How I Went From Chaos to “I Got This” (and You Can Too!) |

How I Went From Chaos to “I Got This” (and You Can Too!)

admin November 6, 2012

If you told me three weeks ago that I would be writing this post I would say that either you were lying, or that I was being overly ambitious.  You know, that I had grander ideas in my head than would work out in real life.  I’m not the world’s greatest homemaker and I have struggled to keep my house clean (though I’m learning and improving) and this is a scenario that played out in my home too many times to count:

Ben and I spent all day cleaning the entire house — scrubbing and vacuuming and sweeping, until it was spotless.  And I declared — “This time I will keep it clean.  I will.  I will not let that happen again.”  Three or so days later, I was standing in a disaster of a house.  Again.  And I moaned, “How did I let this happen?!  Why does this keep happening?!”

Does that sound familiar?

I decided that I was tired of it.  For real this time.  And that I was going to step up and take responsibility and make sure that it did not happen again.

It’s been over two weeks, and you know what?  It hasn’t.  Even with my insane week of no heat, a broken stove, and tons of stress — I did not let my house fall into chaos.  It is just as clean as it was when I started.  Are you curious?

Changing My Mindset

The biggest change was simply my mindset.  See, I have this problem.  I like to leave things until “later.”  I walk by and see a toy on the floor and I think “I should really pick that up…well, later.”  Or I see some dishes on the counter that have some stuck-on food on them, something that will take more than two seconds to shove in the dishwasher.  I leave it till “later.”  I’d set my plate down after eating in a room other than the kitchen, figuring I’ll take it to the kitchen “later.”  I’d drop my clothes on the bathroom floor, and tell myself I’d pick them up “later.”

Well, as I’m sure you know, by the time “later” came, stuff had really piled up and I was pretty disgusted with myself.  What is wrong with me?  It would have taken two seconds to do…and now look at this mess.  Sometimes it was especially annoying if I had decided to leave something that had spilled until “later,” because instead of five seconds to wipe up the mess, I had to scrub it for a few minutes.  This was really a waste of my time….

I decided that I was going to stop waiting until “later” to do things.  I was going to do them immediately, and make cleaning up a priority.  I was going to see the mess for what it was and just take care of it.  When I encountered a task that I thought “I’ll do that later,” I would ask myself, “Is there a reason for waiting until later?  Or would it be simpler to do now?”  In rare cases ‘later’ might be better — for example, if a dirty pot needs to soak for a while so it will be easier to clean.  For the most part, though, I was done with “later.”

The Practical Aspects

Right, well, we can be done with “later” all we want, but what does that actually look like?  How do I really keep my house clean? I feel almost silly even saying some of these things, but since it took me, oh, 27 years to catch on, maybe others are still struggling too!

