I think you’ll find that my post today sounds a lot like Emily’s. In a house with lots of kids, cleaning is as cleaning does. I use the same sorts of management systems Emily does, and I also choose to let a lot of things go, like Emily does.
I’ll start with what we don’t do: spring cleaning. Ever. My goal in house-cleaning is to keep it livable, without panicking about dust underneath the picture frames. When I only had a couple children, I had a rigorous cleaning schedule that included doing spring cleaning items every 1-3 months; so in theory, the house was spring-cleaned four times a year.
I have completely given up this kind of thorough cleaning. If I happen to walk by a wall and see grubby fingerprints on it, I’ll grab a Clorox wipe and spend five minutes wiping the wall down. Then I walk away. I feel no obligation to clean any other wall, and no obligation to dust the floorboards or the window blinds.
What I do concentrate on in house cleaning is making the house livable. Clutter is a big deal for me. I’ve found that if the house is de-cluttered, my stress level is lower, and the kids tend to focus on things better. So most of our house-cleaning efforts are concentrated on clutter-control and necessities, like vaccuming and cleaning bathrooms.
We have some cleaning tasks that happen every day. When my kids get up, they each have a list of chores that they are expected to do before breakfast (it doesn’t always happen, mind you): getting dressed, making their bed, folding their jammies neatly on the pillow, doing clutter control in their room, and one other chore that varies by child. My oldest takes out the bathroom trash. My second oldest helps her little sister get dressed and make her bed. My third puts a clean bag in the trash can.
After meals, we clean the kitchen. I learned several years ago that cleaning up the kitchen immediately after meals makes it much easier. If the dishwasher is full, my three big kids empty it. They bring in their plates, and I load them and wash up dishes quickly. We swipe the countertops and kitchen table. Then the kitchen is ready for the next meal, and the table is ready for whatever we’d like to do.
We also do clutter ‘blitzes.’ I set the timer for five minutes, and all of us clean.After five minutes, the living room, which was totally stressing me out, looks like this:We do several of these a day, sometimes in the same room, sometimes in different rooms. My son was not here today, but with his help, we can usually tackle two rooms in our five minutes. When the timer goes off, the kids stop, though I might finish putting away last books or folding a last blanket. Frequently, after this clutter sweep, one of us will vacuum. We vacuum the living room rug and the dining room rug, which gets gross pretty quickly. We probably vacuum every other day.
Those are the items that happen every day. Otherwise, cleaning happens as it’s needed. I probably clean bathrooms about every two weeks. We mop the kitchen floor about every two weeks. (BTW–we have brown tiles in our kitchen and bathroom, and they NEVER look dirty. I’ll be keeping that in mind for all future house purchases.) I never dust. I hate it, and don’t usually notice that things are dusty for about six months.
To finish up, I’ll add that for those of you with young children, it does get easier. While my kids can make the house pretty messy, they are also huge helpers in cleaning it up. I never clean alone anymore. With every household cleaning task, there are jobs that each of the kids can help with. When we mop the kitchen floor, my 6 year old takes all the chairs out of the room. I’ll sweep, then my 10 year old will mop. Meanwhile, my 8 year old is swiffer-ing the rest of the hardwood floors, and using the dustpan to clean the stairs. My 6 and 4 year olds grab dusting cloths (we use old Bounce sheets for this), and dust whatever they can reach. To finish up, I’ll vacuum all the rugs while the kids move furniture around for me. We can knock this out in 20 minutes. It’s beautiful.
Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much help comes by the strength of the ox. Proverbs 14:4