One of the most frequent questions I get asked here on Of The Hearth is if my cleaning schedule really works. The answer is simple: Yes, it absolutely works. Every room in my house gets cleaned on a regular basis.
However, once I clean a room, several days will pass before I clean it again. Due to the activities of everyday life, things can get a little messy in between cleanings. With young kids in the house, “a little messy” can quickly turn into a disaster.
Thankfully, I’ve found that there are a few things that I can do to help me keep the house neat and orderly in between cleanings.
How to keep the house tidy between cleanings
- Have a place for everything and put everything in its place. One of the biggest threats to tidiness in my home is when my family has items that lack homes (i.e., we don’t know where to put them). I once left the homeless reusable battery charger on the mantle. It mysteriously attracted a necklace, a hair tie, and a coaster. I left the homeless stuffed animals in the corner of the living room. They mysteriously attracted some books, an inflatable globe, and a ball. Do you see what’s happening here? When I have items that lack homes, I end up leaving them out in otherwise clean areas. Seeing them makes it easier for me to leave out additional items. In order for me to keep areas tidy, each item must have, and be placed in, a home.
- Declutter. When I have clutter—a crowded mass of stuff—in my home, it becomes increasingly difficult for me to find homes for things. This makes it impossible to implement the approach I mentioned above. In order to minimize clutter, I periodically revisit these guidelines for purging my home of unneeded items. These guidelines help me determine which items should stay and which should go.
- Have a plan for dealing with paper. Another significant threat to tidiness in my home is paper—bills, junk mail, visit summaries from medical appointments, receipts, user manuals, bank statements, etc. These can take over our dining table and desk in the blink of an eye! Whenever possible I “go paperless” (i.e., sign up for electronic versions of these documents) and recycle, shred, or toss out those that I don’t need (check out this useful table for an overview of which documents to keep and which to toss). My family is still finding ways to stay on top of the remaining documents. Two things we’ve found to be useful so far are our home command center and a sturdy file cabinet.
- Put out “small fires” as they ignite. Each day my family makes messes that are concentrated to specific areas. Someone tracks mud into the entryway. Someone gets cracker crumbs on the living room floor. Someone leaves sticky hand prints on the coffee table. When these incidents happen, it’s useful to address them right away. They typically only take a couple of minutes to clean up and having them out of the way saves me a lot of time and effort later. This is why I indicate on my cleaning schedule that the following tasks should be completed daily:
- make the beds,
- wash the dishes,
- wipe the kitchen counters,
- pick up items that have been left out, and
- vacuum high traffic areas as needed.
- Get each family member to do his or her part. Trying to keep the house tidy is too much work for me to do alone! I’ve encouraged everyone in my family to contribute. Each individual (except the baby) carries his or her dishes into the kitchen after dinner. Each family member places his or her shoes on a shoe rack in the entryway when we get home. Everyone helps when we pick up toys before going to bed (see a discussion of this below). The old adage is true: Many hands make light work.
- Don’t let the sun go down on toys that are scattered about the house. I know this is usually what they say about anger, but I can assure you that it applies to toys. When you go to bed while toys are scattered all over, you get up in the morning to messy floors and tables. This sets the foundation for a messy day. We make a point of putting the toys away each night. It takes just a few minutes and it means that we wake up to clean floors and tables. It also means we can find specific toys when we look for them! If you have little kids, see if one of these cleanup songs will help energize them to pick up their toys.
- Never leave a room empty handed. We often take items from where they belong and use them in another part of the house. There’s nothing wrong with this, but the house becomes untidy when we forget to return these items to their respective homes. I find it useful to take a quick look around before leaving a room and to grab any items that don’t belong there. I can then drop these off in their respective homes as I proceed to my destination. Sometimes I have to take a circuitous route, but I usually have enough time to do it and it goes a long way in keeping the house tidy.
Though these strategies do help me keep my house tidy, I want to clarify that my home is by no means spotless. It appears lived in, and I make no apologies for this. I simply try to keep it tidy enough that my family feels comfortable and we feel ready to welcome any unexpected guests.
What things do you do to keep your house tidy in between cleanings? Please share your strategies with us!
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