We all tend to land in different spots on the whole keeping the house tidy with little kids in the house thing. Some of us just throw up our hands and let the chaos rule. Others of us spend our days trailing behind our littles restoring our homes back to perfection as soon as possible. And then if your like me you live somewhere in the middle in which you like things tidy but have given up on the idea of home perfection.
When our oldest started having toys thrown about and needed to eat food in a less than “neat” manner I have to confess it stressed me out. I had always kept our home neat and well put together, even when we lived in a one bedroom college owned apartment. Now we have three toy loving, food throwing adorable kids and honestly there really is no way to keep the food off the walls and the toys neatly sorted and tucked away all the time. Honestly, I’ve finally just started to be comfortable with having a home that reflects the fact I have children rather than striving to hide all evidence of their existence.
Along with accepting there will be toys and food residue in strange places I’ve found some things that have helped keep things tidy without spending hours of my day cleaning. Here are a few of my tricks to keeping things neat enough for me to stay sane in my own space.
- Develop a cleaning “rhythm” for your family. Okay, so I tried one of those daily cleaning charts that said Tuesdays were for toilets but that just didn’t do it for me. I find many tasks need to be done daily and for me if I’m gonna do toilets I want the rewards of seeing the whole bathroom sparkle at once. What has worked better is finding a daily rhythm or routine for certain tasks and then a weekly routine for whole house tasks. I do the dishes at breakfast and dinner while cooking. That’s a daily routine- I can’t stand piles of dishes in the sink. We all pick up the toys and throw them into bins before bed. I hate waking up to a messy house. Every Monday (during the school year) I do all the floors and bathrooms to start the week with a clean house. This helps cleaning feel manageable and rewarding.
- Get your kids involved. I was a little late to the game on this. My oldest is 5 and just this year I really have started to employ his help in keeping up our space but boy has is made all the difference! His brother is 3 and I’ve realized he is fully capable of helping as well. They feed the dog, throw away trash, pick up toys, water the garden, vacuum, dust, clean toilets, clean up dishes from the table, throw their clothes in the laundry, help unload groceries from the car, weed our flower beds and whatever else I can think up. Now, they don’t always complete tasks with perfection but letting go of perfect is so worth it when setting the precedent that this is our space and it deserves our attention and care. If your nervous about push back with your kids not “wanting” to help well let me encourage you in that it has not taken long for help to be the habit in our home. Our kids do many things automatically now that we’ve began to place the expectation of tidiness on them. Before bed they clean up toys without a fight because it is apart of our family rhythm to create a tidy space before bed. Whatever normal your want to have in your home you have to create it. If you can’t keep up with it all (because no Momma should feel she has to do everything for all the people in her home all the time) then take baby steps to create a new normal in your home that shares the load.
- Limit the number of toys in your home. Okay people I know this is a hard one. We get so many toys. Our kids LOVE them all BUT they don’t play with them all. They only have so much time and attention to give in a day. Honestly I think kids get overwhelmed with too many toy options and this actually hinders their ability to play. We are not perfect at this but we strive to continually evaluate the number of “things” we allow to accumulate in our home. We also only have a 1450 square foot house for 5 people so there really is only so much stuff that can comfortably fit in our space. We do campaigns through every room of our house every few months evaluating which things we really need and which things could be a blessing to someone else. Sometimes this is painful but so necessary! I’ve also had friends the cycle toys so they store some in the attic and then take them down when the kids are bored of the toys they have. Great idea! Another thing we do is limit the number of bins we allocate for toys in our house. If we start overflowing those bins than it’s time to adjust. Also…. I know when you have to make that Goodwill run your kids may not like it. Our kids talk about toys they miss or get sad when it’s time to give some away. Some ideas to help with that is talk about the importance of generosity and let them choose what to give away, make it a regular thing in your home so they begin to expect it, give your things away too so your model generosity, let them sell some items and save that money for a new smaller toy or outing or if all else fails give the stuff away when they aren’t looking and hope they don’t notice.
- Share duties with your partner. We already talked about the kids but the kids may not be able to touch some of the heavy lifting never ending items like laundry or dishes! Enlist your spouses help in getting these things done. When I work on the weekends and we have Saturday night dinner guests Brent cleans the whole house. On Sunday nights he rounds up all the laundry and gets it started for me. At bath time he often folds and puts away several baskets of laundry. If he cooks a meal he empties and fills the dishwasher. Over the years he has realized I like a tidy house and being the good man he is has realized its best for everyone if he helps keep this home neat. If your husband is not as in tune with your OCD ways then talk it out. Tell him which things you could use some help with and let him do it. Remember what I said about it may not be done perfectly when training the kids. The same applies to your partner but sharing the load is worth giving up on whatever version of perfect you have set in your mind. It’s a struggle though, I know.
I hope these ideas help! They have helped me in as I’ve grown from our perfectly neat child free home to what we have now. More than anything I hope our house always feels warm and inviting to my children and everyone we bring into it. If we keep love in our minds as we cultivate our spaces we will always have good outcomes.