  • If it takes less than two minutes, do it now. If you walk by a sock or a piece of paper on the floor, just pick it up.  If something spills, wipe it up.  If you notice a small random chore that needs to be done, just do it.  When I went to do the dishes the other morning, I opened up the dishwasher and realized the door was filthy.  I took the two minutes to wipe it down right then.  If a chore will honestly take more than two minutes, then you can put it off…but not for long.
  • Finish up before a break. I don’t know about you, but once I’ve left a chore, I don’t really want to come back to it again for a while.  I don’t want to spend 10 minutes “blitz cleaning” and then take a break, done or not.  I just want to finish up what I’m doing, and then take a break.  So, if I’m starving and I really want to go eat my breakfast, I’ll push myself an extra five minutes to finish up morning chores first.  If I’m tired and want to go to bed, I’ll make myself load the last few dishes into the dishwasher first.  Then when I’m done, I’m done, and it’s not weighing on my mind that there are few little things left….
  • Clean as you go. Everyone knows that, right?  Well, really do it.  Rinse a bowl and put it in the dishwasher as soon as you have the muffins in the oven.  Once you’ve poured the milk into the glass, put it back in the fridge.  Just do it immediately so the mess doesn’t pile up.  The only exception to this rule is if you are going to use it again in two minutes.  If I use milk for a batch of muffins and I’m going to pour myself a drink a few minutes later, the milk doesn’t go away until I’m done with it.  But if, for example, I go out for a while in the morning and I am planning to go out again several hours later, I still put my shoes and coat away when I come in the first time.
  • Everything back in its place. If you use it, put it away.  Maybe that’s back where you found it, or in the trash or the laundry pile.  Regardless, when you are done with something, it must have a place to go and it must go there.
  • See the details. I would leave a bottle or two on the counter because they were “out of the way” and figure it wasn’t that big a deal that they were there since everything else was done.  …until that piled up.  See the small details that are out of place and fix them.  The mess is in the details.
  • Have a “big” cleaning day. On Mondays, I have a “big” cleaning day.  I don’t plan too many tasks or any outings with the kids (those happen Wed/Fri).  I tackle at least one main area on Mondays, plus doing deeper maintenance on the other rooms.  For example, my first Monday I tackled the kitchen — scrubbing down counters, under appliances, wiping down cabinets, etc.  My second Monday I tackled the playroom — removing “extra” toys that had made their way in and re-organizing the ones I wanted to keep.  My third Monday I tackled the living room — cleaning up the extra “random laundry” that had been sitting around and vacuuming it (we don’t use that room much).  I also vacuum the main rooms, sweep the kitchen floor, and just make sure that anything that has gotten out of place over the weekend is put back where it should be.
  • Build cleaning into your day. I don’t like to sit down and eat with my kids.  I feel like I spend more time reminding people about table manners, refilling cups and plates, fetching missing silverware, etc. than I do actually eating.  I do like to be with them while they’re eating, though.  I stay in the kitchen and talk to them while I do the dishes, refill the water filter, and so on as they eat.  We also have the rule that the playroom must get picked up before lunch is served, and I enforce this everyday.  (Since we usually are outside and then they are having Daddy time in another part of the house after nap, the playroom stays clean until the next day.  You may choose a different time of day depending on your family’s schedule.)  Take the 5 minutes after a meal to put the dishes in the dishwasher and either wash the pots and pans or put them to soak for a few hours (not days!).  Challenge the kids to “race” to clean the playroom in 10 minutes.  Do what it takes to build cleaning into your daily routine.
  • Get it done early. I know that I have the most energy in the morning.  I’m so-so in the afternoon, and by 8 PM, I’m over it.  It works better for me to do the majority of my cleaning in the morning, so that I don’t end up sitting at 8 or 9 PM going “I really need to do…but I just don’t want to, I’m too tired.”  Early is better.  Or whenever you feel most motivated.
  • Change the rules. I used to let the kids eat in the playroom, but I don’t anymore.  The carpet got too dirty, too quickly.  I also ask the kids to take their plates to the counter after meals and make sure their dirty clothes are in the laundry baskets and their coats and shoes are put away.  Make the rules so that everyone has a “role” in your home towards keeping it neater, and enforce them.
  • Be patient and proactive. The rest of the family will not get on board with this as quickly as you do, most likely.  It can be frustrating to try so hard to keep your home clean, only to feel thwarted by family members who don’t do their share.  I’ll admit I sigh when I pick up the same toy that’s made its way into my kitchen for the fifth time, or when my husband doesn’t remember to unpack his lunchbox upon arriving home.  It will take people time to break old habits, though, so give them some grace.  Issue gentle reminders (to the children) or just do it for them (your husband — although if something really bugs you, tell him).  Your example will teach them to do better…in time.  But not tomorrow or the next day.
  • Decide it’s your job. Sometimes if you feel frustrated because the mess seems to keep happening, no matter how much you try to clean it, it can be easy to just give in.  They want to live in filth…let them.  See how they feel if I don’t clean up after them for a while!  But really, this isn’t about them.  This is about YOU.  How do you want to live?  I’m a very impatient and angry mommy when my house is a mess, and that’s not good for anyone.  It is not my children’s job to make my life easy.  It is my job to lovingly train them and remind them what the rules of the house are and teach them to take care of their things.  It is not my husband’s job to take care of the majority of the household chores when he is away from home 45 – 50 hours a week providing for our family.  It is my job. Some more clarifying on the “it’s your job” part, which I know some of you might not like: if you see it as your job, then you won’t feel so angry that others aren’t pitching in!  You can’t control them, ultimately…you can only control you.  (By the way, my husband *does* help quite a bit when he can.  He often helps me catch up on laundry over the weekend, does the dishes on the weekend, cleans our room, etc.  Any time I am busier than he is, he picks up the slack.  So don’t think I’m suggesting husbands should just sit around and do nothing.  But if you’re home and he’s not, you get to do the majority.)

Those are my major points.  And I know…the explanations are long!  Sorry about that.

The biggest part of this is that you have to make yourself actually do it.  Nothing works unless you do it.  Sometimes I am tired and the kitchen is kind of messy and I think, I really don’t want to do this now.  Instead I make myself spend 5 minutes to make it look better — just five minutes, if I’m really tired — and then I get to the rest after I eat or sleep or whatever.  But I don’t let it go long.  Never more than overnight.

Make It Work for You

Everyone’s home and routines are going to be different.  I have certain chores I do at certain times of the day.

The biggest thing is to decide you are going to keep your home clean, and start tackling one area at a time.  Once it’s done, make yourself keep up with the maintenance.  It will ultimately save you time, I promise.  It’ll take five seconds instead of two minutes to wipe a spill that’s fresh.  It takes a few seconds to rinse a newly-used plate and stick it in the dishwasher vs. scrubbing dried-on junk for several minutes.  Many dishes that I wash immediately, I don’t even bother to wash, just rinse.  (Measuring cups used for dry things, knives used for fruits or vegetables, cutting boards used for fruits and vegetables or bread dough — really anything that isn’t meat.)  It’s so much easier when I just do it immediately.

I suggest starting with the kitchen, because if you’re like me, you’ll be in there all the time anyway!  You want to make sure that you’re not looking at a mess, plus you can’t cook in a messy kitchen!  Scrub it down, then make a point to keep it clean — dishes done after every meal, everything put away, counters wiped down.  Sweep the floor every couple of days or as needed.

In our home, we have a general daily routine and part of our routine is the chores that we do to keep our home looking decent.  No, it isn’t perfect.  Yes, there are areas that are just awful (like…my bedroom, or the laundry), but we at least get the basics done and keep the main floor reasonably clean.  Even with crazy children at home and my husband and I both running a business together.

Coming up with small ways to get the things that you need to do as a part of your schedule will help you stay on top of things.  I promise. 

Our Daily Chore Routine

We all get up around 7 am everyday.  We spend the first little while sitting around together and having a snack.  Then, by 8 or so, I head into the kitchen to start our morning chores.  This usually takes 20 – 30 minutes each day.  

