Cleaning with kids is like shovelling snow in a blizzard.”
It is, isn’t it?
While you’re busy cleaning up one room, they’re busy creating a cyclone in another room.
And then a visitor drops by and you mumble a quick ‘sorry about the mess,’ as they step over toys and push a load of laundry off the couch to sit down.
But having a tidy home isn’t about impressing people. It can actually affect our happiness.
The science of neuroarchitecture shows that our home affects our moods and if you’re feeling a little down or overwhelmed, a quick tidy might just give you the lift you need.
But we don’t want to spend all our time cleaning. That would be my idea of hell.
There are too many books in the world waiting to be read to be wasting time scrubbing base boards.
Well there’s a few simple tips that you can do to have a tidy house most of the time without spending a huge amount of cleaning each day.
1. CAN THE CLUTTER
The NUMBER 1 most important thing you can do to keep your house tidy and yourself sane (and save money) is to get rid of the clutter and, just as important, stop bringing new clutter into your home.
Part of the reason we spend so much time tidying is because we have so much stuff to tidy.
Remove some of that stuff and not only have you cut your workload, your house now looks unclutter, tidy, spacious and fresh.
Pare down your knick-knacks to a few select pieces and leave plenty of blank space. Dusting will take a matter of seconds.
Recycle old magazine and the junk mail straight away and avoid your home being a random dumping ground for stuff.
2. HAVE A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING
Another big cause of mess is that all the clutter we bring in doesn’t have a home.
We don’t know what to do with it or where to put it.
Or we’ve run out of room to put it anywhere.
After getting rid of the clutter, the next step is to find a home for everything.
When everything you own has a home, it takes minutes to pick things up and put them away.
The easier your storage solution, the quicker the pick-up job.
In the photo above, the room uses storage boxes to good use. These are amazing for kids toys because even a 1 year old can tidy away their toys in these boxes, it’s so quick an easy and then everything looks amazingly neat and tidy.
3. TIDY A LITTLE, OFTEN
Rather than having ‘a big clean up’ every week or going into a panic when visitors call, take a minute or two to tidy just a little each day.
This can be as simple as putting the junk mail straight into the recycling rather than letting it pile up in the lounge, or putting a dirty glass in the sink or dishwasher rather than leaving it lying around. With only a second or two of effort, your house remains looking spick and span.
In our house, a meal is not over until the table is cleared and wiped, the dishes put away and the kitchen put back to order. This only take a few minutes because the kids (3 &6) have to help and we invested last year in our first dishwasher.
But it means that our dining room, which is also our lounge room and everything else room is tidy and so is the kitchen.
When you are doing things throughout the day, spend an extra minute or two chores.
Make the bed as soon as you get up in the morning.
Put dirty clothes straight into the wash.
When you wash the dishes, wipe down the benches, stove and any dirty cupboard doors.
Wipe down the bathroom sink after cleaning your teeth.
When you put the washing on the line, place matching socks together or all of 1 person’s clothes together, so it’s easy to put things away when the washing is dry.
Instead of bringing the washing in, in a crumpled pike, fold and stack it neatly in the basket.
Yes, you may have a pile of ironing hidden away somewhere that sits there for another 3 weeks (3 months and counting in my case) but it still looks neat and tidy. And coming from someone who used to run an ironing business, it makes ironing so much quicker when your clothes have been folded off the line.
4. TRAIN YOUR TRIBE
What’s one of the most important things you can do to help your kids grow into successful adults?
Is it private school?
Is it extra-curricular activities?
Well, according to research, it’s giving them chores at a young age.
[Children] who began chores at ages 3 and 4 were more likely to have good relationships, achieve academic success and be self-sufficient than those who started as teens or had none at all.” [source]
There’s a win-win for every parent on the planet.
A child’s very first chore should be (at around 2-3 with your help) to pick up their own toys.
