I have two kids and a husband. It goes without saying that my house would look like the perfect storm had hit (AKA hurricane Abby and tropical storm Oscar) if I let it.
One thing I can’t stand is a messy house or a full house. Disorganization and stuff everywhere drives me crazy.
If you don’t mind a mess or you aren’t disorganized, please don’t take my mentioning this as a dig at you, I don’t mean it that way at all. It’s just that places with too much stuff everywhere heightens my anxiety and makes me feel claustrophobic. I get to feeling like a caged animal longing to bound outside.
I used to feel so restless and uncomfortable when we would have holidays at my grandmother’s tiny home packed with 40 people inside, literally sitting on the floor or standing against the wall for lack of room. It would be even worse at Christmas with the tree and other decorations taking up more space.
I don’t mean this disrespectfully in any way, but I feel this way in my sister-in-law’s house too. They just have a lot of stuff covering just about any available space. At Christmas when everyone is gathered in one room with gifts and wrapping paper all over the floor it is enough to make me feel anxious, sweaty, sick to my stomach, and like someone is sitting on my chest. And this is with only 10 people, not 40 like at my grandmother’s.
At home, I hate having stuff sitting on my kitchen counters or dining room table, covering my refrigerator, or other spaces. My husband, on the other hand, keeps anything he doesn’t want to forget about in plain sight on the counter – so that would usually be something like 5 sticky notes, medicine bottles, mail, groceries he bought and wants to use sometime but not in the foreseeable future, etc.
Since I’ve become a parent I have come up with some strategies to attempt to keep my house neat and as under control as possible when I can. I do mean when I can, I’m not so totally anal that my furniture is covered in plastic and there are rooms nobody is allowed to go into. I know kids will be kids and make messes, I admit to making my own messes occasionally too.
In keeping a neat home it is important to remember to be reasonable; you can’t control everything.
There are tactics I use every day to manage the chaos and keep my home reasonably clean. Clean enough that I don’t have to freak out if my mom drops by or run around cleaning and cussing like a crazy lady if I know someone is on their way over.
I wish I could say that I secretly employ thirteen maids or that I make everyone eat in the bathtub or something weird and outrageous, but alas, I don’t. Here are the thirteen things I do every day to keep my house clean.
1. Pick up stuff as you walk by it
If I notice a wayward sock or toy I pick it up and drop it off where it should be instead of just leaving it to sit. If I am going up or downstairs I try to take items that need put away, like a basket of clean towels for my husband’s bathroom or dirty glasses that need to be washed.
2. Suck it up
I use a small handheld vacuum when I notice crumbs, dropped bits of food, sand, or whatever gets tracked around the house to keep things neat between vacuuming the whole house on weekends.
I love my Dustbuster for cleaning up things like flour or breadcrumbs that I may spill while cooking.
3. Clean up right away
As we finish a meal I like to rinse the dirty dishes and place them into the dishwasher right away so that nothing is in the sink or sitting on the kitchen counter. This way when the dishwasher is full it can be started and we don’t run out of forks or plates because they are all hiding in the bottom of the sink. I also wipe down the counters and table so I don’t get lazy or distracted later in the evening and forget to finish.
4. Everyone has a hamper
I can be just as lazy and unmotivated as the next person when it comes to taking off my clothes and leaving them on the floor in my bathroom. My kids love to leave socks and clothes wherever they may fall. But, by making sure each bedroom and bathroom has a clothes hamper, clothes do not get left on the floor anymore. Even though she’s only three, one of my daughter’s daily chores is to place her and her brother’s dirty clothes in their hampers.
5. Place a plastic mat or rug under the highchair
I have a cheap rug under my son’s highchair. So much food ends up on the floor and he loves to throw his sippy cups. By having a rug that I can pick up and take out to the driveway to scrub with some Dawn dish soap and a brush and rinse with the hose, I avoid stains on my dining room carpet.
6. Each night toys are picked up
Each night we sing Daniel Tiger’s “Clean up, pick up, put away,” song and pick up toys from the living room floor. Why leave a mess to just compound the next morning?
7. Everything has a place
I made sure that my kids have bins or storage containers for their different toys, bookshelves in their rooms for books and games, etc. This way stuff isn’t just thrown willy-nilly into a toy box or hidden in their closets. My linen closet, laundry room, and kitchen pantry are sectioned so that everything has a specific place and gets put back after use.
8. Fold laundry watching TV
I like to sit and fold laundry while my husband and I are watching TV after the kids have gone to bed. This makes the boring task pass quicker and I don’t feel bad about sitting down to watch TV instead of doing chores. Laundry never ends!
9. Make others help
My daughter uses pink bubblegum flavored toothpaste. She also likes to spit it in the sink and not wash it down the drain, so at times if you were to look in her bathroom sink there would be tons of toothpaste all over. I taught her to rinse it down and scrub the sink if necessary, making sure my husband knew I expect this of her. I was tired of trying to scrub stuck on pink globs. If everyone pitches in, even just doing one small task, it makes a big difference overall.
10. Sort the recyclables
I divide up our recycling and put it in the separate bins just outside the door going from our kitchen into the garage as they are emptied or used so that tin cans, pop bottles, or beer cans aren’t sitting on the counter in the way when I am trying to cook. When I open the mail I try to put anything that doesn’t need shredded or answered into the paper recycling bin.
11. Do a quick tour before bed
At night before I go to bed I take a quick walkthrough of the kitchen, dining room, and living room to pick up anything out of place. Since the kids are in bed I know what I may wipe off, pick up, or put away won’t immediately revert to its previous state.
12. Use special storage
After seeing the idea on Pinterest, I put together two plastic hanging file folder boxes for my kids. I used fun letter stickers to put their names on each. I have folders separated by grades and folders for special keepsakes. I also have their baby books stored in there. When I have something I want to keep for them, I place it in their respective boxes.
My daughter generates a lot of artwork and drawings. I bought her a 3 ring binder and let her decorate the front. Inside I added plastic sleeves so she can keep all of her “special” drawings. After a while, I recycle the rest of her papers, except what is in her binder.
13. Leave shoes at the door
Everyone takes their shoes off at the front door so that mud, sand, and stickers aren’t tracked throughout the house. There’s less vacuuming and fewer germs spread all over.
Do you have any tips or tricks that help keep your home clean? I’m always looking for new ways for my home to stay tidy and save time. Share in the comment section!