How Busy People Keep Clean {Enough} Homes

Raise your hand if you’re really busy right now! Can I raise two hands (and my feet)?! Between working full time for a season, homeschooling my kids, investing in our neighborhood friends, being actively involved in our local church, and carving out time to nurture my marriage, saying that my life is full right now is probably an understatement!

But since I’d much rather come home to a relaxing haven than a draining disaster, I’ve made it a priority to figure out how to keep a clean(ish) house even with a really busy schedule. My house is definitely not perfect but I do have a few tips to share with you.

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Here’s how to keep a clean {enough} house when you’re really busy:

1) Just do something.

We can unload and reload the dishwasher, run a load of laundry, or tidy the living room. Many days, we may be able to do more than one of those and cleaning a little bit at a time will help keep the house in decent condition.

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2) Put it away, right away.

As soon as you’re done using an item, put it back where it belongs before moving on to the next thing. Simple to do. Easy to forget :)

3) Don’t clean alone!

It would often be easier to clean up myself than to have my kids help. And sometimes I do clean it myself, but as parents it’s our job to train our kids to take care of their own things. After-all, we don’t want our children to struggle with housekeeping when they have their own homes and families to take care of, right?

Plus once they’re trained well, it really does get easier.

{Related: 6 Tear-Free Ways to Get Kids to Clean and How to Get Your Kids to Willingly Pitch in With Chores.}

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4) Have a cleaning day(s).

I used to have one big cleaning day each week. Then my friend Crystal said her family does housework on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Light bulb moment – cleaning up 3 days worth of mess is way easier than cleaning a solid week’s worth!

Now we catch up on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. This way if we miss one day, it’s no big deal because there’s another cleaning day coming up soon. And when we don’t miss a day, the house looks fantastic(ish)!

5) Buy convenience foods or cook in bulk.

Sometimes it’s worth picking up a rotisserie chicken or a package of hot dogs to pair with a veggie for a quick dinner. It’s also good to cook one or two large meals a week, then use paper plates when eating the leftovers.

This way we can use those precious minutes to focus on other household chores instead of laboring over a hot stove every single night.

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6) Pay someone!

For two years, I paid a teenage girl to help in my home one afternoon a week. That was money very well spent! Now that Lily and Grace are older, sometimes I pay them or their neighborhood friends a little cash to help with simple chores on cleaning day.

If it’s in your budget, hiring a regular housekeeper would also be a good thing to consider.

7) Embrace Imperfection

Our houses may not be as clean and organized as we’d like, but we are so blessed to have homes to live in, stuff to enjoy, dishes to eat on, clothes to wear, and people to love. And while we should be good stewards of our possessions, we also need to be okay with just doing our best even when our best is less than perfect.

Do you have any extra tips for maintaining a clean {enough} home during busy seasons of life?


10 Ways Cleaning is Like Dieting

I gaze at myself in the mirror, the frustration evident in my expression. Your house is disgusting, I tell myself. Why do you keep losing the same 10 pounds of junk over and over again? Why can’t you just get it together and keep your house clean like other women?

That voice in the mirror – she used to stop me. Her unkind expression and tough words would discourage me. This time though, I look past the scowl. Instead, I gaze into her familiar blue-green eyes and see deep into her soul. I see weariness, desperation.

But I also see a spark of something else. I look deeper. That spark is a glimmer of hope, a longing to hear kind words.

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You can do this, I tell myself, timid at first. You can clean your house. It’s just stuff. My thoughts grow bolder as I silently speak to my reflection. You’re capable. Just clean one room for now – only a few pounds of clutter. I believe in you.

I smile encouragingly at my reflection as I determine to finally get my house under control. I know that to make a lasting change, I need to stop shoving stuff into corners – stop “sucking in” to make my home look lighter. It’s time to actually throw away all the junk and then refuse to buy any more.

As I clean, I realize that decluttering is very similar to a food diet. Here are 10 examples:

10 ways housekeeping is like dieting

1) We must throw out the junk.