Our morning chores include:

  • Empty the dishwasher and reload it with breakfast and other dishes
  • Empty and refill the ice trays

These are the ‘must do’ things on my list each day.  Depending on what else is going on, I might also:

  • Start a load of laundry
  • Get meat out for lunch and/or dinner
  • Sweep the kitchen floor
  • Start cooking lunch/dinner
  • Add yeast/salt to soaked bread and set to rise

That’s pretty much all I do in the morning.  I can get it done in under 15 minutes if I’m pressed for time.  If I have cooking chores that day, it will take a good 30 minutes.  If I also need to wipe down counters or the stove, it takes 45 min. or longer, but I do this usually once a week, on Mondays.  (That is — scrubbing things down, not a quick wipe!)

In the afternoon, we have another bout of chores around lunch time.  These are spread over a two or three-hour stretch but much of it is not actual work time.

It generally looks like this:

  • Around noon, I supervise the kids cleaning up the playroom — all toys, dishes, trash picked up
  • I make lunch, and serve the kids close to 1
  • While they are eating, I do any dishes that are around
  • We play outside for a little while
  • I get out meat to thaw/start dinner
  • Kitchen floor is swept
  • Any other baking/cooking
  • Switch laundry, if needed
  • Vacuum carpet, if needed

Before I go to bed:

  • Kids’ toys picked up again (if needed)
  • Dishwasher loaded and turned on
  • All food put away/cooking projects finished
  • Dough/beans/grains out to soak, if needed
  • Empty and refill ice trays

That’s typically what I do for house chores!

The Big Chore Day

On Mondays I usually do more than other days.  I typically do not schedule any major activities or plan to go out on Mondays.  In addition to all the chores listed above, I usually:

  • Do laundry
  • Vacuum floors
  • Scrub down kitchen counters/sink
  • Clean toilets
  • Other ‘as needed’ cleaning

I do these cleaning chores throughout the day.  Typically I vacuum after the kids pick up pre-lunch time.  Kitchen cleaning happens in the morning while I’m doing most of my kitchen chores.  Cleaning toilets and the majority of laundry happen at nap time.  If laundry doesn’t all get done (which is more common than it should be), we catch up over the weekend.

On an as-needed basis, I will also do things like changing sheets on beds, emptying trash, pulling clothes out of kids’ drawers and putting them away (if too small/season changes), wiping down walls, dusting, etc.  I do not have any schedule for these things; I simply notice that they need done and make a plan to do them in the next few days.  Some people have seasonal “schedules” and they do all of these things on a regular basis, monthly or quarterly or whatever.  I cannot make myself stick to any such schedule so I simply do things as I see I need to.

I also tend to make Mondays my ‘baking day’ if I need one, or the day when I do any other major kitchen projects.

Monthly Tasks

Each month, I check a few different things around the house:


Creating Your Own Schedule

Ideally, everyone will have a 15 – 20 minute block of ‘chore time’ in the morning and the evenings, during which the most important chores, like dishes, sweeping floors, wiping counters, early meal preparation, etc. can be completed.  Stay-at-home moms can also use afternoon times.

Some people are very task-oriented and like to have a specific list of chores to do, and an exact schedule to do them.

Some people like to have a finite amount of time for which they will work (like a ‘Fly Lady’ type system).

Everybody thinks differently, which is why it’s important to find a method that works for you.  A ‘Fly Lady’ system has been recommended to me dozens of times, and if it works for you, great!  It doesn’t work for me.  I like to dive in when I see something needs to be done and just do it, however long it takes.  I don’t like timers telling me when to start or stop.  I don’t like lists of daily chores (that are not absolutely necessary) that I ‘must’ do in order to keep my home nice.  To me, shining my sink daily is a waste of time.  That’s just how I think.

Ultimately you must find a system that works with your personality and schedule.  There is no right or wrong way to do this.

Ask yourself:

  • What chores must get done each day?
  • How long will these chores take?
  • Which ones occur in a similar area of the home?
  • Which ones can be started/completed simultaneously?
  • What is my “chore style” — short, scheduled bursts/scheduled list or as-needed?

Plug into your schedule the chores that must be done in an order that makes sense.  Getting meat out to thaw for dinner can be done the night before or the morning of — depends on how you intend to thaw it.  Laundry’s best started earlier in the day so it doesn’t sit in the machine all night.

Then, look at your areas — work all your kitchen chores to occur at the same time, if possible.  If you need to do work upstairs (putting away laundry, changing sheets, cleaning bathrooms), work those in at the same time too.

Finally, which chores can be completed simultaneously?  It only takes a few minutes to knead bread and set it to rise, and then you can be doing other chores while you wait.  While a pitcher of water is filling to refill the water filter, you can be putting away dishes.  While laundry is going, you can be working on anything else.  Start things that will take very little of your active time and a lot more “wait time” earlier in the day.

Ultimately you will evolve a schedule that works for you and your home.

Enlist the Kids

My kids are part of my chore plan, although they have minimal responsibility since my oldest is not yet 5.

They are responsible for picking up their toys when we clean the playroom (although they need my guidance especially if it is messy).  The older two put their own clothes in their dressers after I wash and fold them.  They are responsible for putting their dishes on the counter after meals.  Sometimes they help empty the dishwasher, especially the silverware (which they can reach).

What is most important at their ages, besides their self-care tasks, is them observing me doing these chores.  They talk about doing “morning chores” now too.  It is a part of what we do.  Whenever I do something that they can help with, they want to (especially if it involves cooking).  Asking the kids to pitch in as they are able as well as modeling cleaning behavior is important to helping children become little homemakers!

