As the old saying goes: “Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the sidewalk before it stops snowing.”Kids are mess magnets—the more kids you have, the more that mess seems to multiply, but even one can do an impressive amount of damage! Their imagination, curiosity, and sense of adventure are why you love them. Still, those traits can also magically transform the most tranquil abode into a terrifying jungle of toys, art projects, and mysterious stains and spills.
The good news is there are a few shortcuts to keep the chaos under control without limiting your kids’ creativity—or driving yourself crazy.
Cleaning goes a lot quicker when you have less to pick up in the first place. It’s almost impossible to have a tidy home when you’re constantly navigating mountains of clutter. Be ruthless about getting rid of unused or unneeded items that are only getting in the way.
Paper pile-ups are one of the biggest problems for busy families because it’s impossible to store it all without creating a serious fire hazard. Take photos of kids’ drawings and schoolwork and make them into a photo book before tossing them, saving only the very dearest.
Feeling overwhelmed by the length of your to-do list? Break it down into smaller chunks, so it feels more manageable. Remember, your house didn’t get this messy in one day, so don’t expect to clean it all in one day, either.
Instead of running yourself ragged trying to tidy everything all at once, jot down the top three cleaning goals you need to get done today before you tackle the tasks that can wait until tomorrow. Every chore you check off takes you one step closer to a cleaner home.
Chores feel a lot less challenging when you turn them into a challenge. Set a timer for 15 minutes and see how much cleaning or decluttering you can get done before the bell while you listen to your favorite playlist or podcast. Play other mini games, like seeing if you can unload the dishwasher before the microwave beeps.
Not only is it fun to try and beat the clock, but giving yourself time limits will help you zero in on the task at hand and work more efficiently. You’ll be amazed at how much you can get done in very little time!
Tired of seeing stuffed animals on the bathroom floor or toy cars on the living room couch? As you move from one room to the next, if your arms are empty, do a quick scan and scoop up any items that shouldn't be there. If you’re passing through the living room, grab that empty mug off the coffee table so you can load it into the dishwasher when you reach the kitchen.
If you can make a habit of organizing on the go, things are less likely to pile up in the wrong places.
Sure, it sometimes feels easier (and faster) to get the job done yourself, but in the long run, your kids should be part of the solution rather than the problem. Giving your charges age-appropriate chores will teach them valuable life skills and responsibility—and you might as well make it fun.
Younger kids might enjoy cleaning along to their favorite preschool clean-up song or finding and putting away their toys by color. Sticker charts with prizes are also very motivating. For older kids, turn it into a race or contest. Play a countdown from 100 on a smart speaker and see if they can clean their room before it reaches zero. Keep score, and challenge them to break their record next time.
Tidying up is ten times easier things have a dedicated spot to sit when you’re done with them. When household items don't have homes, flat surfaces like tables, countertops, and floors tend to attract piles of disorganized clutter.
Make sure your storage solutions are easily within reach and clearly labeled to remind you (and the rest of the family) what goes where.
A little tidying each day keeps the big messes away. Having an everyday cleaning routine will keep you calmer than letting a week’s worth of housework pile up when you’d rather be doing anything else.
Simple daily habits like making the beds, doing laundry, washing the dishes, clearing surfaces, and wiping down countertops make life with young kids slightly less chaotic for everyone. Bonus points if you can outsource some of these tasks to the kiddos.
Are you tripping over a trail of toys in every room? Consider a toy rotation system to cut down on clutter and speed up the sorting process. As every parent knows, kids have a short attention span and tend to get bored, even when they're surrounded by their favorite toys. This “out of sight, out of mind” trick will work wonders in keeping them entertained without breaking the bank.
Divide an assortment of your kids’ things into large color-coded bins and hide them in a closet or the garage. At the start of the month, swap out their current toys for the next binful of goodies. Like magic, their old favorites will feel brand new again!
A sneaky shortcut to making less work for yourself is to contain the "damage" within specific areas of the house. Give your kids the space to play freely in their bedrooms and play areas, but teach them that certain rooms are strictly off-limits for making messes.
For example, crumbs and spills are instant mess-makers, so don’t let them bring snacks or drinks outside the kitchen and dining area. These firm boundaries will cut down on your everyday cleaning tasks while letting your kids be kids.
Remember, a messy house does not make you a bad parent, uncaring partner, or lazy person. Those perfect images you see online of parents with tiny children in immaculate homes are usually staged, professionally cleaned, or they’ve simply shoved the toys and clutter out of view of the camera!
Being a parent is all about balance. If you fret over every fingerprint, you’ll miss all the fun parts of watching your kids grow up. Sometimes you need to hear it: some clutter on the kitchen counters is OK!