Tuesday, February 18, 2014

How to Keep Your House Clean When You Don't Have Time to Clean

Back in 2005 when I began this blog I thought I was pretty busy. I was the mother to two young daughters, I was Relief Society President in a large LDS ward, my husband was never home because he was working on his doctorate, I taught a handful of voice lessons, and I sometimes (very sometimes) performed. And I thought my life was completely overstuffed.

I think I might have keeled over and died if I could have looked nearly ten years into the future and seen how busy I am now! I haven't made much of a secret of how "overstuffed" my life is on this blog, but it still surprises me sometimes. And I regularly have anxiety attacks when I look at my planner.

On the days I go into work (3x per week), I get ready and leave the house shortly after the girls get on the bus. I teach from 9:00-3:00 with a quick lunch break, and then I run home to meet the girls getting off of the bus. Most afternoons are either spent running them from music lessons to orchestra to girl scouts to church activities to school activities. Once we are home, the time is spent helping them with homework, getting dinner on the table, helping them practice their instruments, refereeing arguments, trying to get them to do their chores, and hoping to get a little cleaning done myself.

I once thought that the two days I have off during the week would allow me to spend a lot of time cleaning. I was pretty naive to think that, though. Many of those days turn out the way Valentine's Day did and are full of commitments and errands. Plus, I have to fit at least 7 hours of working from home in somehow. And what about spending time with The Maestro, practicing my own music, or getting in some much-needed me time? And then there's that whole business about actually needing to sleep for a few hours each night.

Cleaning my house comes in dead last. Which is really quite sad considering how much I adore a clean house.

Everywhere I look there are great cleaning schedules posted. These overwhelm me nearly as much as my life does. Having to do whatever cleaning tasks are on the schedule in a day where the rest of my schedule may not allow for it just stresses me out further. As great as they are, these types of schedules are just not for me. (I did, however, use a schedule like this when I was a mostly SAHM with great success.)

I have learned a few tricks these last couple years of being back to work, though. And (when I am good about doing them), my house actually stays fairly clean. Definitely not deep clean, but clean enough.


1. Let go of perfection 

This may be the hardest thing for me. I do want my house to look perfect at all times, but that is obviously not possible for me right now. I could hire a live-in maid, but that is not why I went back to work. I went back to work so we could get out of debt for once and for all, so I have to keep that goal in mind when I come home and see all of the unfolded laundry or the newest messes the girls have made. "Clean enough" is a new mantra for me. And sometimes "clean enough" means that I have to close the door to the playroom or just put the dishes in the sink without actually doing them.

And I'm okay with that.


2. Cut the clutter

A house that isn't full of stuff stays cleaner. I know it's super hard to stop the continuous influx of things that walk into your front door, but I've been working hard to do just that. I am much less likely to buy something that I don't have a specific need for these days, no matter how cute it is. And I have no problem filling large boxes full of stuff and donating them whenever I can.

I'm not a big Fly Lady person, but I absolutely love her 27 fling Boogie, and employ it often. It simply means to quickly walk through an area in your home and find 27 things to get rid of--whether it's trash or things you don't use anymore.

3. Get things organized

If you have a larger block of time available for housework, try to use some of it to complete an organization project. Most organization projects can actually be accomplished fairly quickly (see some of the quick organization projects I've done HERE) and go a long way towards keeping the whole house clean. When you have a system that works--"a place for everything and everything in its place"--the whole family tends to do better at putting things back where they go.

It's a slow process, but one that is worth devoting some of your precious cleaning time to.

4.  Choose the ONE thing that needs to be done most right now

It's easy to look at EVERYTHING that needs to be done and feel like giving up. But I have tried hard to step back and see what needs to be done the most and do only that when I have limited time. Sometimes that's the dishes or the laundry, sometimes it's mopping and vacuuming, and sometimes it's cleaning toilets. Sometimes it's just cleaning up all the junk that's piled on the dining room table.