Children under 5 can help with:

  • Removing sheets from beds (some older ones can help put them back on, too — my almost 5-year-old can)
  • Putting dirty clothes, towels, etc. into a hamper or laundry basket (even 1-year-olds can do this)
  • Putting away clean dishes in low cabinets
  • Putting clean clothes in drawers (by age 3 or so)
  • Wiping down counters with a wet washcloth
  • Wiping down windows/mirrors with vinegar-water
  • Picking up toys (even 1-year-olds can do this, if guided)
  • Carrying small bags of groceries into the house
  • Helping feed a pet (age 3 – 4)
  • Taking dirty dishes to the counter or dishwasher
  • Kneading bread (by age 2 or so)
  • Shaping meatballs (by age 3 or so)
  • Dumping and stirring while cooking (by age 2 or so)
  • Cutting up vegetables with a butter knife, while supervised (by age 3 – 4)
  • Picking up bits of trash (even 1-year-olds can do this…but they often start throwing everything away!)

There is probably more than that.  But the point is, young children can help out a lot.  Include them!

Find a schedule that works for you then stick to it.  Self-discipline is really the biggest key.  Not especially fun, I suppose, but it really does save you time and it makes me feel much calmer and more patient to walk through a mostly-clean home.  I feel angry and anxious when I walk through a messy home and I’m way more likely to yell at people.  Isn’t it worth it just for the peace?

What I Use To Clean

I do not like to use toxic cleaning products, so I made my own cleaning line:
1. Laundry Detergent  

  • Sodium carbonate (washing soda)
  • Citric acid (naturally occurring from the cassava plant not black mold like so many citric acids are!)
  • Saponified oils of (olive oil, coconut oil, castor oil)
  • Bromelain (from Pineapples)
  • Citrus scent also contains lemon and orange essential oil
  • Spring Blossoms scent also contains lavender, citrus, and rose-geranium essential oil
  • Eucalyptus-Spearmint scent also contains eucalyptus and spearmint essential oil
  1. Cleaning Spray Concentrate – this stuff is a cleaning spray for countertops, walls, tables, and anywhere really!
  • Filtered water
  • Saponified oils of (olive oil, coconut oil, castor oil)
  • Citric acid (naturally occurring from the cassava plant not black mold like so many citric acids are!)
  • Sodium carbonate (washing soda)
  • Lemon-Thyme scent also contains lemon and thyme linalool essential oil
  • Eucalyptus-Spearmint scent also contains eucalyptus and spearmint essential oil
  • Grapefruit scent also contains grapefruit essential oil
  1. Dishwasher Detergent
  • Citric acid (naturally occurring from the cassava plant not black mold like so many citric acids are!)
  • Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
  • Sodium carbonate (washing soda)
  • Saponified oils of (olive oil, coconut oil, castor oil)
  • Lemon-Thyme scent also contains lemon and thyme linalool essential oil
  • Eucalyptus-Spearmint scent also contains eucalyptus and spearmint essential oil
  • Grapefruit scent also contains grapefruit essential oil
  1. Dish Soap Bar
  • Saponified oils of (olive oil*, coconut oil*, castor oil*)
  • Lemon-Thyme scent also contains lemon and linalool essential oil
  • Eucalyptus-Spearmint scent also contains eucalyptus and spearmint essential oil
  • Grapefruit scent also contains grapefruit essential oil
  1. Cleaning Paste – I use this to scrub counters, sinks, dirty shoes, shower/tub, stovetop, toilet – anywhere that needs a little extra scrubbing!
  • Saponified oils of (olive oil*, coconut oil*, castor oil*)
  • Baking soda
  • Filtered water
  • Lemon-Thyme scent also contains lemon and linalool essential oil
  • Eucalyptus-Spearmint scent also contains eucalyptus and spearmint essential oil
  • Grapefruit scent also contains grapefruit essential oil

Resources That Can Help

The Toxic Twenty and How to Ditch Them

Clean Home Project Guide

Cleaning Activity Guide

Learning at Home: Family Edition 

So that’s my big “secret” system.  No secret really besides self-discipline and (not-too) hard work.  🙂

How do you keep your home clean?

This is the writings of:



  1. I’ve noticed too that I get a lot more done when I do it in the morning. About to have our first baby, though, so not sure how that will change when she gets here!


  2. Thanks for the reminders! Great post.


  3. I just found your blog and I think it is my new favorite. Thanks for the tips!


  4. Haha. “Just Do It” is not exactly a magic cure-all pill. However, this is a very encouraging post. I struggle with low energy, overwhelm, perfectionism, and the blahs–a horrible combination. Recently, I’ve started feeling resentful of my sweet husband, which isn’t pretty. I would love to have a larger family (I have two now), but feel constantly stressed and frazzled with a chaotic home. I’ve been wanting to find ways to get a handle on my life and be in control of my health, diet, home, children (in a good way). This seems a really wonderful place to start (and it’s free!). Did you have something that you read or saw that woke you up to this new mindset? Do you have a motto that you say to get things done? (For a while mine was “Eat the Frog” to get me to do the distasteful items on my to-do list first, but it didn’t turn out to be very motivating.)