And this is the time to capitalise on that youthful enthusiasm that wears thin as they grow older.
‘I’d LOVE to scrub the toilet, mummy!’ turns into a groan in a few quick years, so get in early and teach them young.
It can be a whole chore in itself to get your kids to do their chores, I won’t pretend it’s easy. Sometimes it’s easier to just do it yourself.
In the short term.
In the long term, nobody wins if you’re a slave to your kids.
If you have tips for getting husbands to put dirty clothes in the wash, I’m all ears.
5. KEEP A ‘PUT-AWAY’ BASKET HANDY TO RELOCATE STUFF
We have one at the bottom of the stairs, usually the laundry basket.
It’s a basket you can throw everything in at a moment’s notice to contain the mess, and then put it away properly later on.
That way, you’re not running around cleaning all the time. This is especially useful if you have young kids who tend to pick things up and then drop them somewhere else constantly.
I have a box for my sewing projects, so if I have to clear the table ASAP, which you do when you live in a small space, I can throw it all back into the box and put it away in the cupboard.
6. HIGH IMPACT CLEANING IN 10 MINUTES OR LESS
If you need to have the house tidy in a hurry, do the tasks that give the highest impact – that make your house look tidiest for the least effort, first.
If you have visitors coming over, and you only have a few minutes to tidy, do it in this order:
- Declutter. Pick everything up off the floor, tables, couches and other surfaces. If you don’t have time to put everything away in it’s spot, throw it into your put away basket.
- Shut all the doors to untidy rooms. No visitor needs to see your bedroom and the pile of washing hiding in there.
- Give the floor a quick vacuum and tables and other surfaces a quick wipe over if they need it.
- Open windows to let in some fresh air and give the entry and lounge room a spray with homemade linen spray, the toilet a spray with homemade air freshener and the bathroom sink a quick wipe over.
You can have the tidiest house on the block, but if it smells like old banana peel and cat litter, it’s not going to be pleasant for anyone. A fresh smelling house gives the impression of a clean house, even if it hasn’t seen a vacuum cleaner for months.
If that’s all you have time for, your house will look like it’s that clean all the time.
If you have more time, you might want to give the loo a quick wipe over and scrub.
And if you still have a few more minutes, stack any dishes in the dishwasher or in the sink. A stack of rinsed plates looks tidy, even if you haven’t washed up in a week.
7. KEEP ON TOP OF DISHES AND BENCHES
Most day, cooking and washing dishes is the only cleaning I do.
I figure, if the kids are fed, it doesn’t matter if the bed aren’t made or the bathroom is messy.
If you have a dishwasher then keeping the kitchen clean is easy, just throw everything in the dishwasher.
Otherwise, if you can, wash dishes straight away as you use them or rinse crockery and stack it neatly. Even though the washing up hasn’t been done, it gives the kitchen a clean look.
Wipe food off the benches, wash cups, pots and pans and cutlery if there is time or just stack them too, hang the towels and your kitchen can be spick and span in under 5 minutes.
8. KEEP A CLOTH IN THE BATHROOM FOR A QUICK CLEAN
For a super quick bathroom tidy, the same ideas apply.
Tidy up the clutter, wipe down surfaces, give the room a fresh smell and you’re done.
Keep a cloth in the bathroom to do a quick wipe of the sink and mirror. Straight after you clean your teeth is ideal.
I’ll be the first to admit that our house is less than tidy a lot of the time. Our biggest issue is clutter.
But when we do follow these steps, live is actually easier and I enjoy living in our home a whole lot more.
It’s worth doing just a little tidying each day. And then bask in your tidy home with a cup of tea and a good book.
Melissa Goodwin is a writer and the creator of Frugal and Thriving who has a passion for living frugally and encouraging people to thrive on any budget. The blog is nine years old and is almost like her eldest baby. Prior to being a blogger and mum (but not a mummy blogger), she worked as an accountant doing other people’s budgets, books and tax.