Crumbs all over the couch. Toys and laundry scattered in a trail through the living room and into the kitchen. A pile of dishes in the sink. Cheerios stuck to the highchair and your jeans. Oh – and 30 minutes until your mother-in-law arrives for the weekend! Reality check . . . this article will not be telling you how to miraculously make your house into a spotless museum in 30 minutes. First, because that just isn’t realistic and second, because you know it would be un-spotless in about 10 minutes. But what I will do is give you my favorite tips for making your house look lived in, loved, and tidy.
Side note: Remember that your best offense is a good defense. Taking 5 minutes in each room of the house every day will help reign in the chaos before it gets out of control. Another one of the simplest things you can do is put some kind of organization in place, to simplify cleaning – here are ideas for your home and here are some specifically for toys.
But back to the 30 minutes you have now! Here are my best tips:
- Focus on the visible areas – front yard, porch, front hallway, the bathroom guests will use, living room, kitchen. Now is not the time to tackle kids’ bedrooms or a master bathroom.
- Start with the stuff – walk around the perimeter of the room and move all the things that don’t belong to the middle. You can do for any spaces the whole family uses – dining room, living room, hallways, and even the kitchen. Enlist the help of the kids for this, especially since a lot of the things you find are probably theirs.
- That’s your next step . . . quickly sorting what you’ve found into where it needs to go. I use a square tote for any mail, magazines, or paperwork (so they don’t get crumpled and lost in the shuffle), a large laundry basket for clothes and shoes, and these “crap buckets” for all the toys and other kid items. You may or may not have time to put everything individual item in its place, but at least moving it to the right room and out of sight will give you a head start for some deeper cleaning later on.
- Eye ball the surfaces – do they need to be wiped off? If so, quickly run a rag over them and brush things onto the floor, because your next job is to vacuum. If you have hard floors, I highly recommend investing in a vacuum that can handle those too. Sweeping is time consuming and having to both sweep and vacuum takes too much time for a busy mom!
- Your last stops will be the bathroom and kitchen. Again, hit the highlights. Grab a multi-purpose cleaner (I make my own using Essential Oils) and spray down only visible surfaces. I usually need to wipe the toilet seat, the sink and counter tops, and the mirror in the bathroom. Hint: close your shower curtain or door and save scrubbing the tub for another time.
- If you’re like me, the kitchen will seem the most overwhelming. If you have a dishwasher, start by loading it (and yes, I know – you may have to unload it first. This is a great kid chore, so get them in there!). Remember, you already did the “perimeter sweep” earlier, so everything left out in the kitchen should be food/dishes related! Wipe crumbs off counters, chairs, and table tops and onto the floor, then sweep/vacuum. Hint: if you don’t have a dishwasher, save dishes for the very end. Throw on a cute apron and some upbeat music, open the windows and feel the beat while you work! I save it for last because it’s an easy task to stop in the middle if I get interrupted.
- Final step? Diffuse some Essential Oil or light your favorite candle to make everything smell fresh (you can do this at the beginning to, to help energize you, Peppermint Essential Oil is great for that!). If the weather allows, open windows and turn on fans to move air. Even if your windows are dirty, open your curtains a little bit – bringing in light and sunshine always makes me feel like things are cleaned up and ready to go.
There you go – 30 minutes to a “clean” house! If you have the time, it’s always good to actually find homes for all the toys, clothing, shoes, and books that you picked up in your perimeter sweep at the beginning . . . but with a cleaned up house today, you may have time to work on that tomorrow!