    • I actually grew up with a dad who felt this way and worked this way…but a mom who didn’t (so it wasn’t modeled for me daily, since my mom was a SAHM and my dad worked a fair amount). As an adult though I’ve observed this when visiting and I’ve wondered why I couldn’t do it, too! I realized that having a messy house really was creating a lot of stress for me and I was not able to be a very patient mommy. So I decided that if I wanted my home to be a happier place, I was going to have to make keeping things fairly neat a priority. Setting aside one day to do the major cleaning worked well with our schedule and then I didn’t feel like I had to spend everyday scrubbing things. Although as I’ve gotten into it more (it’s been about a month, I think), I find it easier and easier to keep up and even do more. It only takes a short time to create a new habit and then it is so much easier. I guess it wasn’t anything in particular but I know I like looking at my home when it’s clean and I feel a sense of peace walking through it, and I wanted that. 🙂


    • Andrea i find your feeling of resenting your husband a hard pill to swallow, if he is a provider and you are a sahm then imo it is your duty to maintain the home as the homemaker. That being said he needs to do his part, example bring out his dishes in the sink rinsed and help maintain the house on 1 day a week for a few hours preferably On A weekend


      • Chris, don’t be so judgmental. It is okay for someone to feel resentment if they end up doing what is right. Sounds like she is here to improve herself so that she feels less resentment. I doubt she wants to feel that way towards the man she loves but she has a right to those feelings and a responsibility to care for herself and figure out what to do to make it better.


  5. This is AWESOME advice. I struggle with exactly the same thing, and I want to print this post and stick it on my fridge as a daily reminder! Thank you!


  6. Kate! Thank you so much for this post! I feel like these are my words…this was the kick in the pants I needed to get it together and get it done. Time to put on our big girl panties, huh?! 😉 Keep up the awesome work,


  7. […] MAM – How I Went From I Can’t Keep My House Clean To I got This And You can To […]


  8. @calista: As a sahm of 7, I hereby give you permission to relax your standards and ENJOY YOUR BABY!! 🙂


  9. Very true! You just have to do it. I’ve found it helpful to work on “just doing it” one thing at a time. For awhile I worked on getting my two daily housekeeping chores done. Then I added unloading the dishwasher in the morning. Then I added having the kitchen table clean at night. By making small self-discipline changes over time, it’s easier to get used to them and not feel like they’re sapping all my energy.

    But you’re exactly right–when it comes down to it, you just have to do it. And usually it’s not as bad as you think it’s going to be. If it is as bad is I think it’s going to be, I give myself permission to stop for a while 🙂


  10. I think clean as you go is a great mantra to have. After my second baby was born…2 years ago…I went through a bit of a lull in cleaning 🙂 I continued to hope that the cleaning fairy would show up, but she never did. So, now I realize that I need to take more initiative…and I have to admit it is a tad easier now that my kids can play together for long periods of time 🙂


  11. Thanks for sharing. A little self-discipline can take a person a long way. Usually easier said than done for me!!


  12. Thanks Kate! I felt like reading about myself…so true what you wrote! I have been there and I lost it 🙁 but now I am determined to get it back!
    God bless you!


  13. This is definitely some great motivation for cleaning! aha my home is going to need to be clean this spring. Thanks for the post.


  14. Perspective is what I needed. I was thinking after getting home from work one day that if I was at my job the task required there are not optional but mandatory. When I get home they must become mandatory as well. I like when u say that this is MY job. I’m fusing into my brain cells that this I’d my job, these or the task, they must be done because in some way or another I will be fired (Psychologically) by myself, my husband, my son. I must succeed here. I will succeed.


  15. These are some great tips! You are totally right I will leave things until ‘later’ and then everything just piles up. I will definitely have to try and use these tips to get motivated! Thanks for sharing!


  16. i bought a rumba..those things do a good job frequently…


  17. Ahh I think I just need a blowtorch. Mine is so messy and dirty it’s overwhelming. Good suggestions, though!


  18. Such great points to highlight!
    My biggie was always “I’ll do it later”..but later never comes until it’s a way bigger job than it would have been in the first place! Not only that, but when it’s a way bigger job, it reinforces the future “I’ll do it later” because you think about the last time you HAD to do it!
    DO IT NOW! It will change your life! 🙂


  19. I have found it helpful to integrate cleaning into my daily routine. While breakfast is cooking (i.e. a bagel is toasting, pancakes are cooking, omelets are cooking, etc) I empty the dishwasher, that way after breakfast I can just quickly put my dirty dishes in there. I do the same thing during dinner, while dinner is cooking on the stove or in the oven, I clean up the kitchen and fill the dishwasher with any dishes so that way after dinner all that needs to go in there is the baking pan and our plates and silverwear. I try to keep small trashcans all over the house so it is super easy to throw something away. I have multiple laundry hampers so things get sorted as the week progresses so for the most part I just dump my laundry into the washer. About the only thing I hate doing that I put off is vacuuming! I have cats and I have to vacuum at least once a week but honestly I should do it twice a week but it’s super labor intensive and takes a good 1/2 hour to 45 minutes.


  20. Great hints! This has worked well for me too, and I learned it from my mom! I work full time outside the home, plus have a prn job a few hours a week, plus starting grad school… my mom also worked full time and really showed me how important it is to keep up and don’t put things off. A little bit of time everyday is so much easier than trying to find part of a day to dedicate to cleaning. I too need a clean organized home to help keep the stress levels down, not be and keep control. A dirty house makes me crabby. When everything is in it’s place (shoes, backpacks, keys, purse, etc.) it is so much easier to grab and go and eliminate the extra 5 mins here and there searching for things. I am teaching my kids too… if you put all the game pieces away properly the first time, then you won’t have any missing next time you play.

