For me, the hardest part of staying home with our kids is the lack of structure. A while back, Tim and I took a two-pronged approach to the constant disaster area that we call home. First, we got rid of things we weren’t using. Then, we read this article from The Inspired Room about how to keep your house “clean enough” and it really helped! Here’s the gist of what she does and what we do and how it works:
1. Have a morning routine. For us, Tim is the one who gets up consistently early and has quiet time to meditate, do Piyo, unload the dishwasher and tidy the house if it needs it (which it usually does). By the time I get up with the babies between 6:30 and 7, the house is clean, espresso made, and the day is ready to start on a happy note. It makes an enormous difference for our day when it starts this way compared to the days when the babies wake early and we start out with a mess. No comparison.
We’ve found that trying to do all of the tidying and kitchen and laundry stuff in the evening is really challenging since the kids are usually a mess from 5 to bedtime. Tim also has lesson planning, grading and graduate coursework in the evenings and has after school staff meetings twice a week, so the afternoon hours are just not our friends when it comes to keeping things picked up. We’re lucky to make it through dinner and get two babies asleep without losing our minds.
2. Clean sinks. Always. This is the bit of advice we picked up from the article mentioned above that really changed how we work. Habits are hard to shift, but this one did it for us. The kitchen sink is almost always empty now. Tim loads and runs the dishwasher at night, empties it in the morning, and I load it during the day as we use things. The bathrooms are the same. If they look messy/cluttered, I take care of it the moment I notice it and it’s really magical how the bathroom always feels clean! I highly recommend this if it’s not already part of your routine.
3. Ten minute tidies/Cleaning frenzies. We had ten minute tidies my entire childhood, and the article above calls them cleaning frenzies, but the concept is the same. The afternoon hours are increasingly hectic as they pass and before you know it, I’m throwing things Si’s way to try to keep him occupied while he’s already emptied every toy container we own in the rest of the house, all in the name of trying to make the fastest dinner possible. Sigh.
In ten minutes (yes, we literally set the timer since Tim works well with a challenge) I tackle the dining and living rooms and organize the laundry while Tim completely overhauls the kitchen. Boom. Done. Our house feels clean, the surfaces are cleared, and no one is tripping over Duplo blocks or choo choos.
This works for us because it’s short and doesn’t take a ton of energy, which is essential, and also because Silas can help us now. We sing pick up put away songs and he knows how to put his toys away. It’s a very kid friendly practice!
4. Clean the kitchen after dinner. Thank goodness for Tim. He loves a clean kitchen and rarely goes to bed without one. I make dinner, he does the kitchen while I do the rest of the house almost every night. By the time we sit down, the house is mostly tidied and the dishwasher is running. It makes the mornings so much easier to face when the kitchen isn’t a disaster.
We have been doing these four things for several months now, but I’m finding it hard to keep up with the laundry and mopping. I don’t mind either task, but I don’t have a system mastered by any means. I’m considering doing one big cleaning maintenance item per day of the week (like laundry Mondays and Wednesdays, mopping on Tuesdays, scouring on Fridays, et cetera). I’m curious what other people do to stay on top of the chaos. Any tips?