Cleaning Tips for Busy Parents

This post is sponsored by Pine-Sol® Clean & Disinfect with Pine-Sol®: The Powerful Scent of Clean.” I was compensated for this post as a member of Clever Girls Collective, but the content is all my own.

Cleaning windows – love them.

We’re edged side-to-side. Our friendship surrounding their fun.

They bop balloons as high as they can.

The brightest of rainbow colors polka-dot this small room. Their giggles fill in whatever space is left.

Sunshine’s last rays stream through, glistening against their hair. The finest shades of cocoa, auburn, and coffee revealed.

Skimming through their play, it lands on my end table.

A layer of dust reveals my own fun, my own comfort level, my own ability to (finally) let this kind of thing go.

Not always the case.

Staying entertained with balloons, of course. Love him, too.

I used to try to clean the way that I did Before – Before three children, Before one dog, Before play dates, Before activities, and Before homework.

But now I know two important things that help me breathe, and let go – the first is that I just don’t have the blocks of time necessary to clean in this way.

And the second? Is that this is completely okay.

Eight years into Mothering, five into staying at home, and two into working at home, I’ve learned three little tips to make cleaning more manageable.

“Entertaining themselves.” Otherwise known as “Warming My Heart.”

1. Schedule cleaning time in. If I don’t plan for it, it doesn’t happen.

2. Claim cleaning time as time unavailable time. I tell my kids what I’m doing, and how long it will take. They either need another activity to be engaged in (independent or planned by me) or they can join in and help.

3. Clean in small blocks, everyday. I split my cleaning into manageable jobs that can be done in short blocks of time. My schedule is: Dusting, Wood Floors, Tile Floors, Vacuuming, Bathrooms, Windows and Mirrors.

I only start what I can finish and while my house is never (ever) perfect, I can always welcome a houseful of friends in knowing that everything has been cleaned within the week.

To smooth my daily edges, I clean the kids’ bathroom while they’re in the bath, wipe down the kitchen after meals, skip my workout the days that I vacuum and do the wood floors, and clean our small main level bathroom right before planned guests come over. I’m over-the-moon for that fresh smell. (Don’t judge.)

Note: There’s not a dust rag attached, but just look at how much fun she’s having!

So that’s how my house stays -more or less- clean. How about you? What cleaning tips can you share?

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  1. I was thinking just yesterday how much easier it was to keep the house clean before little ones.
    My walls and appliances were once smudge free…at least for more than 15 seconds. And my kitchen table felt smooth when I ran my hand over it.
    I even faintly recall wiping down and polishing the banisters on an almost weekly basis. Now they’re the furthest thing from my mind!
    And although it’s hard at times to accept a home full of imperfections…my time with them is totally worth it. =)
    Thank you for the pointers! I need all the help I can get! =)

  2. My boys are 15 and 12 and we still struggle with the house cleaning thing. Maybe it’s because I’m working three jobs? Maybe it’s because we haven’t found the right combination of effort and dedication? I don’t know…but I do know this: when I share with my boys the fact that I’m feeling overwhelmed, they are the first to step up and ask how they can help. Now, if I can just channel that energy into actual ACTION :)

  3. In spite of the fact that my husband and I qualify for the Sackville Baggins award, my poor daughter yearns for organization, and both my kids like cleaning (in limited bursts). I try to take advantage of that by (when I’ve actually gotten it together to clean) giving them jobs. My son is my delivery guy. He has a big old dump truck that he pushes down he halls and uses to ferry things back to the right rooms. My daughter typically organizes him, collecting things to give him and telling him which room they belong in. It gives them a team project and lets my husband and I concentrate on running the sweeper and getting the trash out.

  4. I’m still trying to find my stride in this stay at home gig. Before when I worked, I gave myself a lot of slack for the dust bunnies, but now that I’m home I feel like I need to be cleaning something all of the time. It’s maddening.
    But I do try to only limit myself to cleaning up in spurts and then reserving an entire morning/day for the deep cleans…but it’s getting hard since the sun is out 😉

  5. You’re an organized cleaning machine!

    I sweep the floors every day. I wipe down the stove and all the kitchen counters daily, especially after cooking. Deep cleaning happens once a week. I find that cleaning regularly makes the weekly clean much easier!

  6. This is an area where I really struggle. I need to start claiming cleaning time and not get sucked into doing something else.

  7. Great tips! I think cleaning with small children can be a bit maddening. Monday is kind of my main cleaning day for the main floor. Every day is laundry day and I just have to constantly clean the kitchen. My biggest tip is to teach your children to clean and make them help. Often before bed we have a five minute drill where we take those five minutes and clean up as much as we can. It makes a big difference.

  8. All great tips! Since I work out of the home full time, I have a cleaning woman who comes every two weeks to do “the big clean” – and in between I do all the maintenance. I keep large cloth lined baskets on each floor of our house (we live in a split level) so I can collect the kids or even my own stuff and cart it all off back to it’s proper floor/place in one shot. I wipe down the stove after each use, and try to clean the bathroom once a day – especially the kids bathroom – at nightime.

