How to Manage CLEANING the House – “How Do You Do It?” Series

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I’ve joined a few of my blogging friends who also have big families in a new series called “How Do You Do It?” – exploring how moms of big families handle things like cleaning, homework, dinner time, car pooling, discipline….you name it! In fact, if you have a “How Do You Do It?” question for us, we’d love for you to ask and we’ll each answer with a post on the topic.

Meet the moms of many:

Me (Lolli) from Better in Bulk
Lisa from Crazy Adventures in Parenting
Christine from From Dates to Diapers
Kadi from Our Seven Seeds
Kate from The Guavalicious Life

How to manage CLEANING the house

Today, we’re talking about CLEANING – something I am not overly fond of. Don’t get me wrong…I love a clean, orderly house. I actually don’t mind the process of cleaning. My problem with cleaning stems from the fact that I could clean and clean all day long and never know it by the end of the day. Kids make messes (and, frankly, so do husbands) and the more people you try to fit in a small space, the more mess there will inevitably be to build up.

We go through so many dishes every day that by the time a load has been washed and put away, there is a dishwasher-full of dirty dishes waiting PLUS a handful of pots and pans that never seem to make it in the dishwasher because plates, cups, and silverware always take priority.

Two hours spent cleaning can be destroyed in seconds when the kids come home.

The washer and dryer are running constantly.

When I was in the middle of the toddler and baby years, surrounded by baby toys and diapers, I dreamed of the day when I had the house to myself. It was hard to imagine what I would do with all of my time if I didn’t have 5 kids underfoot all day long. The possibilities, according to my imagination, were endless. I envisioned staying on top of the cleaning – my house would NEVER be messy! I imagined that I would prepare the dinners ahead of time so that the pre-dinner hour would be smooth and pleasant. I would read more books, catch up on all of my scrapbooks, and take on a few more hobbies.

Now that my kids are all school-age and I have a few hours each day with a quiet and empty house, I’ve found that my dream scenario is very far from my reality. Granted, now that the kids are in school, I’ve taken the opportunity to work at home, so my time when they are gone is spent on the computer instead of behind a vacuum cleaner. Now, I feel like I have less time than ever to keep my house clean.

The secret to having a clean house

Ok, the big secret is that my house is rarely is EVER truly clean. However, the #1 key ingredient to staying on top of the house cleaning with a big family is simple: teach the kids how to help with the chores from an early age, even if that means walking beside them step by step until they perfect the task.

Today, all 5 of my kids know how to load and unload the dishes. The older kids know how to wash and dry all of the laundry, and everyone helps in sorting the mountains of clothes and towels. They each know how to cook meals (they start cooking as early as 4, with supervision). I’ve even taught them the secrets to a clean bathroom, and the three older kids are each assigned to one of our 3 bathrooms to keep tabs on it’s status throughout the week.

Not only do we split the chores up amongst each of the family members, but we have certain areas or tasks that are “assigned” to individual family members. Reese, my 9 year old, for instance, is in charge of the family room. Since each family member spends a good amount of time in the family room each day, Reese is not responsible for cleaning up everyone else’s messes, but she does take the reigns in making sure that the owners of certain objects that are left out find their way back “home.”

In addition to this basic principle of shared tasks, here are a few more tips that help us a lot:

  1. Messes happen. Don’t be discouraged when the house is a mess after a day of work and play. Kids play with toys, dishes will always need to be washed, and everyone dirties clothes.
  2. Clean consistently. Rather than spending huge chunks of time cleaning, I have found that I prefer cleaning as I go, little by little. Of course, there will always be tasks that require a larger time commitment, but the clean-as-you-go method works well for managing clutter.
  3. Everything needs a “place.” One thing I cannot stress enough is that fact that it is impossible to clean if everything that you own does not have a place to “live.” Whether it’s a spot in a closet, a section on the shelf, or a box in the basement, everything needs a place to go.
  4. Donate regularly. I always have a bag or two of clothes, shoes, and other odds and ends to donate. I separate those things I’d like to pass down to a friend or my sister’s kids, and the rest is taken to the Salvation Army.

What are your tips to keeping the house clean and organized? And what else would you like to know about how big families operate?

© 2012 – 2013, Lolli. All rights reserved.

About Lolli

Lolli has written 3164 posts on this blog.

I became a mom in 1996, and in 2005 I had my fifth. Yes, 5 kids. In 2007, this blog was born (my 6th baby that will never grow up) and I've been sharing recipes, photography tricks, parenting tips, and everything in between.

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  1. Have you ever tried Chore Wars? I haven’t checked it out myself (although I plan to soon), but have heard others have had success with it


  2. I try to get my little dude as involved as possible- he actually LIKES to help- but he’s still young so we’re still working on it. &I agree with the everything needs a home one- not everything HAS a home right now which is what is deterring my cleaning. Thanks for the awesome tips!
    Shell Fruscione´s last blog post ..Snack Smart with SmartPop!


  3. I think you’re right – managing expectations is as important as managing housework. I enjoy your blog.
    Shannon´s last blog post ..Safer Lives When We Played With Knives


  4. I love this post. Been trying to come up with creative ways to get the kids to clean the house more often.
    Stefani´s last blog post ..Going To Disney World Sans The Children & Having A BLAST!


  5. My biggest issue – “Everything needs a “place.”” It just doesn’t in my house, which is why I am constantly in a state of disaster. I really need to purge, but I need help!!!!
    Jen´s last blog post ..9 Tips For The Perfect Summer BBQ Party


  6. YOu hit it spot on. We make sure that everyone has their own chores so it isn’t one person doing everything. The kids know to pick up after themselves and put things back in its place. I was a daycare provider for 6 years and felt like I cleaned and cleaned. The playroom has helped tremendously for us to keep everything else out of the home living rooms!
    Nichol´s last blog post ..Kiwi Crate Fun Art Projects for Kids Delivered Straight to Your Door Review


  7. I totally agree that everything has to have it’s place.

    I guess I waited to long to get the children to help because I’m just now working with my children on helping out. My oldest is nine and doesn’t know how to do much around the house. We are starting with little things, like dusting, and working our way up.

    Thanks for the tips!
    Crystal @ Simply Being Mommy´s last blog post ..The Secret World of Arrietty Movie Review and Giveaway


  8. “Two hours spent cleaning can be destroyed in seconds when the kids come home.” HAHA, YES!! It’s why I don’t try to do it all in one day, makes me feel better if the little bit I do daily goes undone. BUT!! We are CONSTANTLY picking up, it’s EXHAUSTING! NEVERENDING! But it works.

    Can I haz a nap now?
    Lisa @ Crazy Adventures in Parenting´s last blog post ..Big Families: How Do You Do It? [Cleaning]


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