Mama, I get it. It’s hard to keep up with housework when there is an army of little people with endless amounts of energy making ten messes in the time it takes you to clean up one. I get how overwhelming it can be that day you realize that you haven’t showered in days and you’re house is a disaster. I get how that feeling of shame and guilt can punch you in the gut when someone makes a surprise visit and you have to admit that you actually don’t have it all together.
Mama, it’s okay. It’s honestly going to be okay.
The good news is: we’ve all been there, whether we like to admit it or not. And there’s an abundance of grace for us available day after day after endless day.
So, on a practical note, how can we manage to keep a somewhat clean and tidy home in the midst of this season of tinies?
How To Keep A (Somewhat) Tidy Home
1. Create Routines
Routines are essential when it comes to keeping a tidy home. Why? Because routines help us Mama’s from going insane, giving our lives and home a bit of much needed structure in the midst of all the chaos.
I find it really helpful to have both daily and weekly routines. It may sound like a lot, but these routines aren’t (and don’t have to be) complicated. What do they look like?
Morning – Every morning as soon as we get up for the day I ensure that the bed is made. There can be laundry piles here and toys there, but if a bed is made the room looks put together and cared for. I also keep a stash of paper towels under each bathroom sink, so that every morning after I’ve finished getting ready for the day I can give the counters a quick wipe to get rid of any makeup dust and water spots. Finally, I try to make sure that the clean dishes from the night before are put away before anyone (specifically our son who, at this stage, likes to ‘help’ by throwing all the clean dishes on the floor) gets moving too fast. Oh, and coffee. I think enough is said there..
Evening – I have two simple routines for the evening: before our son goes to bed, and before Damien and I go to bed. Before M gets tucked in for the night we put all the toys away into his toy box and the books back on the book shelf. This way if he gets up in the middle of the night with a bad dream, no one is stepping on or tripping over toys. Likewise, before Damien and I head to bed I clean off the kitchen counters, give them a quick wipe, rinse out the sink and push start on the dishwasher. Honestly, there is nothing like waking up not having to scramble for clean dishes.
I’ve learned to set aside a certain day of the week for a more thorough house cleaning. This really could be any day, but I find it really helpful to clean on a Friday, that way we can enjoy our weekends in a freshly cleaned home, and we don’t have to scramble to clean if we decide to invite someone over.
What that routine looks like? I clean both bathrooms while M has his nap and then I give the shelves and dressers a quick dust. It’s honestly that simple. Amazingly enough, when you’re consistent throughout the week with your routines, you’ll find that things don’t pile up and overwhelm you as often, and you’re not having to spend loads of time on cleaning.
Now, throughout the week we do have some chores that aren’t scheduled, such as taking out the garbage and vacuuming. We just make sure to do those when it’s needed.
2. Clean as You Go
I love (well, love is maybe a stretch) cleaning as you go, whether that be while cooking a meal in the kitchen or playing trains on the bedroom floor with M. If I don’t clean up as I go, I find that I get overwhelmed when all of a sudden I look up and realize how big of a mess there is. And I don’t mean a little mess of toys on the living room carpet (which in my opinion is healthy). I mean a big mess where you have toys on the carpet, juice spilled on the kitchen floor, bits of food caked to the kitchen table, and a million dirty dishes piled up beside the kitchen sink. Cleaning up as you go, after each meal and after each activity, also helps to free up time to simple be and spend time with your family later on.
I feel like laundry should have it’s own special section here. I mean, it really is the nemesis of every Mama. It is a time consuming necessity to make sure every family member has clean clothes to wear.
I’ve found that doing a load of laundry every day makes the world of a difference. I spend maybe 15 minutes folding laundry as opposed to a whole afternoon. Granted, you may have more clothes to wash, and so if you can’t get everything done in one or two loads of laundry a day, set aside a certain time on the weekend to finish the rest. Plus, if you do it while everyone else is home it can become a time to practice family teamwork.
4. Get Rid of Unnecessary Clutter
This one can be hard. For one, it takes time to go through the closet and/or the toy box. Second, it can be hard to let go of those clothes that you’ll maybe someday fit again, or those toys that bring to mind so many fond memories.
I recently finished Emily Ley’s book Grace Not Perfection, and I found she had some really good tips on getting rid of any unnecessary clutter. She recommends that when we do take the time to sort through the clutter, move from room to room, sorting out everything into three categories: the things you love, the things you need, and the things you want. But before you begin make sure to grab two large, heavy duty garbage bags.
As you sort each room, keep those things that you need where they are, as they are a necessity. No one wants to see you walking around pantless. And for those things that you want: if they aren’t a necessity and you actually could live without them, sort them into the two garbage bags (one for garbage, and one for the donation bin). Finally, when you come across those things that you love, like a special drawing or teddy bear, put them on display! Replace meaningless decor with meaningful things so that you walk around your home filled with thankfulness for the joy your people bring you.
Mama, I’m sure there are a million other tips and tricks to keeping a tidy home. These few are simply a basic start. I do want to remind you, however, that there is a certain beauty in the midst of the mess and the chaos of having a home full of little people. This post is not meant to make you feel guilty or lesser than. It simply is a tool to help you feel a little less overwhelmed with the mess around you. On a final note, give yourself the grace you deserve. No Mama is perfect, and there’s no sense in you driving yourself into the ground trying to be.