Housekeeping can be an overwhelming task. Sure, it’s straightforward enough when there are only two of you, but everything changes when that first crying potato bursts into your world.
I remember when I first transitioned into being home full time. I was nearing the end of my pregnancy and my husband took on a full time job in addition to full time school so that I could quit my job. We lived in a 700 square foot apartment outside of D.C. –even then, I felt like I couldn’t keep our space under control. And then I found myself the proud parent of a high-need milk pump.
For the longest time, I just could NOT get it together. While I feel that my struggle is very relatable and all too common, it didn’t have to be that way!
Does your home stress you, and leave you feeling like you have little time left for your family, and even less for yourself?
Do you feel overwhelmed with the demands of your role, and find yourself routinely saying, “I’m only ONE person; I just can’t do it ALL!”
Or maybe you feel like you could keep up with the housework just fine IF you didn’t have a needy baby or clingy toddler-monkey glued to your body all day long.
Whatever your situation, I’m telling you right now… housekeeping DOESN’T have to be stressful, you CAN get everything done, and you DON’T have to spend hours upon hours in an endless daily loop of chores. And… you can love your job, too.
Today I’m sharing with you the things I’ve done that finally helped me take control of my household and keep our spaces tidy every day (while still chasing a one year old around 97% of the time.)
What is a Homemaker?
“Homemaker” is a job title. It’s an overarching description of many of the functions we carry out as wives and mothers, like calling ourselves the “operations manager.” Really, homemaking is its own career of sorts.
Perhaps you view homemaking as a set of chores that stand between you and more important things each day. If you do, I hope to convince you otherwise!
Truly, I see it as a badge of honor. It’s as though I’ve received a huge promotion! No longer do I simply live in someone else’s home; I’ve been given my own household to oversee and manage. It’s a substantial responsibility with a great many tasks.
Why is homemaking important?
As a homemaker, you essentially create and sustain the atmosphere of the micro-planet that is your home, in which your family lives and your children grow up.
For the most part, you dictate whether that atmosphere is nurturing, peaceful, restorative, and secure, or toxic, disorganized, chaotic, and stressful.
A lot of factors contribute to the quality of your home atmosphere:
- Your attitude about homemaking and housekeeping
- The amount of stuff and clutter you hang on to
- The amount of time you have to spend cleaning
- Whether the spaces in your home are tidy and aesthetically pleasing
- The state of your house when your husband gets home from work
The way you treat your role as a homemaker is a significant part of the way your children will remember you, and how you manage your home sets the example for them.
What is the difference between homemaking and housekeeping?
Homemaking isn’t just cooking, cleaning, and laundry. A homemaker is a steward of her family’s daily life. The homemaker sets the tone for the day, curates activities and experiences both in and out of the home, and is generally responsible for her family’s well-being.
Housekeeping, while one of the most obvious responsiblities, is only one facet of homemaking. Yet, housekeeping plays a huge role in creating the environment in which your family spends most of its time.
How you keep up with the household tasks largely determines your own emotional and mental status, the flow of daily routines and homelife, the way your children learn to accomplish tasks and manage time, as well as many other things.
Housekeeping is a critical part of our job as homemakers.
Finding Joy in Housekeeping and Homemaking
If you feel like chores are a burden and an inconvenience that stand between you and more important things, I urge you to shift your mindset.
Rather than viewing housekeeping as an obstacle keeping you from bigger and better, think of the things you do most often as those which ARE most important.
Stop thinking of housekeeping as a line item on your checklist, and view it as a significant (and MEANINGFUL) part of your role as homemaker.
What you’re doing matters
Whenever you feel trapped in a mundane loop of futile tasks, actively think on the impact your role has on the development and experiences of your family.
Take pride in the quality of your work, as you would in any other career setting. Make it your goal not just to get things done, but to complete each task with excellence.
Strive to be great at what you do! Stop minimizing your role, and recognize the huge value and importance of the “little” things you do every day.
