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Finding time to clean around the house when you have kids is really difficult. It will take concerted effort to make it happen.
Before you had kids, you probably had a kitchen that could be pretty clean for several days straight, a living room that was generally in order, and bathrooms that could go a few weeks without a cleaning. While you may have cleaned more often than that, if you needed to go for long periods of time without cleaning, it would be fine. Your home stayed in a bit of order without too much work.
Once you have kids, it probably feels like you can’t even go a day without nearly the whole house being in complete disarray. Counters and tables always have crumbs and stains, toys are all over floors, and bathrooms have pee (or poop) in places you didn’t realize they could get. Trying to keep your house clean may feel a bit overwhelming. Below are a few tips to help you keep the house a bit cleaner - it’s not going to be spotless, but it also won’t be total chaos.
Teach Kids to Clean Up
You should not be cleaning the entire house by yourself (or even with your partner) all the time. Kids should absolutely be helping to clean up after themselves. You’re not going to have a one year old cleaning up the bathroom, but they can start to learn to put their toys away. The younger the child, the less they’ll be able to help, but you should still start teaching them early on.
As your child grows older, they should be taking on more responsibility. Cleaning up the toys after they play with them should be the minimum expectation. You may need to hop in and help them to get started, but you should not be doing it alone. Cleaning up a room full of toys that you didn’t play with only teaches your kids that you’ll do it for them in the future as well. Your home may look cleaner, but you’ll be exhausted with all of the clean up.
Beyond toys, kids should learn to help with other cleaning duties around the house. Cleaning toilets, while kind of gross, can actually be a lot of fun for the kids. Don’t be afraid of other tasks that you may consider too much for them to take on - while you may do most of it, they’ll be learning. Involving kids in cleaning will help them to realize the mess that they make has a tangible impact on how much they have to clean later (it'll take some time for them to recognize this, but reminding them of it as they do things will help them to recognize it sooner).
Spend Time Each Day Cleaning
Don’t leave your messes sitting around until the weekend. Spend time every day cleaning up around the house. Try to take on a task or two each day that will help keep your home in basic order. You’re not trying to mop the floor everyday, but rather keep the home a bit more organized than it is otherwise.
You should absolutely involve your kids in these daily cleaning sessions. Whether it be before bed in the evening, or in the middle of the day, everyone should be involved. A lot of times, you can make it a bit more fun for everyone by making a game out of who can get the most cleaned up in the time you’ve set aside. Perhaps turning on some music will help as well.
Not every kid is going to be happy about cleaning up everyday, and it may be a struggle to get started with daily cleaning sessions. You may be more cleaning than your child, or you may be doing more discipline than you want. Be patient in teaching your kids to help clean - in the long run it will be well worth your time to do so.
Schedule Big Cleaning Tasks
While you’re taking on the small tasks every single day, schedule bigger tasks for specific times. For example, mopping the floors may be done every week on a specific day and time. By choosing a specific day and time, you’re preparing yourself mentally for completing the task, and you’re actually setting the time aside to do it.
Bigger cleaning tasks don’t have to be something that only you do - your kids may end up helping you with them as well. Hyping up a task may help your child be ready to help as well in completing it. Let them know when it will be, and get them ready to participate in the cleaning.
On the other hand, if it’s a task that you’d prefer they not help with because it’s too dangerous or you really want to do it a specific way, then scheduling a separate time for it will allow you to know what you’re doing with the kids. Whether they’re going with another parent, or already asleep, you’ll be able to complete the task in a more timely manner than with them running around.
Don’t Expect Perfection
While your kids are still young, don’t expect the house to be spotless and perfect. Even as they grow older, you’ll still not have perfection (although the mess can start to be contained more to the room they sleep in). Your home is going to have toys on the floor, food on the walls, and crumbs on the floor for some period of time. Getting them cleaned up as quickly as you can is ideal, but not the end of the world.
If anyone is really judging you because your home isn’t spotless, then it’s probably time to either talk with them, or find new people to interact with. Most likely, you’re the one putting the pressure on yourself to have a spotless home. While you should absolutely continue to have expectations around the home being in respectable order and cleanliness, you shouldn’t expect perfection. Trying to expect something too much will just make life more stressful for you.
Keeping your home clean with kids is a lot of work. Expect and teach them to help keep your home clean, while at the same time changing your expectations to some degree if they’re too high. You can keep your home in respectable order without enormous amounts of effort.