Keeping a tidy house with little kids IS possible! These tips will help you keep a clean house with simple ideas and routines for daily home maintenance!
Need to know how to keep a tidy house with toddlers!? Keep reading!
The task of keeping the kids alive and happy PLUS the daily, weekly, monthly, annual tasks of house-keeping can be OVERWHELMING at times.
I’ve been a stay-at-home-mom for 3 years, and maintaining my house is very important to me, but IT IS HARD.
Keep reading to find out my tips and tricks that help me keep my home orderly, EVEN with two toddlers running around. It isn’t impossible, but it definitely isn’t always easy.
Start doing some of these things today, and I promise your stay-at-home-mom life will be much less stressful!
*There are affiliate links in this post. Read my disclosure policy to learn more.*
Why is it important to keep a tidy house (EVEN with toddlers)?
Let’s start with the reasons why I think keeping a clean and tidy home is important (for me, personally, and I think, for all of us!).
A tidy home sets the stage for a calm day.YoungMomMentor
Living in a clean and orderly home reduces stress
How does it feel when you wake up in the morning and walk into a clean kitchen?
It absolutely helps me start my day off on the right foot. I can get a cup of coffee and RELAX for a few minutes before my kids wake up, rather than frantically putting things away and wiping down counters before everyone’s day begins.
A tidy home sets the stage for a calm day! (Or, at least doesn’t ADD to the stresses of the day).
I might not be able to control what my kids throw at me each day, but I CAN control how my home looks.
Knowing how to keep a tidy house with toddlers will reduce your daily stress!
We are teaching our children how to take care of their belongings
Another reason keeping a tidy home is important (YES, even with toddlers and young kids), is that we are teaching our children at every moment of every day.
What we do, MORE than what we SAY, rubs off on our children. It doesn’t matter how often you say “we take care of our things”, if your actions consistently say otherwise, THAT is what you’re teaching your children.
If you, the adult, do not consistently put things where they go and clean up after yourself, how can you expect your children to do otherwise?
You simply cannot.
A tidy home leaves more margin (and patience) for toddler messes
At face value, this doesn’t seem to make sense, but I stand by it 100%.
Because my house is generally tidy, I have more “margin” in my life (and SPACE in my house) to allow messy activities and play.
Were my house always in disarray, I wouldn’t have the patience to deal with more added mess (i.e. painting projects, huge towers, obstacle courses).
Because my house is usually tidy, and toys have places they belong, I know that messes are temporary, and the house can be easily “righted”.
Tidy and organized homes invite more creativity from children
Children cannot create to their full potentials in spaces that don’t allow for imagination and creativity.
There is no need to fill a space if it is already filled to the brim; there’s simply no “blank” canvas with which to work.
Wide spaces, blank walls, open-ended toys, materials that are easily-located, parents that aren’t stressed because their houses are a disaster… all of these things help create a home environment that encourages CREATING.
When you know what you have, you spend less
When everything (or most things) have places they belong, you will naturally know where things are.
When you know where things are, you can find things when you need them.
If you can find things when you need them, you won’t have to buy more of what you already have, simply because you cannot find it.
Keeping a tidy home means you will spend less (or at least less on the things you already own).
Okay, but HOW do I keep a tidy house with TODDLERS!?
Now that we know some reasons why a clean house is so helpful, let’s dig into HOW we go about having one when we have young children.
There are a ton of tips here! Don’t get overwhelmed! Bookmark this page to come back to again and again and focus on one area to work on!
Define your “clean”
Have you ever walked into someone’s home and wondered how they live the way they do?
It could be that it’s much more organized than your own house (“how in the WORLD do they keep it THIS organized with kids!?”) or much messier/dirtier than your house (“WHY do they have THIS MANY toys!? This would drive me crazy!”).
Everyone’s definition of “clean” is different.
This has been something my mother and I have talked about for as long as I can remember.
Before you can keep a clean home, you need to define what “clean” means to you.
What things HAVE to be clean/organized/put away in order for you to feel like a space is clean?
What MATTERS to you when it comes to cleanliness and tidiness?
The great thing about “defining your clean” is that you don’t have to compare yourself to anyone else in this step. Let go of the pretense! No one else lives in your home.
Don’t care about dusting the blinds? Don’t do it.
HATE a cluttered dining room table? Keep it cleared off.