    I also am a bit compulsive, putting away a load of towels will lead to wiping down bathroom surfaces. I few extra minutes to shower means a shower tile scrub down. Wiped some handprints off a window and that lead to washing all the kitchen windows and blinds (in less than 30 minutes!). My laundry room is off the kitchen, so I do a load or two of laundry everyday while cooking and cleaning up after dinner.

    I also prioritize rooms for cleanliness, kitchen first, then family room, then bathrooms, then bedrooms and the den/office. The playroom is lowest on the list and is messy most of the time. I have a “no toys allowed” rule for the kitchen, the den/office, and master bedroom, which helps cut down on clutter. I have a bench with 3 cubbies in the mud/laundry room for shoes, 1 cubby for each kiddo; hooks for coats and school backpacks, and a small shelving unit for mom and dad’s yard shoes and my work/school bags. The kids have storage cube units in their closets and bookshelves with baskets in their rooms. Books on the top shelf, baskets are dedicated to certain toys (Legos, cars, etc.), games and large items in the closet cubes. My dad actually taught me a lot about organization! I could go on but will stop here 🙂

    My husband takes care of trash and recycling containers, swiffers/sweeps the kitchen floor, makes our bed, gets all the laundry to the laundry room, and helps with everyday “family clean up” time (5-10 minutes everyday when everyone picks up and puts things away), wipes down the toilet seat when he discovers the little one has “missed the target”… it is truly a group effort at our house!


    • thanks for these additional tips.This article and the comments are very helpful.I WILL keep a clean house! I think thats the first step lol.Then remaining vigilant of the steps and rules.


  21. Love these tips. Reminds me of the Fly Lady (which has helped me tremendously). One thing I like to challenge myself to do is change 3 things by the time I leave a room. It really doesn’t matter how little the change may be (e.g., put a spoon in the dishwasher, wipe toothpaste off the counter, put a toy back on the shelf). If I walk into my bedroom 4 times throughout the day, I have done 12 things to make my room neater. It really adds up throughout the day.


  22. Sweet Kate,
    Thank you for this! As I was reading your article, I could tell that you know the Lord. You are so right, it is my job to do this and I should realize, all of the time, that its even a blessing to be able to have a husband, kids and somewhere to lay my head at night and enjoy my family during the day. I do get out of control with anger, because I see all of it! I don’t think my problem with keeping the house clean started until we started having kids, but that’s no excuse! Peace is definitely the answer for our house and I would be a happier Person, Wife and Mommy if I would just do what you said. God bless you, glad you received this revelation in life early!!


  23. this is an awesome post! i have 5 children and its sooo hard to keep them motivated to keep their rooms clean or just help around the house and its because of what you said Self-discipline is really the biggest key and its is and its starts with ME. thanks, this helped out alot!! getting off work to clean house! all night event but tomorrow the house is going to be clean and i am going to be one happy mama!


  24. I really like advice you’re giving here. A lot of what you said in the beginning sounds just like what I often say to myself: “If I’d done it then…” One reason I often leave things until later, though, is that I’m terribly easily distracted. Doing once tiny chore, reminds me of another thing, and then another, and so on, and nothing is ever in the same place, so I end up running all over my house. So I often find myself thinking that the “just do it now” attitude might not be right for me, even if it does sound so logical. I feel like everything takes me ten times longer to do than it would someone else. Got any advice for distractible scatterbrained me?


    • I know that this comment is late, but walking around with a timer can help with distractions. Give yourself a time limit for each task, and if you get sidetracked, your timer going off will remind you to stay on task.


    • I have the same problem. I have been telling myself to “be a finisher”, and that seems to help. It also helps me notice when I’m about to quit a task before its done. And I catch myself several times a day doing that sometimes!

      I have found this post so encouraging too. I’ve been noticing my patience is growing shorter with my kids (2 in particular) when it comes to do chores. And my house is usually messy, going through 3 day cycles of clean/dirty. I think you’re right. It really does come down to me taking responsibility. I think if the house doesn’t get picked up and kitchen cleaned before I go to bed, I will wake up early the next day to get it done. That way it will be motivation for me to get it done, so I don’t have to wake up early to clean and it will get done. Period. And a clean house makes me calmer and happier.


  25. This article is very well done and something that really struck me is the idea that things pile up because we tell ourselves we are just going to do it later. I’ve done that so many times I’ve lost count.

    The problem in my household of 5 (4 adults, 1 child), is that everyone makes up the excuse of being too busy to do chores. I am a full time student, mom, and part time worker. I tell myself to worry about chores after homework. By the time I am done with homework, it’s already time to go to bed. My other family preoccupy themselves with things away from the kitchen, and they end up forgetting about chores to. I guess what I am trying to say is that it is very difficult to get everyone on the same page when it comes to chores. Especially since we are all adults and no one wants to tell someone else what to do. Family meetings haven’t worked, and there are a few stubborn ones among us. It’s not really something that I can control, but you made a good point that I should do what is within my control.


  26. Thank you for this! As I was reading your article, I could tell that you know the Lord. You are so right, it is my job to do this and I should realize, all of the time, that its even a blessing to be able to have a husband, kids and somewhere to lay my head at night and enjoy my family during the day. I do get out of control with anger, because I see all of it! I don’t think my problem with keeping the house clean started until we started having kids, but that’s no excuse! Peace is definitely the answer for our house and I would be a happier Person, Wife and Mommy if I would just do what you said. God bless you, glad you received this revelation in life early!!


