My approach to cleaning is no different with seven kids than it is when I had two or three. It just means there’s more to tackle (double the laundry, dishes, food to prepare, etc.), but the job is still ultimately the same – clean the house.
To be completely honest, my house will never 100% tidy (not the way I’d like it, anyway). There’s always going to be crumbs of cereal everywhere because of toddlers who wander and eat. No matter how much I sweep, I’m still going to have those God-forsaken poky things under my foot that bother me like the Princess and the Pea. And, no matter how many times I reprimand the boys about their aim, they’re still going to whizz on the freakin’ floor. (Let’s not forget about the laundry, and my children’s I.O.D. illness.) But that’s sort-of what you’ve got to expect when you’re a parent (let alone with a family this large), that kids will be kids. Also, as a parent, you have to give up the expectation of having everything perfect.
IT WON’T EVER BE PERFECT. Never ever never.
I live by the parental care-taking motto, “I do what I can, when I can” and I stick by it. Like glue.
I can’t help it if the baby is particularly fussy and the floor can’t get mopped. I can’t help it if I get a call from the school, because my son is sick, and I need to go rescue him. I can’t help it if the kids have soccer and I can’t be in two places at once. Life happens, and it happens a lot messier, a lot more unexpectedly when you have children at home.
This whole parenting business is quite unpredictable. I know you fellow parents out there are nodding your head in agreement right now, fists in the air; we’re not guaranteed time to crap in peace to ourselves, let alone a shower or our schedule going off without a hitch everyday. We honestly and truly can ONLY do what we can, when we can, and that’s all we can do. So long as it’s 100% effort when it’s game time, what more can anyone ask for?
Let’s make the best of that “can do” time, okay? Here’s what I do to attempt wrangle it all:
FIFTEEN MINUTES IS THE MAGIC NUMBER
I set a timer and race myself for fifteen minutes at a time. I call it the “Fifteen Minute Challenge.” Sometimes, fifteen minutes is all the baby gives me many times throughout the day. And in those fifteen minutes, I’m a mad-woman on a mission to spiffy and spruce up what I can. The thing that works so well about this is, your attention is 100% on the task at hand, and, if you’re a competitive person like I am, you will want to do your best, do as much as you can, and beat how much you did the last time. Another cool thing about this challenge? You can get others in on the action. Message a friend on Facebook or Twitter you’re about to do it. Heck, message ME, I’ll join you anytime!
With a family as big as we have, we can’t skip laundry any day, or this is what happens:
Can you tell why we call it Mount Washmore?
Laundry doing in my house makes me want to cry, sometimes, because it’s CONSTANT. NEVERENDING. Just as I find the bottom of the basket, another kid comes from out of nowhere to rain on my laundry parade and shower me with more clothes to wash. DRIVES.ME.NUTSO. In order to combat the crazy amounts of laundry, I make sure to do at least a load a day, and I have it my laundry organized by color, kindergarten-style.
EVERYDAY I’M SHUFFLIN’.. DISHES THAT IS
I do my best to stay on top of the dishes, but there are days that it’s impossible to have a clean sink until they start making bigger dishwashers for bigger families. We do dishes at least twice a day, rarely less, unless the toddlers and I eat out for lunch, or don’t use plates. And if dishes aren’t done in the morning, we’ll be out of forks by that night. No matter what, dishes have to be done.
My husband has a very different dishwashing style than I do. Me? I like to have the dishwasher loaded as we go, and I soak the dishes that need soaking so I don’t have to scrub. Doing it this way keeps the sink as uncluttered as possible. Hubs likes to scrub each dish, fork, and cup before he puts it into the dishwasher, and doesn’t cram nearly as much as I do into it, as I do. I take pride in puzzle-piecing all the stuff in there, as much as I can, to get it done in one shot. I also hate scrubbing, I’d much rather soak and wipe/rinse than scrub. (That’s what a dishwasher is supposed to do!)
And on days we have to clean out the leftovers? Our sink is sca-ry.
I don’t like it when it looks like this. Ew.
A LITTLE EVERYDAY GOES A LONG WAY
Growing up, my mom used to do the “big” cleaning on Saturdays. Saturdays were “Mom’s Cleaning Day” aka Don’t Get In Her Way, Or Else. We’d have to help, of course, but she was a mom on a mission, and a stressed one at that. As much as we looked forward to the weekends, we did not like Saturdays much.
For me, I don’t want to spend an entire day off on the weekend cleaning. I’d much rather be spending that time enjoying my family while on the soccer fields, watching football, or doing something fun with my family. In order to accomplish that, we would have to be sure to do the housecleaning throughout the week, broken up daily. I implement a little bit of the FlyLady’s tactics here, using her Control Journal to break things up like that.
The kids also have daily and weekly chores they have to accomplish. Note, I didn’t say older kids, I said KIDS, as in, all of them, except Baby V, obviously. (I will write about this separately, saving it for another “How Do You Do It” post in the near future.) Each of them do at least one thing to help me daily, and that helps lighten the load a lot, so that I can get more stuff done.
This might sound crazy, but, when the little ones help, it’s actually a bonding experience. My five-year-old LOVES to spray things down and wipe them, so I let her clean the windows, the doors (where fingerprints are), and the oven door. I remember liking making the bathroom tile and mirrors shine when I was a little girl, so it works for us.
My three-year-old, Baby Dude, loves to be a helper, too. He likes helping me get the laundry in and out of the washer and dryer, helps me pass out plates at dinner. Getting the kids involved in housework helps everyone, y’know? Particularly if you have them contributing by doing something they LIKE to do.
For instance, my newly-eight-year-old loves to organize the shoes in the shoe closet. He’s not always doing it the right way, though..
..but he loves doing it. But he’s learned his lesson. (So have we. KEEP PENS AWAY FROM THE LITTLE ONES. Ahem.)
We sweep and mop daily, vacuum the living room a few times a week. Those are musts.
WHAT TOOLS WE USE
We love microfiber cloths. We picked up a big bag of fifty once in the car care section of Walmart or Target. We use them religiously. Makes cleaning glass and shiny surfaces quick and easy, and it does great to scrub countertops and tables.
I also use a microfiber mop for the laminate floor, makes it easier to get the foot and fingerprints up. Sometimes I use a mop, sometimes I spray and “skate” across the floor with a microfiber cloth on each foot. Great leg and cardio workout while cleaning!
We steam clean the tile in the entry, bathrooms and kitchen using a steam mop. Work smarter, not harder my husband always says, and this makes mopping super easy on tile. (Still investigating whether it’s safe for our laminate.)
We use green cleaners, particularly concentrated cleaners that can be used in many ways, like carpet cleaning, car washing, windows and counters, spot removing, etc.
I dust using a couple Swiffer dusters. My toddlers love to help me, so I have more than one. I’m quite allergic to dust, so I need something that’s easy to use that traps dust and doesn’t spread it everywhere, or else I’ll get into a sneezing fit. These work well for us, fit into tight spaces well, and can be used more than once, saving money.
How do you handle your housework with kids? Share with me your routines and favorite cleaning tools! I’m always looking to improve upon what I do and how we do it, especially with so many kids.
Do you have a question for us? We’ll answer it on an upcoming post!