"My house is falling apart," cries Trice B. "How do I keep the house tidy while working 40 hours a week and taking care of two kids under 2?" Ditto, says Renae K. She feels overwhelmed trying to spend time with her child and husband, have some sort of a social life, and find time to keep a clean house.
The reality is that most moms are racing around carpooling, caring for their children, and trying to get things done with little time to add being a housekeeper to their to-do lists. If you're in the same boat, here are some overarching ideas on dividing and conquering the household responsibilities.
Do Involve Everyone
Many Circle of Moms members highly recommend the divide-and-conquer approach, saying it is only fair for all family members to share the work that needs to be done around the house. Charisse S. notes that it's not easy for anyone: "I don't know what's worse, staying at home and cleaning up all day, or coming home from the office, only to deal with it all," she says. Having done both, she advises distributing the chores with both the children and your partner. "Have them pitch in any way they can (folding laundry, picking up after themselves, or even helping prepare dinner)."
Some moms, like Cheryl F., are lucky because their husbands intuitively jump in to help. When that is the case, seize the opportunity and accept the help, many Circle of Moms members agree. "My husband is a wonderful husband, father, and, yes I have to admit it, housekeeper," she says. "When he gets into it, my house is simply spotless, and he doesn't mind doing it."
Because unsolicited help with chores doesn't always come, Paula S. urges moms to resist the temptation to do it alone, and to push to make sure that kids and husband pitch in. "I finally had to ask my husband to help with the vacuuming and cleaning, while I tackled the kitchen and laundry," she says. It teaches the family the value of teamwork, she adds.
Play to Each Person's Strengths
When divvying up household chores, Debbie R. reminds moms to be realistic and play to the strengths of the people responsible. A 3-year-old's list of chores probably shouldn't include vacuuming the house, for example. "My husband does the laundry," she says. But it took some training from her to teach him how to do it correctly. "At first all the white socks came out pink. But now he's a pro." In Kelly L.'s household, rules were put in place to ensure that the cleaning and household duties were divvied up fairly. "My husband and I have the rule that one of us cooks and the other one cleans up afterward," she says. Concerning housework, she does the cleaning and he does the laundry and lawn work, plus repairing the cars.
Work in 15-Minute Chunks
Setting aside a whole afternoon or day to clean is not realistic for many busy moms, so Circle of Moms members like Rebecca C. suggest breaking down the cleaning and chores into 15-minute blocks at different times throughout the day. "I have a small cleaning schedule, where I do the kitchen in the morning before work," Rebecca shares, adding that other chores are spread throughout the remaining days of the week in small increments. Karen H. employs a similar tactic. "I agree that doing one or two things at the end of each day will keep things from getting overwhelming," she says. "I find that keeping things organized daily keeps things from piling up and keeps your house from looking like a trash bin."
Assign One Chore or Room Per Day
Maggie W. has set up a schedule of specific cleaning tasks for days throughout the week. "I made a schedule for myself," she says. "Sunday is my day off, Monday [I] wash clothes, Tuesday is dishes, Saturday is the floors, etc." She adds that she rewards herself at the end of the week. "I like to give myself a little treat at the end of the week if I've kept up with the chores (by little treat I mean 15 minutes of alone time or a cup of hot cocoa)." Christina E., meanwhile, uses a room-by-room strategy: "I clean one room a night for about twenty minutes," she says. "That way I don't feel overwhelmed thinking I need to do the whole place."
Employ Chore Charts or Boards
For some moms, keeping up with the cleaning is all about organization. "I find that making a chart helps with times and who is doing what," shares Traci R. "If no time for a chart, I often call home before I get off work to remind them 'This chore needs to be done before I get home,'" she says. At Alicia H.'s home, the strategy to keep the house clean also centers on the chore board. "The rules are once a week each kid picks a chore they want to do, then I pick a chore they have to do," she shares. "At the end of the week the person who complains the most or has to be reminded the most has to do one chore from the sibling that complained [or was] reminded the least for one day."
Consider Outside Help
In the end, one way to make sure you wake up to a clean house every day is to hire a cleaning lady, many Circle of Moms members say. "If you can possibly afford it, get someone else to come in and clean," says Circle of Moms member Jane R. "Even if you can only pay for help once a month, it's better than nothing."
Relax Your Standards
Ultimately, say moms like Lisa T., sometimes it is just unrealistic to strive for a completely clean house. Her advice: "Don't stress over the house. Do things as you can. So long as my house isn't filthy and things get done, I don't worry."
What are your tips for keeping your house clean while balancing your busy life?