5.  Set a timer

I often have 15 or 20 minutes from the time I get home from work to the time the bus drops off my girls. Sometimes I have 5 or 10 minutes during my lunch break (I usually come home for lunch since I live so close to campus) or between commitments. When I have these little pockets of time, I occasionally set the timer and go to town on one room. (Sometimes I choose to waste that time on Facebook instead, but I've let go of perfection, so it's all good.)

When I do choose to set the timer I am always amazed at how much I can accomplish in just a few minutes.

6.  Do a 15 minute clean up before bed

Similar to setting a timer, making it a habit to do a quick clean up for 15 minutes before you go to bed makes a world of difference. The kids can easily help with this, too. 15 minutes multiplied by 5 members of my family is a lot of cleaning time!

7.  Multitask wisely

Multitasking isn't all it's cut out to be. I find I actually accomplish less when I'm trying to do too much at once, and several studies have shown this to be true.

Instead, I try to focus on one thing at a time. If I am cleaning my bedroom, I stay in my bedroom until it is clean. If there are things in there that don't belong there (and believe me, there always are), I set them outside the door until I am finished. As tempting as it is to go put them right away, I find that once I do that I am suddenly caught in the whole If You Give a Mouse a Cookie scenario and end up working very hard but accomplishing very little.

I do actually multitask certain things. Today I listened to the opera I am learning while I did the dishes. I can easily work on my memorization and notes while I simultaneously clean the kitchen, which is a fairly mindless activity. I can fold laundry and help Chloe practice her piano at the same time, which is another thing I did today. I have taken to "reading" audio books or listening to General Conference talks while I clean, as well. These types of multitasking tend to make the job more enjoyable, too!

8. Employ your children

I've recently written about our system for chores, but I ask my children to do quite a bit more beyond their daily cleaning zones. The three of them are commonly asked to get the dishes done and the kitchen cleaned up after dinner, for instance. They may complain about this, but they turn up the music and laugh and giggle together while they get it done. And it saves me so much time.

I usually ask them to do one or two simple chores after school, too--things that can be done in five minutes or less. And on Saturdays, they each have some sort of deep-cleaning assignment. At least, they do if our Saturday isn't already taken up by a million other commitments. Nothing is better than a free Saturday for getting the house in shape!

I believe that our children should learn to work hard. Since they live in this house too it's important for them to have a sense of responsibility in keeping it clean. I love that when they do a big cleaning project they get a little frustrated if another family member messes it up. They start to see a little bit how Mom and Dad feel, and the end result is that the house stays cleaner longer.

So that's it. These 8 strategies have helped me keep my head above water with the housecleaning when I barely have time to breathe. 

What are your best tips for cleaning house when you don't have time to clean?

More time-saving cleaning strategies:
Is Your Room Mommy Clean? A Printable Checklist.
Six Things That Will Help Any Mom Stay Sane
Our Newest System for Chores and Allowance

This post is linked at:
Living Well, Spending Less - Thrifty Thursday


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6 comments :

  1. #2 and #3 are my favorites!

    I'll add a #9: Hire someone to clean it up once a month :P Then you just get the easier stuff to maintain. Also, having someone coming once a month to clean forces you to be organized, because you want them to clean under the clutter, so you get rid of it! De-cluttered surfaces get cleaned!

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  2. I live by the "quick clean up before bed". The morning is much smoother if things were tidied up the night before. It doesn't always mean all the dishes were done, but it does mean that the backpacks are packed and ready to go and we're not searching for anything that didn't get put away correctly.

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  3. I think these are great tips. Being organized is the key. When that system is in place the rest of it works out. :-)

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  4. I wish I could do the before bed clean up, but I am dragging by then. I'll tuck my daughter into bed, almost in tears at her never-ending chatter that is keeping me from my bed, and when I finally escape, I go straight to bed! I'm just NOT a night owl. But you have great tips! Thanks!

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  5. I really needed this today! Feeling overwhelmed at all that needs to be done but these are doable ideas, thanks!

    I too am amazed at how much I get done when I set the timer for ten minutes.

    Sue

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  6. Great tips! Never enough time to do everything, is there?

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