Believers mop floors for the glory of God
For my fellow Christian mamas, remember that everything you do is to the glory of God, even washing dishes and folding towels. Whether you’re cooking dinner or presenting a globe-altering speech in front of the United Nations General Assembly, what matters to God is your attitude.
We love to recite Philippians 2:14-16 for our children’s sake, “Do everything without complaining or arguing,” (at least, my parents did!), but how often do we check our own attitudes?
The context for Philippians 2 is Christ’s own example of humility to us in his life and death on earth, but it doesn’t progress by saying, “Do likewise by going out and hustling, creating a worldwide movement, and writing 4 best-selling pieces of non-fiction.”
Nope. It doesn’t talk about WHAT we do; rather, it lays out the conditions for our hearts and attitudes.
Paul writes in verse 2: “complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (talking about the mindset and love of a Savior who emptied Himself for our sakes).
He instructs Believers to
- Count others more significant than yourselves (v3)
- Look to the interests of others (v4)
- Work out your salvation (v12)
- Do all things without grumbling (v14)
So that by doing these things, you stand out in a twisted and corrupt culture.
We mamas have the ability (and calling) to impact culture from within the home. Don’t minimize your own role and influence by comparing yourself to people who influence the world from outside of the home. What you do has its own impact, and God will use you to His glory and good purpose no matter where you are.
Your responsibility is your heart and your attitude wherever He places you.
For more on how to actually enjoy homemaking, you have GOT to read “At Home with Madame Chic” by Jennifer Scott. It made a huge impact on my life, and I know you will get a ton of value from it, too.
The Housekeeping Strategy to Keep Your Home Tidy Every Day
Even if you go about your housework joyfully, though, you don’t have to spend all day every day doing it. We still need to be strategic and effective with our time as it is a limited and valuable resource.
Here are the steps I took to get my housekeeping routine manageable and keep my home tidy on a daily basis. I only spend about 60-90 minutes on housework each day, and I pretty much never have to “deep clean.”
Step 0: Massive declutter
I know I’m not the first person you’ve heard it from, but I’m going to say it anyway… You need to massively declutter your home in order to have a sustainable cleaning routine.
If your home is already clutter free, or close to it, then wonderful! You can start step one. Buuuut I think most of us probably still at least have a couple of problem areas we could improve on.
I’m not going to give you a full strategy for decluttering your house because that’s really not what this post is about, but I will share my mindset with you on that area.
When I pick up a non-essential item, I ask myself, “Does this take time away from my family?” As in, does picking it up/cleaning it/maintaining it in whatever way detract from the time I spend with my family either in amount or quality? Then, “If yes, does it deserve my attention in that capacity?”
If it’s an item I really enjoy having (that ‘sparks joy’ hehe), then I will keep it! But if it makes it more difficult for me to keep a clean and tidy home that is secure and relaxing for my family, then it doesn’t have a place in my home.
And by the way, everything needs to have a home in your home. If you don’t have a place for everything, you don’t need a bigger house, you need less stuff.
My husband and I moved from our 700 square foot apartment to one that is almost 1100 square feet, but we got rid of probably around half of our belongings beforehand. It has made all the difference in the world.
I am not saying you have to become a minimalist. I’m pretty sure I don’t qualify as one. But, your cleaning routine should be fairly quick and easy, and if it’s not, it’s probably a stuff problem. The fewer items you have to clean and put away, the less time it will take you to tidy.
For help decluttering, The Minimal Mom on Youtube is my go-to.
Step 1: Make a master list of what needs to happen in every room of your house
Once everything has a place in your home, then you can really start to implement a sustainable cleaning system.
The first thing you need to do is make a master list of everything you need to do in every room of your house.
This is a list of all of the tasks, big to small, daily to annually, that a room needs from you.
Step 2: Write a speed clean list of the quickest tasks that make the biggest impact
Next, look over your master list and pull tasks for a daily speed clean. These tasks should be what I consider equilibrium tasks: they require the least investment from you but yield the most impactful results, comparatively.
These are the tasks that make the biggest difference in your home without demanding a lot of time, and they should be things actually need to be done on a daily basis.
