It’s the end of the week. The sink is overflowing, the laundry pile is taking over the basement, the fridge is empty and the living room floor is hidden by a sea of toys, shoes, school bags, and possibly a small critter or two. Ever been there? When the house is a disaster and even the idea of starting to clean up is completely overwhelming? If you haven’t, you’re amazing. But this post isn’t for you. It’s for the rest of us that need a plan of attack, a practical way to keep things in order.
Once you’ve done the laundry, put away the dishes and corralled the toys (and the critters), here are 6 ways to keep the chaos from taking over again.
1. Spend some time preparing yourself each day. Sure, this isn’t an actual housework-type task, but it is THE most essential part of keeping on top of anything in life. If you follow Christ, this should be your devotional time (If you’re not, I love to talk to you about what that means!). Pick a time when the kids are asleep, either in the morning if you’re a morning person, or at night if you’re a night owl, or at nap time/lunch time if that’s when you’ve got a few kid-free moments. Pray and plan through your day or the coming day, and ask for God’s guidance in being productive and using His wisdom when it comes to making the most of the hours in each day.
2. Wash the dishes each day. Whether it’s by hand or in the dishwasher, make sure clean dishes are put away and dirty ones are washed before you go to bed. This is a great chore for kids (even younger ones!), so don’t feel like you have to do all of the work. And besides, you’d be surprised how many kids don’t know how to do the dishes, so consider this chore a valuable investment in their development!
3. Do at least one load of laundry each day. This may look like popping a load into the washer before heading out to work and then switching them to the dryer when you get home, or it could be doing it all before bed. But if you do at least one load a day, you’ll be much farther along in conquering Mount Laundry when the weekend comes along. To make things even easier, have each family member be responsible for doing their own laundry.
4. Clear the table after each meal. Whether the members of your family eat and run, or whether it’s more of a sit-down affair, make sure the table is cleared each time. Kids as young as two can be scraping their own plates and putting their plates, cutlery and cups into the sink. Encourage your family members to bring mugs and bowls back to the sink if they eat away from the table.
5. Sweep the floor and change the garbage each night after dinner. Sweeping the floor and then dumping the dustpan into the garbage can is a good reminder to pull that bag out and replace it with a fresh one. This is a great way to cut down on iffy smells and the ick factor that always accompany an overflowing garbage can.
6. Go through the things that come into your home each day. Kids’ agendas, lunch, homework and letters from school, the mail and shopping bags should all be sorted as soon as possible. This is HUGE, because we all know how quickly those stacks of paper can take over the kitchen counter, and how things can get forgotten in the bottom of a plastic bag (Ever had to dump 4 liters of milk? Not a good feeling.). Unnecessary papers or empty envelopes can go straight into the recycling bin, and the ones that need to be kept can be clipped to the calendar or filed.
7. Tidy up the living/family room. If you keep toys in the living room, figure out a way to store them that minimizes the amount of time needed to put them away. Cute laminated pictures on 15 different plastic containers look great, but what takes a child 2 minutes to dump out will take you 2 hours to clean up (longer if you enlist the child’s help!). Make life easier for yourself by using one big toy box for everything, or cubby shelves for individual toys with few small pieces.
The important thing with housework, as it is with most things in life, is to stay on top of it. Sure, there will be days when a nursing baby is going through a growth spurt and you’ll be stuck on the couch, or when a child is repeatedly blessing the house with a stomach bug. But that’s not everyday. And every day still has 24 hours in it, no matter who you are. Using a little bit of that time to keep the clutter and mess under control is a very worthwhile investment, not only in your sanity, but in your family. Having a calm, peaceful place to come home to is so important for parents AND kids. And getting everyone to pitch in and help make that happen is a perfect way to provide a happy home and a much less crazy day!