I'm not a neat freak, but when I sold my house, I had to work on its very "lived-in" appearance. How did I make my house look "un-lived" in with two toddlers? It's a matter of small lifestyle changes that add up in the long run. I could say that my house was "show ready" in 45 minutes. Here's how I clean house while still allowing my kids to live there.

1. Full In, Full Out

This is restaurant terminology for "always have both hands full." When going to the kitchen, have plates cleared from your tables, and when going to the dining room, have plates of food to run out. The same theory applies to housework. If I'm going to the basement to get food out of the freezer, I take pots that need to go in the cellar. If I'm checking the mail, I take out a bag of trash or recycling. Once "full in, full out," gets in your head, it's remarkable how things get put away.

2. Use Bath Time

Once or twice a week, I really go at the bathroom while the wee ones bathe. Of course, they are always in my sight and I never leave the room. It's a great time to clean the toilet organize the cabinets.

3. Use Shower Time

Take a sponge with a mild cleaner and wipe down the shower walls before you wash yourself. This is a good time to use natural cleaners and get away from the harsh chemicals. Also, take a homemade after-shower spray and spray down the area after each shower.

4. Clean While You Cook

Every chef knows the value of cleaning as you go. You'll be able to enjoy your meals without dreading the disaster in the sink later. Put away the ingredients as you go. Wash the bowls and spoons.

5. Keep One Room Sacred

This is for sanity's sake. The most obvious room for this tip is your own bedroom. Trust me, my life transformed when I started making my bed every day, complete with useless throw pillows. It has become my morning ritual, right up there with brushing my teeth. Take out any kids' toys that snuck in your room, make your bed, and close the door behind you. Whenever the house feels like a whirlwind of paper crafts, crayons, blocks, and trucks, sneak away and peek at your room. Ah, peace and sanity.

6. Chores

Even young children can perform minimal chores. If you're lucky enough to have little forces of free labor, put everyone to work for a quick house clean up when visitors (or potential home-buyers) are planning to stop by.

7. Laundry

Fold it, sort it, and put it away the moment it gets out of the dryer. If you let it sit, it will grow into an intimidating pile and multiply until you have to call the National Guard for backup. (True story. I saw it in a movie once.)

8. Figure Out What You Can Let Go

For me, it was the finger smudges on windows. I won't clean them more than once a week because it makes me feel like a crazy person. Then again, I'm a parent. Crazy is my second language.

This post was included in The Homesteading Carnival #160.