When life gets busy, seriously, who has time for cleaning? When does scrubbing toilets become more important than wrapping up homework or dismantling a Lego mine field?
Every parent struggles with staying on top of cleaning in one way or another. Whether you’re just out of time or you can’t keep up with toddler tornadoes, it’s normal to feel like you are too busy to clean.
While accepting that your home may not be ready for the cover of a magazine any time soon can help you cope with everyday messes, the fact is that a clean home is healthier and more functional. So, it’s important to figure out a way to consistently clean your home, even when you’re busy, and even if you aren’t going as far as a deep clean.
Making Cleaning a Priority
Parents are experts in juggling priorities. Really, there’s no way to do it all, so you just have to do your best. As you’re juggling priorities, don’t drop cleaning. It’s easy to let go of when you’re overwhelmed, but really, a messy home won’t do you any favors in the stress and organization department.
When messes get out of hand, everything is harder. You can’t walk without hurting your feet as you step on toys in kids rooms, or your kids don’t have a clean karate uniform ready for class. Making dinner is much more complicated when your sink is overflowing with dishes — and you can’t find the right utensil or saucepan because it hasn’t been cleaned yet. And where did that important bill end up?
Even if your home still feels functional while cleaning takes a backseat, it can take a toll on you emotionally. Seeing stacks of bills that haven’t been organized or dealt with, full laundry hampers, or having to move toys, school papers, and other debris from your kitchen table for dinner can be demoralizing. Life just feels better when things are clean and fresh.
How to Fit Cleaning Into Your Life
Every family has their own approach to finding time to clean. In your house, that might mean Saturday mornings call for a good scrub down, or a mad dash before company comes over. But really, it may be easier to squeeze in small bits of cleaning here and there.
Have some time while you wait on dinner? Empty the dishwasher. It’s ok if you don’t have time to fill it just yet — it will be easier when you get there just having that first step of emptying done. And with an empty dishwasher, family members can put their dirty dishes in directly after dinner, so filling the dishwasher isn’t such a large task.
Make cleaning a family affair. As you’re rounding up kids for bedtime, take 10 minutes to do a quick clean. Put on fun music and encourage kids to take toys back to their rooms or another appropriate place, pick up items from floors and surfaces, and if you can, run the vacuum quickly. Team work makes the task of cleaning much lighter. And once the kids are in bed, take just 10 minutes to do a more advanced cleaning task, like wiping down bathroom surfaces or getting the dishwasher loaded.
Stop mess before it starts. Train your family to take care of their own messes. For example, before kids walk away from toys and move on to new ones, encourage them to clean up what they took out. It’s also a good idea to cut back on belongings if your family is having a hard time managing them all. It’s much easier to clean up just a few things than it is to clean up a lot of things.
Another preventive cleaning tip is to make sure you have organization systems in place. If kids don’t know where to put school papers when they come home, for example, they’ll probably end up cluttering your kitchen table. Give them a place to put them, and any other types of items that tend to accumulate into mess, like mail, or small toys.
Also, keep in mind there’s no shame in getting help. While you might prefer to clean on your own, whether you want to save money or you’re just averse to having a professional come in, a cleaning service can help you stay on top of it all when life is just too busy to clean — but you still want a clean house. Often, you can choose as little or as much help as you want. For example, if you feel like you can handle regular maintenance cleaning like vacuuming, dusting, and cleaning bedsheets, but want some help with deep cleaning, you can schedule occasional help rather than weekly cleaning sessions.
Cleaning is important, but life happens. It’s all about finding a good balance between managing cleaning and maintaining other important priorities. Do what you can, and focus on cleaning tasks that will help make your life less stressful and easier to function at home.
Susan Austin is a family research specialist with Family Living Today. A mother of three and small business owner in Texas, Austin spends her days juggling work and family life — sometimes expertly, sometimes not.