If you're a regular around here, you already know that I'm not the best housekeeper. However, I have a few philosophies of housekeeping that I've developed in recent years that have been tremendous time (and sanity) savers. I'd like to share them with you, because I'm pretty certain that I'm not the only mother of small children who finds that keeping up with the messes that kids make while also trying to keep up with the kids is impossible.
Someone once said that cleaning your house while your children are around is like trying to brush your teeth while eating an Oreo cookie. So here's to enjoying your Oreo cookies–or something like that.
Whenever I'm feeling overwhelmed by the housekeeping task in front of me, I just remind myself to K.I.S.S. (For me, that stands for "Keep It Simple, Sista'!") I've added every shortcut I can think of to streamline my house chores, and I'm always looking for more. Here are some things that work for me:
1) I have a stash of about two dozen small washcloths that I keep handy for quick cleanups. I use them to wipe everything from messy faces and hands to countertops and tables to mirrors and windows to dirty floors. I do most of this cleanup with straight water. When needed, I'll use a bit of vinegar too. I guess you could also have a system where you had one cloth for "clean" surfaces, and another for floors, but the stash system is just easier for me. I don't have to hang wet cloths somewhere to dry or keep track of which one to use on the counter versus the floor. Since we use cloth diapers, once a cloth has been used on the floor, I just toss it in the diaper pail to be laundered the next time I wash diapers. (If you're interested, the cloths that I use are called Tiny Tush Perfect Wipes. Designed to be used as cloth wet wipes, they are soft enough to use on your little one's faces–or bottoms–but rugged enough to stand up to being used all over your home. It's probably one of the best buys that you can find on small, sturdy washcloths. They're nothing like the flimsy baby washcloths with which you're probably familiar.)
2) Whenever I find myself at floor level cleaning up yet another spill or food accident, I try to remember to glance at the kitchen cabinets and walls and give them a quick wipe-down when needed. It only takes a few extra seconds, but over time it can make a huge difference in the appearance of the kitchen, especially since I'm one of those people who tends to be blind to the gradual accumulation of grime that happens without regular deep cleanings. (And did I mention that I don't have a regular cleaning schedule these days?)
3) We store most of the toys upstairs in the boys' bedroom, but the kids tend to do most of their playing downstairs in our large kitchen/dining area. So I keep a small toy box in that area. It's not a permanent home for any of the toys. Instead, it's a sanity-saver for me. It's much less stressful to get the boys to quickly pick up the toys in the dining area in preparation for a meal or the arrival of guests when all they have to do is toss them into that box. Even the 1-year-old joins in! But if I tell them to take the toys upstairs, someone complains that he can't carry them because they're too heavy (despite the fact that he carried them downstairs without any trouble). Or, once the boys do finally make it upstairs, they start to fight, requiring my intervention, or they get distracted and forget to come back downstairs for the rest of the toys, which also requires my intervention. And I usually don't have the time for such things, as I'm putting the finishing touches on the meal. So I just tell them to put the toys in the box. Later, when I'm less busy, I can supervise the migration of the toys to their permanent homes.
4) Along these lines, I enlist my kids to do as much around the house as they are able. I'll write more about this in a future post.
5) I keep spray bottles of vinegar in both bathrooms and in the kitchen for quick, hassle-free disinfection. Whenever I find myself in the bathroom without being too distracted by other things (this only happens once every day or so), I check the toilet seat, toilet bowl rim, wall beside the toilet, and floor around the toilet for telltale signs that my boys need to work on their aim. When I find them–which I usually do–all I have to do is grab the bottle and spritz away. A quick wipe with a wad of toilet paper, and the bathroom is presentable again. Before, when I only had one spray bottle of vinegar in the apartment, I found that I was unlikely to use it unless the mess occurred in the same room where it was stored. I'd put off cleaning in favor of dealing with a more pressing issue, like the 3-year-old screaming because his older brother had him pinned to the floor, or the potty-training 1-year-old following me around saying, "Poop! Poop! Poop!" or the beans threatening to boil over on the stove. But when everything I need is within arm's reach, I really have no excuse, and I tend to deal with the mess at hand (quickly) before running off to deal with the other messes vying for my attention.
6) I keep a scrub brush in each bathroom. The principle is the same. If all I have to do is reach into the cupboard to grab a scrub brush, I can clean toothpaste smears out of the sink while I'm brushing my own teeth. And before I head to bed, I can scrub away the dirty footprints that the kids left in the tub. It takes very little effort and almost no extra time, but it keeps the bathroom from looking embarrassing. I also keep some powdered cleanser in the bathroom where we have the tub, but I find that I rarely need it if I consistently use the scrub brush with just a bit of water. I think that residual soap scum in the tub mixes with the water to help with the cleaning process.
7) I recently started using cubes of solid toilet cleaner that you drop in the toilet tank. (You know, the kind that gradually dissolve and turn your toilet water blue with every flush.) I did this so that my toilets will smell fresh without me having to take the time to squirt toilet cleaner in them. Now all I have to do is flush and swish the toilet brush around a few times. It's so simple that I can do it at least once a day in each toilet. (But perplexingly, you'll often still detect a whiff of stale urine in my bathrooms. I'm not sure, but I think it has something to do with how little boys pee. Can any other moms of multiple boys back me up on this?)
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So now you know all my secrets. If you have any of your own to share, please help a sista' out and put them in the comments section below–I'm all ears! As I mentioned, I'm always on the lookout for more housekeeping shortcuts!
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