I have friends and family members who are classic Type A’s – compulsive cleaners with houses always company-ready. As a creative with a more laid-back personality toward cleaning and organization, I am most certainly not in that camp. And while my husband is brilliant and has many other awesome talents, unfortunately I am the most organized member of our family. Add two full-time jobs and two high energy kids under five into the equation, and you can imagine the typical state of our house – probably a lot like yours, if you’re a fellow working mom! The struggle is real.
But like I always tell my oldest daughter (and remind myself!), just because we aren’t naturally good at something doesn’t mean we can’t become better at it by learning and working hard. I refuse to settle for being a slob even though that’s my natural inclination! I have come to realize that there’s some middle ground between having a spotless home and living in what resembles a recent tornado – having a generally picked-up home that is inviting to others and sets a peaceful backdrop for my family. It’s only taken me 9 years of marriage to figure out some methods that work for me (what can I say, I’m a quick learner), but here are a few tips and resources I’ve found helpful in learning to keep what I like to call a clean-enough home (some days at least):
- Forget perfect; make friends with clean-enough. Working moms are busy with limited family/home time, and there’s likely no way you’ll be able to keep the entire house in tip-top shape during the work week. Unless you outsource cleaning, readjusting your self-expectations can go a long way in improving your attitude toward the state of your home and toward cleaning it. Take it from a recovering perfectionist who knows!
- Identify your hot spots. Which areas of your home drive you the most crazy? Focus your attention there first, and save other tasks for afterward, if time permits. For me, clutter and dishes on kitchen counters and strewn couch throw pillows make me insane. We have an open concept floor plan, and the kitchen/living room are the first part of the house seen upon entering from the garage. If I walk into cluttered counters, my day feels out of control, but empty counters calm me. Writing that sounds a little crazy, but it’s true! Fly Lady first made me aware of the magic of daily cleaning your kitchen sink when my oldest was a baby, and it really is true that small actions go a long way in helping you regain control of your home. Your hot spots are likely totally different from mine, but take a moment to figure them out, and I promise the results will be life-changing!
- Set a timer, and get something done! I picked up this tip from my mom (who, unlike me, set a wonderful example for keeping a lovely home), and Fly Lady also advocates the power of a timer. I can easily get overwhelmed and feel paralyzed to do anything, not knowing where to begin. It’s amazing how much time we think dreaded tasks will take vs. the reality. For example, I can get my dishwasher fully unloaded and re-loaded in 10 minutes total. Making a bed takes about 3 minutes. One of my favorite ways to motivate myself to clean (because, let’s be honest, who really likes to clean) is to set a timer for 15 minutes and see how much I can get done. I can almost always get my kitchen counters cleared and living room picked up in that time. As my kids get older, I often invite them into my “cleaning challenges” as well, and all moms know that competition is a surefire motivator!
- Make your bed every day. I have no idea of the psychology behind this, but I can attest that it works. For some reason, after years of leaving my bed unmade the majority of the time, about a year ago I decided to start making my bed (I’m sure my mom is proud that her efforts have finally paid off 33 years later, LOL!). It doesn’t get made every single day, but about 75% of the time, which is a whole lot better than just when company comes over! This article talks about the power of daily bed-making as a positive habit that often spills over into other areas of life.
- Figure out what works for your style. At some point, I had an epiphany that I needed to seek out systems and strategies for cleaning and organizing that fit with my natural styles and preferences. Just because a schedule or method worked well for a friend or for someone on Pinterest or a blog doesn’t mean it would work at all for me. For example, as a creative, I’m more of a stacker than a filer. So, 3-ring binders and baskets work really well for me; whereas a complicated file system would be better suited to someone else. As I shared, I have a more laid back cleaning style and have to work harder at organization, as it doesn’t come as naturally to me, so I’m drawn to blogs like this one and this one by like-minded creatives.
Come back tomorrow for Part 2 of this post, where I’ll be sharing the rest of my “clean-enough” tips and resources!