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My perfectionistic tendencies went into overdrive as I polished furniture, cleaned sinks, and mopped floors – only not with a mop.
With a toothbrush.
On my knees.
I ran the sweeper every day.
Arranged 68472940 stuffed animals on my daughter’s bed.
And kept a perfectly imaculate, sanitized house.
As more kids entered the picture, I realized they were working against me.
My dream – that anyone could drop by any time and find the house clean and inviting – went up in flames.
And I stressed out.
Cleaning is perhaps the single most familiar role for the mom.
You get it by default.
It seems you either love it or hate it, but either way, it’s gotta be done.
What’s your system? Do you divide chores, or are you a house slave? Neat freak, or roll-with-it type gal?
1. You don’t live in a showcase
The day finally arrived when I lowered the standards.
I remember the thought well.
“You don’t live in a showcase. You live in a house. With people.
Very messy people.
Who live here. With you.”
Once I came to grips and gave grace to myself and my family, I felt a sense of relief.
I did what I could, but if the house was messy and people dropped in, I just let it go.
I decided that they probably just left a messy house.
At least that was my defense mechanism.
Why do we keep up pretense?
2. Conduct a clean out
Once I relaxed a bit, I realized we still had a problem.
A maintenance problem.
Toys were everywhere.
The house was too small.
We were on top of each other.
You can use every excuse in the book, but the truth of the matter is:The less stuff you have, the easier it is to keep your space clean. Click To Tweet
My friend, Missy, is the queen of this concept.
She went from 3 kids in a 3 story, 5 bedroom/finished basement home, to 5 kids in a 3 bedroom ranch.
Know how she did it?
She got rid of her STUFF and only kept what her family needed.
The good thing about moving 5 times in 7 years was that I got rid of massive amounts of stuff each time.
Because who wants to move junk?
Sad thing is, I sent a whole box full of important things to Goodwill, never to be seen again.
About 6 months after the move, I wondered as to the whereabouts of my wedding album…and the signed attendance album. Also Jim’s dress overcoat (totally unrelated to the wedding paraphernalia, but he needed it for work.)
Too late, Margaret.
Ok, extreme case in point.
You may not view it as junk, but if it’s holding you back from staying productive, that is exactly what it is.
Remove the emotional attachments. Your stuff’s feelings will not be hurt if you pitch it.
If you haven’t used it in the last year, chances are, it’s taking up much needed space you could be using otherwise.
Thin out your junk. It’s a freeing experience!
3. Enlist the troops
They are also going to clean them up.
Little ones can help fold towels and put them away, wash dishes and put their clothes in drawers.
Older kids can rake leaves and run the sweeper.
Everyone should be responsible for their rooms – even a toddler can learn to pick up toys.
Involve the family.
Find a system that works for you – read books and articles on the subject of housekeeping and get busy.
Get on top of paperwork.
Purchase a file cabinet and folders.
Sort the mail when it comes, throwing away what you won’t use.
Keep one pile, but when it get a certain height, (say – 4 feet), it’s time to clear it.
(That’s a joke, by the way. Also, a pile may grate on your nerves – that’s cool. I’m just tossing out ideas to give grace when you’re out of options.)
(I have a pile.)
Develop a laundry system
I purchased 3 hampers for the kid’s bathroom:
1 white (whites)
1 blue (darks)
1 red (pinks/reds/oranges)
Every night when the kids took a bath, they put their clothes in the respective hampers.
On laundry day (which was actually every day), the clothes were already sorted.
Once the kids got old enough, I taught them to wash their own clothes.
While I kicked back and watched HGTV.
There’s no rule that says, “Because you are the mom, you must do all the work all of the time.”
4. Make lists
This was the shining star in my up-keep of the house.
Each kid had a list. As they worked through it, they checked off tasks. When they were done, they were free.
They liked this system a lot, and so did I.
Because let’s face it – when you tell a kid to do 3 things, he’ll never make it past the first one.
They don’t have the capacity to remember what you said because truthfully, they don’t want to.
Take the time to write it down – it’ll save you a headache in the long run.
They get tired of your nagging. Give it a rest.
I mean seriously – have you ever heard your own recorded voice?
This is why I don’t have a podcast.
5. Set a timer
Do you know how long it takes to unload the dishwasher?
Or clean the bathroom sinks?
Or sweep the porch?
Time it. Do this with the kids, too. Not to encourage sloppy work, but more efficiency.
It’s actually kinda fun.
You’ll get more done in less time, and everyone will be happy!
6. Get your jam on
I always worked alongside my kids when I gave out lists. We accomplished our lists together.
And we played the music loud.
Everyone got into it, there was dancing and mayhem and laughter and silliness, and we knocked it out.
Make it fun for your kids.
Chores don’t have to be a dreaded disease that everyone hates.
7. Worst first
You know what I hate doing most?
(I don’t even use a toothbrush anymore.)
But with this method, I get it done first thing in the morning.
Teach your kids this too.
What chore do you loathe entirely?
***Bonus: Best kept secret***
Keep the front room of your house clutter-free.
I found this little tip several years ago after we built our home.
I was in love with my foyer (having never had one) and wanted it to look neat and seasonally decorated.
If you don’t have an entryway, keep the first 1-2 rooms near the front door picked up.
That way, you’re not embarrassed to death if the neighbor comes calling.
(You know – the one with the messy house.)
Give your family grace to live life in their home. Every 6 months, have a clean-out of toys, clothes, and other unnecessary accumulated junk. Hand out responsibilities for upkeep. Make lists, set a timer, blast the music, and do the worst first. Keep the front two rooms of the house clean.
And take time to enjoy your kids. Remember – this is their home too.
What are your housekeeping secrets? I’d love to know!