Try to think about the flow of your routine as you make this list. Here’s what I mean. My apartment is quite linear, so my speed clean either starts at the front (my living room) or the back (the bathroom).
If I start in the bathroom, I’ll finish my bathroom speed clean, then move on to the nursery, then my bedroom, then the hallway. Once I’ve tided the whole back half of the apartment, I’ll sweep all of those rooms and the hall (our apartment has wood floors, no carpet, hallelujah).
Then I’ll move on to the dining room/office and the living room, tidy them, and then sweep them.
Here is an example of my speed clean:
I don’t really include my kitchen in my speed clean because it’s not very speedy. The kitchen needs its own cleaning routine, so when I do my daily tidy, I clean everything else and worry about the kitchen separately.
Step 3: Assign one room to each day of the week for a focused clean
In addition to your speed clean, you’ll want to look back at your master list and assign yourself one room for each day of the week (if you have that many rooms).
Now, you still don’t have to do EVERY task for every room each week. There are some tasks you will have written down that don’t need to be completed that frequently. It’s up to you what you want to do on a weekly basis, but you’ll pull those items from your master list and create a weekly routine.
Think about your other time commitments when scheduling each room to a day. If your bedroom takes you a long time to clean, you might want to save it for a less busy day of the week, and schedule your quicker rooms for the busier days.
Here’s an example for Monday and Tuesday:
I also try to get my weekly room cleans done on weekdays to keep my weekends free for family time.
The one bigger task I reserve for weekends is mopping and waxing the floors. It’s a miscellaneous stand-alone task on my list because it needs to be done in all rooms, and I need the apartment free of extra tracking feet in order to do it.
Step 4: Make a monthly calendar to keep track of less frequent tasks
Finally, you should only have a few things left on your master list that you haven’t transferred to either a daily or weekly routine. To keep track of those items, you’ll need your calendar or planner.
Figure out which tasks should be done monthly, and which ones can be done even less often, and jot down the frequency you think is appropriate.
For recurring monthly tasks, you can use one single blank calendar page and schedule the tasks to specific days of the month, and then just repeat it each month (instead of writing it into your planner over and over and over again, unless that’s what you want to do).
Here’s an example of my monthly cleaning routine:
For tasks you can do on a less than monthly basis, write them into your yearly calendar/planner. Then you won’t forget about them.
Step 5: Get cleaning! Do a speed clean every day, followed by a focused clean and any monthly/less frequent tasks (when applicable)
The most pivotal aspect of a sustainable cleaning routine is to maintain a daily tidy time.
There are a couple of ways you can approach your speed clean.
- Full–You can do a full speed clean that ticks all of the items on your list every single day.
- Divided–If you’re in a bigger home, or your entire speed clean still takes more time than you have/want to spend, then you can divide your home into a couple of quadrants (upstairs/downstairs, front/back, whatever works for you). One day you could clean quadrant 1, the next quadrant 2, and then back to 1.
- Timed–A third way you can speed clean is to set a timer and do as much of your speed clean as you can before the timer goes off. When your time is up, you stop, and you pick up the next day where you left off and repeat with your timer.
Most days, I try to do a full apartment tidy, but if, for some reason, it’s ended up a bit messier than usual, I’ll split my routine into front and back until I’m caught up. Either I’ll do one in the morning and one in the afternoon, or I’ll just do the second half the next day.
Whenever you can, you should start with the speed clean before moving on to your weekly and monthly schedules because the speed clean a) makes the biggest impact overall and b) sets the stage for any other cleaning that needs to happen.
After your speed clean, then move on to your focused clean of the day (if you have one scheduled) and any other tasks on your monthly calendar.
If you have an even less frequent task in your planner, I suggest doing that one last because it can be rescheduled if necessary with the least impact.
If you tell me where to send them, I’d love to give you a printable version of my housekeeping strategy so that you can design your own! Just drop your email into the box below!
Where to Start When You’re Overwhelmed by Messes
If your home is currently in a state that is completely overwhelming to you, so much so that you don’t even know where to start and certainly don’t feel like you can implement an quick cleaning routine yet, don’t panic.
