I know there are people who have toddlers and a clean house. I don’t have any idea how they do it. If I did, my house wouldn’t look like it imploded, then exploded back out. Maybe these clean-house people practice witchcraft or have weekly housekeepers.
Keeping my house clean has been hard since having kids. Time is short, and we have things to do. So there’s never enough time to do our day and clean a house top to bottom. It’s one or the other. Even if I pick up as I go, I’m picking things up all day long. Toys and shredded toilet paper pieces have a weird way of multiplying when you have tiny tots running around. Sure, maybe I squeeze in a load of laundry so that it can sit in the washer for four days while I use it as Exhibit A — my defense for why no one has any clean pants: “But, look,” I say as I point toward the washing machine. “I’m doing laundry.”
Even when I do manage to get my house mostly clean — usually because people are coming over and we don’t want folks to know we actually live here — it never stays that way for longer than a few hours. These days, my tolerance for “dirty” borders on landfill, and I’m too tired to care. As long as my toilet doesn’t look like a fourth-grade science project, I don’t care about these things:
The state of Colorado is arid and sunny. I can see the dust particles invade my home anytime I walk by a ray of light beaming through the window, like particle fairies bringing gifts from the Earth’s atmosphere straight to my tabletops. By the time I get everything dusted — usually using my hand or a dish towel — I have to start over the next day. Unless I move into a house that’s a replica of the vacuum of space, it’s not possible to keep up with this.
My kitchen counter is an epic hoarder of things. It is the bane of my existence and the one thing about my house that plagues me night and day. I could clean this entire counter off and it would re-clutter on its own — like a bionic house-part. I could dig through it for months and still never find any item that is the size of a Pomeranian — hell, there might even be one of those in there too.
I used to mop the floors every other night after everyone went to bed, and by 8 a.m. the next morning, it looked like a toddler rave had been thrown after bedtime. I don’t know if this stuff just seeped out from the cracks in the floor or how crumbs accumulated overnight. So, for the sake of my sanity, I reserve mopping for vomit and potty accidents only.
I sweep my floors twice a day. Not because I enjoy a clean house, but because there is so much food that accumulates from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and gets kicked around the house. It’s like my children are farm animals.
I don’t mind vacuuming. It’s the fastest way to make my house look clean. It happens so rarely, though, that when I do vacuum there’s a celebration with a parade and everything — including farm animals. If I could figure out a way to inject Febreze into my carpet with it, I might be able to fool people into thinking I clean on a regular basis.
6. Cleaning Bathrooms
I only do this on three occasions: 1) someone pottied on the toilet, which is every other day); 2) someone is coming over announced, which gives me time to use a pressure washer if needed; or 3) someone showed up unannounced, which leaves me with no time and my only option is to wipe down what I can and pray to the patron saint of domestic servants (yes, there really is one: Saint Zita).
My bathrooms are probably the cleanest things in my house.
I never minded laundry when it was a bi-weekly affair. As a single person, I never had a need to change into 40 different outfits in one day like my kids do. So laundry should be a one-load-a-week affair, and it is — except when it isn’t, which is every week. As it stands, laundry is a one-load-a-week affair, but by the time I get around to it, it’s a 64-load-a-month affair.
8. Washing Sheets
When I had one child, I washed all the sheets in the house every two weeks, like clockwork. Then I had my second kid, and it was once a month. Now that I have my third kid, this only happens if someone pees their bed — or my bed.
I absolutely, positively hate doing the dishes in any way, shape, or form. Oddly enough, it happens to be the only household chore that needs to be done two to three times a day. A good-dish day is when I unload the dishwasher at 6:30 a.m. and keep it up until dinner. A bad-dish day is when every missing sippy cup in our home slowly weaves its way out of hiding until I am left with 479 sippy cups and 12 lids — at 9 p.m.
10. Washing Windows
I have no problem looking the other way on this one, at least until the windows are so dirty we have to look outside the front door to see if it really is foggy on a hot, sunny July afternoon.
11. Cleaning the Litter Box
When my cat was my child, I cleaned this thing daily. It looked like a Zen garden. These days, with an extra cat around and a littler box in a room that’s a low-traffic area, it gets forgotten about. Sometimes I neglect it for so long that I just dump the contents into the garbage outside and start over with a brand new litter box.
12. Taking Out the Trash
There’s no way around this one. I simply cannot keep bags of trash inside my home because my Aunt works for CPS and we have to invite her over for birthdays and stuff. Otherwise, she gets suspicious. So, when it’s full, I just stand inside of it to compact it or use whichever child is closest to jump on it. That delays it one more day. After that, someone has to martyr themselves and take the 55-step hike to the garage to toss it in the bin.
13. Oven Cleaning
Self-cleaning ovens are the only way to go. Of course, they don’t completely self-clean, so it’s a little misleading. After my entire house smells like it just burned down, I still have to climb in there and clean up the residue that is a total combination of approximately 64 meals I managed to screw up over the year.
14. Refrigerator Cleaning
I wait for this one until it grows enough bacteria to be considered alive or I’m out of storage containers. I own a lot of storage containers, so you do the math.
15. Pantry Organizing
I don’t even know how this gets so disorganized. My pantry is a hot mess, and it’s the only household chore that takes forever to do. Moving is a much easier and less stressful route.
16. The Garage
This isn’t my area — it’s my husbands. I sweep the bunny leavings off the floor and put lost tools in there. That’s as far as I go.
17. Picking Up Toys
Also known as putting them in a garbage bag and taking them to the Salvation Army.
18. Making Beds
Do people still do this?
19. Yard Work
I don’t mind weeding or cutting the grass, but only if someone else is watching my kids. Otherwise, this just becomes a game of “Who can toss the weeds in the lawnmower’s path, then run in front of it the fastest without tripping and falling into the blades?”
20. Closet Organizing
This is kind of like pantry organizing — except after wading through a lake’s worth of clothing (that go in the laundry pile to get done in six weeks) it’s usually putting toys away and throwing away sippy cups with contents so old they decreased the resale value of our home.
Sometimes I get overwhelmed and frustrated at the fact that it’s in a constant state of disarray. Mostly, I’ve just come to accept that this is the stage of life we’re in right now, and someday I will have a clean house, and there won’t be anymore toys on the floor. No one will throw their food or put greasy fingerprints on my windows.
I’m not going to say I love having a messy house because I don’t. What I will say that it’s a sign of life around here. So, we’ll keep rolling with the chaos because time is short and we have things to do. There’s never enough time to do our day and clean a house top to bottom. We choose the former because that’s exactly where we need to be right now.