If you came looking for a housekeeping guru, you’re in the wrong place. I am not even close to being naturally inclined in that particular domestic art. But I’ve been a mom for 10 years (whut?) and a stay-at-home-mom for the last 6, so I do have a wee bit of experience under my belt. And because I’ve had to fight my very distracted nature to become a halfway decent housekeeper, I thought I’d share what makes my day work better than the wayback days when I hid everything in the “office” when we had guests over.
Following these tips may not make you the next Martha Stewart, but I’m hoping they bring peace to a few moms who feel like they’re spinning their wheels in the chore department.
In no particular order, these are my Housekeeping Tips for Distracted Moms (and Dads):
1.Clean one thing every day that the kids aren’t likely to mess up.
This one is huge for me. HUGE. Often times I feel like I’m putting out tiny fires (messes, not actual fires, I’m not that terrible of a mom/housekeeper) all over the house and at the end of the day, the house still looks… dingy. Lived in, at best. I’ve found it’s a balm to my soul to get off the hamster-wheel and do one thing that has a chance of staying nice for longer than the time it takes to put away the cleaning supplies.
Make sure it’s something do-able! “Cleaning out the garage” is NOT what I’m talking about. Here’s a list I’ve used in the past and that I’m trying to get back to.
- Monday: Mirrors
- Tuesday: Toilets
- Wednesday: Washbasins (fancy for sinks)
- Thursday: Tub/shower
- Friday: Floors (mopping)
- Saturday: Sheets
Other suggestions: wiping down walls, wiping baseboards, dusting…
1B. “Marry” certain chores to other activities.
All those items above can be done by me and/or my older kids in under 15 minutes. I’ve found I’m more likely to do them if I associate them with something else. For example, the toilets get done on Tuesday evenings when we do our semi-weekly bath.
2. Embrace imperfection.
Also a very big deal. When I tried to do FlyLady a few years back, I realized something shocking about myself. I actually had some perfectionist qualities. Me! Kevin, who knows me better than anyone laughed at the idea until I explained it. I used to be debilitated by my own perfectionism to the point where I couldn’t even begin a task unless I knew I could complete it perfectly. No wonder housekeeping felt insurmountable!
As we all know, cleaning a house with kids inside is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos. It’s just not going to be very effective. (Hashtag: understatement) But once I realized I could sweep up this small mess or put away 10 things from the living room and those actions did have favorable results, I began to notice just how much my perfectionism was affecting me negatively. Now I do what I can within reason and make a mental or written note of things I need to revisit when I have more time. I don’t let the totality of the job stop me from doing a little something here and there.
3. Start teaching your kids chores at a young age.
It feels like an exercise in futility to teach your three, four, or five year old to clean the toilet or the sink, but guess what? It pays off. It really really does, and not just when they go off to college or get married! I have 2 big kids who can reliably clean a bathroom! They can be a little narrow in their view of “done” so I always check, but the point is that I now have two people who can clean the two bathrooms in our house to reasonable standards and those two people are NOT ME.
Make the time to teach them and let them practice. Oh, and make sure you apply rule # 2 to them as well. 🙂
Side note: my friend Lynn sells Norwex and we bought some of their antibacterial washcloths to use in the bathrooms. Amazing. You only have to use water. WATER! No chemicals to wash the outside of the toilets, the tub or the sink. Wash in hot water, air dry, all bacteria vanishes. Seriously, it’s the best, especially when you want your kids to do chores in stuffy bathrooms without passing out. Check out Lynn’s store online and get you some of these magical cloths.
4. Ask your spouse for help in ONE area.
If you’re lucky like me, you’ve got an awesome spouse. Your husband wants to help but sometimes he just doesn’t know how. And if you’re anything like me, admit it: you’d almost rather do it yourself than wait around for the weekend or an evening he’s not too exhausted to help.
About a year ago, Kevin offered to take over the laundry duties. I was super supportive. “Nope. You won’t be able to handle it. You’re too busy and tired when you get home from work.” Ladies. I was a fool. He not only handles it, he handles it waaaaaay better than I ever did.
I think the key is ownership. He doesn’t have to hunt around for chores, he knows exactly how to help. (Laundry isn’t his only thing, BTW. He is quite the handy husband: he often does dishes in the evening and we always clean together on Saturday morning.) Maybe ask your husband if he has a chore he thinks he might be good at or even enjoy?
5. Keep one area of the house kid-free, or at least clutter-free.
We have a small house with a lot of people living here. Because my kids tend to leave a trail of toys wherever they go, I’ve designated my bedroom as pretty much a kid-free zone. I need there to be a place in the house where I can relax without just seeing the next 10 chores on my list. My bedroom is that haven. Maybe that place is a sitting room for you, or a sun porch. Whatever the case, make a space where you can relax no matter what the rest of the house looks like.
6. Confine cleaning to certain times of the day.
My distractedness would naturally make me clean all day, ineffectively, if I didn’t remind myself of my much-more-important job: being with my kids. C.S. Lewis said it best, though: “Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.”
Cleaning house is a necessary part of being home with children, whether you’re home all day or with them for just a few hours in the evening. Whatever the case, make sure you confine your cleaning to certain times and give the work of parenting precedence.
7. Get rid of your stuff.
Not to sound ungrateful, but the two most peaceful months of my life were those when we moved to Korea and when we moved back. Want to know why? Because all my household goods were in the middle of the Pacific, on a shipping container, instead of on my living room floor. I spent so much time with my kids! We laughed and read library books and straightened up for mere minutes in the afternoon. Ah, glorious simplicity. I swore I would get rid of everything when it came, but I didn’t. I’m seriously considering it again, though. Want to do it with me?
I like this book a LOT: Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne. I’ve heard about the KonMari book but it sounds a bit too rigid for our current circumstances. I’m interested to hear what your thoughts are, if you’ve read it.
That’s it folks! Hit me up with YOUR best housekeeping tips in the comment box. I’m always looking for more good ideas.
Make sure you head over to Kelly @ This Ain’t the Lyceum for more Quick Takes. Oh, and happy weekend!