Part 1: A One-A-Day Approach to Cleaning your Home
This post is the first in a series outlining some pearls of wisdom I have gained from other mommas, and the trial and error process that is parenting! I hope it is encouraging and provides a practical structure for keeping a clean space.
Perfectly clean house + small children = impossible
I like tidy spaces. Climbing into a well-made bed at the end of a long day and relaxing in a clean bedroom makes it easier for me to shut my brain down for the day. I love walking down the stairs in the morning to see a toy-free living room. It makes me smile when the sunlight in my kitchen gleams onto shiny countertops.
But I have three small children. Children who drop goldfish all over the floor, spill milk during dinner, and take out every toy and craft supply we own over the course of a given day. My previous version of keeping a tidy home is at odds with my current job of attending to small children. I am probably the only person in our family that is bothered by the mess; as a result, I have had to think hard about how to balance my desire for a clean home with the reality of parenting three, young kiddos. Enjoying the space I spend all day in is a non-negotiable for me.
A mindset shift
After I had my second daughter, I felt like the demands of keeping my home to my standard of tidiness was nearly an impossible feat. I spent almost all of my free time cleaning and still finished most days overwhelmed. A friend of mine recommended that I limit my deep cleans to a few times a month and create a chore list for myself so that I could accomplish one major thing each day. My two oldest daughters (currently ages 5 and 2) have their own set of responsibilities, as does my husband. But inevitably, there is a long list of things that fall to me. The key for me has been to identify and prioritize what gets cleaned, when, and by whom!
Lower the Expectations and Create a List
My chore list hangs in my kitchen on my fridge as a reminder. Here is the breakdown of what these tasks actually look like, with lots of space and grace for adjustments, sick kiddos, and days where I just don’t have it in me.
Monday: Wipe surfaces
I start with a microfiber cloth like this to dust and hit every surface in my house. From the dining room table to countertops, to dressers, I wipe every surface, with the exception of bathrooms (see Tuesday). When its super dusty (or in the kitchen), I use a cloth and wet cleaner like this after dry-dusting. If I do this after the kids go to bed, it takes about 30-45 minutes for my 4-bedroom, 3-bathroom home.
This is pretty self-explanatory, but I’ll explain my process. Countertops, mirrors, and toilet bases all get wiped down with Clorox wipes or a cleaning solution like the one listed above. I take out the bathroom trash, spray down the bathrooms and showers, and run the shower to rinse out the cleaner. (Time per bathroom: 10 minutes)
Floor day is my FAVORITE! I usually do this after kiddos go to bed. I start by vacuuming and sweeping. We have a Shark vacuum cleaner that is great at getting dust and small crumbs. Then I use this Swiffer Shark Steam Mop and add a drop of lemon/tea tree essential oil to do a wet clean of my hardwoods, bathroom floors, and basement/kitchen tile. Besides laundry, this one takes the longest but it’s also my favorite. It is the most satisfying and infuriating task on my list because we all know small children are oblivious to the bliss that accompanies sparkly hardwood, but keeping it to once a week makes it feel manageable for me and prevents the buildup from getting too bad. For small spills, we typically use this Swiffer, which goes much faster. (Total time: about 1 hour)
Thursday: Storage Spaces
Quickly peek in cabinets and fridge, throw away expired food, move things around to make room for new groceries, tidy up closets. This is NOT a total organizational overhaul—just maintenance. (Total time: 20 minutes)
Friday: Laundry/Meal Plan
I try to keep all my laundry contained to Fridays unless someone is sick or my kids go through clothes particularly fast that week. I often start in the morning with the help of my two-year-old and finish the folding process around bedtime that night, completing other tasks in-between. I watch TV or listen to a podcast and that usually helps it go by. Kiddos are currently learning how to put away laundry, which is helping to lighten the load (pun intended).
Grocery shopping happens every Friday (courtesy of my husband, who is currently a grad student and has off on Fridays). I plan each meal down the ingredient, he shops, and by Friday night we have a full fridge. This is my LEAST favorite task that he somehow seems to enjoy.
Saturday: Focus space
On Saturdays, we are all home and I try not to spend the whole day cleaning. Usually, my husband and I pick an area of the house to focus on and tackle it together. Last week it was cleaning out our office. The week before that, we did some yard work. This is totally dependent on the needs of your family and home.
(Include your kids/spouse in these and do them if/when the opportunity presents itself):
- Empty sink/Run dishwasher
- Put away clothes/toys/books
- Wipe down counters in kitchen
- Sweep under dining room after meals table IF needed
- Empty staircase baskets (more about this later)
I do have a cleaning person that comes to help once a month. Plus, there are weeks where almost none of these things get done except laundry and grocery shopping. I hope my list helps organize some of the tasks that are often left undone simply due to the fact that sometimes picking a task is the hardest place to start! I have been using this list for almost three years and I have learned that it’s better to see it as a tool, rather than get mad at myself for not completing every single thing. Usually, when I don’t get to my “to-do task” for the day, I let myself off the hook and just wait until the following week.
For your convenience, I have included a handy printout of my weekly tasks. It can be found here.
Cheers to kids with messy faces and attempting to keep tidy places! Stay tuned for my next post about how baskets saved my back… and my sanity!
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