IGNORE THE DRIVE TO COMPARE YOUR HOUSE TO OTHERS’.
YOU define your clean.
Choose the tasks and areas that matter to you and focus on those. LET GO OF EVERYTHING ELSE.
Use these questions to help you zero in on what matters to you when it comes to keeping a clean house:
- Are there places that drive you CRAZY when they’re unkempt? List those. These are the ones you argue about constantly, or the ones you’re constantly decluttering.
- Are there cleaning tasks that are already a part of your daily/weekly/monthly routine? These are the tasks that matter to you. For example, my husband is constantly sweeping/vacuuming. He HATES crumbs on the floor. CLEAN FLOORS matter to him. I, on the other hand, clear off and wipe down the kitchen counters (almost) every night. CLEARED OFF AND CLEAN COUNTERS matter to me.
- Does the APPEARANCE of a TIDY house matter more to you than it ACTUALLY being CLEAN? THIS is me. I don’t mind dust bunnies, but I want my house to be in order. I’m willing to let the baseboard moping and blind cleaning go longer than others maybe would. I prefer tidiness over cleanliness (IN A PERFECT WORLD I WOULD HAVE BOTH, but this isn’t a perfect world, and this is the time for you to be honest with yourself).
Once you’ve “defined your clean”. EMBRACE it. Feel free to let go of the tasks that don’t matter to you, and only do them when they DO matter to you.
This is my m/o when cleaning: I clean it when it needs to be cleaned (according to MY definition of “clean”).
Your spouse’s definition of clean matters, too
If you’re married (or sharing a home with anyone), make sure to have them “define their clean” as well. Keeping a home is a shared task, and everyone who lives there should get a say in how things are kept. (You can involve older kids in this as well)
Caveat: Don’t live in filth or be lazy
I’m not encouraging living in filth, or suggesting that laziness is okay. There are tasks that need to be done that you don’t necessarily WANT to do (i.e. Um, ALL of them. Who LOVES cleaning?).
However, I’m encouraging us to give ourselves some grace and think about the reasons WHY we want our houses perfectly organized and pristine? Do these things REALLY matter to US, or are we trying to keep up with Sally next door?
Do what makes your family work well, and what contributes to making your house feel like HOME.
I can just about guarantee that that dirty toilet and filthy dining room table aren’t contributing to any feelings of relaxation while at home!
Store cleaning products in multiple/convenient locations
In order to make cleaning easier, store your cleaning products in places that make sense.
Have a tub/cleaning caddy under each bathroom sink with everything you need to clean the bathroom:
- Paper towels
- Old or cheap washcloths
- Eraser sponge and scrub brush to clean shower/tub
- Mirror cloths (or Glass cleaner)
- Toilet cleaner and toilet brush (I store the brush in my hallway closet)
Likewise, have a tub/cleaning caddy under the kitchen sink with everything you need to clean the kitchen (and living room if it makes sense for your house):
- naturally disinfectant e-cloths)
- Eraser sponge for tough messes on the counter
- Ceramic cook-top cleaner
- Disinfecting wipes for quick clean-ups (or if your husband prefers these, like mine does, haha!)
- Floor cleaner (we have hardwoods; this is a refill that goes with our Bona mop)
- Carpet/rug/couch stain remover
- Microfiber cloths for dusting/cleaning
- Dishwashing liquid pods for the dishwasher
- Paper towels and dish rags (I store both of these on my counter)
I’m working through changing all of my products to more natural and safe cleaning options, but the products above are what we use now. Choose your cleaning products based on your convictions, what items you own, your budget, and your own family’s definition of “clean”.
Have less stuff
A HUGE tip to help you keep a tidy home with little kids is simply to HAVE LESS STUFF.
Try as you might, you cannot organize your house well if there’s too much stuff in it.
There are a bajillion different ways to go about this, but the idea is simple: get rid of things:
- Throw away things that are broken and old.
- Sell or donate things you don’t use but may be of use to someone else.
Where to start when you want to get rid of stuff:
But really, I know that “that’s it” is an oversimplification of something that is VERY hard for a LOT of people. I may write a more extensive post on this later, but the easiest way to declutter (in my opinion), is to start SMALL and WITH YOUR SPACES/THINGS:
- Start with your kitchen. You’re there the most, and you’ll feel SO GOOD when you’re done!
