10 Tips for Cleaning Up After a Big Family

cleaning big family

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.

However… 

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?

 

Author: Shelly Sangrey

I'm Shelly, a Christ-following, homeschooling Mom of eleven children ( okay, not ALL children. My oldest is 23.) I met my husband right after graduation, and we've been together ever since. Though my life can be hectic at times... okay, ALL the time, I wouldn't change it for anything.

52 thoughts on “10 Tips for Cleaning Up After a Big Family”

  1. These are great tips for any size family. We have always had a sort of floater too. They take care of the items that don’t belong to the room being cleaned so that the person cleaning the room can stay on task. And with laundry, folding and putting it away as soon as it’s done keeps that under control.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a great use for a floater. I never thought of that! We don’t put our laundry away until the weekends. I tried putting it away every day, but it was hard because I do at least three loads of laundry a day, and it was just too time consuming for us!

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    1. It’s actually pretty nice to have so many kids chore-wise because I have enough kids to cover every room that needs to be done daily plus two floaters. I usually make them clean their bedrooms on Saturdays.

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  2. Very nice. We are a family of seven, with six at home. We clean every thirty minutes. lol. I tell the kids I’m a cranky teacher when there’s a mess. Like you mentioned, I don’t always aim for perfection, I just do not like disorder with things everywhere. But these tips were helpful. Thanks!

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  3. Any family size cleaning up can get mundane. For me, staying organized and on top of things daily. Sounds like you have it under control! Way to go.

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  4. I don’t intend to look showroom ready but since I have no kids my house is typically pretty close to it. But when I go to a friend’s house, especially with kids, I would hate to see spotless because it would feel ridiculous, like the kids can’t be kids and let loose. Or that the parents spend all the time cleaning instead of enjoying life. Thank you for reminding people that homes are for living, not for showing! #momsterslink

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  5. Wonderful tips! I use some of these, but I’m not as intentional as I could be with them. I also read once that you should assign a task to the youngest child that is able to do it so that chores are spread around more easily. So when I’m not paying attention to a rotation schedule, that’s the way I handle it. (For those seasons of life that are just crazy!)

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  6. Wow!!! This is such a great list! I particularly love the prioritizing between a spotless house or time with the kids…a question we all have to answer, and speaking from experience now that my kids are a bit older, I’m so glad I gave up on spotless! You should share on the Fresh Market Friday link-up because your passion for motherhood and homemaking is wonderful. The weekly link-up is all about sharing what we are intentional and passionate about!

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  7. As a mom in a large family I must say these are excellent tips! Scheduling time to clean is actually my favorite and I think I am going to try that in my house! Thanks for sharing… #Momsterslink

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  8. I have a 19 month old and she causes mayhem in my home, so goodness how you deal with 11, what an inspiration. It sounds like you’ve got things in a nice little order and routine and I completely agree that children should have chores to help teach them the way of life etc. I don’t envy you with the laundry – mine is never ending with just three people in the house. I bet Christmases are lovely for you with a big family. Thanks for a lovely little read, I will take some of your tips on board – after all a lived in home is better than a spotless, show home! #kcacols

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    1. Those toddlers are little rascals sometimes, aren’t they? But they’re cute, so that makes up for it, right? And about laundry…if you notice, I didn’t include that because that’s one thing that I still can’t get under control. Someday.

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  9. Ok, so I stopped by because I feel overwhelmed with cleaning up with 3 kids (all boys) and yes, I thought we had a big family. I had always said if I could afford and physically handle it, I would have had 10 but I did not make it that far🙂 I do love your tips as well, my littlest loved to help me when he was home with me and I have chore charts for the kids as well. Their charts in the summer also include reading, writing, drawing/music, and exercise time so they don’t just sit around all day bugging me for screen time. I love your idea to rotate the chores, I bet my boys would like that.

    Thanks for sharing with Small Victories Sunday Linkup and I hope you linked up with our Pintastic Pinterest Party too. Pinning to our linkup board and hope you found some great posts to visit this week!

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    1. Hi, Tanya! I’m so glad you stopped by, and, yes, I did link up to the Pintastic Pinterest Party.🙂 I love the charts you have for your kids. If there’s one thing I know most kids do better with, it’s structure! Thanks for pinning my post.😉

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  10. AMAZING post and I so needed to read this today! I only have 3 children (And at age 3 and under they’re too young to help) but I will certainly be involving them in the future, and will be taking the rest of these tips on – you are so right, presentable is what I need to be aiming for…,my focus is always on spotless and when I fail (everyday!) I feel bad. Thank you for this! #KCACOLS x

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  11. Great tips!! My husband is super nuts about having a tidy home, no clutter, whereas I can leave dirty dishes in the sink for a night. His and my definition of “presentable” may be different but I think that is s GREAT word to use.

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  12. I’m on the different end of the spectrum. I had an empty nest, but one of my flock flew back home with her husband (my son-in-law) and her daughter (my precious granddaughter). I am blessed beyond measure to have this season in my life right now.

    Having said that, many times I feel like a majority of the picking up and cleaning falls on my shoulders. I have accepted that my house is going to look lived in. It is better for me to enjoy this precious time with my granddaughter than try to keep a museum.

    Your insight about keeping your house presentable was very helpful.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Great tips! I feel like I can barely keep up with the mess and I only have two! You are so right that you have to plan and compromise! Thanks so much for linking with #KCACOLS. We hope you come back next week.

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  14. As usual, I love this. So practical and necessary, especially for homeschooling moms! I always said my house was not a showcase. We live here. But we still have to function. And everyone did their own laundry and assumed responsibility for themselves as soon as they were old enough.

    I also like the floater idea – that’s a good one.

    Have a great day, Shelly! See you next Tuesday Talk!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. We’ve always been big on having Gv help the family with things like this – sure, it always takes longer to do things while she’s learning, but the payoffs are huge when we no longer have to do things for her and she can actually help clean up the house! Even as a new three-year-old, she can do so much to help already! #FridayFrivolity

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  16. I have a family of 6 and we had our house built we made it so that everyone had their own space. This also meant more space to clean. Everyone (except my husband) has chores to do. But because I have a touch of OCD I go around repeating the chores to make sure they get done right. I have tried to let it rest but something in me just can’t. But I do believe it is important that kids learn responsibility at a young age. Oh and I feel you on the bedtime as mine are running my patience right now with not wanting to go to bed. I just informed them that if I hear one more “mommy” I will shut every light off and there will be no more playing in their rooms. (I am a little more lenient since it’s summertime and let them play in their rooms, which usually turns out to be one room, until they conk out.) In turn I usually get to sleep in. But some nights I have to be the bad guy. Thanks for linking up with #momsterslink. Hope to see you again on Thursday.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Trust me, I have my days- like yesterday- where the mess starts to get to me, and I start wandering around the house all day trying to stay on top of it, but it’s a losing battle. It’s on those days that I’m usually particularly grumpy. And bedtime is one of my favorite times of the day!

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