  9. Maija @ Maija's Mommy Moments says:

    I offer my husband the choice: 1. Clean or 2. Take the kids out for a few hours so I can clean. Neither are ideal because what my husband considers clean and what I consider clean are two vastly different things and if he takes the kids out it means I’ve given up a few hours of my very short weekend away from my kids to clean. I havent found the perfect way to keep my house clean but I’m fairly certain in the very near future it will involve a cleaning lady :)

  10. I like that you do something every day. Good way to plan it. But 7 days a week? Girl, don’t you get to take one day off? 😉

  11. We were doing so, so well cleaning in the evenings for thirty minutes. The whole family got involved. We turned on the music and the time and got down to business. Then ball started and our schedule got all tossed around. I have to commit to getting back on track.

  12. I plan my cleaning schedule. If I don’t, my house gets to be too much to handle.

    Great post. Love the pictures!

  13. Yes, “small blocks” of time. Or, I just “forget” to clean altogether…

  14. It is amazing how your words can even make even cleaning sound magical. I am actually a pretty big cleaner. I do straightening dishes, laundry, and sweeping/light dusting every day, vacuum every other day, and do big stuff like mopping and bathrooms once a week. But yes, it is absolutely so much harder with a little one!!

  15. I do love that Pine Sol aroma. But cleaning tips to share? Don’t make the mistake I did and redo your main bathroom with white subway tile on the floor. There’s a reason sane bathroom designers have it on the walls. Three animals living inside with black hair. UGH…..Having someone come Friday to help me clean. Yay.

  16. These are all great tips. I try to make sure everything is straightened up daily and I am pretty diciplined about keeping my kitchen and bathrooms clean. If that is accomplished – I am golden!

    Just a little note – last fall my oldest went away to college and I have to say my biggest regret was the amount of time I spent trying to make sure my home was spit-spot and not soaking my girl. Just sharing so the moms with young kiddos can learn from my mistake! :)

  17. My tip? Hire someone.
    Kidding :)
    I love your tips.
    I try to do blocks so I’m not overwhelmed, and I schedule cleaning, so I don’t worry about it because I know when I’ll clean and therefore it is not always on my mind!

  18. I am A LOT extreme when it comes to cleaning! With Riley’s allergies, I just can’t afford for the dust to build up. I focus on the hardest areas always: Wood floors, bathrooms, getting the dust out of the carpets…but I don’t worry about it looking perfect. Toys will always be around and the laundry will always sit in the basket longer than it should! I like the idea of the scheduled time. Also? My kids really love to sweep and load and unload the dishwasher…so they help and then we get extra time together!

  19. Hello my name is Nicole and I am a cleaner…
    Yes, it is true … my children barely know what it is like to not live in a house on the market so tidy is as tidy does.
    It probably helps keep me sane, since everyone has to pitch in as soon as we have a showing scheduled … and honestly with the animals and my allergies, its clean it up or ship them out!
    I need the peace and organisation, keeps the meltdowns to a minimum 😉

  20. I’m a cleaner too. There might be toys all over the floor at any given moment, but it’s a clean floor 😉

  21. I applaud you. I can not force myself to clean everyday. I already feel like I spend my nights in the kitchen, cooking, cleaning, getting ready for the next day. I usually clean on Saturdays, however that makes me feel like I wasted the only day I get 100% to be with my boys all day. They probably don’t even care because they are out with their dad working on outside stuff or watching a movie they love, but I feel like I could use that time to be with them. It’s frustrating!

  22. I pretty much follow your plan except for the windows. I am horrible with the windows. They usually look worse when I’m done with them.
    I have always been a bit of an organized neat freak. I’ve been trying to let it go and relax more but I generally feel more relaxed if the kitchen sink is empty, the counters are clean and clutter free and our living space is picked up. It may still have some dust settled on the furniture and there may be some leaves and other bits of earth on the carpet but it’s all good as long as my family is happy.

  23. I have a room of the day and the whole house is done by the weekend so I can relax again. Until Monday when I start all over. Sigh.

  24. I just hired a house cleaner.

    Like, today was her first day.

    I admit, it wasn’t easy to admit I needed help but I do.

    Hopefully she’ll use pine sol :)

  25. You forgot tip 4 – point out what needs to be cleaned to your husband and then take a nap.

    Am I the only one who does this?

  26. Really helpful cleaning tips! I like how you split cleaning into manageable jobs, separating vacuuming from dusting, etc. I really don’t have any tips to share. I’m a slacker cleaner who had a cleaning person for many years when I worked full-time. But she’s gone now :(
    I can say, though, that I love the smell of Pine Sol! Mmmmmmmm…

  27. I have A LOT of trouble keeping the house clean. I need to make the kids help more, especially putting their stuff away. If they bring toys downstairs and I don’t make them put them away before bed (or lunch or whatever), it just accumulates and turns into a overwhelming DISASTER. I do like your tips, though. Keeping jobs manageable is the key.

