I'm not a neat freak, but I'm selling my house, which requires a great deal of "un-lived in" appearances. How do 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 can say that my house can be "show ready" in 45 minutes at this point. Here's how I clean while still allowing my kids to live in the house.
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.
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 get the toilet clean and the cabinet organized.
Use Shower Time
Take a sponge with a mild cleaner and wipe down the shower before you wash yourself. This is a good time to use natural cleaners and get away from the harsh chemicals, by the way. Also, take a homemade after-shower wash (white vinegar) and spray down the area after each shower.
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.
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. Yep, still sane.
This one doesn't apply to my young kids yet. Minimal ones, they can do, but not much to the tune of "OK, someone's coming to look at the house in an hour, SNAP TO IT!" If you're lucky enough to have little forces of free labor, check out this roundup of articles on chores by Lain Ehmann
Fold it, sort it, and put it away the moment it gets out of the dryer. It will take you under five minutes. 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.)
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.