Cleaning House

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Find your house in a mess that paralyzes? Time to hit the reset button so you can get back to business.

thoughts on cleaning house

It’s been one of those weeks. Yeah, I know. As I type this, it’s still Monday. I’m referring moreso to the previous seven days. A week ago I was plotting my hubby’s 50th birthday celebration. And after that, the week, well, it just ran away from me.

The week ended with some great stuff: a couple days of freezer cooking sessions, a Papa-six kids outing that left me with a quiet house while I cooked, kids playing all day long in the sunshine with their friends, a shopping trip with a friend. All good stuff.

This morning my 12-year old made crepes for everyone. How’s that for a Monday morning?

Though I set my alarm for 5:45, I kept pushing the snooze. When I finally got out of bed, I knew that I had a long, long to-do list on my hands that was worse for not waking early. Not only did I have really great things to do like tax prep, but I also had a mess to deal with. All the fun activity of the last few days took its toll on our house. It was an absolute wreck. Absolute. wreck.

Now I am admittedly, not a clean freak. I can let things go to a certain extent. And then I become paralyzed by the messes. I have to do something about them or I will feel like I am slogging through quicksand.

Or at least mountainous piles of laundry.

Rather than try to tackle my to do list, I changed plans for the day. Instead of business as usual, the kids and I worked on pushing the reset button. You know, that button that makes your house go back to the way it’s supposed to be.

Don’t have a button? Oh yes, you do.

How to push the reset button on your house:

reset button 001

There are seasons when home maintenance is just hard to tackle. The comings and goings of life keep you coming and going while  backpacks, mail, grocery bags, and other miscellany pile up around you. The visual clutter is exhausting and paralyzing. You need to make a change.

Just like a computer slows down when it’s asked to tackle too many tasks, so does your home. That’s when it’s time to hit the reset button. Here’s how:

1. Put the non-essentials on hold.

If the state of your home is causing you stress, then it’s time to put the brakes on non-essential activities. You might still need to go to school or work, but you probably don’t need to go shopping or to a party or hang out on Facebook.

For my part, I decided that the tax prep and the email and school work could wait another day while I regained some equilibrium in our home.

2. Make expectations and hopes clear to those involved.

I explained to the kids my plan. “We let things slide too far over the weekend and we need to catch up.” I laid out my expectations for them at the start. I also communicated my plans to my husband so he knew what my goals were and could help me when he got home.

3. Minimize mealtimes.

After clocking a lot of hours in the kitchen for the Pantry Challenge last month, I knew that I needed to simplify meals while we got our household back under control.

My 12-year old handled breakfast and lunch. Hubs was able to handle dinner prep, an easy Mexi-bar.

I stayed out of the kitchen where I am apt to cook up all kinds of projects, both literally and figuratively. I didn’t get the pies made that I had planned on, but they’ll be a fun treat for tomorrow.

home laundry

4. Get the machines to work.

If you have laundry to do or dishes to wash, get those machines going first thing. By the time the wash cycle is done, you’ll be ready to change it or fold it or put it away instead of having to come back later when the rest of the work is done. The machine can work while you’re working on something else. If several people will be sharing one vacuum, get that baby running and keep it running until everything’s done.

I estimate that we did about 6 to 7 loads today, including sheets and towels. We’ll have clean clothes for at least another day or two. And we did a whole-house vacuum.

5. Delegate.

Delegation does not come easily to me. But, I know I will drown without help. I assigned each of the big boys a bathroom as well as their rooms and several other tasks. There’s no way I could have done it on my own, nor should I have tried.

Nor should you. It’s good for our kids to participate in the workings of the household. Be sure to assign a task to the youngest child capable of doing it. Save the bigger, harder jobs for the bigger kids.

6. Change what’s not working.

I spent the bulk of my day reorganizing the girls’ clothes and toys. As cute as the Cupboard Under the Stairs is, it just isn’t working for us. The girls want to play in other areas of the house, defeating “the containment of stuff” that I hoped the play cupboard would provide. They now have a new play area in their bedroom. We’ll see if that works.

Or change it when it doesn’t.

Be okay with good enough.

Is my house sparkling clean? No, it’s not. Eight people live here. Things are destined to drift to chaos, but we spent a good amount of time setting things to rights. A little focused time has set us on the right track for the rest of the week. It also has served as a reminder not to let things get so far-gone that it becomes paralyzing.

In the end, the kids and I all feel good about what we’ve accomplished together. And hopefully, everyone will have clean socks and underwear tomorrow.

Do YOU ever have to hit the reset button?

How do you reclaim your home from chaos?

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  1. Yep. We hit it most days at 5PM, and then a bit more seriously on Saturday mornings.

    But what really works for us is when we have overnight company. Suddenly we see things with new eyes, a few extra jobs get done, and we’re left with happy memories of our company as well as a cleaner or easier-to-clean house.

    That happened last weekend, and now the spare bedroom is spiffy again and we no longer have calcium build-up in our sinks. Miss 10 took care of that problem by using 10x more vinegar than I usually do; being frugal was a bad thing in this case.

    I hope your home feels good again!

    1. Sprinkling baking soda and then spraying with vinegar and letting it sit a bit really helps here. Still frugal but a little more heavy duty. Sometimes I have to scrub a little harder.