  28. I really really really need to get on top of this. Too bad my sad pregnant self is usually ready for bed by 7 pm.

  29. Ha! I watched a video from when the twins were babies and said, “Look how clean our house was!!!” Amazing. Now even when we have cleaned/dusted, we’re sitting on so much STUFF that comes with a small house and 3 kids, it still looks messy. Sounds like you have a great schedule.

  30. Right now I’m focusing on one room, one load of laundry a day- as well as a quick kitchen counter wipe and a sweep, mop if needed at night. it’s working so far. My four year old is home with me and she’s shown interest in helping me out so I let her- it means that things take longer to do but I like that she’s trying to be helpful! My house isn’t gleaming but it’s not driving me crazy either.

  31. I’ve been feeling lately like it’s one step forward and ten steps back when it comes to cleaning. I try to give myself a break though since my boys are 3 & 5. I certainly don’t clean like I used to! I do vacuum our living room just about every day because it gets so bad! We also just adopted a bunny and his “condo” is in our living room…another reason for the daily vacuum. And don’t get me started on the clutter! It has a mind of its own!

  32. I clean the bathroom during bath time too! But all of this reminds me that I am due to scrub the kitchen floor right now, not read my blogs! Oops!

  33. I clean almost the same way. Small blocks of cleaning done every day so it doesn’t get too over-whelming. And the kids help as much as they can. My girls (3 & 8) love to clean windows!!!!

  34. When I clean alone, I do it in blocks, too, and have let a lot go. The best thing for our family (and my sanity) is that we set aside a couple of hours on the weekend when everyone is home to clean. Then I have the week free to do other things and I don’t resent picking up everyone else’s messes so much.

  35. My “system” (if you can call it that!) is similar to yours. But with two little boys (and one big one – hee hee!) I find myself cleaning toilets WAY too often. And yes, I LOVE the clean smell too. Our reward for the work – HA!

  36. because I work F/T outside the house it makes cleaning a lot harder. I grew up with a mom who LOVED to Clean…we couldn’t do any extracurricular things on the weekends until our chores were done once we hit 11 yrs old. That being said, I like some cleaning jobs but I really hate the bathrooms and while I grew up doing SPRING and FALL OMG CLEANING , it’s much LESS now. I also don’t make a big deal if I don’t get to it on every weekend, because sometimes I just want to spend time with the boys. That might mean I am dusting on a Thursday night or a early Sunday morning, but it does get done.

    I think being with my family is more important than dusting at this point..and to my great and happy surprise so does my mom 😉

  37. These are great tips! I live by them all, especially now as a mom of two. I have a cleaning schedule that I try to follow and that helps me not get overwhelmed with all that may need to get done in any given week.

  38. I just keep one step ahead of slovenliness. Don’t judge me either ok? :-)

    No, really I like things clean, but I get VERY easily overwhelmed and if I don’t have a big chunk of time to tackle something, I don’t do it at all. The problem is how rarely I get a big chunk of time.

    I’m trying to see if I can do that picmonkey thing so I can enter the contest, though not sure if open worldwide.

  39. Um, Galit, you have a cream colored couch with three kids and a dog. Clearly, you are a domestic goddess! :)

    I love this line and feel the truth of it in my gut: “A layer of dust reveals my own fun, my own comfort level, my own ability to (finally) let this kind of thing go.” It’s taken me almost five years to get here, but now I’m right there with you in the dust. xo

  40. I have to schedule cleaning time or it doesn’t get done. I also clean in small blocks each day to keep it more manageable.

  41. Hmm…How do I say this? My husband and I schedule a sitter and take my three (all age 2 and under) to the sitter’s house, and return home to clean. It’s much easier without toddlers toddling about. And, we’re generally so efficient this way, we can reward ourselves with a movie and takeout as well! Win-win!

  42. I hate cleaning, as does the Husband and we both work so it often takes a back seat. I chose to spend the bad days at the library and hope that the cleaning fairy will work her magic 😉

  43. Like you, I break my cleaning into chunks – vacuuming carpets one day, sweeping/mopping kitchen and dining another day, and bathroom another day (usually when the kids are having their bath, like you). When company comes over, I’ll do a quick sweep of the kitchen and dining room, maybe a quick clean in the bathroom, and pick up toys. :) As you say, it’s okay for a house to show that it’s lived in. :) Thanks for the tips!

  44. Good tips! Unfortunately I live in a cloud of filth and probably will until Theo starts school. Call me Kvetch Pen. XO

  45. Anti-Supermom says:

    I too, just try to make it all smaller. Laundry twice a week instead of once. Bathrooms during baths.

    And of course, not sweating the small stuff, people are not going to notice dusty picture frames unless you point them out… they are there to see you!

  46. We cleaned (JDaniel and I) the house from head to toe on Wednesday. It was wonderful to look at by the end of the day. I usually do small jobs everyday too.

  47. So impressed! And thanks for the tips!

  48. I do it in small batches, too. It’s just much more manageable that way. I have missed you SO. Very. MUCH. So wonderful to return today to read your words once more. XOXO and hope you had a beautiful weekend, my sweet one. XOXO