If you have a sweet tooth like me, then eating healthy is nearly impossible if there’s junk food in the house! Likewise, a house filled to the brim with stuff is just begging for messes to be made.

The best way to combat this is to simply get rid of the junk! You (and your house) will feel so much lighter because of it.

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2) The junk has to stay away.

Throwing away junk food is absolutely pointless if we’re just going to load up on sweets the next time we’re at the store. And getting rid of clutter is a waste of time if we’re going to buy a ton of stuff when we pass a yard sale. To make lasting improvements, the junk has to go away, and then it needs to stay away.

3) Tummy control panels can only do so much.

A tummy control slip might smooth out the lumps and a closet may hide some clutter, but eventually things are going to spill out if we don’t get rid of the excess.

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4) We need to work hard if we want to lose some weight.

Most of us don’t expect to lose weight by watching TV and eating a bunch of junk food. We also can’t expect the house to get clean if we’re spending hours a day reading or talking on the phone.

In order to drop the extra weight – or excess clutter – we have to actually roll up our sleeves and get to work!

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5) One bad afternoon doesn’t mean it’s another failed attempt.

Sometimes dieters eat 3 brownies on Thursday afternoon, then think they blew it so they wait until Monday to start back on their diet. But that’s 4 days they could have been making good choices instead.

Housekeeping is the same way – a huge mess on Wednesday doesn’t mean the house is hopeless until the weekend. Just start where you are and do what you can, when you can.

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6) Maintenance is mandatory.

Sure, a crash dieter can lose a bunch of weight fast. But in order to keep the weight off, she must ultimately make the decision to improve her lifestyle as she finds joy in preparing nutritious meals and snacks.

Likewise, someone who’s putting her home on a clutter diet can learn to find joy in creating a haven as she develops the necessary habits for keeping a cleaner home.

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{Whether your result is a cleaner house or a healthier you, working to develop good habits pays off big time in the long run.}

7) We have to want it for ourselves.

While a get-together may spur us on towards a smaller waistline or cleaner floors, those things aren’t going to produce lasting change. In order to really create a long term difference, we have to want the change for us, and our goal should have more to do with better health or peace of mind, and less to do with a number on a scale or a “right” to show off a job well done.

8 ) Every little bit makes a difference.

Choosing a salad over a burger at the drive thru or washing dishes instead of checking Facebook may not seem like a big deal, but those little decisions add up to huge progress over time.

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9 ) We should always offer grace.

The path to changing habits is a difficult one. It’s always easier to slide back into our comfortable patterns of junk food and junk rooms.

But that thing we do in front of the mirror, berating ourselves? Let’s stop that! Speak kindly. We should encourage ourselves. Let’s let someone else have the job of being our worst critic – we can choose love and grace.

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{When our “after” seems worse than our “before,” we can give ourselves grace as we determine to keep making progress.}

10) Our worth is not found in our weight.

Whether the extra pounds want to cling to our hips or our closets, our worth is not found in how much we – or our homes – weigh. We are valuable because we’re us and no amount of dieting will change that.

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Did I miss anything? What do you notice that cleaning and dieting have in common?


This is Why I Decluttered

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The screen door squeaks open, then quickly swings shut. Footsteps rapidly cross the living room towards the kitchen. Her arms wrap around me in a quick hug before her little hands reach out, eager to sample the icing recipe I’m trying to perfect.

A few minutes later, my ears perk up as the screen door moves on its hinges again. Another friend. She flashes a toothy grin at me while she tastes the butter and sugar I’ve mixed together – she gives me a thumbs-up, indicating the icing is ready to be swirled onto rows of tiny cupcakes.

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They come and go, these ones and their sisters. Sometimes I feel like we’re raising a neighborhood, between the overflowing dinner table, the extra shoes by the door, the silly jokes, and the added drama.

Their parents and grandparents ask repeatedly, “Are you sure it’s okay for them to hang out all evening?”

Oh, yes, I assure them. It’s more than okay.

As I gaze at the nine bicycles laying all over my tiny front yard, I think about how different things are this year. How full our home is. How much bigger our hearts are.

