Less Mess and Stress: A Busy Parent’s Cheat Sheet for a Neater Home
Keeping your home clean isn’t as overwhelming as it seems. Here are some tips from mom Donna Cuna-Pita to help you and your family get started.
Do you feel like you’re constantly cleaning up after your kids? You’ll find toys in one corner, scattered clothes and tiny Lego pieces on the floor, sticky fingerprints on the walls… and let’s not forget the half-eaten cupcake comfortably wedged in between the pillows on the couch!
Cleaning can feel like an exercise in futility, but these tricks can help you keep your home neat and teach your kids how to clean up after themselves.
Involve the whole family
Toddlers as young as two or three can already learn to pack away their own toys. Don’t allow them to get another toy until they’ve properly returned the first one to its proper container. However, make sure the containers are accessible and kid-friendly! Use low shelves or big baskets. You can also stick a picture or icon to show them where items belong.
Older kids can take on simple chores. Preschoolers can help wipe the table, sort laundry, or sweep the front yard. Gradeschoolers can already make their own beds and do the dishes.
Cleaning is a skill, so it needs to be learned and practiced – even at an early age! To help build those habits, write everyone’s tasks on a sheet of paper and ask them to check it after they complete the day’s task.
Create a “Decompression Spot” by the front door
Most people will randomly drop their things on the floor (or the nearest surface) when they come home. To avoid this problem, place storage near the doorway. You need a shoe rack, a table with a small basket for keys or ID’s, and hooks or a cabinet for jackets and bags.
Set a good example
You can’t scold your kids for leaving things around if you’re guilty of the same thing! Even if you’re exhausted from work, place shoes and bags in their designated areas. Organize your bills and important papers in folders, and keep your own work space organized.
Place trash cans in the right spot
Put a trash can in every room, and place it where the occupant hangs out the most. That makes it easier to throw things away properly.
Assign a basket to each family member
Are they always losing things, and making a bigger mess by rummaging through everyone's belongings before they find them? Avoid this problem by giving them their own storage box or basket. You’ll also know who hasn’t been properly cleaning up; their box will be empty because – surprise! – their stuff is scattered all over the house.
Be ruthless about decluttering
“Oh, this tiny dress from when she was two months old is too cute to give away! And this doll might be missing an arm and an eye, but it was her favorite when she was one!”
Most homes with children are overrun with old toys, clothes, and baby equipment. These items will pile up in every area of your home unless you learn to let go. Donate old clothes and toys. Sell good ones that were never, or very slightly, used. By avoiding the build-up of clutter, you avoid a mountain of mess.
Demonstrate a good attitude about keeping the house clean
This means that your children shouldn’t hear you endlessly complaining about cleaning the house. If they see that it’s something that you yourself hate, then why would they want to do it?
We’re not saying that you have to smile and sing while doing the dishes (but you’re welcome to do so). Just clean without complaints, not because you enjoy it but to show your kids that there are some things that aren’t fun, but we do them for our own good.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Even if you don’t have any regular household help, you don’t have to deal with the mess alone. You can hire professional cleaners to do a thorough spring cleaning. You start with a “clean slate” and all you have to do is maintain it!
A clean home with kids is possible! Get the whole family involved and enjoy the benefits of having a clean and organized home now.
Donna Cuna-Pita is a former magazine editor who is currently a freelance writer, stylist, and speaker. She's happily married to her highschool sweetheart and a proud mom to two teenagers. She spends most of her time tending to her edible garden, trying out new recipes, and doing DIY projects at her home in the suburbs. Follow her DIY adventures on Instagram at @donnacunapita.