Keeping your house clean with kids is HARD – but not impossible! Check out my tips for making it easier and gain a bit of sanity back.
If you asked me a year ago what I do to keep my house clean, I likely would have looked at you with a blank stare and told you… I don’t.
You see, I wasn’t exactly taught good cleaning habits and up until the past year – I just didn’t do it. I would scramble if I knew I was expecting someone but otherwise, I embraced my messiness.
But then I started to get into self development and I realized something… mess actually ADDS to my mental illness (lord knows I don’t need anything to make it worse!). I started to prioritize making sure my house is clean because it makes me FEEL GOOD.
I’m pretty proud of how much I’ve improved but do I even need to point out HOW HARD it is to keep a house clean when you have kids running around causing all kinds of shenanigans? Of course I don’t – any mom understands that.
Thankfully, I’ve figured this cleaning thing out to some extent now. No, not all hope is lost for a clean home just because you have kids. You just have to navigate it a certain way.
And mama, that’s exactly what I’m going to explain today. Yes, you can have a clean house without selling everything you own or keeping your kids locked up in a box.
Oh and if you get easily overwhelmed like I do – I’ve broken everything down into easy to understand sections. So if you need to, you can come back to reference them and work on a little bit at a time.
Be patient with yourself mama – you can do this! Now, let’s get to the post.
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What does clean mean to you?
The very first thing to think about is what the “CLEAN HOUSE” really means to you. This can mean different things to different people so you need to really think about what you think of when you hear this term.
Slow down and think about what’s most important.
Identify what your priorities are
Once you have some idea of what a clean house really looks like for you and your family… identify your priorities. Sorry, but you absolutely WILL NOT get everything done (unless you want to do nothing but clean all day).
For our family, it’s keeping the living spaces tidy, dishes done, and laundry put away. I spend 90% of my time in the main living areas so we NEED these spaces to be clean for our overall mood throughout the day.
I’ve also noticed that my kids get extra crabby and not wanting to play when it’s too messy. And as far as dishes and laundry go… it just stresses me out to not get it done (plus we kind of need dishes to eat off and clothes to wear lol!).
Now the other tasks… I worry about them when I have some free time. This is things like decluttering my bedroom closet, or randomly washing the walls. While these things still get done, they aren’t the PRIORITY for us. They get done after everything else has already been accomplished.
Avoid obsessing over the mess TOO MUCH
One thing I used to do is I OBSESSED over the mess. I’d find myself stressing out over the blocks in the corner that’s been there all afternoon, or the clutter on the fridge I felt the need to clear off RIGHT THAT SECOND.
But honestly? The little things aren’t that big of a deal. I’m not going to reorganize the toys for 86th time that week unless it really has value for us. If the kids are struggling to find toys or it’s stressing us all out, then I’ll consider it. But otherwise? Leave it be unless it’s super important.
Figure out what’s important and focus on THOSE THINGS.
Set the right expectations
Lastly, set the right expectations for you and your family. My 4 year old is much more likely to pick up an entire bag of blocks on her own than my 1 year old, for example.
And how likely are YOU to clean for 86 hours a day? I know that is EXTREMELY unlikely for me.
Oh and when you’re doing things that you KNOW will create mess, embrace it. Let it happen and know you’ll go clean it up when it’s time. For us, that’s meal times and sensory activities. I KNOW that mess will happen so I do my best not to worry about it in the moment.
Once we’ve got these prerequisites out of the way, we can start thinking about what’s next.
Create a system
I cannot stress the importance of having a SYSTEM for these sorts of things. If you don’t… you’ll likely to find every excuse in the book for as to why you can’t seem to get it done. Having a system helps you, your kids, and your entire house to know what to expect.
Implement schedules + routines
First and foremost – set a schedule. When are you going to do the dishes? Put them away? Do your laundry? Clean up toys from playtime?
If you do these things randomly, they will overwhelm you. I mean maybe they won’t – I don’t know you. But I know that if I try to randomly keep a to do list in my head… I’ll put it off until my entire house is a giant chaotic trainwreck of a mess.
You’ll have to figure out what works for you, but this is typically how things go for us:
- Me or my fiance do the dishes in the morning + after kids are in bed
- We all go around and do a “quick tidy” before lunch and again before dinner (both kids help)
- Laundry is put away every Saturday afternoon (we don’t have a washer and dryer so it only gets done once a week)
It has helped us SO MUCH having this routine down – I would never go back to flying by the seat of our pants with this.
Get the kids involved in helping
Part of our system involves getting the kids involved in the process. This not only gets things done faster (sometimes), but it teaches them good habits too.
They help with the quick tidy around the house and we will put on music to dance to and turn it into a family affair. My 4 year old’s primary love language is quality time so she actually LOVES doing this. I’ve put a lot of emphasis on how cleaning makes us FEEL too so she’s happy when she sees it’s clean again.
We used to make her clean up on her own but it turned into HUGE power struggles. We like to pick our battles and it’s not THAT big of a deal if she does it alone or alongside of us, so we’ll take what we can get.
Or, keep them OCCUPIED
Now what if you have small littles or just don’t have the patience for “little helpers”? I getchu. My 1 year old follows behind us to pick up blocks or hand me dishes to put away… but we don’t exactly seek out his help.
In those cases, I’ll kick a ball around with the kids while I clean things up in between. Or put on cartoons.