  27. […] at Modern Alternative Mama nailed it on the head when she talked about keeping a clean house has everything to do with changing your mindset. I am constantly telling myself I’ll do things later. I’m tired after cooking dinner, […]


  28. Thank you for the wonderful post! I am sure that every mother will highly appreciate your hints. My boys eat often in the playroom and the results are a lot of stubborn stains on the carpet. I should also change the rules.


  29. Great advice and really helpful. Thanks for sharing!


  30. I’m that person! I’m you!
    I can’t believe there is (well, I should say was) another person like that on earth. Let alone a woman. I mean, I just can’t bring myself to do the chores and when I do, I would say “this time I will keep it up. For real. Never dirty house ever again.” but it never happens! I’m just lazy. I always say “I’ll do that later”.
    I know this is what I have to do. The thing is that with the state of my house as of right now, I think it’s gonna be days of hard effing work. So I’m probably gonna keep putting it off.
    Yesterday I was thinking: tomorrow one hour JUST ONE HOUR to leave the kitchen spotless. The day after tomorrow I’ll take care of another area. And now I’m googling this at work, for tips.

    It was a great thing to read. Thank you for writing this!!!


  31. Thank you so much. Your post is really useful. I wasa bit lost after having my 2babiesmy days seems too shorts doing the sames things. Iwas really sad that i couldnt keep up. Thanks to your post i can see where is my problem and how to resolve it.


  32. I work 40 hours and my husband does at well plus he has a music group and plays with our church …. He has a lot on his plate so he doesn’t bother to help me out with the house chores so it piles blip because I to am tired but hopefully with me doing the now thing he will catch on and my daughter when old enough she’s 1 now will also catch on as well as him thank you for this post I am going to set it as a goal


  33. Thanks for these great tips, I want to get up and do something right now but my newborn is sleeping on me and she always wakes when I try to lay her down in her cot/bouncer/car seat etc! My house is such a mess after having my newborn, I’m sitting on the sofa just now and the other sofa has numerous, books, clothes, soft toys and letters strewn over it! Also every table surface is covered in stuff! I would love a minimalist home but just don’t know how. I am awful for saying i’ll do things later, but I’m really struggling at the moment as my newborn constantly feeds and will only sleep on me so I just can’t get anything done and I also have a toddler who craves my attention. I’ve tried slings and carriers for baby but they really hinder my movement, so I can’t gender down with them on. How do you keep the house clean when you have a newborn? My floors haven’t been washed since she was born 2 months ago and my toddlers socks gets filthy from the floor after a day. It’s so embarrassing and depressing!

    Once my newborn is a bit older and can sleep on her own I am going to follow your great tips!


  34. Thanks so much for these suggestions! For some this is easy and comes natural, then there is the rest of us. I function much better in a clean picked up home, but keeping it that way with a hubby, teenager (part-time), baby, two dogs and a cat can be a lot to take care of. Picking a time that you are most motivated has made the most help for me. Though we have a 10 month old, we have been blessed that she sleeps through the night. I have found getting up 30-45 minutes early I can get a few chores in and a shower before everyone is up and I get much more done. I’m not really a morning person, but getting things done outweighs this to me. Another tip I liked is the idea of focusing on a clean area and keeping it that way. I just started this with our kitchen and it has improved my mood and feeling good about the house. Throughout the day I put all dishes away as I use them, clean the counters and before bed I sweep, mop (microfiber cloth mop with a floor spray) , clean the appliance fronts as needed, shine my sink, and run the dishwasher. Kept it up for three days. Wish me luck to keep it up and to get the rest of my house this way.


  35. I like how you manage your own house, and I agree with what you mention deciding that it is your job. Just like you I am a housewife and a mother of two amazing children, at first I admit that it is difficult to manage my family and our house, but in the end I had to admit that this is my new life now and accept the job that I have now as a mother and the home manager.


  36. Thanks for share, these tips are really helpful for us


  37. […] How I Went From “I Can’t Keep My House Clean!” to “I Got This” | Modern Alternative Mama […]


  38. I had realised this a few months ago and kept on top of the cleaning for at least two months. Empty wash basket, constantly gleaming bathroom etc. Then I got pregnant, I have had sickness for two months and my toddler has hit the terrible twos. I can’t be in the kitchen without him standing at the baby gate screaming, and if I put him in his high chair he’s constantly trying to climb out and losing it when he can’t, even with snacks to keep him occupied. I am the same as you, a chaotic home really affects my mood, but at the moment I am having to accept the situation as beyond my control. Oh and we don’t have a dishwasher :O


  39. Great tips and advice, but I’ve recently come to the conclusion the only way to become organized is to not have any stuff or material possessions, as accumulating any material thing will provide you the annoyance of having to rearrange and re-organizing to find a place for that item. It’s just better to not have any possessions in life.


  40. I stumbled upon your blog after being fed up w my place being a constant ‘tornado’, i typed in I cant keep my house clean! I have 3 kiddos and Im a single mom and sometimes I feel like Im the only one in the world who cannot keep up with their house! Thank you for this its nice to know Im not alone and great tips!!


  41. Wow, you have posted some great tips! As a mother of two boys I have my share of household work, too. Thanks once again for your ideas!


