As a child, I was fairly messy. Actually very messy. Just ask my mom and she'll tell you all about me. Then when I moved out of my parents' house and into a house with some roommates at the age of 18, I somehow morphed into a clean freak overnight. I'm pretty sure I was THE WORST to live with (sorry about that, guys) and I was very militant about my role of upholding the shared cleaning routine.
When I got married, I had three years of living kid free in homes that I could keep pretty much exactly how we wanted. My husband isn't as neurotic about cleaning as I am, but he definitely doesn't like mess or clutter. (We are a good match!)
Then we had babies. Who grew into toddlers. Who grew into children with opinions and belongings of their own.
My once a week "blitz the house" just wasn't enough anymore. It felt like our home was getting "messed up" constantly. I had a lot of advice in the early days of motherhood to just "let it go" and "accept the mess"—and I do think that is part of the solution. Your home will never be 100% clean and tidy with more than two people living in it—and that's just part of the adventure of growing a family.
But if having a clean home environment is important to you (and for me, it definitely is) and you don't know how to keep it under control without going crazy (or yelling at your family members—which I have definitely NOT done,) then I am here to tell you that there are steps you can take to keep your home clean. It takes some hard work, especially at first, but it is possible.
So, how do you do it? How do you home clean and tidy with little kids at home? Here are some ideas that have worked in my home:
1) START WITH A DECLUTTER
If you didn't already know, I'm a huge advocate for a good purge. It's something that I do every few months or so. Why is it so important? Less stuff=less to clean up.
If you need a kickstart and something to keep you accountable, then join my #10DayDeclutter! It's totally free, and I'll even send you a cute printable to go alongside it!
2) A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING
This one goes hand in hand with decluttering. Make sure that everything in your home has a home.
Do you have paper building up constantly on the kitchen counter? Find a cute tray to corral any papers that you need to deal with. (And go through the tray on a weekly basis, or as needed.)
Is the entryway is always piled up with shoes? Use baskets at the door for flip flops/kid shoes, and invest in some shoe storage near the door that will contain everyone's footwear. Keep out of season/less frequently worn shoes in the closet.
3) PICK UP AS YOU GO
Getting in the habit of putting things away throughout the day rather than leaving it to pile up makes things easier at the end of the day. This is especially key for little ones to learn, and I've found that a little bit of positive reinforcement goes a long way. When my kids willingly put a toy away after they are done playing with it, I will make a point of praising and encouraging that behavior—and they light up every time! As they get older, I also try and explain that if they do their part to keep our house tidy, we will have more time to do fun things together.
4) WORK ON YOUR HABITS
In our household, we have worked hard on creating daily habits that help us keep our home relatively clean. Because of these habits, when my home gets chaotic, it doesn't stay that way for long. And yes—it's hard work, especially in the early days of establishing the new routine, but for me, the benefits of a clean home outweigh the effort I have to put in.
Here's a rundown of what gets done each day to maintain our home. Some days, we don't get to everything on the list, but mostly—through repetition and consistency—they have become second nature for us:
- Wash dishes (after breakfast and dinner)
- Wipe kitchen counters as needed
- Sweep floors/spot clean as needed
- Make beds
- Put dirty clothes in laundry basket
- One load of laundry
- Kids tidy up their belongings (before dinner)
- Quick house tidy (return everything to where it belongs)
If you are new to all of this, then I would suggest starting small with one thing, and build up slowly. For example, you could commit to making your bed each morning, and focus on that task until it becomes something you do without thinking about it. Becky at Clean Mama has some great resources on this topic if you need any extra inspiration to get you started.
Last week, we realized that we were giving our very capable kids a bit of a free pass in this area (aside from tidying their toys,) so we have just implemented a daily checklist for the entire family. The girls (so far) are very much on board with it, and they have been making their beds and helping with cleaning up much more willingly!
We also have a list of "extra credit" options like helping with yard work/cleaning/folding laundry if our girls want to earn a treat like ice cream or a movie night. We plan to increase their responsibilities as they get older, but at the moment, even having them make their own beds is a huge win!
If you'd like me to email you a printable PDF checklist template (shown above) for you to use in your home, then enter your email below and it will be on its way to you! You can either pin it up as is to remind everyone of their responsibilities each day, or for more flexibility, laminate it and use a dry erase pen to rotate tasks between family members.
(I currently have templates for households of 1-7 people—let me know if you need more options and I would be happy to add them!)
5) THE TWO-MINUTE RULE
I've recently adopted the two-minute rule which means that if I see something that needs doing (a shelf in the fridge that needs wiping down or throwing some junk mail in the recycling) and it would take me less than two minutes to deal with, then I do it there and then. The alternative is that I put that task on my ever-growing to-do list, or I ignore it and it builds up over time into a big task—and then it becomes a bigger thing than it ever needed to be.
6) CLEAN EVERY WEEK...WITHOUT THE KIDS INVOLVED
My house gets cleaned every. single. week. I'm not talking deep cleaning like baseboards and windows—but everything gets a quick once over. I might try and do one deep cleaning task if I have enough time. I prefer getting it done in one go so I can enjoy that "clean house" feeling, but I know others who prefer splitting up the tasks throughout the week (check out this helpful cleaning routine for reference.)
If you have little kids under your feet and can afford a house cleaner rather than doing it yourself, then do that! (I have a house cleaner who comes once a month and it is money well spent!) If your budget is tighter, then find a friend to trade childcare with and use the time to get that house spick and span! Cleaning takes time (or money), but there are ways of making it work if it's a priority for you.
7) ACCEPT THE SEASON YOU ARE IN
As neurotic as I can be about a clean house, I have also learned to accept that mess is part of the package of life with young children. This is a season that will not last forever, and this is a time of my life that I will look back on with great fondness in the future. When I can't keep my house up to my ideal standard, then good enough has to be good enough. In those moments, I try to seek out joy and find gratitude in the small things. And when you are looking for it, it's surprisingly easy to find it.