There are a lot of reasons that my house not always spotless. I hate cleaning. We have three kids who undo any kind of organizing that I implement. I work at home. Blah. Blah. Blah. If you asked my hubs, “you only want to keep the house clean enough” is probably his number one pet-peeve.
But, if I’m being honest, I don’t really care. I mean, I love him and I want him to be happy in our marriage, our home, and our life, I just don’t think it’s solely my responsibility to make all of that happen for him.
When we first got married, he revealed a side of him that freaked me out a little bit. All the cans in the pantry were lined up with labels matching and facing out, he yelled if I walked on the carpet with shoes on and the cups in the kitchen cupboard HAD to be placed upright so the rim didn’t touch the shelf.
It was pretty creepy (circa Sleeping With The Enemy). I admit I had second thoughts about who in the hell I married. But, over the years, with a lot of communication (and several kids), he has relaxed A LOT.
Yes, he would like me to prioritize a clean house as much as he does. But, I’m getting cranky in my old age and there are hundreds of things I would rather do than clean every day.
And, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.
I can’t keep the house clean what’s wrong with me?
I think *most* of us can agree that an organized home feels better to walk into. When I look through Pinterest and I see bright white homes with a lot of natural light and zero clutter, I admit I want that.
And, I admit that I feel a twinge of jealousy. Like, why can’t I keep my house like that? Maybe I need an organizing system. Or, maybe I need to purge everything because if we had less stuff, things wouldn’t be so messy.
But, what you don’t see in those pictures is kids. You don’t see a mom walking through the front door with bags of groceries, exhausted after nine hours at work and an “on the way home” trip to the grocery store.
There aren’t any action figures, play kitchens or small ride alongs strewn all over the living room. You don’t see backpacks laying on the ground or homework papers laying all over the dining room table waiting for parents to check and initial.
It’s not a picture of a real house.
So, take that beautiful picture of that bright white home … and add everything to it that is the reality of your life. Yes, I could try harder at keeping my house clean and tidy. A new organizing system would probably help and definitely having less stuff would reduce the amount of clutter. Someday, I’ll probably do these things.
But, in the meantime, I’m done thinking that there is some kind of “clean house” benchmark that I need to reach. If I’m too tired at 9 pm to load the dishwasher, so be it. I’ll load them in the morning before I start work.
Vacuuming only on the weekend? Hell yes. That’s just fine with me. Making the kids pick up their room and bring all of their dirty laundry out? You bet! They’re old enough to carry shirts and socks. This mama is letting go of the guilt and just keeping the house clean enough.
How clean should your house be?
Who knows. Seriously, I think how clean the house should be is up to you and your partner. Obviously, if you asked hubs, his definition would be entirely different then mine.
But, if you ask us together, we have a clear “collaborative” definition of how clean our house should be.
One thing I’ll tell you is that I’m not going to recommend that you answer this question based on the idea of anyone who doesn’t live in your home. I mean, you’re the one who has to keep your house clean. So, you should be able to decide how clean it should be.
I’ve said it before, you have to decide for yourself what “success” looks like. Think mindfully about how you feel when you look around your house and it’s not clean and tidy.
Do you feel like a failure? If so, does the house need to be spotless for you to feel successful? Or, would you feel like a success by just clearing off the dining room table so you can eat dinner at it?
Don’t use someone else’s definition of success inside of your own home. Sit thoughtfully and set your own definition.
Secrets to keeping a clean house
Honestly, I think the main secret to keeping a clean house is motivation. In other words, the more motivated you are to keep your house spotless, the more you’re going to work towards that goal.
If you have decided that feeling successful as a housekeeper means vacuuming once a week and dirty dishes in the sink only two days a week … then, you’re probably not very motivated to Pinterest-perfect your laundry room.
The only time that I am truly motivated to clean my house is if we’re going to have company. And, that’s only because my husband loses his mind when people come over.
I mean, yes, I’m going to take the three loads of laundry off of the couch and clean the toddler pee off of the back of the toilet. But, I’m not going to clear off, dust and disinfect the top of the fridge just because my sister-in-law is coming over.
It’s all about motivation.
Keeping a clean house with kids
Now, if you *want* a tidy home. Like, you know that you would feel so much better if your home were clean and organized. But, you’re not sure where to start, there’s one tip that I have learned that can be helpful when used consistently.
It’s called the “one-touch rule”. The basic idea is, if you one-touch everything that you put your hands on throughout the day, you won’t have as much clutter to deal with.
In other words, if you pick up a pair of socks off of the living room floor, don’t just set it on the kitchen island. Instead, walk the socks to the dirty laundry hamper.
This concept is brilliant. But, in my opinion, it’s only realistic in certain households. For instance, when I put that pair of socks on the kitchen island, it’s not because I’m being lazy and don’t want to walk them to the laundry room.
It’s because, while I was walking past the kitchen, I noticed my 3 and 5-year-olds were playing “barrel race” with glass jars of spaghetti sauce across the kitchen floor.
So, you have to decide which cleaning and decluttering “secrets” are realistic for your home.
How to keep the house clean enough
When all else fails … keep the house clean enough with these tips:
Soak the dishes overnight
We have a dishwasher so, that makes keeping up with the dishes a lot easier. But, somehow there are a few nights a week where I just can’t seem to fit all of the dishes into the dishwasher and the pots & pans have to soak overnight. It’s so strange how that never happens when hubs loads the dishwasher.
Use foil for all cooking
Seriously. I don’t care if you’re just boiling peas on the stove, line that pot with some foil. And, especially don’t forget to line any casserole dish or crockpot bowl that you make dinner in. The amount of time it will save you in clean-up is worth at least one glass of wine.
Skip the bed-making
Granted, making the bed doesn’t take a lot of time. But, when you roll out of bed in the morning and you’ve got tiny humans screaming things like “I’m done pooping” and “Open this white cheese!!” … you don’t need to worry about making the bed. Just leave it.
Wash and dry it … and put it on your kid’s bed to fold and put away. My 3-year old can fold towels and match socks. The 5-year old can carry piles of folded laundry and stuff them into drawers. And, my 13-year old takes care of the rest. I’m never folding laundry again. And, if your kids aren’t quite old enough to help, then leave the piles on the recliner and learn to get wrinkles out with a few sprays of Febreeze and tumble dry low until they are old enough to help.
I’ve got two rules for vacuuming … do it once a week and buy a vacuum that is strong enough that you never have to bend down to pick anything up. Better yet, replace all of your carpets with hardwood floor and buy a Roomba. (Yeah, I could never get hubs on board with spending that kind of money either.)
Deep Clean Quarterly
Every three months we go through and deep clean the house. We do things like vacuuming under the furniture, cleaning out the cupboards and shelves, purging the refrigerator, checking to see if everyone’s clothes still fit them and have been worn in the past three months, etc. It’s not sexy and I hate it. In fact, someday I’m going to add to the budget a maid service to clean a couple of days a month so, we can deep clean twice a year.
My number one hang-up with throwing out mail and paperwork is that I’m worried about the information that is on the paperwork being read by a stranger at the dump. So, we bought a little shredder from Amazon. When the pile of mail that we have opened and don’t need starts to pile up on the counter, I run it through the shredder and call it good.
I only nag my kids to pick up their stuff once a day. During the 30-minutes before bedtime, they need to go around the house with a toy bucket and pick everything up that they threw all over the place that day. They each get a bucket and they go gather their stuff. It doesn’t make any sense to me to waste time yelling at them and cleaning up behind them. “Here’s your bucket go gather your toys”. The End.
What is your definition of success when it comes to house cleaning? What’s your benchmark for feeling like you keep the house clean enough?