- Pick the smallest, mildy-cluttered space you can think of to start with: you need a win right out of the gate! (I would start with a drawer)
- Go through it: put things where they go, throw away random things, and organize what’s left. DON’T BUY ORGANIZERS RIGHT NOW! Use what you have! You may decide later that you can relocate everything in this drawer!
- Move onto the next small space (or maybe even something bigger like the pantry, but ONLY if you have MOMENTUM!)
- Organize one small space at a time in the SAME room. Pretty soon your entire kitchen will be organized!
- Move on to the next room! YOU’VE GOT THIS!
If you need extra help with decluttering, Marie Kondo is YOUR GIRL. Oh, and who else has also been obsessed with The Home Edit? I LOVE THEM! Check out either of those shows (The Home Edit; Tidying Up with Marie Kondo), or either of their books (see below), for motivation and tips for how to declutter and organize your home!
Keeping a tidy house with toddlers is SO much easier when you limit the amount of things in your home!
(BUT, don’t just WATCH or READ, DO!)
Buying pretty things to put in your messy, cluttered home won’t fix the problem.YoungMomMentor
Keep decorations minimal: less is more
If you’re anything like me, you want your house to be pretty.
Sometimes, in the quest for “pretty”, we buy all-the-things and shove them into our already-crowded homes.
This makes keeping a tidy home HARDER.
Buying pretty things to put in your messy, cluttered home won’t fix the problem. It will make your home MORE messy and MORE cluttered; you are putting a pretty band-aid on top of a gaping wound.
You probably already have enough decorations; they’re just crowded out by the junk.
I read an AWESOME book on this topic and you HAVE TO read it. It’s called “Cozy Minimalist Home” by Myquillin Smith.
This book teaches you HOW to minimize the decorations in your home and style it with meaning. It’s really helpful (especially in the little kid years), because we don’t have the mental space, or time, to constantly redecorate and “style” our rooms. “Cozy Minimalist Home” teaches you how to decorate and love the style you have; so you can stop redecorating and ENJOY home!
Decorate your rooms with minimal decorations in the little kid years (and really, forever), so there’s not so much STUFF to clean/organize in your spaces.
When you have less, you CLEAN less. Pretty decorations are still things to be maintained.
Tidy as you go and/or at designated times
This tip has REALLY helped me keep my house picked up with two little kids.
These are the times we try to clean up:
- The two main times we tidy playing spaces are before nap time and bedtime
- We tidy the kitchen and eating areas after meal times.
- We also try to tidy one area/ toy/activity before moving on to our next area/toy/activity.
Tidying at these times makes the big task of cleaning up at the end of the day MUCH easier, and it helps me be able to use my personal time (when the kids are sleeping) for other things I need to do (such as maintain this blog).
Tidying while the kids are awake also reminds me to involve them, as well as shows them what it takes to maintain an orderly house: something they will be doing for the rest of their lives.
Pick the times that work best for you! You can start with simply cleaning up as you go, or start tidying before bedtime each night.
Don’t have an attitude about it! JUST DO IT! And that brings us to my next tip….
We have to clean our homes. Why not do it joyfully?YoungMomMentor
Treat cleaning as “joyful work“
There’s no reason that cleaning has to be dreadful.
We are blessed to have homes to care for, food to eat, and families to love.
Let’s treat cleaning as part of the BLESSING of the LIFE we live! Because that’s what it is!
I’ve seen prints that say something like, “Lord, thank you for dishes to wash, because that means we have food to eat. Thank you for piles of laundry, because that means we have clothes to wear.”
I absolutely LOVE this mindset.
We have to clean and maintain our homes. Why not do it joyfully? With music on? As a family?
Shifting from “I HAVE to clean my house” to “I GET to clean my house” (because I have one; because I share it with people I love; because I am immensely blessed; because I want to teach my children how to care for a home).
THAT is life-changing.
Divide household tasks with your spouse
How to keep a tidy house with toddlers?
Don’t PERSONALLY do all of the tidying/cleaning.
Have an honest conversation with your spouse/partner about housework.
Talk through your frustrations with the daily/weekly/monthly chores, and see if there are any ways you can help one another.
For instance: I absolutely cannot stand doing laundry, and my husband doesn’t mind it (and he’s also SUPER particular when it comes to how his laundry is done). Therefore, when we got married and talked about our division of housework, we decided that he would do the laundry.
THIS HAS BEEN SO HELPFUL FOR US!
