Are you feeling frazzled over the undeniably daunting task of cleaning up after your big family? Does this seemingly endless chore make you a grumpy mom who’s no fun to be around?
Believe me, I’m right there with you sometimes.
Being a mom of 11 is one of the most joyful aspects of my life. My family is everything to me, and being a mom to a a ‘super-size’ family is a major part of my identity…I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my husband and children.
It’s not easy. So many times, I’ve been called a ‘super mom’ and been told that I ‘must have so much patience’ when, in reality, I’m no different than anyone else. I guarantee you that I am not a super mom, and I do lose patience…daily. Sometimes hourly. Actually, just a few minutes ago. (My kids love putting off bedtime.)
One of my biggest downfalls has been my frustration over the sheer amount of housework I’m faced with everyday. It can be so overwhelming to just be aware that the running of the household pretty much depends entirely on you.
Rather than letting this area of my life consume me, after much trial and error, I’ve come up with the 10 best tips for keeping a presentable house.
Did you catch that? I said ‘presentable’. Not immaculate. Not sparkling clean.
Presentable. Got that?
Which brings me to my first tip:
1. Aim for presentable, not “Better Homes and Gardens.” Believe me, I’m well aware of all the posts and magazine articles featuring perfectly coiffed mothers with their beautiful, spotless houses. I’ve watched “19 Kids and Counting.” And, yes, I used to feel inferior to these woman for doing what I couldn’t do. But here’s the thing…I live in the real world. I have 11 kids. I homeschool. I blog. I do not have a housekeeper. I do not have a nanny. Changing my expectations has made a world of difference for me. Does this mean I never strive for a spotless house? Absolutely not. I have my moments where I’m on a mission for my husband to come home to a ‘sparkling clean’ house. And it happens…sometimes. But guess what? Within two hours, it goes back to its usual state. So, for most of the time, presentable it is.
2. Don’t take on all the work alone. You know all those things on your to-do list? Delegate some of those tasks to your children. Of course you will need to show them what to do or, if they are older, explain to them your expectations. Keep in mind that giving your kids some responsibilities around the house will not only be a help to you, but it will also teach your children that there is no such thing as a cleaning fairy, and it will prepare them for adulthood. Remember, kid-cleaned is better than not cleaned at all!
3. Even small children can help. My youngest is three, but she loves to help me around the house. (If only it would last…) She helps me hang clothes on the line outside (with some help from me), she helps take it down, she takes clothes out of the dryer and puts them in, she wipes down the front of the fridge and stove, and she helps pick things up off the floor. To be clear, I have not assigned chores to her. At this point, she just wants to be a part of ‘chore time’ and is happy to do anything she can. My five year old does pretty much the same as the three year old, although she does put her own clothing away.
4. Assign at least one child as a floater. The floater is someone who will be available to do anything that’s needed but not covered. We have two floaters, and they typically cover for kids who are gone for the day or who are on dishes duty, they may help in a room which is particularly messy that day (most often the dining room because the bulk of our school and craft activities are done there), or they may simply do odds and ends things which I don’t normally assign to anyone but need attention.
5. Let the kids take turns with dishes. I don’t know about your family, but the least favorite chore here is dishes. My kids hate them. We don’t have a dishwasher, so everything has to be washed by hand at least twice a day. For this very reason, I do not assign any one child as the permanent dish washer. They take turns each day. This works out rather well here because I have seven children who are old enough to do dishes (I start them at age eight- with help), so at this point in time, my kids generally only have dishes duty once a week.
6. Use disposable cups and plates. We don’t do this all the time because it can get expensive, but when we do, our dishes are cut down by at least 75%. It’s definitely worth the cost because it greatly reduces the mess, it saves time, and it prevents a lot of aggravation.
7. Rotate chores monthly. Speaking from experience, I know how dull it can be to do the same thing everyday. In order to break up the monotony, we switch up the chores on a monthly basis. All of our children ages six and up are on the rotation schedule, and they each get a turn at every chore. If the chore is difficult for a younger child, I will work with them or have a floater help out. Not only does this add some variety to their cleaning routine, but it’s a great way to introduce kids to the upkeep of an entire house.
8. Set specific times of the day as your chore time. Obviously there are going to be days when this isn’t possible, but having a clear expectation of when things need to be done is important in establishing a routine that will stick. When and how many times a day you choose to do it is entirely up to you.
In our house, we typically will do a quick straighten up of the living room and dining room each morning before beginning our homeschool because who can learn in a messy house? 🙂 If we will be working in the kitchen for any activities, we’ll also include the kitchen in this tidying up time. Then, around 1pm, after lunch, we have our first chore time of the day. Usually by this time, the house is pretty disheveled from school, so we make sure to clean everything up before my husband comes home from work. Our second chore time is at 6pm, after dinner. That way, the house is decent before bedtime. Since we have so many kids, we are able to divvy up the chores in a way that we are usually completely finished in 20-30 minutes.
9. Plan for periodic ‘deep clean days.’ These are the days that we will usually focus on an entire floor of the house and do everything. We get rid of any and all clutter, empty and re-shelf the bookshelves, organize our homeschool supplies, clean the fridge and microwave, you name it. If it needs to get done, we do it.
This is where our year round homeschool schedule proves to be such an advantage. Our seven youngest kids homeschool on a six-week on, one-week off schedule, so this gives us the perfect opening to do our deep cleaning because we always do it on one of the days of their off-week. Since our older kids homeschool on the typical fall through spring schedule, I simply give them the day off of their regular school work for a life skills day. We also make sure to do a deep clean the week before major holidays, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.
10. Prioritize what is more important to you- a spotless house or your relationship with your children. A “Better Homes and Gardens House” may seem like a tempting goal, and I think that all of us women yearn for the picturesque lifestyle insinuated within the pages of these magazines. Knowing myself as well as I do, though, it wouldn’t be picturesque. I would be spending every spare moment following my kids around making sure they weren’t messing anything up. Constantly.
In the end, this is what your attitude about your house comes down to: What do you want your kids to remember about their childhoods? Their beautiful house fully equipped with a perpetually cranky mom? Or a slightly cluttered but cozy home filled with memories of lots of time together enjoying each other as a family?
I know which one I choose.
What are your tips for cleaning up after a big family?