How to Keep Your House Clean When You Don’t Have Time to Clean
Are you struggling to keep up with housework because you just don’t have time to clean?
8 simple strategies to keep your house clean on any schedule
Like most moms, I am pretty busy. I work part time outside of the home, I volunteer, I try to go to the gym daily, and I work part time from home. When the kids get home from school my time is spent shuttling them around to their various activities, helping them with homework and music practice, getting dinner on the table, refereeing arguments, trying to get the kids to do some chores, and hopefully doing a few myself.
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 online. People swear that the schedules solve all of their cleaning woes and they’ve finally been able to get themselves organized.
These cleaning schedules 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.
Too busy to clean? How to keep your house clean when you have no time.
1. Let go of perfection
If you are a perfectionist about a clean house when you don’t have time to maintain it “perfectly” you will never be happy.
I get it! I really, really want my house to look perfect at all times, but that is obviously not possible 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. 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.
Think about the reasons why you don’t have time for cleaning, and hold on to your long term goals! Remember that “clean enough” is just fine for now, and be okay with it.
2. Cut the clutter
A house that isn’t full of stuff stays cleaner. It can be 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 absolutely love the Fly Lady’s 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.
This method of decluttering takes only a few minutes a day. If you can give those couple of minutes daily, you’ll start to notice a difference before you know it!
Less stuff means less stuff to clean.
Want help cutting the clutter? Join my 31 Day Challenge!
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 (click to see some quick organization projects) 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 definitely one that is worth devoting some of your precious cleaning time to.
If you feel you need extra help with getting your home organized, I recommend The Organized Home—an eCourse by one of my most organized friends. She’ll help you simplify the organization process and get your house organized room by room.
An organized home stays cleaner—that is why even 15 minutes a day—or even a week—spent organizing makes a huge difference!
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.
Instead, try to step back and see what needs to be done the most and do that one thing when you 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.
Just choose the thing you need done most and do it. Don’t worry about all the other things.
5. Set a timer
If you know you have small increments of extra time in your day, set a timer and go to town. The timer helps you stay focused while also reminding you that you are free to stop cleaning when it goes off.
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.
You can use your phone as a timer, but I have found that it actually distracts me more (Oh! Let me just check Facebook again before I set the timer…you see how that happens).
To eliminate the distractions, I use this type of timer. I love it. It takes no time to set and you can choose from 4 different set time periods on each cube. Click here to purchase: Cube Timer. 6. Do a 15 minute clean up before bed
Similar to setting a timer, make it a habit to do a quick clean up for 15 minutes before you go to bed. The kids can easily help with this, too. 15 minutes multiplied by 5 members of my family is a lot of cleaning time!
Again, using the cube timer for the 15 minute clean up is a must! It’s kind of fun to use, too, so the kids really like it. Besides, they get even more distracted with phones and ipods than I do, so there’s another good reason to have a dedicated timer!
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, try to focus on one thing at a time.
If you are cleaning your bedroom, stay in your bedroom until it is clean. If there are things in there that don’t belong there, set them outside the door until you are 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 my daughter 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 from my church 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 latest system for chores, but it’s important to remember that as long as you have a system that’s working now, that’s good enough.
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. 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.
You might also like:
- The Secret to Finding a Chore System that Really Works
- How to Keep Your Kitchen Clean
- 5 Secrets to Get Kids to Help With Housework
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 may contain affiliate links, for more information, please see my disclosure.
#2 and #3 are my favorites!
I'll add a #9: Hire someone to clean it up once a month 😛 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!
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.
I think these are great tips. Being organized is the key. When that system is in place the rest of it works out. 🙂
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!
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.
Great tips! Never enough time to do everything, is there?