  42. Loved this, thanks!


  43. I found this website because I can’t cope with the state of my house any longer. 10 months ago I had a high leg amputation that means on oneside of my body I only have my pelivis I have no hipjoint left in.
    My husband and two teanage boys have tried there very best to clean my house but they only do what they can see like all men so it was nice to read your blog/article because I have never had my house like this before so it really does get me down now cause you look around and I just feel like I can’t catch up because I am not given time


  44. Great advice. I’m going to try to use it. I’ve been struggling with this ever since my husband and I got our own place. I grew up in a filthy house and so I never learned good cleaning habits as a child, and I’ve had a hard time making myself clean ever since. I hate living in a messy, dirty environment but we live in a very small house and it becomes messy VERY quickly. So often I just can’t seem to muster the energy to do anything beyond feeding the cats and cooking so my hubby can eat when he gets home from work. .I feel awful having such a filthy house, especially since he works 50 hours a week, so I just get angry and hate myself more… but somehow that never motivates me. I look at all the cleaning that needs doing and I feel so overwhelmed I just block it out I guess. I can barely take care of things now, I don’t know how I’ll ever manage if we have children.


  45. I don’t worry about my house. I clean professionally and am too tired when I get home to do other than figure out dinner and see that laundry gets done. I’m 63 years old and raising my granddaughter. My house is lived in with three cats and a dog. I have enough to do. If I have a party or company I get outside help just like my clients do. Life is too precious to waste cleaning things you don’t get paid for.


  46. No matter if some one searches for his vital thing, therefore he/she wants to be available that in detail, thus that thing is maintained over here.


  47. Hi Kate. I’m 27 years old with 5 kids( all under the age of 7) married for 4 years and sitting in chaos with my house. I work half day (8 to 1) and then I try to get things done at home. I had started feeling really unmotivated because the mess would be gone by the time I go sleep and when I get back home from work it would be ten times worst. Do not know what to do anymore. HELP!!!


  48. […] it himself.  I’m still in process, but I’ve definitely come a long way!  I found this post to be helpful in changing my mindset toward responsibility.  Women who wisely establish the […]


  49. I love having a clean house and I already do the things you suggest. My problem is that I work, clean, cook, and more. I get tired of the same old thing and I don’t have time for myself. My days off of work is cleaning and taking care of everyone and everything. I do get grumpy. I’m not good at keeping my mouth shut. My question is how do I control the beast that wants to just throw everything out?


    • Don’t control it. 🙂

      Okay, don’t throw *everything* out, but pare down, simplify! If there are things you just aren’t using, get rid of them! Having less stuff is a great way to make cleaning easier.


  50. I really love this post. I like that you aren’t trying to throw out a bunch of weird ideas that will be quick fixes… you’re just being really honest — we have to change our mindset and DO IT. ah. Such good, practical tips. I usually have the best opportunity to clean when my little guy is down napping… its so much harder to clean the kitchen when he’s running around my feet! And coffee and podcasts really really help 🙂


  51. Oh, I also have to add…. I told my husband about the whole “If it takes less than two minutes do it now” thing… but now he ALWAYS says… “If it takes more than two minutes, do it later!”. Haha…. he’s really good at pushing my buttons 😉


  52. I love the idea of doing it now if it takes less than two minutes. What would your suggestion be do me who is the mum that goes to work, my husband works from home so he is home more than me and cleaning and tidying is not his strength. He does try but his idea of emptying the dishwasher is to just open cupboards and put stuff where ever it fits. I try not to nagg him about it cos I appreciate that he tries but nothing ever gets put away in the right place and then when I go to do the cleaning it takes me ages to just tidy before starting the cleaning. We have two sons who are also not great at picking up after themselves. Any suggestions. Thanks


  53. Great post! I really love this blog.


  54. I was searching for articles about people in their 30s or 40s who have always had trouble keeping house & I came upon your post. I feel defective sometimes because I just can’t get my house in order the way I would like. How clean I would like it has changed over the years. Every task I attempt to complete just seems so darn difficult. One might think I’m simply lazy but I am not. A few years ago I googled “difficulty completing simple tasks” & a multitude of articles on ADHD appeared. I self assessed & to my amazement found that I have many behavior traits that qualify me as having ADHD. This is not some excuse but it helped me to realize my brain is wired a little differently than most people. It does in fact take more mental effort on my part to get things done. I tend to forget I have ADHD so I come back to that self defeating thinking that I am defective. As in your article I have found the “just do it” rule to work. I must start with small tasks that don’t take much effort to complete. Once in motion, I find it much easier to stay in motion. ;D I used to wait for the elusive motivation to fall upon me but once I realized that motivation was a figment of my imagination, life got better. A coworker years ago told me about her “touch it once” rule which also helped. If something is in your hand, don’t set it down anywhere but it’s proper place. There are probably 10 rules or so that I use to keep from getting overwhelmed no matter how small the task but your article touches on the most important. Thank you for sharing your experiences! It’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one that feels bogged down by housework. It is a daunting task but it has to be done.


  55. What a handy list! I’ve been looking for a way to get my cleaning routine more organized.


  56. This is the best method to clean silver. Everyone should clean their jewelry in this way!


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Hi, I’m Kate.  I love medical freedom, sharing natural remedies, developing real food recipes, and gentle parenting. My goal is to teach you how to live your life free from Big Pharma, Big Food, and Big Government by learning about herbs, cooking, and sustainable practices.

I’m the author of Natural Remedies for Kids and the owner and lead herbalist at EarthleyI hope you’ll join me on the journey to a free and healthy life!

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