      1. I always do the baking soda thing too. Works as well as Soft Scrub for me! I’ll have to try adding the vinegar sometime, too.

  2. We invite friends over for dinner and games. Then we have to hit that reset button. It makes it worth it knowing we have company coming.

  3. When I was growing up, when things got like this my mom would say, “Wow, I can tell we’ve had a good time this week[end]!” We all knew that meant it was time to clean up. I now say that to my husband and he understands what I mean too. I think it’s a good way to say that you’ve enjoyed your break, but it’s time to get back to normal without getting down on yourself or your family.

  4. Looks like what we call, “Emergency Laundry Reduction Day!” There are days when I put a hold on schoolwork and the like and crank out the housework—the rest of the week goes a whole lot better/faster when we do this. Unfortunately having company over always help the motivation. At least that gets the major issues taken care of and then after the event I can focus on the less desperate areas. Oh—what about turning your area under the stairs into a game closet??? I wouldn’t recommend toy storage as that could be a nightmare, but shelves for games . . . . . . ? 🙂

    1. We have a game closet in the toy garage. We’re thinking of making it a quiet room where someone can go to escape (if possible) the noise of the house. With floor pillows, it could be a nice reading space.

      1. I’ve seen lots of ideas on Pinterest for spaces under the stairs. Including reading nooks. I’d love a space like that!

  5. When I grew up, kids were expected to help clean the house everyday, do dishes, do laundry and cook. My 12 year old son cooks breakfast and can take care of himself for lunch or dinner if I am busy. He is the bathroom cleaner for our house (his choice, he thinks it’s the easy chore to do.) I couldn’t keep a 5 bathroom house semi clean without his help (I work full time.) Bottom line, kids should be expected to help with chores on a daily basis.

    1. Amen. With six kids of varying ages and capabilities, we’re still working on a system that works. So far everyone has a kitchen job to do 3x/day. We’re changing up our laundry system so that each bedroom or each child (still deciding) does laundry separately. We are a work in progress. 🙂

  6. yep…sure did hit that reset button and it took all day by my self to do it.Hubby’s idea of helping was to get out of my way.Though I did leave the sacks of trash to be hauled out to burn or to the trash can for him to deal with before I started dinner.

  7. I’m getting ready to hit the reset button myself, but will end up doing most of it by myself. My kids are 4 and 2, but what needs to be cleaned the most is the basement and the back entry (things they can’t help with.) Especially since we are getting a new washer and dryer set this weekend and the delivery guys need to be able to get to the old set.

  8. A couple of years ago, I volunteered to host our church’s monthly Stewardship Committee meeting. Best housing keeping move I ever made. Each month when the meeting rolls around my husband will vacuum the entire house, empty all the trash cans, sort all the recyclables and ensure the kids clean their rooms and the main bathroom. All without me ever saying a word. The only time this happens during the month.

  9. Thanks for the reminder. Sometimes it is paralyzing to see the mess and know all the things I wanted to be able to get done in a day. I have six kids who are good helpers, but as they get older they get busier. Reset button sounds like what we need right now. Then we need to rethink our responsibilities and how they can work with our schedules.

  10. Last week I pretty much had a breakdown and my husband who works part-time nights, finally got the message that I needed some help, so he has given me a six month hiatus. Just to clarify I work full time and my commute has me in my car 15 hours a week. He will do the groceries, cooking, organize the kids to get their chores done, take care of our youngest son’s laundry and whatever else I was doing before. It is very hard to take my hands off, especially the shopping, but I am going to let him do it. I have not been an easy person to live with lately, so I think he is hoping that a rest, will help.

    1. Hallelujah! I’m so happy for you and your husband. That sounds like a good decision.

  11. I’m a big lover of pressing the reset button in all life departments. This list is great! I use #1 and #2 before making a plan of attack, and getting the machines working helps me get in the clean-this-place-NOW mood. Being ok with good enough is one I’m still working on, but I’m less of perfectionist than I used to be. Progress is good.

  12. How do you divide/decide on chores for the kids? What are appropriate chores for a 4 and 7 year old because it’s just a battle here.

    1. Kids that age can make their beds (imperfectly, of course, but an honest effort is what we require). They can also take turns setting the table, and the 7yo can help dry dishes after supper. The 4yo can empty the silverware part of the dishwasher (after you take out the sharp knives). Both can also put away clean, folded laundry in the appropriate drawers, sort sock pairs while you are folding the laundry, and be responsible for keeping their rooms neat. Empty the trash, feed pets, etc. My kids are responsible for the same basic things (make beds, pick up room, help with dishwasher) every day, but then they take turns with other stuff. They also have more chores in the summer than during the school year, so that we don’t interfere with homework. All families are different though, so different systems work for everyone.

    2. My 4yo can clear her place, pick up her toys, wipe and clear the table, fold towels, make her bed. My 7 yo have done all the same in addition to wiping the table, folding other laundry, wiping bathroom counters, and loading and unloading the dishwasher. You may have to feel your way to see what they are capable of. Chances are it’s more than they are doing now.

  13. Thanks Jessica. This was just the inspiration I needed. The washer is running, the dishwasher is humming, and I am sitting down with a beverage before I tackle another load of laundry to be folded.