How to Keep the House Clean with Small Kids (Babies, Toddlers & Preschoolers)

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Do you struggle to keep the house clean with small kids? It probably feels impossible to maintain a tidy home when little ones are always making messes, but there is a way! Here are the strategies I use to keep my house clean in spite of my kiddos.

I clean my entire house every week. I mop the floors, I dust, I vacuum, the whole deal.

GET KIDS TO LISTEN AND HELP YOU MORE

Learn the most effective phrase to get kids to listen so that power struggles and meltdowns don’t leave you miserable. Become a happier mom while you raise more helpful kids who cooperate!

Sometimes I think that makes me crazy. But the truth is, I do it because it keeps me sane. When my space is a disaster, I get stressed out. And it’s not just me: research has shown that women generally tend to be more stressed out by mess! 

The problem with cleaning every week isn’t so much the cleaning, though.

It’s the kids. 

Do you feel like you can't keep your home clean because little ones make it impossible? There is a way! But it takes some strategy. Here are the strategies I use to keep my house clean in spite of my kiddos.

It took me a long time to figure out how to navigate cleaning my home amidst the hurricane that is my preschooler and her accomplice, my toddler. Sometimes you want to clean the house and have it just STAY clean for a little bit, you know? But that can be a lot to ask with kids in the mix.

If the secret to a perpetually spotless home with kids is what you came here to find, I’ll tell you the secret:

There is no secret.

It’s not possible. 

But that doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to living in filth. 

With a little planning and some practice, you CAN maintain a level of cleanliness in your home, even while caring for young children–and even when your little Hanzel and Gretel leave a trail of toys behind them wherever they go. Here’s how you do it:

1) Lay the foundation: Downsize

This can be a big project, but organizing and downsizing your belongings makes cleaning so much easier it’s insane. I discuss how I did this for my family in more detail in my Organized Mom Toolbox , but the short version is this:

Making sure that every item in your home has a specific “home” of its own allows you to clean on autopilot. Everything goes where it lives and everything lives in an easily accessible location. Creating an organized home you love can be a big process for some people, which is why I devoted an entire guide to it. But it’s a process that pays off by saving you loads of time and headache later. 

2) Create “Yes” spaces

These are spaces in your home where you don’t have to tell your kids no–at least not all that often. Most of our home is a “yes” space right now. There is no furniture with sharp edges or coffee tables made of glass. The outlets are covered. Bookshelves and heavy furniture are anchored and there is nothing interesting on them worth climbing for. Things I don’t want the kids getting into are behind closed doors with child-proof locks around the handles. 

Now I will clarify that we live in a one-story home with a fairly open floor plan, so I can keep an eye on my girls pretty easily from almost anywhere in the house. But having basically the entire place be a “yes” space means I can wander about the house cleaning without needing to watch my kids like a hawk. This allows me to be more productive without compromising my kids’ safety. 

3) Create a kid zone 

Since my girls favorite toys are whatever the ones I just put away happen to be, I’ve stopped bothering cleaning up certain sections of the house at certain times. The living room is one such section. I let this space be the Kid Zone. I don’t care what happens in this room. 

My kid wants to take inventory of every toy she owns? Go for it. Just keep it in the living room. If you can block off an area and make it a “yes” space, this is ideal for maximizing productivity as you clean your home. 

The kid zone is cleaned once a day every night before bed as part of our bedtime ritual. That way my daughters get some practice picking up after themselves, and when everyone is asleep, I can sit down in a mess-free living room and actually relax. 

Let kids keep their toy messes in a designated area. This helps keep the house clean with small kids.

4) Utilize the high chair & baby carriers

Baby carriers are a MUST if you find yourself a month or two postpartum wondering how you will ever do anything around the house again with a baby who will not be put down.

Look for a carrier that is ergonomic for you and baby, and consider seeing if your area has a local babywearing group meeting you could attend. There you can often try on a carrier to see how it fits you and baby before you decide which will work best for you. There is no one “best” carrier, but some are definitely better than others (the baby bjorn, for example, is a notoriously uncomfortable carrier and not ergonomic for baby). 

Once my youngest was big enough to sit up by herself, the Antilop high chair from Ikea became my favorite place to put her while I did the dishes or cleaned the bathroom. In the high chair she wasn’t dangling by her crotch, she could play with toys on her tray, and she was higher up at my level, so she could see what I was doing, which she liked. As she got a little older it was also an easy way to keep her from stepping in my mop water or pile of debris as I cleaned the floor. At just $22 the lightweight Antilop high chair is a cheap place to sit baby down while you get some cleaning done (we don’t use exersaucers or walkers for developmental reasons). 

5) Get them to help 

And by “help” I mean leave you alone because they are busy accomplishing a task you have told them is critical to the success of your cleaning endeavor. For my daughter, this is dusting (which she can actually do because we don’t have knick knacks to knock over or drop) and “sweeping” (which she gets to do with her child-size broom after I have already cleaned the floors). It keeps her occupied, and it gives me a bit more time to do other things I need to get done.

Let your children help--or at least think they're helping! Just one strategy to keep the house clean with small kids.

6) Establish time blocks

In your daily routine, there will be certain times more conducive to cleaning than others. I like to work out and homeschool my oldest first thing in the morning, and I know that after I do these things both of my girls are happy to play for a stretch of time before they’re ready to move on to snack time, lunch, a nap, etc. Take a look at your current routine and figure out where your time blocks are, and use some of those for accomplishing housework. 

What this means is you will probably need to create a cleaning schedule for the week that divides your chores up over the course of several days. If you’re like me and this frustrates you because you feel like the house is just sort of half clean all the time, take comfort in the fact that a home that is half-clean all the time is still so much better than one that is never clean! 

Personally, I like to have the housework for the week “finished” by Friday evening, so that if my husband (who regularly has to work 70 and 80+ hour weeks) actually has some free time on the weekend to spend with us, neither of us needs to spend any of that time feeling like we should probably be folding laundry or something. 

7) Prioritize around neediness

There are certain time blocks that are easier to accomplish tasks than others. I have an awesomely long time block from 12-3pm, right after lunch and before I have to get started on diiner. Problem is, my kids are suuuuper needy during this time. My oldest doesn’t nap anymore and asks for a snack 7000 times. My youngest fights her nap and needs me to help her fall back asleep sometimes (we don’t sleep train). 

This block of time is better for tasks that can be easily interrupted and are pretty quiet. Think folding laundry, not vacuuming or doing dishes. 

Now, the hardest part: Developing your own cleaning routine, one you’ll actually stick to. The good news is, you can steal mine!

I highly recommend cleaning every week if you can, because the amount of time you spend needing to clean is less overall if you can keep certain things maintained. It also makes cleaning a less overwhelming task. 

You got this mama.

Happy cleaning! 

GET KIDS TO LISTEN AND HELP YOU MORE

Learn the most effective phrase to get kids to listen so that power struggles and meltdowns don’t leave you miserable. Become a happier mom while you raise more helpful kids who cooperate!

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out our digital library of helpful tools and resources that help you organize your life, connect with your kids, focus on your well-being, and love being at home.

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