People often comment on the state of my house when they come to visit, whether they are friends, family, or the occasional maintenance man. Evidence of my children can be found all around our home- playsets, high chairs, bins and shelves full of books and toys- and that’s all just in our living and dining areas. My children’s belongings can be found throughout our house, and yet our home is strangely clean. People comment on the tidiness, and then inevitably ask, how do I do it?
I grew up in a very clean house. I distinctly remember my mom taking the time to clean the bathroom, swiffer the dog hair, and mop the kitchen floor on a regular basis. With the exception of the infamous junk drawer, everything in our house had its proper place. By the time I was in high school, it was clear that the apple hadn’t fallen far from the tree. I like cleanliness. I like order. I like organization. My backpack and locker attested to the fact. Later, my office desk and rented bedroom spoke to my need for clean. Now, it’s my house.
Before I had kids, cleaning was restricted to one day a week, when I would move from one room to the next, spraying, wiping, and swiffering. As always, everything had its spot, and I couldn’t go to sleep at night before everything had been returned to its rightful home. With the birth of my children, a new method of cleaning was needed, now that I didn’t have the luxury of spending an entire afternoon cleaning the apartment we’d rented when my husband and I got married.Want to know my secret? It’s minimal, but frequent, cleaning. I am constantly in the process of tidying up. My children know that they cannot change activities without first cleaning up the last one. Since all of their toys have specific homes, my kids know exactly what needs to be done before they can play with something new. A multitude of bins are scattered throughout our living room, dining room, kitchen, and the bedrooms, and my son and daughter know where everything goes. How enthusiastic they are about cleaning is another story though.
We have limited space, and I try to enforce a clean-floor rule, which means we make frequent trips to Goodwill. If it doesn’t fit on a shelf or in a bin, something has to go. The kids’ large playsets are the only things on the floor. Everything else has a spot in a bin or on a shelf. We try to keep our floor as clear as possible, adding to the overall sense of tidiness.
As for cleaning, my secret is this: about thirty minutes every day. I don’t leave it all for the end of the week, but spread it out, so it’s just a bit more bearable. Naturally, I have certain daily chores- washing dishes, making beds, tidying up (which we do several times a day), etc. In addition to those tasks, I try to tackle one cleaning chore a day- dusting on Monday, kitchen on Tuesday, bathrooms on Wednesday, swiffering on Thursday, and dusting again on Friday (why did I buy anything dark?!). We tackle more intense chores, like vacuuming and scrubbing tubs, over the weekend, when both my husband and I are home. Finally, running the dishwasher (and emptying it) and running loads of laundry are done on an as-needed basis, though I check my laundry baskets every evening before I begin dinner preparations.
My home is by no means perfect. Sometimes I fall behind on laundry. I probably should dust more often than I do, but I just can’t stomach the idea of daily dusting. And naturally, if you walk into our house during play time, you’ll inevitably find at least a few of the kids’ toys scattered throughout the living room, and my daughter in particular will probably be in the middle of pulling every single book off the shelves.
I get joy from having a clean home, but I get more joy from watching my children enjoy themselves. As long as I know that everything will be tidied up by the end of the night, I don’t mind a little bit of mess.
Sometimes you just have to roll with life, right?
[a version of this article previously published on https://www.loveinthelittlethingsblog.com/]
Oh, man! I cannot get enough of this fun way to showcase and store books!
Shannon Whitmore currently lives in northwestern Virginia with her husband, Andrew, and their two children, John and Felicity. When she is not caring for her children, Shannon enjoys writing for her blog, Love in the Little Things (https://www.loveinthelittlethingsblog.com), reading fiction, and freelance writing on topics such as marriage, family life, faith, and health. She has experience serving in the areas of youth ministry, religious education, sacramental preparation, and marriage enrichment.
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