I have a love hate relationship with having a clean house. On one hand, I know that I am just not able to “embrace the chaos” of a messy house all the time, despite the internet memes telling me to eschew sweeping/washing/mopping for playing with my kids. I actually don’t think having a tidy house and happy kids are mutually exclusive, and I enjoy living in a house where everything has a home (and where most things are in their homes most of the time) so I try and make tidying and cleaning a priority each day.
However, I have moments daily when tidying up is the last thing I want to do. I know it's important to tidy (put things back in their homes) daily so it doesn't build up, but when I am faced with a kitchen full of dishes or a towering pile of laundry, I often want to run and hide, and drink tea and scroll Instagram instead.
What I know for sure is that when my house is moderately tidy, I am a much happier person. Having less stuff makes this a bit easier, as it’s much faster to tidy up a relatively clutter-free room, but life with two kids, thousands of legos and a tiny kitchen that churns out three meals and countless snacks a day means it’s still work to keep things in order!
I view keeping my home tidy and relatively clean an act of gratitude for the home that we are so thankful to live in. I often return to that when I'm feeling particularly annoyed with the work of it all. With that attitude and a few tried and true my strategies, I can usually get myself and my family motivated to get it done. I’m not perfect and I still leave the dinner dishes overnight a few times a week, but most days, these little hacks help us keep a tidy and happy home.
1. Try a timer – my Dad taught me this great trick, and I have fond memories of him (a single Dad of 3 kids) using this method to clean up the kitchen after dinner when I was little. He would set the microwave timer for 10 minutes and see if he could clean up in that time, and then try to beat his time the next night. I tend to get lazy and slow when I don’t want to clean, and having a timer, and making a game of beating a previous time is a fun way to get it all done, and see an end point in sight. I’ve figured out that I can fold a load of laundry in about 5 minutes, and I use that logic to do it as soon as the dryer beeps, avoiding Mount Laundry at least some of the time.
2. Add music – I use this trick often with my kids, usually when we are cleaning the basement playroom, which can quickly turn into a floor display of every toy we own every time they have friends over (do all kids like to dump out their toys more than play with them?) We recently halved their toy collection thanks to reading Simplicity Parenting, and we also have labelled bins for each toy family (cars, animals, train tracks, puppets, play food etc) so it is pretty easy for them to clean up, but, like me, they have a hard time getting motivated. I let them pick a song, and we make a game out of seeing how many songs it will take us to clean up. We predict first, and then see who is right. It rarely takes more than 3 songs! When I am cleaning on my own, I like to listen to podcasts (post to come soon with some of my favourites) or listen to my GooglePlay music stations.
3. Eat your Frog – Mark Twain famously said "Eat a live frog every morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day." When I have a job I really don’t want to do (hello cleaning bathrooms) I try to do it first and get it out of the way. This goes not only for cleaning, but for anything on my to-do list. I do the one I don’t want to do the most first. Once that is out of the way, and the momentum has built, it’s easy to move on to the next job.
4. Figure out your energy prime time – For me, I have the most energy in the mornings. I try and do any necessary cleaning as soon as I can, and then get on with my day. When we do our weekend cleaning, I aim to have it all done well before noon, so we can spend the rest of the day doing something fun! My decision making powers decrease as the day goes on, and my ability to procrastinate increases, which is why I always try and make my most important tasks happen in the a.m.
5. Tidy a little area first – this works really well when you feel overwhelmed by one room. In my kitchen, I always clear the table, wipe it down and place my vase of flowers or potted plant back in the middle. I sweep, tuck in all the chairs and then move on to the kitchen area, and as I clean the dishes, I can look at a lovely little tidy area (and into the backyard).
6. Work left to right – my mother in law taught me this great trick ,which is perfect for that feeling of overwhelm when you are decluttering, packing or cleaning up after a particularly messy meal prep. Work left to right, totally ignoring the other mess until you have tidied/organized one small area. I love doing this in my kitchen, and seeing my progress as bits of the counter emerge beneath the mess.
7. Set a time limit – My husband and I used to fight a lot when we were first married about cleaning. It always seemed to us that cleaning our house needed to take a whole day each weekend. These days, we don’t fight about cleaning, since it just needs to get done and we both share an appreciation for the smell of bleach and a tidy home, but we continued to hold the belief that a deep clean of the house needed to take hours and hours. We decided recently that we would dedicate 1.5 hours each weekend to cleaning and that was it. At the end of those hours we clocked out. Much like the timer trick, knowing we have an end in sight really motivates us. We decide what most needs cleaning and get to it, and when the time is up, we get out of the house to do something fun (which also ensures that the house stays clean for more than 5 minutes)
How do you get motivated to keep your home tidy and clean? Do you have any little tricks to share?