How often do you show up for a play date at a friend’s house, and they immediately apologize for the mess? Let’s be honest: their house is never not clean; it’s just that they have kids who’ve left a trail of toys like breadcrumbs through their house.
So long ago, I resolved to no longer apologize for the detritus that comes with having kids.
But I do need to manage that chaos, because I have slight OCD and the clutter and entropy give me anxiety, shorten my fuse, and steal my joy. To circumvent that, I’ve come up with a pretty handy, low-time-investment process to keeping my house in order (most of the time — no one is perfect). That’s my secret to having a clean house — have a process, and find one that works for you. Also, I’m not judging you if your house isn’t clean; my OCD strictly pertains to my house, so please don’t stress if I’m ever in your home!
Step 1: Make it easy on yourself.
For literally a decade, I cleaned the same way I saw my mom clean growing up. Newsflash, self! Companies have created some pretty cool inventions since you were eight-years-old! How do I make it easy on myself? For starters, I began buying three packs of Up & Up cleaning wipes and keeping one in each bath/half bath in our house. When I spot a mess, I just grab a wipe and voilà, three seconds later, it’s gone. This has helped immensely as I raise two boys in throes of potty training (okay, one of them is five and clearly potty trained…but his aim is atrocious). Or, when I’ve just cleaned the bathrooms and return ten minutes later to find a trail of dirt from an inefficient hand washer, I don’t get mad; I just use one more wipe. Keep cleaning products you like where you need them. Cleaning will be less of a chore and easier to check off your list if you have the products at hand.
Step 2: Make a plan.
I used to let the housework pile up, and then one day I’d snap and spend all day vigorously cleaning, muttering under my breath at past-me and her foolishness for keeping all the cleaning supplies on the other side of the house. Now I have a schedule, and it’s made my everyday life easier and more enjoyable. Here’s mine:
Of course, there are daily things that have to be done, like emptying/reloading the dishwasher and wiping down the table and countertops after dinner. But it helps keep the house in order to do a little bit every day instead of letting it all pile up.
Step 3: Toys, toys, toys.
What to do about the toys?! Whether the toys are kept in the kids’ room, a playroom, or wherever, they tend to migrate. I’ve found a motorcycle under my pillow, a fire truck in the bathroom, and just about every toy we own in the living room at some point or another. So I bought a small bin, put it in the room with the greatest daily migration, and now every few days my kids’ chore is to take the bin and put the toys back where they go. When I find a sea of Legos in the living room, I can toss them all in the bin and they’re off the floor and out of my way in no time.
Step 4: I recently heard this advice: if it takes fewer than two minutes, just do it.
Finding time to do it later will make it take longer and use more mental energy than just doing it right away. This little act has saved me so much time and energy.
Step 5: Go easy on yourself.
Your house is lived in; it doesn’t need to look ready for a magazine shoot at any moment. It took me so long to accept this, because although I had a realistic approach and understood models were airbrushed, I never considered how staged houses may be in magazines. As an avid reader of house magazines and viewer of house shows, it’s easy to be fooled into thinking your space isn’t as good as the one on the page/screen just because you actually live there. Embrace the lived-in look of your home and avoid the illusion of perfection, for it is only that: an unattainable illusion.