If you're a mom, then you've probably had this fantasy more than once in your motherhood: a clean house, preferably not cleaned by you and in its entirety.
I admit I'm not naturally a cleaner. I enjoy cleanliness, but I don't enjoy cleaning. I'm not a neat freak, but I married one and that means it took many years and several discussions with my very organized husband about my bad habit of leaving my shoes all about the house.
When I approached him with the idea of minimalism a couple of years ago, he was equally thrilled and skeptical. I rattled off how we would declutter and minimize; simplify and prioritize; create space and live intentionally. I could read the conflicted emotions of organizational bliss and confusion on his face.
What's happening here and who is this woman?
He was right. Something had shifted and I caught on to the fact that clutter, disorganization, and never ending house work was not working for me. I needed a change and minimalism offered a new way to think of housecleaning.
Turns out, minimalism is much more than that. It's taken over our family's vision, purpose and goals. It's revitalized our home, given us more time and space with our kids, and it's improved our marriage and parenthood.
In short, it's simplified everything.
The reality for many overwhelmed moms is that the housework never ends. Just when we get the kitchen and living areas cleaned there's an accident in the bathroom. As we get the bathroom back into shape there is juice spilled on the couch and sticky fingerprints on the refrigerator.
Sweeping and mopping is futile with little feet going in and out the back door and dishes multiply like wet Gremlins. Is it any wonder our fantasies are of sparkling countertops and empty laundry baskets?
Simplifying housecleaning is the closest we can get to realize those fantasies while our littles are busy being little.
If you're overwhelmed with housecleaning, whether you're raising kids like me, or unnaturally inclined to it, also like me, I hope these six ways to simplify housecleaning will help you uncover your best self.
Create a chore schedule
To be honest, I've created more housecleaning schedules than I can count. They all hung on the wall or taped to the inside of a kitchen cupboard for months unnoticed. And because I generally have an aversion to schedules and routines, I blamed the schedule.
Here's the truth: the schedule didn't work because I didn't want to work the schedule (or step into a personal growth area).
In order to get my life in order I knew that I needed to do as much work internally as I did in my home. That's when I decided to let my life create my chore schedule for me. And by the way, there are thousands of chore schedules on Pinterest, if those work for you, go for it! I needed to do this on my own if it was going to work for my stubborn spirit.
Instead of sitting down with paper and pen to list the tasks and assign days, I committed to spend one week noticing when I typically got certain chores done. I knew that I was able to complete simple chores throughout the week, so I paid attention to when those got done and how they flowed with my daily routine. The bigger, more daunting tasks that aren't done nearly enough, would be plugged in later.
The following week I sat down and made a schedule - a real life workable schedule.
It often feels that there is not enough time in the world to get the housework done. It's hard enough to get alone time in the bathroom, let alone time for soul-care, going out with friends, and exercise. Housework? It's much farther down the list.
That's where the useful tool of time blocking comes in. Time blocking is just what it sounds like: creating blocks of time in your schedule, preferably recurring, to perform focused and specific tasks.
When we create space in our day to get very specific tasks done, knowing there is a start and finish, we tend to be more productive and have a great sense of accomplishment than if we arbitrarily attempt to mop the floors while the kids are outside jumping in mud puddles.
Rotate larger jobs
This is a trick I picked up from my mother-in-law. It's not exactly revolutionary, however my housecleaning challenged mind would stare at the inside of my refrigerator or the grime on the bathroom tiles completely overwhelmed at how to get all of it done; this changed that.
Just like most things in life, you start by doing one thing at a time.
Pick one big project per month to start. Time block your chore schedule to clean out the fridge, or clean the oven, or de-grime the bathtub and get it done.
Pick something else the next month. Pick two or three large projects to rotate every few months and avoid the analysis paralysis of having too much on your plate.
Chances are you aren't the only one in your house making a mess. Include the family. Every one of appropriate age can help in some way toward maintaining a clutter-free and clean home. Just because you are the mom, stay at home or working, doesn't mean you must carry the burden of housecleaning.
Children as young as two can help pick up their toys. My five and three year olds each have certain household chores that are age appropriate and teach them the value of orderliness and responsibility. Don't let your kids of any age learn that if they don't do it, Mom will. That's not OK.
Now, even as I write this I hear myself grumbling, "It's just easier to do myself than fight with them to pick up even one dirty sock!" I know the temptation to get things done quickly and 'right', but this is a sneaky way of undermining your responsibility as a parent or spouse. It might take an extra dose of patience, but delegating chores is a best practice for an intentional family life.
Clean as you go
The clean as you go principle is much easier to maintain after decluttering. With the clutter and excess out of the way, a quick wipe of a counter is no big deal. Washing the dishes immediately after a meal becomes a welcome habit because of less dishes to wash and the pleasure of having an empty sink all day is simply the best (for me anyway!)
Not all chores are as on-the-go friendly as some, but I suggest taking advantage of the ones that are. Kitchen counters and dishes are generally quick and easy to do on the go. Bathroom counters can also be fairly simple to wipe down after each use if they aren't covered in bottles and accessories.
The point is to not let the small tasks build into large tasks. Decluttering your home once and for all will give you space and clarity to make small decisions like hand washing each dish on the spot an inviting task, rather than one to avoid.
Let it go
Let me clarify: let go of perfection and expectation. Let go of comparison and self-rejection. If you're raising small kids your house will probably never be completely clean all at the same time. That's a fantasy for you to enjoy while sipping a cocktail with a pretty umbrella.
Your motherhood rides on a lot more than your ability to clean the toilet on a regular basis. Your sanity as a woman giving herself endlessly for tiny humans is more valuable than a vacuumed floor. If you can't get to it, let it go.
If you don't have littles at home, it's OK to not have your home in perfect order all the time. Life happens and sometimes we need to have a lot more grace with ourselves. A perfect Pinterest home is great for Pinterest, but it's not a prerequisite for living your life with joy.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Lisa Avellan's website. It has been republished here with permission.