Inside: If you’re wondering “How do I keep a house clean with kids?”, you might feel like it’s impossible ( and let’s be real – some days, it is!). But these proven tips will make keeping the house clean with kids so much easier.
When you first start having kids, you realize how hard it is to actually do anything with children. Seriously, how much effort does it take to go anywhere! You used to just grab your purse and hop in your car. Now? An hour later, and five trips back inside (make that six), you’re off!
Cleaning the house is another one of those things that gets exponentially harder with kids.
In the beginning, when you only have a baby, the two main problems are finding the energy to clean the house and having your hands free to clean anything (a baby carrier has been a personal life-saver for that – but mastering doing the dishes while wearing it takes practice).
Overcoming those two obstacles to cleaning can feel like climbing Mt. Everest, but oh my goodness, are your problems just beginning! Then you’re trying to keep your house clean with a toddler and a baby. If you add one or two (or three, like me) more kids to the mix, keeping your house clean feels darn near impossible.
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Because as those kids grow, so does their stuff. I swear, it multiplies while we sleep.
Kids are pure stuff magnets, whether the drawing they made for you this morning (the first of five), the toy grandma gave them last week, or all the paraphernalia it takes just to go anywhere with them!
And then there’s the dumping, the constant dumping.
Even though I have gone through the toddler years three times already, I still cannot for the life of me understand the toddler compulsion to dump out everything: folded laundry baskets, toy bins, flour. It’s all fair game to them.
But I want to tell you, there’s hope. You can keep a house clean with kids (well, cleaner than average, anyways). To clarify, when I say clean, I mostly mean how to keep a tidy house with kids. The actual “cleaning” cleaning is another thing altogether.
For the sake of full disclosure, as I write this the dishes are sitting in the sink and on the counters, waiting to be washed.
You just can’t win ’em all.
12 Tips to Keep Your House Clean with Kids
1) Declutter Once, then Declutter Regularly.
The more stuff in your house, the harder it will be for your kids to learn where things belong and be able to put them away on their own. My favorite place to start is in the bathroom because you get to throw away a lot of stuff and most of it is not sentimental.
If you make it through the entire house, you might think you’re done. But if you want a clean house, you have to embrace the concept that decluttering is never done (especially when you have kids!).
2) Everything has a place, and everyone knows the place.
You probably know that catchy phrase: “A place for everything, and everything in its place.”
As cliché as it sounds, it really does work, but IF and only if, everyone in your family knows its place. The real trick is to make the “place” make sense, both to you and to your family.
If you put the coffee mugs at the opposite end of the kitchen from the coffee maker, it doesn’t make sense. If you put the coat rack across the room from the door, those coats are most likely going to be dropped on the floor.
Observe your family’s habits and organize your home in a way that fits those habits (not necessarily your habits).
3) Rotate toys, or create a toy checkout system.
After we finished decluttering our toys, we still had more than I wanted to keep out all the time. After a few weeks of going crazy, I decided to establish a toy checkout system.
We’ve needed the actual chart less and less often, but about a third of our toys are still put away in a back room, mostly puzzles, games, and Little People (I love these bins because they’re cheap, sturdy, and a good size – having the same type of bin can help you stay organized).
4) Keep baskets and racks kid-accessible.
If your kids can’t reach the coat rack, they are probably not going to be very inclined to hang up their coats. If the dishes are out of reach (even with a stool), they can’t put away the dishes from the dishwasher.
If at all possible, buy kid-height hooks and coat stands. Organize your kitchen so they can reach their own dishes.
Use open bins so they don’t need to struggle with lids to help tidy up the house.
5) Establish cleaning routines.
If you haven’t established cleaning routines yet, you need to! (Don’t feel bad – it’s taken me eight years to establish a cleaning routine that works for me!)
Daily cleaning routines work best when worked into your morning and evening routines. You want them to become habit – to feel like something is missing when you don’t do them.
Daily cleaning routines keep clutter at bay so that your weekly cleaning routine takes far less time. A weekly cleaning routine generally takes on actual deep cleaning, as opposed to tidying.
As your kids grow, they can take on more responsibilities, especially in your weekly cleaning routine. You also can teach them to develop their own daily cleaning routines that will keep their spaces clean and organized.
6) Clear your surfaces.
Clutter loves company. When your surfaces are covered in knick-knacks, it’s so tempting to set something down next to those knick-knacks. After all, the surface wasn’t clear to begin with. What harm is there in adding one more thing, just for a minute?
One more leads to one more, and all of a sudden, you have a clutter magnet that has attracted every random object your family was too busy to return to its proper place.
Keeping counters clear prevents clutter from accumulating where it doesn’t belong.
7) Keep your systems simple.
