Do you think it’s impossible to have a neat, tidy home when you’re raising little ones? Nope. Here are some tips on how to keep a tidy (not perfect) home with little kids!
Babies and little children (and even teens!) seem the opposite of neat, clean, orderly. They love to explore, get their hands on everything, and conduct messy experiments all day long.
Even though this is normal and developmentally appropriate (maybe not for the teens…), as adults we can find this terribly frustrating!
You can keep your house basically neat even though you have small (and not so small) children. You won’t have the perfect pristine home you did when you were single or newly married, but you can have it good enough.
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Here are some simple tips to help you keep a tidy home with little kids:
1. Declutter (and then purge some more!)
Kids grow so fast and as a consequence outgrow everything quickly (clothes, books, toys, etc.).
Even if you do a large, one-time declutter of your whole house, you will still need to regularly purge items. Schedule it on your calendar as a reminder. Four times a year (once a season) might be good then you can go through seasonal clothes/toys and remove what doesn’t fit anymore.
Related: 4 things you save when you declutter
2. Limit Toys
Keep a cap on toys!
A new study shows that having fewer toys is actually better for kids (less mess, more imaginative play, better cognitive development). Fewer toys mean more creativity!
Opt for experiences or outdoor playtime over toys. Choose quality, opened-ended (imagination building) toys.
One way to limit toys and keep your kids from absolute boredom is to have 2-3 small, separate bins of toys hidden away in a storage closet. Every few weeks (while the kids are asleep!) take out bin and put the “new” toys out (and gather all the old ones up and store them away!).
Your kids will be excited at the “new” toys! Works every time for my 3 and 5-year-old (and is even better with younger kids!). You can repeat this process every few weeks or so.
3. Have kids help
Kids of all ages can help clean and organize (you just can’t be super picky about their methods or the final products!).
Start young and teach your kids how to clean!
Let them try to help, even if they do it imperfectly. They LOVE to help!
My 5-year-old will sometimes ask me if she can wash the dishes in the sink, so I let her. She enjoys it and she’s learning at the same time.
One family rule we have is to clean up one toy before getting out another – especially if the toy has lots of little parts. Warning: You may have to remind your kids 34,235 times before this rule sinks in.
4. Every item has a place
Have a place to put every item (not the kitchen table).
Then, teach your kids to put items back where they belong after using them (this will also likely take 34,235 reminders).
If an item is always living on your countertop (or dresser top), find a permanent home for it or get rid of it.
5. Keep organization simple
I love sorting all the toys by kind and size and even color. My girls? Nope! They just toss everything in a bin!
So, we use a shelving unit like this with these types of bins and the bins are often a mish-mash of items, but when all the toys are in them and the bins are closed the room is clean! So we’re all happy!
Yes, ideally, I’d like for the bins to be sorted by type of toy, color, etc. but I’ve settled for a clean floor with all toys in bins and out of sight!
These under the bed storage bins are also great for keeping toys tidy and out of sight!
6. Have daily routines
Here are some of our routines:
- After each meal, put dishes in sink or dishwasher, wipe the table and sweep the floor.
- Put clothes away immediately after using (with a 5 and 3 year old – I’m constantly working on this).
- Do a load of laundry every day (or at least every other day).
(I HATE laundry pileups – plus this just makes a mound of mess).
- Take 5-10 minutes at the end of the day to clean up the majority of toys (I try very hard to clean as we go – not get out a new toy until the previous one is put away – so at the end of the day the clean up time is minimal.)
I remind the girls that we’re a family so we always work together and help and encourage each other with all the routines.
Related: Time Management for the Busy Family
Related: Streamline your laundry routine
7. Adjust your expectations
AKA “lower your standards”.
I don’t mean you overlook everything and live in chaos and filth, but you can’t expect your house to always look like a ready hotel room or as perfectly pristine as when you were single with no kids.
You CAN, however, keep it relatively clean on a daily basis and teach your kids to clean up after themselves (not perfectly) and thus have a tidy home with little kids.
8. Go paperless
Paper clutter can be a bear!
Pay bills online, save documents on the Cloud, go through your mail immediately (keep/shred/recycle) and pay bills right away.
Have a small bin or shelving system and put paperwork to do in there and schedule a regular time to get rid of it (at least weekly!).
What to do with crafts and kids’ drawings? I hang a few and recycle the rest. New creations go up and the old ones are recycled. I label and save a few favorites in a small file box like this.
9. Make cleaning fun
My 5-year-old asked me the other day about the song “A Spoonful of Sugar” from Mary Poppins and what it means. I realized (after all these years!) that the song basically means “making dull or hard things fun (or palatable)” so I explained that we can make hard or boring jobs fun!
- Put on some fun music.
- Set the timer for 5 or 10 minutes
- Give everyone an age-appropriate task
- Go for it!
You can make it a game and see how many toys each person can gather in a basket in 5 minutes!
Or have a reward for after cleaning. “If we all clean this room together, then we can play this board game afterward!”
Use these tips to implement a cleaning system that works for your family. Start when your kids are young so they learn right away and regularly purge items so they don’t accumulate in your home. Following simple routines like these can help you have a tidy home even with little kids! I’d love for you to share your thoughts and ideas below!