He hates doing the dishes, so I do them.
That doesn’t mean that I never do laundry or that he never does dishes. We help each other out when we see the need.
It just means that, generally speaking, we each do our respective tasks.
Go through these prompts to get you started:
- List all the daily and weekly cleaning tasks you can think of with your spouse (you will both probably begin by listing the tasks you each do)
- Circle the tasks each of you do in different colors
- Put an “X” by 5 tasks you would love to not do
- Look at where your spouse’s X’s are and “trade” where you can; are there any tasks that you would “trade” for the tasks you’ve X-ed? This is where marriage compromise comes in! Chances are, you and your spouse can trade a few tasks, and be happier with the tasks you are in charge of!
- Reflect in a week or two and discuss how it’s going, and make changes as needed
Note: This isn’t an exercise to help you compare your household chores to your spouse’s. That is NEVER helpful. This is simply a tool to see where you can help your husband, and where he can help you, without much annoyance on anyone’s part. Be honest, open, and kind.
“Comparison is the thief of joy”. I think this was said by Eleanor Roosevelt.
It is a phrase I have to repeat to myself over and over again. Do not compare your husband, marriage, children, house, or workload at home to anyone.
You will never be more content after comparing.
In the day-to-day cleaning, focus on shared spaces (or the kitchen) first
The first place you see when you walk into my house is a combined kitchen/dining/living room.
If that room is clean (tidy), then I feel like my house is (mostly) clean.
This is the area my family spends most of our time in, and this is the area people see when they visit.
I can fake a “clean” house if this area is clean.
Focus on your shared spaces first. And if there are multiple, start with the kitchen. You probably spend most of your time there anyway, and need it to be organized and ready to prepare meals for your family.
Put away the dishes, reload the dishwasher, wipe down the counters, and sweep (if needed).
When trying to keep your house tidy with toddlers, start (and end) with shared spaces first.
Fix big problem areas (that cause constant clutter or conflict)
What places in your home constantly stress you out?
Which places are always cluttered, unsightly, and a PAIN to keep organized.
Tackle those areas first.
Make a list of spaces that cause personal or marital conflict, and brainstorm ways to fix those spaces.
Do you need a designated area to put the shoes by your front door?
Do you need a system to help you organize the mail that comes in?
Do you need to figure out toy storage?
Think through some solutions to those, implement one, and see if it works! If it doesn’t, try another solution until you find one that works for you!
Pinterest is a GREAT place to find ideas. Make a board for your problem area(s) and tackle them one at a time!
You CAN fix the problem areas in your home, but it isn’t going to happen overnight, and you might not find the perfect solution the first time! It’s going to take effort and patience, but it IS worth it!
Tackle the toys
Toy annoyance-and an overabundance of toys in general- is a problem for many families I know, and it can really keep us from having that tidy house with toddlers.
We all start out with a grand idea/want for toy minimalism, but with more kids and more birthdays (and the blessing of generous family and friends), before we know it we are drowning in toys!
Are we doomed to have disastrous homes because we have kids??
HOW do you maintain a clean and organized home with young kids when they have SO.MANY.TOYS?
I’m here to tell you that you can have an organized home with small children. But you cannot do so without a plan or routines.
Know your “toy philosophy”
The first thing I would say here is to know your family’s philosophy on toys. If you (and your spouse) are committed to it, it will save you a lot of headaches.
*Check out this post to see what I mean by “toy philosophy”* (COMING SOON)
Utilize toy rotation
TOY ROTATION IS AMAZING! It just means having less toys out at a time, and rotating them when your kids are starting to show less interest in them.
Continually changing out toys keeps children engaged in play, fosters independence, and makes it easier to keep your house picked up because less toys are out!
*Check out this post for more on the benefits of toy rotation and how to implement it* (COMING SOON)
Teach your children how to clean
One job we have as parents is to equip and prepare our children for their lives as adults .
Your child is ALWAYS going to have to clean and pick up after themselves (unless, of course, you’re royalty.. and for some reason I doubt you’re here if you are… haha!).
Why not start teaching them now?
There are a TON of tasks your toddler is capable of doing RIGHT NOW! Most people highly underestimate the capabilities of children in general, but ESPECIALLY toddlers.
Which cleaning tasks are appropriate for toddlers?
