How to Keep Your House Clean and Your Sanity Intact

A friend stopped over the other day, and as she walked in she said “how is your house always clean?”  First, let me start by saying my house isn’t always clean, and I don’t spend hours cleaning it, but my family and I do follow some “rules” about keeping house.  These are the routines I follow to keep my house more or less clean and my sanity more or less intact.

1.       Most importantly: Establish “Clear Zones,” aka “no drop zones.” In my house, the clear zones are the living room and the dining room.  This is where we hang out, and this is the first part of the house everyone sees; so no books, bags, shoes, clothes, dishes, etc. are left lying around in these two rooms. So when we walk in to the house it looks clean; Non-negotiable.

2.       Clean as you go. I remember once, when my son was little, I sent him in to start cleaning up the toys in his room. I went in a bit later and he was standing in the middle of the room, and hadn’t done a thing. I asked him why he hadn’t started, and he looked at me and tearfully exclaimed “The mess is so big I don’t know where to start!” Don’t leave it for later. Small cleanups are easier than giant ones.

3.       Fold and hang clothes as you are pulling them out of the dryer and put them up. You’ll save time later because they won’t need as much ironing, and you won’t have a huge pile of laundry looming over you that needs to be taken care of.  Laundry everywhere makes me feel like my house is a disaster, so I put it away.

4.       A place for everything, and everything in its place.  This not only helps keep things tidy, it makes life simpler. Coats in the coat closet, keys on the key hook.  Then you know where things are when you go looking for them, and there’s not clutter everywhere.

5.       Pare down your cleaning products. Find something that works great on almost everything, and you’ll save time and money. I use a multipurpose natural citrus cleaner or Barkeeper’s Friend for almost everything.  So my cleaning bucket has 2 cleaning products and cleaning towels, and that’ it. So no multiple trips for different cleaning products when I’m cleaning, and no spending a fortune on a bunch of chemicals.

6.       Enlist your kids. They need to learn this stuff, and giving everyone a few chores helps spread the fun. I never tied chores to money; my kids do chores because they live in the house and help mess it up, so it makes perfect sense that they help clean it.  And start them young. My boys learned to do their own laundry as a matter of necessity when I started nursing school, at ages 7 and 5. If they can work a video game controller, they can push the buttons on the washing machine, and put a shirt on a hanger. Sure, we wound up with a load or two of pink socks, but oh, well.

7.       Pick your battles. While it’s important to teach the kids HOW to clean, I think it’s also important that they have some control over their own space.  My kids must clean their rooms to the floor and the walls once a week including vacuuming, dusting, etc, and all other cleaning is optional. If their room is cluttered, they close the door, and I don’t nag about their rooms. Everyone’s happy.

By following these routines, we have a level of clean that everyone can live with. So there ya go, why my house is (mostly) clean, most of the time!