This title makes me laugh out loud. It may be a tad misleading because the truth is, if you have kids, your house is going to get messy. And if your kids are homeschooling and someone is home 24/7 – the mess will be even bigger. But, if we put our minds to it, it is possible to make a few changes and have a clean house with kids. It might take a little bit to find the right balance, and it may mean changing your definition of clean, but we will get to that in a moment.
Your home can still be basically clean on a regular basis, even with kids running around every day. It’s not easy. There’s no magic formula or cleaning fairy to call upon – unless you can find it in your budget to hire a housekeeper. I can’t. At our house, it takes effort from 0ur entire family to keep things basically cleaned up. I can’t do it all by myself; I have to delegate.
But it’s a worthy effort because not only does a tidy house reduce stress and allow for welcoming visitors, training our children in housework will go a long way in setting them up for a successful future.
So – you are here because you want to have a clean house with kids. I’m here to help! I have six children, ranging in age from 20 to 10. I had 10 under 10! You want to talk about a messy house, those were the days. But even back then, with a little forethought and a little prodding from Daddy, we figured out a way to keep everything basically clean without making ourselves crazy.
Keeping a clean house with kids requires having a cleaning routine.
Kids prefer routine. If you spring things like chores on them randomly – they don’t like it! Our daily chore time started going much more smoothly when we always did it at the same time each day, which for us is basically right before my husband gets home. Because let’s be honest, we get everything picked up and two hours later it looks like nothing was done.
So all I care about is the ten minutes before and thirty minutes after my husband gets home – so that he sees it cleaned up. It makes him feel better and he feels more loved knowing that we are at least making an effort to meet his need for order. The only time we break from this daily routine is when we have friends (or repairmen) coming over – and then we clean earlier in the day right before our friends arrive.
Now, what exactly is this cleaning routine? Well, for us, the daily routine is all about tidying up. We have school books, toys, games, and sports equipment that try as we might, we can’t quite get put away throughout the day. So by the end of the day, the entire main floor needs tidying up.
This tidying up means picking up all their stuff, running a shark over the main floor surfaces, and doing up lunch dishes or folding a laundry basket or two. I have a checklist that we use on the days when a really good clean is needed (like when the landlord is coming over). When the kids were a little younger, we used the sticky note cleaning method with great success, but they are old enough to prefer a checklist now.
This picture was taken today, about ten minutes after the kids accomplished our cleaning routine without me because I’m working. As you can see, Peter has already pulled out half a dozen Skylanders to play with, and I have a small stack of stuff to put away on the end table where I usually work. In addition, Caleb left a stack of boxes next to his computer in the office, and since I’m not really sure where those go yet I’m just leaving them there. And you know what? It’s ok. It’s good enough.
Keeping a clean house with kids requires getting the kids involved.
So we have a daily cleaning routine for tidying up – and we all share in that responsibility. But the kids also have chores and have to keep their rooms cleaned up. Each child takes turns emptying or filling the dishwasher, taking out the trash, moving laundry through the machines, and gathering laundry from the various bathrooms. I do most of the folding, but some of the older children are involved with that too.
Those are daily chores that need doing. In addition, we usually start our Saturday morning with a checklist cleanup or a sticky note clean-up of the main floor and bedrooms, bathrooms (I have asthma, so my husband does these on the weekend for us), and the playroom downstairs. During the week, I don’t generally stress about bedrooms or the playroom unless we will be having guests.
Training our kids on how to do these household chores will seriously benefit them as they go out on their own someday. Soft skills like these — life skills we’ll call them – are the greatest lack among college students today.
Keeping a clean house with kids means getting rid of crap.
It seems like it is always time to declutter when you have kids in the house. Sometimes the biggest problem we face is just having too much stuff. Ask me how I know! For 25 years my husband has been active duty and we have moved every few years. Each time we move, I go through the house for a few months before the packers arrive, just getting rid of crap.
Each and every time, I have gotten rid of a shocking number of trash bags filled with nothing more than paper! I think last time, we had 25 trash bags of used workbooks and un-needed mail, and random papers from church stuck in drawers and kept for no reason. It’s not like you look around my house and see piles of trash everywhere either! Paper hides and builds up in the most unlikely places.
With kids, especially multiple kids, we accumulate things incredibly fast. Purge, purge, purge. Thoroughly decluttering a small section of your house at a time makes the process very manageable.
Make sure to include the kids as much as possible in the process! Sort each area, drawer, closet, or cabinet into piles: “Keep,” “Pitch,” and “Donate.” Donate and/or sell everything as quickly as possible so you don’t have piles of things taking up space in your garage or car trunk. Once the major clearing out is done, I like to keep a donation box tucked away so we can easily and regularly get rid of things.
Keeping a clean house with kids means a certain level of organization is required.
You’ve gotten rid of all the crap, you’ve got a routine in place, and you’d still like to simplify your housekeeping routine. Am I right? Cleaning can be overwhelming for kids and moms too! Two things I did back when our kids were little made a huge difference for us and can help you too, but they require a little bit of organization.
First – I created labeled bins for all the toys. Dinosaurs in one bin, train cars in two bins, LEGOs in five or six huge bins, Bionicles in two giant tubs — every single type of toy had a bin. That way it is super easy to see at a glance where the crap on the floor needs to go.
Second – I rotated toys. That way I didn’t need to get rid of the fancy train set my kids loved to play with for hours, but we could keep it in the storage room for a week while they played with Duplo and then switch. Suddenly we had half the mess AND the toys were like fun new novelties and kept everyone interested.
The bottom line is, when everything has a place it’s a lot easier to get your kids involved with cleaning up and a lot easier to keep it all straightened up.
Keeping a clean house with kids might require you to change your definition of clean.
Be realistic. What exactly is a clean house?
Example: I have my kids run the portable Dyson. The floor is never perfect when they are done but it is always significantly improved. When we want it to be closer to perfect, we have one of the older teens or a parent pull out the full-sized vacuum.
Letting go of the need for perfectly swept floors is a huge stress reliever, and having someone run a cordless vacuum in the crummiest areas each day makes a huge difference!
The same thing is true when we have our kids wash the windows, dust the furniture, clean up the kitchen, or wipe down appliances. You can’t expect a child to clean like an adult, and that means you really need to lower your standards. You can keep working on training of course, and you should. But you shouldn’t be negative or derogatory about a job your child has done.
If you redo the job, you will damage their self-esteem. If you fuss about it, you will make them less inclined to help.
The bottom line is, your standards for clean may need to go down a notch, or several, while you work on raising your kids, playing with your kids, and teaching them life skills. This does not mean you have to live in messy chaos for the next 18+ years, but it does mean that you need to leave room for kids to be kids.
They will probably never master cleaning exactly like you’d like them to. And there’s simply always going to be some kind of evidence that they live with you. Someday, they will all be gone to adulthood and you are going to long for the days when you stepped on LEGOs.