There are a few methods you can use to take control of your space as you work toward decluttering and implementing a lasting routine
Step 1. Start small to build motivation
When you have multiple intimidating projects, or your whole house is an overwhelming mess, it can be tempting to jump into the biggest source of stress and try to knock it out.
However, doing so may be setting yourself up for failure.
I like to take a Dave Ramsey “Debt Snowball” style approach to cleaning. If you’re in debt, you might think the best way to pay it off is to throw everything you can at the biggest debt or the debt with the highest interest rate, but actually, you can make a greater impact by starting with the smallest.
Ramsey recommends making the minimum payments on each debt every month, and then making additional payments toward the principle of the smallest debt first. From there, it “snowballs” because once your smallest loan is paid, you can take the minimum payment you were making on that loan and add it to the ‘extra’ cash that you start putting toward your next smallest loan. Are you seeing how this can apply in your home, too?
Give yourself those little wins by starting with the easiest projects first. You will quickly build motivation from the psychological boost you receive as you complete tasks, increase momentum as you reduce the stress in your environment, and gain time to spend on bigger projects as more and more areas in your house become quick tidies.
By a similar token, as you declutter, start with the easiest things first. Don’t begin by trying to declutter sentimental items, or things you spent a significant amount of money on. Rather start by decluttering stuff you aren’t (as) attached to– somewhere like under your bathroom sink, where you can see a big difference quickly, and lots of things can be thrown out without much heartache.
Step 2. Go one room at a time
Instead of thinking about your entire house as one big project, only focus on one room at a time. Preferably, if you’re following step one, you’re starting with an easier space so that you make rapid progress.
Once each room is cleaned and decluttered, tidy it up every day so that it doesn’t make it back onto your project list.
Step 3. Divide the room into quadrants
As you go one room at a time, you can break down your project even further by dividing rooms into quadrants. Visually divide the space into 4 zones, and tackle only ONE zone at a time (remember, starting with the easiest one!).
If some of the stuff in zone 1 belongs in zone 2, don’t go into zone 2 putting things away whenever you come across them. Simply push things that don’t belong in zone 1 into their respective quadrants.
For things that don’t belong in the room at all, keep a basket or bin on hand that you can use to deliver these outsiders back to the proper rooms later.
By remaining hyper-focused on one zone at a time, you will maximize your impact and productivity.
Step 4. Set a timer
You don’t have to finish your entire house in one day. You don’t even have to finish one room in one day. Decide ahead of time how long you will spend cleaning that day, and after that, move on to other things.
If you don’t, you will burn out, and even if you succeed at finishing all of your projects in a week by working at it for 10 hours a day every day, you will be so sick of cleaning that you won’t want to start daily tidies. By the time you’ve taken a break from your house, projects will have built back up again.
Once you’ve decided how much time you’re going to put into tackling projects on that given day, break down your total time into small pieces.
To do that, you’re going to apply a fancy tactic called the Pomodoro Technique. It’s a time management strategy that has been shown to maximize focus and productivity.
Here’s how it works:
- Set your first timer for 25 minutes, and work diligently at your project until your timer stops.
- Then actually stop, even if you feel like you’re on a roll. Take a 5 minute break.
- Repeat the work-break pattern twice more for a total of 3 intervals.
- On the fourth interval, work for 25 minutes, but then take a longer break of 15-30 minutes.
- Continue until you either finish the project, or use up the time allotted to cleaning that day.
Using this technique, you’re less likely to fatigue or burn out, and you’ll finish your projects more quickly and effectively.
Step 5. Maintain what you’ve already cleaned
Don’t just clean it and forget it with the intention of starting a speed clean routine once everything is done.
Every time a quadrant gets finished, it needs to be added to your daily tidy. Before starting a new cleaning project each day, quickly go over the zones you’ve already finished at tidy them up quickly, even if there isn’t much to be done.
It can be tempting to ignore spaces until they start to look messy again, but by then they become projects once more. Just think…if something already looks neat, then it shouldn’t take you long to clean, should it?
