I have a sign on the front door of my home that reads, “This home isn’t under construction! Kids just live here.” My girlfriend has a sign in her home reads, “Trying to keep the house clean while kids live here is like shoveling snow in the middle of the storm.” Sometimes you feel like you’re losing the battle, I know. Between working inside and outside the home and homesteading our property I’m a busier mom than ever before but here are a few housekeeping tips for busy moms (and dads).
1. Remember that some household chores can do themselves at night. Take the time to run a load of clothes or the dishwasher before you go to bed. Many of the newer appliances have timers so you can run the dishwasher now and then have the washing machine doing a load of clothes 3 hours later (this might allow you to take advantage of lower overnight electrical rates, too). In the morning, it will take you just a minute to throw wet clothes into the dryer or empty the dishwasher.
2. Don’t tackle all of the housekeeping in one large chunk of time (which is a rare thing for parents). Instead, focus on breaking down the housekeeping into smaller bits: walk around the house with a plastic grocery bag and fill just that one bag with stuff that has to be thrown out, set a time for fifteen minutes and work in just one room for those fifteen minutes, clean just one toilet instead of all three.
3. Make cleaning up fun or challenging. Giving your child a grocery sack and tell them you’re going to see how fast they can run around the house, filling up their bag with toys they find. Offer a small prize for the filled bag. Clean up to a favorite song (that purple dinosaur used to have a “clean-up” song we’d sing and clean to).
4. Teach the kids to do chores. Invest in tools that make it easier or more fun for them. My middle son was willing to clean the toilets if he could get one of the toilet wands he saw on TV. Yes, they cost a bit more than my toilet brush and Comet but it also relieved me of the chore and gave him a sense of pride and accomplishment in helping with the housekeeping. All of the boys love using those dusting clothes that slide onto a handle. Again, they are more expensive but the boys really do have fun cranking up the stereo, dancing around the house and using those dusting wands!
5. Along the lines of teaching your kids to help you with chores, make sure you thank them and let them know how much of a help even the smallest efforts are. I know it takes only a minute to throw the clothes from the washer to the dryer but it’s a huge help when I’m busy with so many things and struggling to find enough hours in the day.
6. Never leave a room without looking around to see if something can go with you to where you’re going. I ALWAYS have something that can hitch a ride up and/or down the stairs or from one end of the house to other. It saves time on clean ups down the road.
7. Know which housekeeping chores are a priority and which aren’t. Parents are busy and kids grow too fast. My housekeeping priorities might not be the same as yours. You can almost count on a layer of dust on my living room end tables but with four guys in the house, I put in a fair amount of time cleaning toilets. The family room is cluttered with Lego creations and pieces but the living room is kept tidied up for guests. Decide what is really important to you when it comes to housekeeping.
8. Give up preconceived notions of who does what. When my husband and I got married, there was a rough period where we struggled with who did what chores. He was definitely used to his mother doing certain chores but I wasn’t used to that. It escalated after we started having children because I was busier than ever. He had to give up the idea that he just didn’t do laundry well (I created a laundry cheat sheet for him) and that he didn’t “know how to load the dishwasher the right way” (I didn’t care how it got loaded, so long as it was done!). On the farm, my dad didn’t tell us that there were women’s jobs and men’s jobs, only jobs that had to get done. When it comes to household chores, there are only chores. NOT his chores and her chores.
In the end, it’s also important to remember that children grow up so fast. A plaque in my kitchen reads, “Cleaning and scrubbing can wait ’til tomorrow for babies grow up, much to our sorrow. So quiet down cobwebs and dust go to sleep, I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.” We do have chores to do but hopefully the tips I’ve given you means getting through them more quickly and giving you more time to have fun as a family.