I AM NOT against turning on a show for half an hour so I can get things done around the house. We limit screens but I ABSOLUTELY will use them to get things done like chores or work tasks. Sometimes that’s just EASIER and you don’t need to feel bad about that at all!
Have the right TOOLS available
Part of my system is also making the process as EASY as possible. I don’t want to drag out my huge vacuum every afternoon or worry about the chemicals in the air.
So what do I do? I find mops, vacuums, etc that are more portable. (I COULD NOT live without my swiffer!) I also try to go for more natural cleaning options so I don’t feel like I need to send my kids off into another room.
We use vinegar, baking soda, etc A LOT for cleaning around our house. It’s easy and I know it’s safe.
Take some time to think about what your system will look like – every family has different needs so I encourage you to take this as inspiration, not the rule.
Set some “rules” for keeping it tidy
The next part of this is creating some RULES to make things easier. Having a system is just the first part of this. You also want to consider what kind of rules you should all follow to lessen the blow, so to speak.
Clean as you go – including the TOYS
The first part of this is to clean as you go. #sorrynotsorry but I’m not waiting until the end of the day to clean up the aftermath. If I see spilled ranch on the table, I wipe it off. If I see shoes in the middle of the floor, I put them away.
My kids operate the same way too – they are expected to put their plate away, put toys back when they’re done, put things down on the table vs the floor, etc. While this is a work in progress, they understand this rule pretty strongly these days.
Clean up the big messes RIGHT AWAY
I used to be horrendous at this rule – I didn’t “feel like” cleaning up a big mess so I would let it sit there. Now? I will clean it up right away before the entire house turns into a dumping ground.
If my 1yo dumps his plate, I clean it up right after he gets down from eating. If an entire bin of toys gets dumped, we clean them up as soon as they’re done with them.
We don’t wait. Which leads me to my next point…
NEVER EVER go to bed with a messy house
Under NO circumstances do I go to bed with my house a mess. Sure, some nights I am extra tired and cut some corners. But overall, I want it to be a nice clean space when I wake up in the morning.
A good way to guarantee I’ll be a crabby old bear in the morning? Leave the house a disaster for me to wake up to. Those days are extra hard to pull myself out of a really bad mood. The counter next to my coffee NEEDS to be clean, toys need to be picked up, etc.
Not to mention, it starts fresh. No cleaning required first thing in the morning because it’s already done.
Get a handle on the toys
Don’t worry – I didn’t forget about the bulk of the problem for most – ALL. THE. TOYS. There’s a reason why this gets its own section. The toy problem can get out of hand really fast.
Have a dedicated play area / “yes space”
The first thing you need is a dedicated play area that is also a “yes space”. The last thing I want to do is clean up toys in 9 different places around our house.
We have ONE area for toys. ONE.
It’s in our living spaces which we have setup as a yes space. If you don’t know what that is, it’s an area in which is free game. There’s nothing for kids to get into, nothing you have to say “no” to. If you don’t have one setup – do it now. It’s really freeing as a mom. I’ll try and make another post on this later…
LIMIT the toys you have available
Now, having a dedicated area for toys isn’t enough if you have 80 gazillion toys. The mess will be MONSTROUS within 5 minutes. So try to limit what is available (note I said AVAILABLE and not what you own).
Regularly go through toys and get rid of anything that hasn’t been touched in 6 months. Clear out the weakest link when birthdays and Christmas come around, too. My mom used to do this and it really helped. If you want new toys, you need to donate some old ones – simple as that.
We haven’t done this yet – but I LOVE the idea of a toy rotation. Put different “sets” of toys into various bins that get pulled out every few weeks or so. This limits how many toys are out as well as keeping them occupied for longer because those toys feel new.
Encourage more open-ended play
Part of limiting toys is also encouraging things that are more open ended. This does two things – keeps them occupied for longer while owning LESS toys.
We have lots of pretend play style toys around here that get TONS of play out of them. As an example, we have superhero capes and the kids can pretend to be all kinds of different superheroes, act out different stories, trade off being a hero vs villain, etc.
A toy I have my eye on right now is this block set because you get SO MUCH play out of it. It can turn into dozens of different toys from this one set. So that’s less toys in your home, less mess, and lots of play that benefits their development!
Organize. Organize. Organize.
Can we just point out how TERRIBLE toyboxes are? I hate those things. I had one for a while and it was an absolute pain trying to find toys, keep things cleaned up because we were always digging for things, etc.
We opted for shelving with bins instead. It’s cleaner, more organized, and we know where everything lives within our toy area. If you don’t have an organized play area, start planning to do so now! It helps minimize the mess BIG time.
Keeping your house clean with kids IS POSSIBLE – if approached the right way. A clean environment is better for everyone’s mood and overall mental health. Make it a priority if you can!
But before you jump into it, you need to determine what’s important and what’s not as well as having the right expectations.
Then, you need a SYSTEM – have routines, get kids involved or keep them busy, and have the right tools on hand. Having some set rules for managing it is a great idea too – cleaning as you go, not leaving big messes, and cleaning up before bed have been great for us.
And LORRRRRRRDT – get a handle on them toys. Organize your space, have a dedicated toy area, and limit the toys with some open-ended play.
You got this mama, you CAN have a clean house with little ones running around!
What do you do to keep your home clean with kids? Let me know in the comments below!
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