I’m a perfectionist at heart, so I used to have this idea that my house needed to be 100% clean 100% of the time. And if it wasn’t, I was failing. Totally realistic, right?
Then life showed me a more rational plan: once I had kids, my house would rarely (if ever) be 100% clean.
I struggled with this realization a lot. I fought it. I tried to keep up. But there was only so much time. Finally, I got a system down and thought I was doing a pretty amazing job.
Then I started listening to other moms talk about cleaning their house–whether in person or on Facebook group posts or on blogs–and the failure started closing in on me again. Women would talk about how they swept after every meal, mopped and vacuumed the whole house daily, dusted multiple times per week, etc. and I broke.
“Wait, I’m supposed to vacuum every day? That’s a thing?”
The perfectionist in me tried to keep up. And failed. Naturally. Because who has time to sweep three times per day?! Isn’t that what a dog is for 🤔? Over time I realized something:
My house doesn’t need to be 100% clean 100% of the time!
Shocking, right?! Okay, so maybe I’m the last person in the world to figure this out, but it was a big moment for me. Because trying to keep my whole house clean all the time really just meant that nothing was clean a lot of the time. It was too overwhelming.
Once I realized that what I was aiming for was not only futile, but actually a waste of time and energy, my house suddenly seemed a whole lot cleaner.
I just needed to figure out what level of clean was right for me and my family. Did we really need everything picked up off the floor at all times? Was it really necessary to make our beds every day or prop the pillows on the couch multiple times per day or wipe down the bathroom counters after each use? Maybe. Or maybe not. The answer is different for every household.
The important thing is that I learned that all the extra time I spent cleaning could be better used elsewhere. You know, playing with my kids or spending one-on-one time with my husband or writing my novel or helping a friend. Obviously I had to spend some time cleaning (unfortunately!), but at some point enough was enough.
So What’s Your Clean Happy Medium?
Now it’s time to find YOUR clean happy medium. Sit down and think about your house.
- Where do you spend the most time?
- Where does your family spend the most time?
- What room(s) do you tend to choose when you relax or focus or create?
- When someone comes to the front door, what room do they see?
Those are the most important rooms to focus on. Keep those rooms the cleanest and put the majority of your cleaning time and effort there.
Next, you need to determine what level of clean is important to you. Be realistic here. There are two steps to having a clean house: 1) the picking-up and straightening & 2) the scrubbing and sanitizing. Think about both and evaluate how much each matters to you.
- Do you need the floors to be spotless every day? How dirty do they get (i.e. do you have young kids spilling food all the time or tracking mud inside often)?
- Do cluttered counters make you anxious?
- Does a freshly made bed in the morning make your day seem lighter?
- Do you love to vacuum?
- How often do you have guests (kids don’t count!)?
- Do guests tend to use one specific bathroom?
After you’ve pondered these questions, come up with a realistic cleaning plan and let the rest go.
My Clean Happy Medium
I realized that, for me, deep cleaning isn’t as important as picking-up and straightening, and the kitchen is the most important place to keep clean. Knowing this, I spend a few minutes straightening twice a day (after breakfast and around the kids’ bedtime). I focus on the downstairs: kitchen first, family room next, then the playroom, followed by the rest of the downstairs. If I only have time for the kitchen, fine. I try to do my dishes every night so I can wake up to an empty sink. I wipe down my counters multiple times per day (after meals and snacks). And I try to keep clutter to a minimum. When things start to pile up in the kitchen, so does my anxiety. My scrubbing & sanitizing happens once every week or two (depending on the room and how busy I am or how dirty it’s gotten).
This works great for our family and we’ve all been calmer and happier since we started this system. Your clean happy medium may look a lot different, but make sure you really listen to yourself. You may need to lower your standards. You may need to let some things go. I definitely did. And once I did, a whole world of time opened up for me and my household ran a lot smoother.
What room do you like to keep the cleanest?