How to Clean When You Don’t Feel Like It
Start with just one thing
When you don’t feel like doing your daily tidy, it can be helpful to start with just one thing. Instead of telling yourself, “Okay, time to bite the bullet and tidy my entire house now,” you only give your brain part of the plan: “I’m just going to pick up the toys in the living room floor, and that’s it.”
Once you’ve picked up those toys, you’re probably naturally going to want to put the pillows back on the couch, fold up the throw blankets, take the snack dishes into the kitchen, and since the floor and surfaces are clear now, wouldn’t it be the perfect time sweep and dust?
Before you know it, your living room is tidy, and you have the momentum to keep going.
There’s good evidence to say that success does not come from motivation, but rather, motivation comes from success.
Instead of thinking, “I’m not motivated so I can’t do anything right now–I’ll wait until later, and hopefully I’ll feel like it then,” we need to be intentionally creating that motivation by giving ourselves a small win.
Turn on something to listen to
Sometimes I don’t feel like cleaning because I don’t want to do something less entertaining, or dare I say it…boring. But I have found that if I am intentional about making housework more enjoyable, I’m more likely to do it, do it well, and have a good time in the process.
Instead of being a drudgery, it turns into something that boosts my mood so I finish my cleaning feeling happy and motivated rather than being cranky and fatigued.
One way I motivate myself to clean is to turn on upbeat music. It never fails to get me out of a funk when I need to, and it makes me want to get moving! And while I’m moving, I might as well clean a few things, right?
I also enjoy listening to podcasts and audiobooks. The time goes by so quickly when my mind is engaged with other things, and I get double value because my apartment is clean AND I got to learn something new. It’s a great way for busy mamas to get more “reading” in!
Play a game
If you’re really feeling unmotivated or uninspired to clean, tap into your competitive side and make it a game. Race against the timer to see how much you can get done in X amount of time, and when the timer goes off, you can be done.
You can also apply the Pomodoro Technique (found in Step 4 of the previous section) to your game.
Eat the frog
One of the best strategies I’ve found for getting ahead of the unmotivated bus is to use the “eat that frog” approach and do my tidying early in the day.
Basically, Mark Twain is credited with having said that if you start your day by eating a live frog, then the worst part of your day is behind you, and if you have to eat two frogs, eat the bigger one first.
If I do the bulk of my housework early in the day, then I can easily just tidy as needed throughout the rest of the day while going about other things. It feels good to be able to do things I enjoy without the “ugh, I still need to clean” burden hanging over my head.
Habits for Successful Homemakers
Form a routine
Make daily cleaning a routine by repeating the same speed clean, and following the same focused clean schedule every day each week. You won’t end up with big cleaning projects regularly, and soon enough, it’ll become second nature to just knock out your daily housework.
The more you do it, the less and less you will have to build up the motivation beforehand. Your brain will have become accustomed to the task of housekeeping and know just what to expect. As your routine gets quicker, it will reinforce for your mind that there IS an end to this task, and you don’t have to dread spending all day every day doing housework.
Unfortunately, stuff has a way of sneaking in and accumulating again over time. That’s why you need to add scheduled declutters to your action plan. You can either tackle a house-wide declutter all at once, or you can assign yourself just one space at a time, and rotate through them on your planner.
Be intentional about your mood/attitude
As homemakers, we have to be very intentional about setting our attitudes every day. The demands of homemaking and housekeeping on top of raising a family can easily wear on our moods.
We have to actually be proactive about circumventing the thoughts and feelings that lead to a crummy attitude or a poor mood. Pay attention to your body’s signals as you feel tension building or negative thoughts coming to the front of your mind, and take control early.
This might look like a mommy timeout, or cranking up some music, or a trip outdoors. Whatever gets you back into the right head space (and heart space).
Rise early and go to bed on time
I know, I know…you’re probably getting it from all directions if you follow any kind of motherhood influencer anywhere on the internet. And now you’re going to hear it from me, too.
You need to be getting up early. As in earlier than the rest of your family.
