I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that our living room is a play room. There are no toys in the boys’ (already small) room as I encourage them to think of it for sleeping and because I like to be around the kids while they are playing (havoc making).
So the living room is full of toys, toy boxes, and kid’s decor. It isn’t the best way, but it's the only way we’ve got! In general, the kids’ toys are organized. I try to keep sets together and similar toys together. We also have miscellaneous toy storage bins for the random stuff.
Here’s Why I Bother to Organize The Toys:
When I clean up, I always resort the toys, but I don’t pick up them all up every single day. Some days the clutter and mess just hang out.
Here’s Why I Don’t Clean Up?
Overall, I roll with the punches. I pick up or don’t, but I do it knowing that the kids are just fine, mess or not.
I was never trained in the ways of housekeeping when I was young, and I’m still figuring out how to keep a house clean. My biggest revelation… the rag. I am a rag convert. For years, I was a paper towel girl. I would use them for everything! Napkins, sandwich carriers, spill wiper uppers, window cleaners, and tub scrubbers. I feel pretty stupid now. Who the heck cleans their tub with paper towels? Such a bad idea.
I began using old dish towels about three months ago to help cut back on our spending because paper towels ain’t cheap! It was part of many changes we have made over the past year as we adjust to my being a stay at home mom and as we try to pay off substantial debt.
I started out small and used rags for cleaning up the mess the boys left behind on the table after their meals. At first, I was a little weirded out. I was used to wiping up a mess and throwing it away and not having to deal with it ever again. It seemed kind of dirty to reuse something I cleaned the table with even after it went through the laundry. My negative feelings didn’t last long when I realized how much better my beat up dish towels worked for cleaning our messes! Where paper towel would fall apart, my handy rag proved its worth.
Now I use rags for most of our cleaning. The only time I don’t like to use them is when I’m cleaning the toilet. I stick to wads of paper towels, Lysol wipes, and a toilet brush for that particular job. I also prefer to use a sponge with a scrubber on the bathtub and the kitchen sink.
Along the way, I’ve collected a variety of rags. To my old dish towels, I have added cut up tee shirts, a cut up pillowcase, and some thin terry cloth pot holders that weren’t doing their job properly. When my husband went through his t-shirts to clear space in his closet, I thought I’d hit the jackpot! My favorite are the dish towels though. They are great for scrubbing and they soak up liquid well too. I’ve considered buying some, but so far I’ve made do with about 10 mismatched rags. I have only run out a handful of times, which brought up the same feelings as using the last paper towel… total panic.
The only downside to using rags is that they get stained. The stains don’t bother me much since I’m just going to dirty them up again, but if you think it would bother you, stick to dark colors for the rags and you’ll never know.
At the end of the day, I find my to do list half finished and my house still not as clean as I wanted, but I am tired, so I tuck the list away, watch some Golden Girls or YouTube, and relax.
I know there are domestic goddesses out there that do it all. Their houses sparkle and smell like lavender, lemon, and fresh baked bread. But the rest of us must settle with doing the best we can with our time and energy. And besides, cleaning up after small children feels a lot like Einstein's definition of insanity.
Early in my relationship with my husband, it became apparent that I was not a domestic goddess, and so I did what I always do in times of crisis. I made a list. I wrote out what needed to be done every day and then what needed to be done weekly so that our family could function happily and comfortably.
The list doesn’t have to be rigid. It can be vague or specific, written, typed, or in your head. Whatever works for you. My own lists have changed and continue to change as our family grows more numerous and our children get older. At first, I preferred a specific list, and I kept it on my cell phone. I looked at it everyday. Now, my list is general and I rarely look at it. It is ingrained in the way I go about my day. As long as the list helps you to focus on what matters most, it is doing its job.
After much experimentation, the only recommendation I have is that your list should stay focused on the tasks that need to happen every 1-3 days. The weekly list can be helpful, but, at least for me, a week long view widens my focus too much, and I become overwhelmed.
I put together a list of some questions to help get you thinking about tasks that might take priority.
What room of your home does your family spend the most time?
We spend most of our time in our living room which doubles as a playroom. Keeping this room reasonably clean is one of our top cleaning priorities.
What aspects of that room does your family need clean in order to make use of and enjoy it?
The couch needs to be clear of toys, there cannot be anything breakable or dangerous within reach of the children. The floor needs to be vacuumed.
What do you need to be organized to cook, eat, clean, get to work on time and enjoy your children?
I need to have a clean kitchen or I cannot function. Our kitchen is small. It doesn’t take much clutter to clog my counter top. The dinner table needs to be clean.
How often do you need to do laundry?
For most people, laundry has to happen at least every three days so I include it here. We try to do a load or two every 2-3 days, but laundry is something we struggle to keep up with.
What grosses you out? Does your kitchen floor have to be spotless or you cannot even look at it?
Oddly enough, I’m not sure anything random grosses me out, but I know people have pet peeves to take into consideration.
To see how my answers translate into my priorities, check out this post.
Once you answer these questions, you should be able to make a list of the tasks that are important to you. You can use your list every day when it comes time to figure out what task needs to be completed with the most urgency. You don’t have to do everything on the list every day. If your playroom doesn’t need to be vacuumed, don’t do it!
So what does your list look like?
I type “How to clean a gas stove top” into my Google search bar, and answers abound. I click on a link, read through the comments, and stop, consumed by an irrational jealous rage. “I just wipe off my stove top right away.” “I scrub mine every night before bed, and it never gets dirty.” And I want to punch something. If only I was half the Mrs. Clean that these women are. How do they do it? I’ll never know. Lucky for me, plenty of people out there have found solutions to the stove top issue.
I don’t enjoy cleaning (who does?), and cleaning with kids in the house is like bailing water out of a sinking ship. I can’t keep up. The problem is part toddlers, part motivation, and part energy issues*. So as much as I love having a neat and tidy home, I rarely get to keep it neat and tidy for long.
That’s not to say we live in a hovel. Overall, I keep our home clean, but not always tidy. Our living room is a playroom and my boys are home most of the day, so the toys are everywhere.
I am moderately organized. I know where everything in our house is except maybe some of our electronics and tools because Damian is handles them. I don’t throw the toys into a toy box and call it a day. I keep similar items together and such. The trains are separated from the cars, the stuffed animals are separated from the little plastic figurines, and the books are separated from the puzzles. The puzzle pieces are a jumble in their drawer because one day mommy got sick and tired of putting kid puzzles together.
I call it an organized mess. It is our home, and we love it just the way it is, especially after I shampoo all this (%*#$) carpet.
So, instead of driving myself insane trying to keep everything clean and neat while maintaining a positive attitude and loving my children, I focus on what is most important to me. I stress to me because above all the priorities we have must be personal. Who wants to live by someone else’s standards? Once the most important cleaning jobs are finished, I fit in the rest as best I can. It is still plenty of work, which helps me be thankful that I live in a smallish space.
My Cleaning Priorities:
I’d love to hear how you all do it! How do you prioritize your cleaning? What is most important to you? Please don’t tell me I’m the only one who can’t keep up with it all.
A blog post on how to create cleaning priorities is coming soon!!
*For those interested, I struggle with energy levels, joint pain, and headaches due to lingering symptoms from Lyme Disease which I've had twice.
Welcome to the family!
We are a laid back, fun, family of four living on a dime in 700 square feet. Life might not be perfect, but every moment of every day, it is beautiful.