause to consider your priorities. Just do whatever task presents itself right away – as long as it takes a minute or less.
Swipe the food crumbs into your hand as you walk by the kitchen table and throw them into the trash. Grab a rag and dust the TV stand when you see it needs it. Put your lunch plate in the dishwasher instead of in the sink (I’m not so great at this one). Hang up your coat right when you walk in the door instead of putting it on the back of a chair, promising yourself you’ll hang it in the closet later.
Because the tasks are quick and easy, it’s not too difficult to implement this habit. And results can be seen quickly – keeping all of those small, nagging tasks under control makes my house look so much cleaner!
If it’s something that takes less than a minute, do it now!
#12 – Declutter
Duh, right? It’s really obvious, but it’s worth mentioning anyway – your house will never even be clean-ISH if you have too much stuff.
But even better than just doing the occasional declutter? Become a habitual purger.
Don’t make it a once-a-year thing. When you see things that you don’t need, don’t like, or don’t want, get rid of them.
If it’s trash, throw it away. If it can be donated, that’s great! Keep a box in your garage or basement and take it in when it gets full.
Turning decluttering into a habit means that you won’t have overwhelming piles of stuff to sort through once a year.
So that’s that. My best tips for keeping your house clean with kids underfoot.
If you haven’t been strict in the past with cleaning routines or systems, you may find that your family isn’t entirely on board with your new plan. But stay strong – consistency WILL pay off eventually, especially once they see how much happier and less stressed momma is!
The trick is to build these new habits – they’ll make cleaning easier and more productive for you and allow more time for the fun stuff.
And, since you’re building habits, the goal is to make the cleaning as effortless and effective as possible while keeping it simple.
But let’s not forget the bigger picture: We live in our homes. It’s where we raise our kids and make alllll the memories. It gets messy and dirty because that’s life!
So stay consistent and do your best – you’ve got this!
Did I miss a tip? How do you keep your house clean with kids? Let me know in the comments!