In the Montessori philosophy of education, there’s an entire section of education called “Practical Life”. In “Practical Life”, toddlers are taught tasks they will be doing the rest of their lives. It’s AMAZING to see the things toddlers can accomplish when we allow them to TRY! Cleaning is a part of “Practical Life”.
Your toddler can:
- sweep up/wipe up small messes
- unload safe items from the dishwasher, AND put them away (sort silverware, put their dishware away if they have access to it)
- put away their toys
- throw things away
- clean glass with glass cloths
- mop with toddler-sized mops
- put dirty laundry in their hamper
- take dirty laundry to washing machine
- load and unload washer/dryer
Your toddler can do almost any task you can do, if first SHOWN HOW, and allowed the space to practice! As always, supervise your child (and help when needed).
Keep a tidy house with toddlers with help FROM your TODDLERS. (now, this could end up starting like “help”, but hey, take what you can get! haha!)
Have toddler-sized (or toddler-safe) cleaning supplies available
Introduce toddler-sized (or toddler-safe) cleaning supplies to your child. Introduce one at a time, demonstrate using it, and let them practice over and over again.
Swiffer Sweeper (this is an actual Swiffer, but you can assemble it without a bar and make it child-sized)
Note: These toddler-sized cleaning supplies are ACTUAL cleaning supplies, just small enough for toddlers to use. I prefer real, child-sized things, over pretend play items when possible. (Play items are FINE if you have them, just ask yourself why you don’t let your child use the real thing if it’s possible)
Have “a place for everything”
No one has a place for EVERY SINGLE THING. However, the more designated places you have for things, the simpler your everyday putting away and cleaning will be. AND, you’ll be able to put less effort into the maintenance of your home.
Can I get a “hallelujah”?
At the end of every day, try to put the stray items away. Even if you have to use baskets and drawers for random storage, designate them as such and call it a day. Go through those baskets/drawers weekly to see if you can consolidate and find a place to store them. Or, if you find you don’t actually need them, donate, sell, or throw them away.
YOU SIMPLY DON’T HAVE TIME OR ENERGY TO DO EVERYTHING AT THE SAME TIME.YoungMomMentor
Focus on one big task at a time
It’s OVERWHELMING to think about cleaning, organizing, or decluttering YOUR ENTIRE HOME.
We finally finished our master bedroom right before my daughter was born. I had to get her nursery together and make our bedroom livable a mere few weeks before she came into the world.
For a year and a half, I didn’t have the brain space to even THINK about room organization or storage, so I didn’t.
I’m just now getting around to designing it like I want, and thinking through the organization aspect of it.
And don’t get me started on our master bathroom. It isn’t finished and my “vanity” is a piece of plywood.But still, it works for now.
YOU SIMPLY DON’T HAVE TIME OR ENERGY TO DO EVERYTHING AT THE SAME TIME.
Pick a room, a closet, loose paper, or your son’s clothes.
PICK ONE THING AND DO IT.
One day at a time, one task at a time.
Find a cleaning schedule that works for you
This is a big “pain point” for me.
When I started staying at home, I made a cleaning schedule and put it on my fridge.
I had a newborn and it was overwhelming to look at, so I took it down.
-KNOW YOURSELF AND YOUR SEASON BEFORE YOU MAKE YOURSELF A CLEANING SCHEDULE–
I just put up a new cleaning schedule, and I love it!
I am not a very structured or routined person, so I don’t follow it perfectly, but I LOVE that it reminds me what needs to be done, and ABOUT how often I would like to clean said things.
Know yourself, and make yourself a cleaning schedule if you think it would ENCOURAGE you and not JUDGE you. haha!
Check out my post on “creating a realistic cleaning schedule“! In this post, I share my own schedule, as well as teach you how to make your own (according to YOUR version of “clean”)!
Give yourself grace: Let go of house-perfection in the little kid years
THIS IS A SEASON!
I repeat: THIS IS A SEASON!
I know everyone says it and it gets so repetitive that our ears bleed, but it’s true.
Our kids are only little for so long. Most of us aren’t designers on the cover of Southern Living. Having a picture-perfect house simply DOESN’T MATTER.
You know what does?
So, mama, try to keep a tidy house with toddlers for your sanity and the smooth-running of your home, but know it isn’t ULTIMATE.
Put cleaning in its place, breathe, enjoy your home with the ones you love and who love you.
After all, no one’s looking at your baseboards.
Lots of love,