Posted on July 3rd, 2018
There’s a reason why small children are sometimes called “mess monsters”: It would be an understatement to say that kids don’t exactly prioritize cleanliness. Children don’t act this way intentionally, of course; they just need help with anything that involves organization and planning because their brains are still developing. Regardless, trying to maintain a clean home when you have young children around can sometimes feel like an exercise in pure frustration. To keep your house neat—and your sanity intact—you’ll need to employ some kid-friendly cleaning strategies, like the ones listed below:
Avoid collecting clutter.
Most parents (particularly first time parents) naturally want to make sure their child has all the clothes, shoes, and toys that he could ever possibly desire. The problem with this approach is that kids outgrow all of these things, quickly and often. Inevitably, they either end up on the floor, stuffed hastily in closets, or packed up in storage areas within a few months. (Parents typically have a hard time actually getting rid of their child’s old items, for sentimental reasons.) This both makes tidying up after your child challenging and contributes to overall household clutter issues… And the more cluttered your house is, the harder it will be to keep clean.
Try to curb your enthusiasm and only buy your child what he actually needs in terms of attire. When he outgrows things, donate all but the most meaningful items to relatives or charities of your choice. Save toy gifting for birthdays and Christmas, and try to look for other ways to entertain your child at home. Books, learning apps, outdoor activities, and craft projects can provide endless hours of enrichment, all without creating piles of unused “stuff.”
Teach your child tidy habits, starting from a young age.
One of the most common mistakes parents make with toddlers is trying to do everything for them, just because they’re still a bit uncoordinated. In their hurry, parents dress their toddler, put his toys and clothes away for him, and clean up his dishes, simply because it’s faster that way. This, of course, teaches the child in question that if he just waits long enough, someone will clean up after him. It instills a sense of reliance that can remain entrenched for years, because toddlers are highly impressionable.
If you want your child to grow up to be a “helper” rather than a hindrance when it comes time to clean, start teaching him good habits as soon as he hits about age two. Show him how to wash and dry his plastic dishes and put away his toys. Get him to put his shoes away and put his jacket neatly on a hanger, even if he can’t reach to put it away yet. Make sure to praise him whenever he successfully adopts one of these habits, too. By the time he hits about age six, cleanliness should be an ingrained part of his daily routine, and he might not even need reminding anymore.
If you have older children, make them a part of your cleaning team.
School-aged kids typically benefit from systems of work and reward. Having the opportunity to complete a set of tasks in exchange for a weekly allowance helps them learn how to save up, budget, and plan. It also nurtures a strong work ethic. At the same time, having the help of your kids can shave hours off your normal cleaning routine.
While kids can’t handle big jobs or use harsh chemical cleaning solutions, they can safely dust, vacuum, do the dishes, take out the trash, and help care for any pets you have. They should also be expected to keep their rooms clean and sort their own laundry. If you’re willing to switch over to using safe, “green” cleaning solutions, your preteens or teens should even be able to help you with the tough scrubbing, e.g., kitchen and bathroom cleanup. It will put their energy to good use and give them a meaningful way to fund the expensive clothes and gadgets that they swear they need to own.
When your children are very young, get help from a professional cleaning company.
Babies and toddlers are a full time job in and of themselves. Between nights of missed sleep, the many minor illnesses infants tend to get, and the need for around the clock supervision, most parents of small children barely have time to look after themselves, let alone clean. Making things even more challenging, one or both parents usually remain active at work while all of this is going on. Chaos generally ensues in the form of a dirty, disorganized house.
An untidy home may not feel like a big deal compared to the all-night trials of teething or the flu, but it is. Living in an unkempt environment has been shown to raise stress levels, make caring for a child more difficult, and increase the rate household illness. Ultimately, there’s only one common sense solution to this debacle: Focus on caring for your baby and leave housecleaning to the pros. Having a housecleaner come in even just once every few weeks can stop the mess from piling up to a truly unmanageable level.
If you and your spouse both have demanding careers, you should probably stick with using professional cleaning services even when your kids are older. Making sure you have time to rest when you’re home will help you rejuvenate and enjoy a more relaxed relationship with the rest of your family.