I wish that I could simply set aside an hour or two each weekday to focus solely on house cleaning, in order to keep my home in tip-top shape. Yet when I try, up pop all manner of interruptions. A toddler who needs help on the potty or simply a snuggle from mommy. A 6 year old who needs help with her math word problems. A request for a snack to bring with him as my husband runs out the door.
Interruptions and distractions are a normal part of this season of life. I don't want to wish them away or try to micro-manage my days, because this is simply par for the course and many of these moments are the stuff of life, where relationship happens.
Nonetheless, I still want to live in a home with at least some semblance of cleanliness. What's a busy mom to do?
Clean What I Can, When I Can
Though there are some tasks that I try to schedule in on a weekly or daily basis (vacuuming, sweeping the kitchen, dishes, etc.), a lot of the other ones I am learning to fit into the 2 or 5 or 10 minutes that present themselves throughout the course of the day.
For busy mamas, sometimes the easiest way to keep things clean is to claim whatever "stolen moments" you can to get the job done.
Some time ago, I was reading how Steady Mom keeps her house clean. I was thrilled to learn that I was not the only one who found that at this stage of life, it was easier to maintain the bare minimum basics regularly, but address other deep cleaning on an as-needed or "when it bugs you" basis.
When I walk by and happen to notice that the piano is crazy dusty, I quickly grab my duster and tackle the piano. Just the piano. Not the whole living and dining room.
This has helped me to release the feeling that I ought to be maintaining some perfect cleaning routine to ensure that every part of my house gets tackled on a regular basis. It just wasn't practical, and to be honest, it wasn't happening.
Since I've lightened up on myself, I feel like I can keep up with the absolute necessities better (daily kitchen duties, laundry, bathrooms) and the other stuff? I clean it when I see it, or when I get a chance.
I won't be winning any "homemaker of the year" awards, but whoever said that was my goal in life? I want my home clean enough for comfort, ease of living, and to be sanitary, but beyond that I have other priorities that take precedence.
Tricks That Help Me Squeeze Cleaning in When I Can
These are some of the little tricks and techniques that have been helping me to keep cleaning time to a minimum, and still keep things mostly under control.
Use moments when I'm doing other things. Some mental tasks allows us to do something physical at the same time, to maximize those moments. A few examples:
- While talking on the phone (I often save phone calls for when I'm putting laundry away)
- While listening to an audio file (a sermon, an audio book)
- While having a conversation with someone (obviously there are many instances where this doesn't work, but sometimes I can have a great discussion with my daughter while I wash the dishes or tidy the kitchen)
- While supervising the kids in the bath (my favorite time to clean the bathroom!)
Keep cleaning supplies in different locations. I have cleaning supplies in two of my three bathrooms (and guess which bathroom gets cleaned the least frequently?), as well as in the laundry room and kitchen. When I can grab what I need in that one spare minute I have, it makes giving the bathroom a quick wipedown possible since I don't have to take up that precious minute by running downstairs to grab what I need first. I also find it helpful to keep a few extra cloths in each bathroom.
Use your "dirty" laundry. Another thing that I like to do is use towels in the bathroom that need to be washed anyways to quickly wipe up the counter or floor. It makes less laundry, and gives me a good excuse to clean with towels that were already "dirty" anyways (I'm talking about ones that are only moderately dirty like bath towels, otherwise they won't be of much use to make things clean, right?).
Don't try to do everything. Do that one simple area or task. Unless the time is there to expand the task (and sometimes when you get started you realize that you have more time than you thought, so go with it if you're already in cleaning mode). But generally I try to just do one or two quick things, because something is better than nothing.
Do two-for-one jobs:
- When I wash the dishes, I take 30 seconds to scrub the sink while it's already wet and soapy.
- If I'm wiping the counters, I can use the spray and wet cloth to wipe the front of one appliance.
- If the vacuum's already out, why not do a quick vacuum of one couch or chair?
- While putting towels and cloths into the wash, sometimes I take one of them and quickly wipe off the tops of my machines before tossing it in.
- When I'm carrying a load of laundry up or downstairs, I try to take a quick look around to see if any stray items need to be returned to their homes, and carry them as I go.
Use a timer. I like to just set the timer for 5 minutes or 12 minutes or however long I have and see how much I can get done. This makes me work harder and faster (that's almost like exercising, right? Bonus!) and knowing that there is an end in sight helps to make the job go by more quickly and enjoyably.