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There are rarely only four people here for family night anymore. Our living room has become the standard game spot when it’s raining. And preteens are rediscovering their love for dolls as they delight in hours of imaginative play.

A few years ago, I wouldn’t have let them in. I was so embarrassed by my clutter that I shut others out of my home, and in doing so, I was also closing them out of a part of my heart.

I grew weary of living that way.

I finally decided that I wasn’t going to let a messy house stop me from reaching out to others. But I knew I was too busy putting out clutter-fires to make time for more important things. So I decided to unbury myself. It was tough. But I didn’t give up.

The difference has been amazing.

And while my house still gets messy, a gentle mess from a day or two feels and looks a whole lot different than piles of clutter that have been laying around for several years.

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And just like our bodies continually need refreshed with water, our homes continually need refreshed from excess.

Because when we’re not weighed down by the burden of clutter, we have more energy to give, to love, to serve, and to welcome others in to our homes and our hearts.

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Will you join me in welcoming others in?

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6 Tear-Free Ways to Get Kids to Clean

One thing I’m asked regularly is how to get kids to do their chores. I avoided answering this question for a long time because chores with kids is tough, especially when the parents (re: me) aren’t perfect at maintaining a clean home, either.

But something I’ve learned is that while my kids and I aren’t perfect, we can make progress, and that progress makes a huge positive difference in our home!

Here are 6 ways I’ve learned to get kids to clean, sans tears:

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1) Talk about what’s expected.

Needing to put dirty clothes in the hamper may seem like common sense to us, but it’s not always obvious to our kids. So make sure they know what is expected. You can do this by posting a simple chore chart, having a family meeting, and offering frequent gentle reminders.

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2) Show how to complete a chore.

It’s important to make sure our kids really know how to accomplish a task and teaching chore completion is best done in 4 steps:

  • Have your child watch you do the chore.
  • Instruct your child to help you complete the chore.
  • Allow your child to lead while you assist with the chore.
  • Child does chore unassisted (don’t forget to check their work!).

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3) Keep tasks manageable.

Have you ever walked into a room, felt incredible overwhelmed, and walked right back out? Me too! Sometimes our kids feel the same way and need help breaking down tasks.

For example, instead of just saying, “Clean your room,” try offering step-by-step guidance such as, “Put your shoes in the closet.” When they finish, you can tell them to put their dirty clothes in the hamper. Keep going until the room is clean. Offer lots of praise and gentle redirection along the way!

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4) Teach by example.

When I was recently lamenting to my husband that our kids left their shoes and bags all over the kitchen again, he gently told me that I leave my shoes and purse out nearly every day too. Ouch!

He was right though and went on to say that our children will never learn to develop good cleaning habits if the example they’re seeing is to dump everything on a table. The same goes with the rest of the house – do our kids see us leaving the kitchen a mess when we’re done cooking? If so, why would they think they need to clean up their stuff when they’re finished with it?!

We need to remember that regardless of the chores we assign we’re also setting a huge example, so let’s make sure we’re working to set a good example instead of a bad one. (Check out my secret Facebook group if you’d like a little extra accountability in this area.)

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5) Follow through on appropriate consequences.

If steps 1-4 are followed and you’re still having trouble getting your kids to clean, then it’s time to take things a bit further by giving appropriate consequences.

For example, the children who didn’t put their toys away before a bedtime story may need to miss the story so they can finish cleaning. The kid who complains about taking their plate to the sink can earn a week of dinnertime dish duty so they can practice completing the chore with a good attitude.

Children are quick learners and when they see that their actions have real consequences, it’s amazing how efficiently they can work!

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6) Stay consistent and diligent.

Being a parent is tough sometimes, but we need to persevere!

It does often takes more time to train our kids than it takes to clean something alone, but we need to remind ourselves that we’re training our little ones for adulthood and if we want them to succeed later, we need to teach them today.

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Relaxing at home after my children helped clean was a wonderful birthday gift!

What tear-free tips would you add to this list of how to get your kids to help clean?