Keeping a Clean House Without Losing Your Mind

Because let’s be honest….. at some point, maybe you, like me, have said “Either the _____ go or I go.” Fill in the blank with toys, laundry, board games, Legos, messy bedrooms, clutter, dishes…..any of them work.  Just don’t put ‘kids’ in the blank. Or husband. The dog….well, some days the dog would fit in that blank.

We tend to have a very busy family life. There are times when life is quiet and when it is we stop…we may or may not watch too much tv. We visit bookstores. We read. We get in some good sleeping hours. But on those weeks when life feels busy every second, phew….they are exhausting. And what tends to get left behind? The house.

Here’s the thing…..because we are typically pretty busy if the house gets cluttered or messy or destroyed as if The Tazmanian Devil came through, the house wins.

I don’t have time for the house to win.

I like the peace that an uncluttered house offers me,when my focus is on life rather than things.

If I get behind even just one day in housekeeping or bill paying or homeschooling I have found it increasingly difficult to get back on track without a massive effort.

I don’t want my house to win. I want my family to win. To have my time. To have time to watch a movie or walk in the woods together. I want the house to be at least presentable for folks when they stop by unexpected.

Now…here’s my disclaimer….I hate laundry. I love clean laundry. I would allow someone to live in my guest room and take them on as a member of the family if they did nothing else but do our wash. I have good intentions. In my head there is never one piece of dirty anything anywhere, but I’m also realistic that between fire calls, ambulance runs, exercise, church clothes, play clothes, outside clothes, bedding (and bedding used for sleepovers), towels…the chances of never having dirty clothes in the house is highly unrealistic. There are generally piles of something that needs to be washed on any given day.

Not everyone has as much angst toward clutter or messiness that I do. I get it. But it distracts me and too often has occupied my time or made my family feel like I clean only for company and not for them.  I feel 1,000 times better in a clean, not-perfect, but clean and fairly organized house.

Here are some ways we have kept the house to a dull roar:

  1. 15 minute clean up before bed.
  2. Family Laundry Parties!– so I’m the only one who thinks this is remotely fun, and I’ll be honest adding the word “party” in any sentence makes me feel better.  There are days when the laundry gets done, but not folded, so at the end of our day everyone gathers around Mt. Washmore and folds, puts away and hangs our collective laundry.
  3. Saturday night clean up-maybe this is mostly for those in ministry, but I have found it almost 100 percent necessary to go to bed on Saturday nights with a clean house because the chances that we will have spontaneous company on Sunday after church is very great.
  4. Each family member has their own chore: Kaitlyn likes to wash floors, Anna is a fantastic organizer, Jeremy and Daisy take the trash out (I’m quite sure Daisy thinks this is her job and Jeremy is just along for the ride) amongst other things.
  5. Each family member is responsible for their own items. Even small children can put away their toys and shoes.
  6. Little is more. Get rid of clutter! I can easily get lost, or distracted, with too many items around me and a few years ago we had far more than our home or conscience was able to feel peace about. We began to purge the house of things. It’s amazing to think how much we got rid of! We keep ONE set of everyday dishes (plus our China for special occasions), ONE set of silverware, a couple of extra candles. Keep the things that are useful and mean something. However, IF EVERYTHING MEANS SOMETHING NOTHING MEANS ANYTHING. More stuff equals more work equals the house winning. Don’t let your house win.
  7. Everything has it’s place. Kitchen stuff goes in the kitchen. Not the garage or coat closet.  Craft supplies go in the craft area…. Coffee and tea have their own baskets in the cupboard. Bakeware has it’s own cupboard,etc. etc. The laundry room is for laundry. You get it.
  8. When the girls were little I would put music or the oven timer on for a certain amount of time and we would run around the house picking up and putting away as much as we could before the timer went off or the song ended. They thought it was a hoot.
  9. The Command Center. Though I never liked the idea of having a work desk in the master bedroom Anna and I recently built one (though don’t push it…it may fall over) for me out of wood we had around the house and I painted it a teal color, distressed it and LOVE IT!! It has become my command center for paperwork, bills, writing, blogging. I have two cutesy bulletin boards above it with tax information, bills to pay, etc. posted on them. At night, long after Jeremy is asleep and the girls are in bed I stay up later and have loved having my work right there at my own desk space.

Other Thoughts:
1. Don’t expect perfection: this takes away joy from everyone.

2. Have the family pitch in. Kids need to learn responsibility, no matter how much they might not want to participate in cleaning their rooms or folding laundry.

3. Realize there are seasons of life when the house will ebb and flow….when someone is sick, when work is overwhelming, when company has just left, or a holiday has just finished it’s celebrations.

4. A house is a home….the kids need to feel comfortable not stressed out that they didn’t put every single piece of everything away the second they were done playing with it. Home is a place of refuge not a museum.

5. Dirty socks and dishes, games left on the coffee table, art supplies on the kitchen table, toys left in the yard are all reminders of the blessing of family.

6. Mom (or dad) does not have to do everything…..she’s (or he) not the only one who lives in the house.

7. The Family Room is the one room in the house that is a little more relaxed than the others….it really is our place to unwind. The A/V items still have their place, the music items still have their place, the bookshelf still is the only keeper of books however they are stuffed full and not perfectly organized.

8. Putting away two items now will be that much less that you have to put away later.

Don’t lose your head over the house.

Some other reads about house and home…..

Why We Pay Our Kids To Work

Organize, Organize, Organize

Christmas Ornaments-It’s Our Thing

The Reading Nook

Art, Chocolate and Decorating


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