cleaning tips for real life

 Victoria asks:

Do you have any tips for cleaning up and maintaining a house in three hours or less per day? I’m sure you have a few readers whose only free time during the day (or in the evenings, after work) is while the kids are asleep, either during naps or after bedtime. I’m slowly reclaiming my home in the 3 hour naps Charlotte takes every day, but any tips for streamlining the process would be greatly appreciated.


I have good news!  You can totally keep a clean and tidy house with short periods of time to clean.  

The main thing I do that saves time and allows me to get small tasks done fast is keeping the proper supplies on hand and in appropriate places.  Each of my bathrooms are stocked with what I need to clean.  Windex, Lysol 4 in1 spray,  Tilex soap scum remover, a sponge, a roll of paper towels,  toilet bowl cleaner & brush and a magic eraser.   Keeping the stuff you need inthe room you need it  makes a big difference to me.    Rather than passing thru the room and noticing the mirror is dirty I stop and clean it on my way.  With the cleaner in the room I don’t take 3 steps out of the bathroom and wonder WTH was I doing, get distracted by stepping on a toy car and forget all about the mirror.    Same thing with a dirty shower.  I notice that its looking dingy when I am in it.  As soon as I get out I spray the soap scum remover and by the time I’ve blow my hair out it’s done it’s job.  Just a quick once over with the sponge and a rinse and the tub is clean.   I don’t mess around with a bucket to clean bathroom floors either.  I mix my floor cleaner and water in a squirt bottle, spray the floor, mop over it, rinse the mop, and move on.  So stock your rooms and keep it simple.  Clean what is dirty when it’s dirty, only clean the whole room when you really have the time for it.

I also pick up during the day.  When Nate goes down for his nap I put all of his toys away so I can see what needs cleaning.  If I leave them out I don’t notice the cheerios ground into the carpet.   Again with supplies on hand.  I have stuff in the family room that it requires as well as the vacuum right around the corner.  Everything is close so it goes really fast.  I can run the vacuum, dust and pick up in 10 minutes tops.  I also take nap time to clean the kitchen and sweep/mop.  Run or unload the dishes, wipe down the counters and table top.  

A good way to figure out how to squeeze things in is take a list of what you think needs doing frequently and what you can do weekly or monthly.    Then you can figure out where it fits into your day.    Cleaning doesn’t have to be an event, it can be just a quick wipe here and a rinse there.    I rarely spend more than 30 minutes at a time because I do it all throughout the day.  Kitchen sink looks dingy, I squirt some soft scrub in it when we eat a meal, rinse it when I rinse the dishes after the meal.    toilets need cleaning, just squirt in some cleaner and leave it.  Next time you use the bathroom run the brush over it and it’s done.   It all becomes second nature when you do it the second you notice it.  Granted, this can be a challenge with a 18 month old- but Nate loves to watch that cleaner squirt.  I can give him the swiffer duster and he “helps” me dust, or hell, a spatula and he’s good for at least 10 minutes roaming around seeing where it fits into and how many smack noises he can make with it.  You may be able to get little things done even when she is awake.

To get started I would do these things.  Once Charlotte goes down start in the kitchen, you probably have breakfast and lunch to pick up after.  Do a little more than just the dishes.  Wipe the baby fingerprints off the front of your oven and dishwasher, wipe down the counters, sweep the floor and run a quick mop over it.   Then go to the living room, pick up her toys.  Dust the tables & TV screen, run the vacuum if she can sleep thru it and tidy up.   If you feel like doing more go make your bed and tidy up.  (I do this before I get Nate up in the morning.  make the bed, open the binds and wipe down the master bath counters and tidy up.)   This doesn’t all have to be done everyday.   The mopping can be sporadic, the TV wont need dusting daily (unless those little fingers can reach it).     On the days you have a little less to do you can clean the fridge out and run some laundry (I fold and put away at night while watching TV- after the boy is down.)  You just do what you can, when you can.  But doing little things all the time really keeps the house mostly clean, most of the time.

Truly what keeps my house clean is I don’t let stuff pile up.  I deal with today’s mail today,  I keep my own things put away as well as Nate’s and sometimes Mikes.  When I don’t have things cluttering up I can see that the table is dusty.   Also, I’m addicted to how great my house looks when its clean and smells fresh. 

So, do the big stuff when she goes down but if you try and incorporate the little stuff throughout the day you wont even notice that your cleaning.  If you can get the little things out of the way you wont spend much time cleaning an entire room all at once. And, you’ll probably be shocked at how you really can keep up with it all. 



4 thoughts on “cleaning tips for real life

  1. I also second the idea of having the needed supplies in the needed room. We have 3 full baths that I keep one of everything in, just to make it easier! Then, as Christina said, you can clean as you notice it is dirty.

    I try to do the prep dinner dishes as I am making dinner then when we are done eating 99% of what is left goes right into the dishwasher then just wipe the counters down and its all done!

  2. Thanks so much! 100% of this is useful and helpful. The one thing that slows me down most is dishes–we don’t have a dishwasher and I HATE doing dishes. And you’re definitely right about not letting things pile up–it’s one of our biggest mistakes.
    Thanks for the tips and I look forward to implementing them.
    Here’s another question: I have to paint my bathroom, since (thanks to the poor construction of my home!) I have no fan in their to circulate the air post-shower and I’m beginning to notice the beginnings of mold. Any tips for getting rid of mold prior to painting? And any good color ideas for a (very) small bathroom?

  3. Vic- I would go to your local home store and ask about how to handle the mold. I’m sure that they sell something that will kill it I just don’t know what that is. If that bathroom doesnt have a window I’d also look into installing a fan in there. A little mold may not seem like a big deal but I’m guessing it’s not a good thing to live with. Esp. with the little ones baby lungs. Again, get some advice from someone that knows better than I do.

    In terms of color I say do whatever you want!! A bathroom has a lot of “dead” space that you dont paint, the shower wall, mirror, etc. Go as bold or pale as you like. I’m personally digging gray walls with all white accessories, if that’s too much you can do a pale green with white. I love a bath that looks really crisp and clean.
    Good luck with the dirty work in there- it’s never fun to tackle that kind of stuff.

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