5 Minutes Away from a Clean House (…psst, even with kids)

Cleaning in my household is a never-ending exercise in futility. I pick up one bin of toys, they raid my tupperware drawer. I vacuum my carpet, the Lord sends my kids the crumbliest crackers on this green earth. Oh, and of course laundry. Do you really need a cheesy joke about a pointless broken pencil? I’ll spare you. Needless to say, however, it has to get done.

Truth be told, I do love a clean house- so much so that I go through the daily (minutely?) hassle of never letting it get too messy or dirty. Between two kids, two dogs, a husband, and life in general, I try to stay on top of it all the best I can, and feel only slightly justified in being able to pass on a few tried and true tricks to keeping it clean– or at the very least, easy to tidy up with a 5 minute warning.)

Now before I begin, let’s all take a second to channel our inner Monica Geller. Alright, let’s do this.

1. Invest in a high quality, portable vacuum

This is more of a precursor for the next steps, but the name of the game here is convenience. Make cleaning as easy as possible on yourself so you don’t completely dread it. Not sure if this qualifies as insanity, but I vacuum every single day. It is hardly ever the entire house at one time, but it makes life so much easier on me to quickly grab a light, cordless vacuum rather than lug a huge one around moving the cord from outlet to outlet. It takes all of 5 seconds for me to clean crumbs on the couch, dog hair accumulated in a corner, or muddy boot tracks across the floor. Plus, they come with a million handy attachments that clean way more than just floors. Think dusting window ledges, blinds, and sidetables.

2. Pick a time to clean

I have the luxury of staying home most of the week with my kids, so 10-20 mins almost every naptime is dedicated to getting some mundane chore done. I know this isn’t realistic for most families, however, so picking a time is crucial– but remember to keep it short! No more than thirty minutes or else you’ll talk yourself out of it every time. The whole goal of these tips is to keep your house marginally clean at all times so you’re only cleaning in short spurts. Depending on if you’re a morning or night person (or productive after work person, do those exist?), try to schedule a time and a task you need to get done (Mine is usually laundry. I can easily start the washer, fold what’s in the dryer, and disperse it to each room within 15 minutes.) Scheduling a time to clean is pretty awful, but I know myself and if i don’t make it a routine, it will become an “I’ll get around to it when I have time” task, and we all know how those go.

3. Buy two sets of cleaning solutions

FUN DISNEY FACT: Do you know the distance between you and any trashbin in Disneyland is no more than 27 feet away? Story goes that Walt passed out small candies at the front gate and found that the average distance people would walk before littering was 27 feet. what does this say about cleaning your home? Proximity is key! This is maybe a $50 investment (but not exactly since supplies last twice as long), but buy a second bottle of every cleaning item you own, and place one in your bathroom and one under your kitchen sink, or wherever else you prefer. I don’t know about you, but I can guarantee I’m a lot more likely to clean a dirty toilet if everything I need is right next to me rather than across the house and having a kid distract me. I have a set of cleaning supplies both upstairs so whenever I see a dirty mirror spot, toothpaste stain, or dust on table, everything is within reach to clean it up quickly and move on. It helps me work on maintaining cleanliness rather than bulk cleaning for three hours every week or so.

*Extra points if you get a caddy like this to carry them around easily. Convenience, convenience, convenience.

4. Organize your dishwasher

In the grand scheme of cleaning, I think this tip probably saves a miniscule amount of time, but I started doing this years ago and it still remains one of my favorite tips since it lessens the hassle of one of my most reoccuring chores– unloading the dishwasher. As you load it, organize it! Put the sippy and tumbler lids next to the cup they go with, put similar glasses and plates next to each other. Put all the forks in one utensil divider, spoons in another, straws in another. When putting stuff away, it makes it so much easier to grab all the forks at once and put them away rather than sort them individually, or put together 8 sippy cups if you aren’t making piles on the counter and assembling as you go.
*extra tip: use your dishwasher as a drying rack for pots and pans so they aren’t sitting and cluttering the countertops, or taking up room in the sink. It keeps them out of sight and takes hand drying off your to do list.

5. Utilize storage baskets

The equivalent of shoving your clothes under your bed when you were a kid. A little lazy, but no one is judging on this side of the computer. This tip isn’t so much about cleaning as it is about organizing, but organization most definitely gives the illusion of cleanliless. So, utilize the heck out of cute storage baskets like this one (even better if it has a lid!) I love to use my storage baskets as holding areas for things I only use seasonally, such as blankets for winter or towels and swimsuits for summer. Use smaller countertop baskets as a great way to hide everyday things you use but don’t necessarily want out in public when guests come by, for example bills, sunglasses, cell phone chargers, etc. Let’s not forget my favorite way to use them– toys! I have a container in my entryway that I shove all the kids toys in when people come by or that they play with in the living room often and will probably play with again later that day. Then every now and then, I’ll take the basket to their playroom, dump it out, move it back to the entryway, and repeat every week or so until I die apparently.

6. Tidy as you go

No one likes to write a 15 page paper in one sitting, and cleaning is absolutely no different. Having a clean house is the best incentive to continute to keep it clean. Pick up toys when you see them on the ground. Stop putting clothes on the chair (you know the one where you put your clothes that aren’t clean, but aren’t dirty?) If you’re heading to the kitchen, grab the glass that’s on the nightstand. Do the dishes after every meal rather than all of them at the end of the day. It’s simple habits like these that make doing the bigger picture cleaning such as mopping, much less daunting. If you only have to mop rather than pick up things, vacuum, then mop, it cuts down cleaning time drastically.

The Secret Seventh Rule (…if you have kids)

Do not underestimate your kids! They most definitely can help clean, and not just with little stuff like toys. Your child most certainly knows where the silverware, sippy cups, and tupperware goes, so make it fun for them to unload the dishwasher. I love handing them a couple items and watching them race to put it away. For ridiculous things like forks, I say “oh, this is a tough one” and watch them show off how smart they are by knowing exactly where it goes. Diabolical, right? If your kids can’t read, label their toy boxes with pictures (i.e. draw a cape and wand for costumes, a small brick for legos, or ABC for miscellaneous items.) You can use this same strategy for having them put away laundry, as well. For my final tip? Bribe them! Not the normal bribe like candy (which hey, I’m not judging that either), but what I call a “real world bribe”. The fact of the matter is even when the kids are home, cleaning still has to get done, so I simply real world bribe them. “Mom has to do the laundry so I can’t play right now. If you want to go put all these clothes away, that’d help me finish and we can play sooner.” TA-DA. Be real and honest with them about responsibilities, and that will show them how helping is beneficial to everyone!

Well, there you have it. I’m by no means a “clean-freak” by nature; college me would be eye-rolling hard if she knew I unpacked my bags immediately after a trip or carried a lint roller in my car, but these tips are the most basic of habits I’ve developed since owning my own house and creating my own humans, so I really do hope you benefit from them as well!

If you have any extra tips you love, as always please comment and share!

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