As anyone with small children knows, keeping your home clean and organized is…difficult. Children like to make messes, they don’t like to clean them up, and if you clean them up, they get very curious and immediately want to take everything back out again to see what it is. So much for home organization, right?
I’ve seen enough memes floating around the internet to know that these things go on in many homes. 🙂 But that does not mean organization is an impossible task. There are ways to keep your home organized with small children, and even keep it relatively clean without spending your entire life doing it. My home is cleaner now, with three small children (5, 3.5, and 1.5) than it was a couple years ago! I have just made some changes to make my life easier. And you can do it too. 🙂
Keep in mind I am not a perfect housekeeper. At all. Depending on when you catch me, my house might be mostly spotless…or a crazy wreck. I do what I can and I’m doing a lot better than I used to, but I certainly don’t have it all figured out. I don’t suppose I ever will. Just know that despite my desire to live in a clean home and my increasing skill at doing so, we do sometimes have a crazy messy house just like everyone else. 🙂
Tip #1: Make It Easy On Yourself
I kept finding myself reaching for something or doing things a certain way, and realized I wasn’t necessarily set up for it. I stopped worrying about “right” systems and started worrying about what works for me. I made several changes to my home based on what I felt I needed. These included:
- Having a laundry basket in every bedroom, plus three in my room and one in the upstairs bathroom. I also have one in the kitchen.
- Adding diaper pails upstairs and down (Jacob’s room and the playroom, near the changing tables). I used to use just the wet bags but that was harder to toss diapers into quickly.
- Always have a towel hanging on the stove. It is a huge pet peeve of mine when it is gone because I reach to wipe my hands constantly!
- Clearing out the front hall closet and adding a basket to it for mittens and hats. Shoes go in loose (I also removed extra shoes so that each child has a pair of sneakers, snow boots, and sandals in the correct size, and no more). Non-seasonal and extra coats hang.
- Clearing off the coat rack in the front hall, so only seasonal/current coats hang on it.
- Clearing off my vanity of everything but clothes. I throw my jeans, tank tops, and other clothes I will wear again on there. I always have, so I might as well make it the designated spot.
- I added a shelf to the playroom and a few boxes to put different toys in, so that it is easy to put them away neatly.
- I keep a corner of folded blankets and pillows, which can be used for snuggling, reading, or fort-making, but get put away easily. I try to stick to 3 – 4 blankets only in this pile.
- I keep my living room cleared out and used only for sewing projects and sometimes folding laundry. (And company, occasionally. :))I keep an old, broken laundry basket in here to toss too-small clothing into to be put away later. The kids are not allowed to play in here.
- We cleared out the kids’ rooms of everything except their beds, dressers, a small table, and a couple books. Daniel (3.5) also has the train table and toys in his room, because he is good about keeping them picked up off the floor.
- We added over-the-door hooks to the hallway bathroom, where all the towels and bathrobes get hung.
- I moved the changing table from Daniel’s room (who doesn’t need it) to Jacob’s room, and used it to organize the cloth diapers.
All in all these small changes are what works for my home but they have made my life easier. I have less stuff and I have places that “stuff goes.” Places that work well with my routines and habits specifically. Go ahead — do whatever makes it easier for you!
Tip #2: Have Less Stuff
What I just said above? It works better if there is just less stuff. That is why I spent a good bit of time getting rid of too-small clothes, shoes, coats, etc. It is why I pared the toy room down to 3 – 4 favorite toy sets. It is why I soon need to clear out my kitchen of pots, pans, and baking dishes I don’t really use. It is easier to have places to put stuff if there is not as much of it, and it also easier to find the items you really use often!
Tip #3: Give the Kids a Job
They like to help. And if they don’t, they should help anyway. Every day, my kids are responsible for:
- Putting shoes and coats in the closet/on the hooks.
- Putting dirty clothes into their laundry baskets.
- Taking dirty dishes to the counter near the dishwasher.
- Picking up all their toys in the playroom after morning playtime.
Basically, they are responsible for self-care. As they get older they will be responsible for more. They do also help with other jobs from time to time. My 5-year-old helps fold laundry and puts her clothes away in her own drawers. She follows me around while I sweep the kitchen floor and uses a small broom to brush the mess into a dustpan and throw it in the trash (really nice since I am almost 35 weeks pregnant!).
All the kids like to use spray bottles of vinegar water and rags to wipe tables and other surfaces, although they are not very effective at this yet. They also like to help empty the dishwasher — the older ones can put silverware away; the littlest one will pull out the plates and hand them to me, one by one. Still, they get so proud when they are my “big helpers” and they try really hard. It only takes awhile to train them at first, then the occasional reminder. Soon they are more helpful than a ‘drain’ on your time and energy.
Tip #4: Have Some Sort of Cleaning Schedule
Everyone does this a little bit differently. Some people like to have 1 – 2 tasks to accomplish per day and spread it out throughout the week. Others (like me) like to have a “cleaning day” each week when they do the majority of the cleaning. For me it is too overwhelming to think about having to do a little at a time and have to do something every day! I am a really “global” person though and I like to tackle things all at once, then move onto something else. Choose whatever works best for you.
In my home, I spend most of Monday doing a lot of laundry, vacuuming all the rooms, scrubbing down the kitchen, rearranging items that have been misplaced, etc. I might change beds, clean bathrooms, etc. depending on what is needed. I have to admit I don’t clean bathrooms every week…more like every 2 – 3 weeks. :/ Well…that is where we are right now.
Knowing that I will do the majority of my tasks on Monday, I don’t schedule outings that day. I schedule outings on Wed/Fri. because I know I will have only minor tasks on those days (a load of laundry, the dishes).
I also have a “morning chores” time every day, where I might fold and put away a load of laundry, empty the dishwasher, refill our water filter, refill ice trays, perhaps sweep the kitchen floor. This is about 30 minutes of time in the morning where I get the basics done for that day. It happens around breakfast/morning play time.
Tip #5: Give Yourself A Break
If you are busy — teaching kids, running errands, or living life in general — things will sometimes not get done. That is okay. Sometimes there is a choice to make between an activity and cleaning. Your kids will not remember if the house was always spotless or not. They will remember the time you spent with them. It is okay to do just the basics and let everything else go sometimes. Nobody is perfect and we do not have unlimited time. It’s okay! As I said at the beginning, sometimes my house is a mess. It happens. We survive, and you will too.
Daily Tip: If your family or life situation changes, give yourself permission to quit a habit or find a new or easier way to do it. You don’t have to be a super person; you have to be realistic.
How do you keep your home clean or organized with small children around?