Now obviously, this will depend on the season you’re in. If you are a brand new mom with a baby less than a year old, you probably need all the sleep you can get, more than most anything else. If you’re not getting some solid sleep, then this doesn’t apply to you.
Otherwise, rising early will give you a lovely, quiet hour or two to yourself to do anything or nothing. I highly recommend using this time to do some thing you enjoy. It is so valuable for setting your intentions for the day and starting the day on your terms.
I finally decided to implement this myself, even though my baby-toddler co-sleeps with us and wakes me frequently for feeds throughout the night. I thought it would leave me extra tired, and I would just have to deal with it for the sake of a better morning routine, but by going to bed earlier (even though I get up earlier) I am actually getting way more/better sleep than before. And I can say it is totally worth it. I now get into bed at 7 pm, read for an hour, and fall asleep around 8pm so that I can get up at 4 am.
If you want to avoid lengthy, time-consuming, labor intensive deep cleans, you’ve got to tidy daily. It makes cleaning so much more pleasant. Plus, Littles can pitch in with tidying a lot more easily than deep cleaning, and as they grow and learn from your example, their contributions will become a lot more helpful.
Keep a vision for your home and family life
Remember, your home is the little planet where your family members will spend the majority of their time for a significant portion of their lives.
What is your vision for their home-world? What kind of atmosphere do you want them to grow up in? What do you want their memories to look like? How do you want them to remember you? What kind of experiences do you want to have together? (And no less importantly, how do YOU want to remember their childhood and what kind of atmosphere do YOU want to live in?)
Think through all of these things and establish a vision for your home and your family life. The home is where it all starts, so cultivate your values through your space.
Enjoy things outside of your homemaking career
Like any successful career man (or woman), you need a life outside of your work. You need a break from motherhood/parenting/homemaking/etc, even just for five minutes at a time. If you put down the phone, dramatically reduce the time you spend on social media or streaming shows, and get up earlier, I guarantee you will have at least a little time to pursue your other interests.
Do everything with excellence
This is perhaps the most important habit you can reinforce. Be in the habit of doing everything with excellence.
While you might not have a hierarchy of supervisors as a homemaker, reviewing your performance and recommending you for promotions, the little details of what you do still matter. Each task that you complete half-heartedly or sloppily just because you don’t feel like doing it or you’re cranky about being the one to do it AGAIN (as usual, doesn’t anyone else in this house see things need to be done!?), you are letting yourself down.
I’m all for the slogan, “Done is better than perfect.” In fact, I basically live by it. But we should still strive for excellence in all we do, for the sake of our families, for our own edification, and to the glory of God.
No one else might see the quality of our results (especially when it’s just going to get done over again tomorrow), but WE see our work and WE know when we aren’t fulfilling our potential. If you won’t do things well for yourself, then why should anyone else?
Final Words on Homemaking and Housekeeping
Keeping house does not have to be an endless battle, stressor, and source of overwhelm for you. Once you have a system in place, you will free up so much of your day to be a more present parent and enjoy the things that you like to do.
Don’t forget, I’ve laid out my housekeeping routine for you in a printable version that you can fill in to design your own cleaning routine! I’d love to send it to you, so just drop your email below!
There is more to life than clutter and chores and housework. Housekeeping SHOULD not and NEED not consume your every waking breath and whatever energy you have.
Don’t buy the lie that you will always be overwhelmed because that’s just #momlife. It simply isn’t true. You can be in control of your day and your home. But it’s all about priorities.
If you want to be spending more quality time with your family and enjoying the things you like to do, then you have to be willing to take whatever actions are necessary to get there.
You might have to ditch a crap ton of stuff.
You might need to downsize to a smaller, more manageable house.
It might take some hard decisions.
But don’t for one second settle for less because someone told you “that’s just the way it is.” Take control or be controlled.
What is your biggest source of overwhelm when it comes to keeping house? Tell me in the comments!
If you found this post helpful, you should also check out:
- How to Get Things Done with a Baby
- How to Read 50+ Books as Year (as a busy mom)
- Why You Should View Motherhood as a Career Path
- How to Stay Sane While Staying at Home