I am not a naturally clean and tidy person, I have to work at it constantly. I would much rather sink into my sofa for a breather than do one extra chore or task to stay ahead of the mess.
Even when I have worked to build a new housekeeping habit (28 days in a row), I have to battle against my nature to keep fighting the good fight. And honestly, sometimes I lose.
I really do not have much margin in my day at all with nine kids to keep alive, nurture, feed, clothe, and homeschool. And I do NOT want to set aside a 15-minute time block to get it done. All of my time blocks are spoken for, and I’m just not interested in giving up my beauty time or reading time (my only real down time) in order to…..clean.
So I’ve figured out a few ways to keep my home reasonably tidy throughout the week without feeling like the maid, or getting resentful because I am giving up precious downtime. Because really, what good is a tidy home if you’re walking around sulking because your eyebrows aren’t filled in, your cheeks aren’t blushing, and your lashes are less than luscious without mascara?
1. Know Exactly How Long Different Tidy Tasks Take
This is probably the most important component to my method. I know exactly how long each small tidy task will take me, so I know where I can fit a chore in without getting off schedule.
It takes me four minutes to fold one load of laundry.
It takes me 10 minutes to bleach and scrub my porcelain sink.
It takes me five minutes to remove the grates and scrub my gas range top.
It takes me three minutes to clean one shelf of the refrigerator and put everything back on the shelf.
It takes me less than a minute to make the bed.
It takes me two minutes to quickly sweep the kitchen.
And so on. Start by making a list of the tiny tidy chores that need to be done at least monthly that don’t seem to ever get done. Start with those.
Time yourself. Don’t work at a tornado-pace. Work at a normal pace. Write down your time. Now move on to the next step.
2. Plug In Small Tidy Tasks During Tiny Segments Of Downtime
Now that you have your lists of tidy tasks that aren’t getting done and you know exactly how long it takes to complete each one you are ready to get to work.
You’re going to have to examine tiny holes in your day where you can reasonably multi-task. This is what it looks like when I’m doing it.
At lunchtime, I make and serve the young children. This is a more casual affair than breakfast or dinner, the older kids make their own and eat it at their leisure. But I make and serve my little people. The two youngest are strapped into high chairs, so I don’t have to worry that they are going to get into trouble while my back is turned.
I pick a tidy task that can be completed in the kitchen that I will be able to completely finish while they are eating. Today, I bleached and scrubbed the sink. Tomorrow, I may dust the light fixture in the hallway, or reorganize a cabinet, or clean one or two shelves of the refrigerator.
I realized that this is a hole in my schedule because normally, I would grab my phone while they were eating and look at Pinterest.
So basically, to find the holes in your day, anytime that you go to pick up your phone to zone out for a few minutes, you’ve found a hole.
I’m not saying that you need to use every one of those holes. I don’t.
However! If you know that there are little jobs that just aren’t getting done, consider using a few of those holes each day and get one small tidy task. It all adds up!
Here’s another example of a small hole in my schedule that I use. I know it takes me four minutes to fold a basket of laundry. I always, always, always have a basket of laundry to fold, because there is always a load for me that I ran the night before that I change over to the dryer before I go to bed.
So, even if I get ALL the laundry done the day before, there will still be a clean load waiting to be folded in the dryer.
I lay my baby down for a nap at 10:30 every morning. I leave the 2-year-old strapped into his booster seat with a toy at the table where there are a few children doing schoolwork, and I take the baby up, change him and lay him down (this takes me a minute and a half).
I can get one basket of laundry folded, after laying the baby down, . Plus start a new load.
As long as there aren’t four children waiting for help with their math, I can get this done at both morning and afternoon nap. So, without having to really stop what I’m doing, I can sneak in two baskets of laundry.
See how that works?
This principle is so easy, it’s almost not worth mentioning, but I do it all the time. Every morning in the shower, I use a washcloth for my face. After my shower, I have this wet washcloth that I will need to throw in the laundry.
Before I do that, I wipe something down with it. Sometimes it’s the upper rim of the shower that my son forgets to clean during his chores, or it can be the baseboards, the counter-top, even the toilet.
I never take more than a minute doing this, but it’s done every single day. I literally stand there with the wet washcloth and look for something to wipe off.
It all adds up.
I need to start training myself to wipe off my walls like this. There are always new fingerprints to wipe off the walls and around light switch plates, and this would be a really good method to use to deal with those on an ongoing basis.
4. Clean-Up Blitzing
This is something that we do every day at least once, on a perfect day, twice. Everyone stops what they are doing at 5 pm every day, and we clean up the downstairs, and it gets vacuumed and swept.
Because I have a million kids, this only takes 10 minutes start to finish if everyone is working together and no one is trying to poke anyone’s eye out. So, since most days involve at least one eye-poking, let’s call it 15 minutes.
This may or may not take you longer if you have fewer children. Hypothetically, fewer children mean less mess, but it also means fewer hands to clean up.
Pick your poison.
The second time we do this is right before bed, minus the vacuuming and sweeping, which makes it take less time.
These are my sneaky ways of cultivating a tidy home. If you drop by my house at 4:45, you will probably think it looks like a hurricane rolled through.
But! If you come by at 5:16, the place will look amazing, at least for a half hour!
And depending on which small tasks I was able to squeeze in, I may have a clean refrigerator, sparkling white sink, polished stainless steel appliances, or all the laundry folded! Never all on the same day, but C’est la vie!