Kids stay organized when the organization systems are simple. They need to be easy to understand and uncomplicated.
While us moms may love sorting all the toys into 15 different bins (color-coded for the win!), a child will spend twenty minutes standing in front of them with his toy hammer wondering which one it goes in.
You want to make clean-up fast and efficient. The fewer categories and bins there are, the better.
8) Create systems to quickly corral clutter until it can be put away.
We liberally use EMPTY bins and baskets throughout our home to corral clutter. As we are tidying up throughout the day, we put things in the appropriate bin (my daughter has her own room, and her own bin).
About once a week or so, we take each bin to the appropriate room and put away the contents. This saves so much time and energy, as its much easier to carry a single bin to the room once a week than run multiple items up and down the stairs all day.
9) Teach kids how to clean their rooms.
My kids know that Monday is “reset day”. Unless something unusual happens that week, Monday is the day we clean our house, including their rooms.
My daughter, at age 8, is finally able to clean her room by herself. My boys, ages 6 and 4, are sorely in need of guidance and support to get the job done.
I talk them through each step of the cleaning process, and if they are working hard, I “work hard beside them” (that’s the actual phrase I use). They are learning how to put things away, bring objects that don’t belong in their rooms to the appropriate places in our home, vacuum, and take out the trash.
I absolutely loved this book, when I was a kid! As an A-type, neat freak, I read it over and over again, and I still follow most of the step-by-step instructions for how to clean a room to this day.
10) Fold clothes the Kon-Mari way.
Before I started folding our clothes the Kon-Mari way, my kids drawers were a disaster. There’s no way we can expect kids to carefully lift stacked clothes and slide out the shirt they want.
Not gonna happen.
Folding clothes the Kon Mari way keeps drawers neat and tidy, for the most part. They can easily see everything and pull out the shirt or shorts they want.
11) Let your kids organize their own stuff.
Once kids hit a certain age, your organizational systems may no longer make sense to them.
Have you ever had someone clean a room for your and put things away where it made sense to them? I bet you couldn’t find a thing.
Once, my daughter reorganized my office supply drawer, and I was so frustrated! But it helped me understand how it feels to have your stuff moved around. Kids probably feel that way A LOT; they just don’t know how to express their frustration in words.
12) Remove dumping temptations from toddlers.
I admit that as you have older kids in the mix, this gets much harder to actually accomplish. Sometimes, your older kids will need things accessible. It’s harder to do in a small house as well. But if you want to keep your house clean with a toddler, remove as many dumping temptations as possible!
They do grow out of the dumping phase, I promise. I’m saying this to remind myself, too. But their dumping and exploring can drive you crazy, so find a different way to store your toys or remove the temptation altogether.
- Keep your cupboards locked with these safety clips (they might as well call them “sanity clips”).
- Put folded laundry basket up on a high dresser.
- Keep just a few toys out and store the rest (then rotate them).
Keeping Your House Clean with Kids Takes Creative Thinking
You have the power to change how your home functions with creative thinking and flexibility. If something isn’t working, be innovative! Persist until you find a solution.
- Enlist the kids
- Change an organizational system
- Put certain toys away for a while
- Buy paper plates during busy seasons
- Require kids to clean up before having screentime
- Declutter your stuff
Sometimes, you just need to stop obsessing over having a clean house, especially when you’ve just had a new baby or made some other major life transition. Sometimes, you need to step over the toys and just WALK AWAY.
But I’m guessing if you’re reading this, those toys are driving you nuts. You can’t ignore the mess anymore, and you just don’t know how to fix it.
These tips are a great start, but if you need someone to TEACH you how to get organized (and stay that way), I recently found the perfect course to do just that!
Stop spending your every waking moment cleaning your house, and finally get help getting it under control.
My friend Hilary at Pulling Curls created The Organized Home course just for moms like you. She walks you through, baby step by baby step, how to declutter and get organized.
This course is for you if:
- You’re not a naturally organized person. When an organized person share their tips, they sound like Greek to you.
- You spend the majority of your free time cleaning up the house. You never get a break, and you’re just sick and tired of it.
- You need someone to walk you through figuring out organizational systems that work FOR YOU (not your mom, or your sister: YOU).
The Organized Home will walk you through the entire decluttering and organization process, step-by-step.
If the list above sounds like you, you need this course.
- Stop pulling your hair out because you can’t find what you need, when you need it.
- Stop spending all your free time cleaning up (because that free time is yours, mama).
- Be able to have people over without freaking out.
Seriously, get your life back. Take this course.
It will make keeping your house tidy with kids a million times easier.
Because of decluttering, I am able to work from home, homeschool, and manage a big family (though far from perfectly!).
What do you want to do that you don’t have time for right now?
Declutter. Get organized. I promise you won’t regret it!