“Just don’t worry about the mess! You can get to it later.”
No, just no. I can’t. Some of us moms have the dilemma of being clean freaks, and we can’t stand the mess.
I don’t think it’s my job as a stay-at-home mom to keep my home clean, and I’m skipping over the obvious point that my husband “helps out.” He does plenty around the house, but the mess doesn’t drive him crazy the way it does me. It stresses me out and distracts me from more important things. Plus it feels like chaos to end the day with my house a mess. Also, I homeschool my kids, and starting our day off organized with nothing left to do from the day before makes a huge difference in our school day.
So if you’re like me, how do you balance keeping things in order when your little ones are like tornadoes that tear through your house and leave it in shambles? How do you balance getting things done, with the more important job of spending time with your kids and doing the endless things required of a mom in a day? Here are a few ideas that have worked for me.
Stock up on spot cleaner
I cringe to think what my carpet would look like if not for this stuff. It has rescued me from Playdoh, markers, crayons, spaghetti sauce, and … yes … potty training mishaps.
Repurpose your towels and blankets
Our beach towels double as a catch-all for our messy eaters. Under the chairs, on the chairs, under the kid’s table … anywhere food can potentially find it’s way to the floor rather than my children’s mouths. Yes, there are those disposable plastic splat mats for highchairs, which I am a fan of, but old towels work just as well.
Create toy-free zones
I refuse to let my entire house double as a playroom. There are definitely toys in the living room (I’m not crazy. These kids need entertainment.) But the rule is, every time you bring down a new toy from your room, something downstairs goes back up. It’s nice to sit down at night and feel like I live in a house, rather than an overrun toy store.
Utilize Storage. Tons of it.
It is far easier to clean up if everything has a home. Those little plastic bins with lids are life savers for a neat freak, and help me make order out of chaos. We use them to store toys, art supplies, school supplies and anything else I can think of that fits inside of them. My children have plenty of places to store toys in their rooms as well, and I have actually found it helpful in locating things they suddenly have a whim to play with. Keeping their things organized and stored saves time when they are looking for something specific, and they have learned over time where they can find certain things they are looking for, rather than running to me every time for help. Win-win.
Have your kids help out
I am not a maid. If you live in this house, you help clean it. But we all know that getting kids to clean up without tears and tantrums can be a bit of a challenge. My 3-year-old is thankfully still young enough to think it’s a game and that we’re having fun. My 6-year-old knows better. But some great suggestions can be found here for how engage your kids in helping to clean without drama.
Purchase washable items
First of all, lets be honest. “Washable” markers are kind of a scam. I dare you to successfully get purple out of ANYTHING. But, I have found that washable markers, crayons, etc. are at least more washable than their permanent staining counterparts, so they’re still worth it.
Choose small tasks over big projects
I calm the neat freak voice in my head by tackling the things that are feasible throughout the day. I prefer this approach over having a huge list of things to do at night, once I finally have some time to relax. I’m not going to pick up toys ten times a day. It’s pointless until my children are sound asleep. But for some of the other things around the house that have to get done, like laundry, dishes, etc., I’d rather knock those off of my to-do list a little at a time rather than have a mountain to deal with later. I get downtime to relax at the end of the day, and everyone’s quality of life greatly improves because of it.
Outta sight, outta mind
Have a few areas that you’re willing to surrender. I definitely can’t stand folding laundry … luckily that wonderful closing door to my laundry room lets me ignore the growing piles. My children’s rooms tend to stay messy, but that’s okay, because I don’t have to sleep there. My children have absolutely made a mural out of a wall in my closet. I don’t care. I don’t have to see it on a regular basis.
Allow some acceptance
When your kids are young, life is going to be chaotic. When I was a full-time working mom, accomplishing all the tasks around the house was much more difficult, and sometimes just didn’t happen. It’s important to accept that you can’t do it all, all of the time.
Let your kids be kids
Always remember that kids are meant to make messes and get messy. I try not to let my inner clean freak keep me from enjoying priceless moments with my daughters. I want to soak up this time that flies by so quickly, and get messy with them. Don’t let your desire for neatness get in the way of chances to play. It’s great for kids to see us loosen up and have fun, and know that we don’t expect perfection from them, or ourselves.