Whether you are a single mom, a working mom, a stay-at-home mom, or a mom of a large family, there never seems to be enough time to clean the house the way we want. We idealize the task telling ourselves “this house needs a good cleaning – from top to bottom,” or idealizing the time we’ll have to do it imagining we can find a “couple of solid hours on the weekend to get it all done in one shot.” These goals are too vague and overwhelming and make it easy for chores to pile up. Instead, consider these six tips to make sure all your cleaning tasks are accomplished:
1. Get the kids involved. We are often trying to do housework when the kids aren’t around. With good reason, too, every task takes more time with the kids involved. However, if the alternative is not getting done because you can’t find the “free” time, figure out how to make it work with the kids. My children love to help vacuum. They each have their own toy version and they love helping me move things to make a clear path for the vacuum. They also love to help load and unload the dishwasher. Make an assembly line and get everyone involved. Even if it takes a little longer, you’ll know it’s getting done. Don’t stop doing this as the kids get older! So many moms get tired of nagging their children to do their chores. Make it a time when everyone is pitching in together (including you!) and you are more likely to get some cooperation.
2. Multi-task. Clean up as you cook, organize your vanity as you put on make-up in the morning, spray down the sink as you brush your teeth. There are lots of opportunities to cross items off your list as you are doing something that is part of your regular routine. They key is spotting them when the moment arises.
3. Set realistic goals. Give yourself one cleaning assignment or room per day – dusting, cleaning the upstairs bathroom, scrubbing the kitchen floor. Depending on the size of your house and the size of your family, assess different levels of work. Figure out what chores you can do when you have minutes to spare, an hour to spare, and a morning to devote to the task. Be realistic so you can be most efficient with your time.
4. Attack the clutter. Clutter not only makes your house look messier, it creates small places for dust and dirt to settle in and makes cleaning harder. You have to clear the clutter before you can even start, and by the time you are done organizing you’ve got no steam left for the deep clean! Know the places where clutter gets the best of you and address it with a permanent solution. Does the junk mail accumulate on your dining room table? Put a letter organizer in your entry way so that mail never ends up where it doesn’t belong. Does laundry overflow and make you dread the task? Invest in a good laundry sorter with compartments for colors/whites or towels/sheets.
5. Bring in the professionals. This can range from the extravagant: hiring an organizational consultant or sending your laundry out, to the vital: hiring a cleaning service to do a thorough cleansing once a month, once a year or quarterly. Outsource whatever you can, whenever you can. We all need help in some areas. The rare splurge will make the day-to-day upkeep more manageable.
6. Eat a frog. Ok, not really. This tip is a reference to a Mark Twain saying: eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day. This advice can be found in nearly every time-management book written and is universally shared by the most successful business people in the world. It works perfectly for busy moms too! We all know the mornings are hectic but if you can manage to cross one thing off your cleaning to-do list while you are wrangling the kids for school or getting ready for work, it will change the tone of the whole day. You will not only feel a weight lifted, but you will feel genuinely good about the day! (My frog: cleaning the toilets. I can even do it in my good clothes).
Cleaning the house is a job that overwhelms even the most organized mom. Cut yourself some slack, knowing that you are cleaning all day long as you pick up used dishes, dirty laundry and children’s toys. Then make it your task to take the rest in small and specific chunks, getting help along the way. Once the system becomes a routine, cleaning will seem easier than ever.