I hear it all the time; “It’s just the stage of life you’re in. Just accept the fact you’re never going to have a clean house when you have little kids. It’s more important to worry about spending quality time with your kids and not worry about the mess.” Maybe you’ve seen some of the popular memes floating around pinterest and facebook such as:
While all of these make me laugh because yes, I’ve totally been there, another part of me tells me it’s not ok to resign myself to a permanently dirty house. A clean house makes me happy. Not only me but my husband and children as well. It lowers my stress level and I’m not afraid for people to stop by unexpectedly. I want my home to be a peaceful refuge for my family and it sure doesn’t feel that way when it’s a disaster.
After spending so many precious Saturdays cleaning up a week’s worth of messes, just to find the house a complete pig sty the next day, I finally decided something had to give. And so the 5 habits for keeping a clean home were born. I tried this for a month straight and was amazed at the difference it made. I share these helpful tips with you in hopes you don’t have to resort, like I did, to being a beast because your house isn’t clean.
Please note, when I say “clean house” I am not talking about pristine. You guys know what a clean, lived in house with kids looks like. While I like having what I consider a clean house, it in no way implies my house is impeccably clean all the time. What’s important is that you feel comfortable in your own house and so will most other people, including your own family.
1. Establish morning and night routines
I decided that I needed more structure in my life and wanted to create habits that would free up some mental energy. So I set up morning and night routines that helped me focus certain times of day on straightening up. This helped me create some consistency with my children as well. Instead of constantly cleaning up the same messes all day, I would focus on a 15-minute pick-up time before getting ready for bed. We started setting our clothes out for the next day (which not only saved us the mess of clean, folded clothes pulled out of drawers in the morning, it also saved us time by not having to worry about what to wear).
2. A little every day
I created a cleaning schedule that split up my main chores throughout the week. This has saved my life! I don’t try to focus on doing it all every spare second of every day. Instead, I focus all my cleaning energy in the half-hour or so I have at night on one or two main chores. For example, Wednesday night is bathroom night. Thursday night I sort through my inbox, organize my desk and dust. Of course your cleaning schedule will differ from mine because our homes are set up very differently I presume. The point is to create a schedule that is feasible for you. I don’t allow myself to sit down and watch TV or read or any other recreational activity until my job is done for the night. It doesn’t seem like a sacrifice really though because I know how much happier I feel when my house is clean.
3. Teach your children
Another reason I just can’t accept that it’s ok to have a dirty house is I have a deep-rooted belief that children need to learn to clean up after themselves. I’m all for kids enjoying their childhood but I’m also an advocate for rearing effective, responsible, and happy adults. This means they have to learn to work and take responsibility for their actions from a very young age. My son is three-years-old. He makes his bed almost every day, most days without being told, he cleans up his toys when he is asked, and he knows exactly where his dirty clothes and shoes go when he takes them off. This isn’t to say I never have to remind him or that he always does these things 100% cheerfully, but he knows how to do them and he knows he is expected to. Most of the time, he genuinely likes to. It makes him feel accomplished. I always talk to him about how it feels when our house is clean and how it feels when it’s dirty. He enjoys having a clean house almost as much as I do!
4. Make your bed
My mom taught me this one and I will swear by it until the day I die. If your bed is made, your house (or room at the very least) will stay cleaner. I don’t know what it is but it works like magic. There is something about this small habit that changes the way you feel about keeping your room clean. There is nothing better than turning down the sheets in a clean, crisp, tidily made bed. It helps me sleep better too.
5. Catch up day
Obviously I am not superwoman and I am not always able to stick to these schedules and yes, my house is still messy sometimes. This is where the habit of having a catch up day every week is important. It might be Saturday, it might be an especially slow weekday evening but make sure you schedule yourself one every week. Even if you don’t need it, you’ll have a couple of hours to do something fun instead. Mine is usually Saturday morning. Although I used to look forward to sleeping in on Saturday mornings I have found that I much prefer getting up early, catching up on my cleaning and being able to peacefully enjoy the rest of the day.
Establishing habits now will eventually free up brainpower for other things. I don’t like to have my life consumed by trying to keep a clean house. After establishing these habits I don’t even really have to think about it. It is just part of my day and actually helps me relax. I like to listen to audiobooks or music or sometimes I chat with my husband or my kids while we do it together. The point is to make it automatic and you’ll benefit from less stress and a more peaceful and comfortable feeling in your home for you, your family, and anybody who comes to visit.