I stopped by your house today, young momma. You knew I was coming but you didn’t know I’d come inside, since your get together was an outside event. Even then you apologized for the state of your house; you didn’t realize that I care more about you than the mess. When it was time to go, I had to run inside to retrieve my son, who had made his way in uninvited. 

With two kids, two dogs and a hubby who has virtues other than cleanliness, the house was a mess.

A disaster, really.

I could tell you were a little embarrassed but more defeated than anything. The kid’s chore chart hung halfheartedly on the wall.

You were trying so hard. No one would fight the battle with you. 

So tired. For so long. You had given up.

I looked at your face as you hung your head low and thought, wouldn’t it be great if all of us older wives/moms let the younger ones in on the little secrets? I remember being where she was, no matter what I did I felt like a hot mess. Spinning my wheels. Sometimes I’m still there if I get behind, but it’s not overwhelming anymore. I don’t stress about it since I know how to get back on track. 

Yes, this is the messy lady giving cleaning advice. A neat person might not understand. Neaties, this is common sense stuff but we messies need a reminder sometimes.

1. Enjoy your kids and don’t expect perfection. You need your home to work for you, not against you, but don’t go overboard in the opposite direction and expect perfection. It does get better as the kids get older. EVEN THOUGH IT FEELS LIKE IT WILL NEVER GET BETTER, THIS WON’T LAST FOREVER.

2. Declutter DECLUTTER Declutter! Start room by room, even if it takes you all year. When you only have a minimum of things to keep in place, it only takes a few minutes to tidy a room. Get rid of all that stuff! I can’t stress this enough. When we moved recently, I got rid of so much. We have lived in the new house about two years and even though it’s a bigger house than I had before, it’s still easier to keep up than my old one.

TIP: Throw paper AWAY! Keep and file only what you HAVE TO HAVE (as in things with personal info like social security numbers, bank accounts, etc) and do the rest electronically. Take pictures of things you might want to reference, even some of the kids drawings, and toss the rest (or shred if necessary). You really don’t need to keep those sales papers, magazines, cable bills, etc. The emotional well-being of living in an uncluttered space is worth it alone.

3. After decluttering a room, make sure everything has a home. If you lost an item, where would you go looking for it? If I was looking for the scissors, I’d look in the kitchen drawer by the sink. That’s it’s home. Some people have a more organized strategy, do what works for you.

 4. Clutter and mess begets clutter and mess. Does your family do this? If my kitchen is a wreck, my little chitlins think the countertop is a resting haven for their food wrappers, dirty dishes, school papers, etc. If it is clean, one thing laying out on my kitchen island looks out of place. I give them the evil eye and they put it in it’s place. 

And sometimes I get sassed and have to lay down the law, but that’s another post. 

Start fresh! Schedule a time, ask someone to watch the kids if you can, and spend a day (or two!) getting your home really clean so you can start fresh. Make this time nonnegotiable, get ‘er done! It’s so discouraging to try to keep it up when it’s already a disaster. If you feel like you work and work but never accomplish anything, finish cleaning one whole room at a time so that you feel like you have completed something. (Instead of dusting the whole house first, vacuuming the whole house second, etc. You are less likely to float from place to place getting distracted….I used to spending all day cleaning, only for it to still look like a tornado hit it because nothing was ever fully completed). You could also add in the decluttering phase when you clean each room. Listen to favorite podcasts and music during this time so it becomes a time to look forward to.

5. It gets better when you make yourself a routine. What’s your pet peeve? Start there. Is it the dirty clothes piled up by the bed, getting higher and higher, day after day? Start a new routine where you put them in the hamper every morning or evening. Find a trigger to remind you, even if it’s setting an alarm on your phone. Once that’s a habit, add another.

A speaker at a conference I attended once suggested the following:  Empty the dishwasher first thing every single morning, start it every single night at bedtime. Don’t start a load of laundry unless you can complete the cycle: wash, dry, fold and put away that day. Common sense, right? But if it’s not a routine, it can cause havoc. There’s nothing more discouraging than wrinkled, clean laundry laying in piles all over the house. Except for wrinkled dirty laundry, that’s worse. Set a routine where you throw a load in at the same time every day and complete the cycle. If it has to stay in the dryer too long and you don’t have a steam cycle, throw in a damp washcloth and dry again to get the wrinkles out, but finish it that day!

TIP: When you get so little ‘me’ time, it can be tempting to throw it all to the wind and do something for yourself. Do that occasionally. Don’t feel guilty. But when it’s time to get down to work and you are soo tired of the boring routine of keeping house, time each chore.

You may be able to face cleaning that toilet One. More. Time. when you remember it’s only 10 minutes of your day.

And then wash up and have a piece of chocolate. Because if you have kids, cleaning a toilet is traumatic and you need a reward.

6. Here’s the secret sauceIt gets better when you pray every morning. Start your day off right with scripture or a devotional, even if it’s just five minutes. Take care of yourself spiritually so that you can take care of others.

You will feel like such a weight has been lifted off your shoulders if you’ll implement a routine that lets your house welcome you home instead of greeting you with your burdens. Girl, you need peace. Peace within the space that you live and peace within you.

Now work it sister. You got this.

And move that chore chart down where those cuties can see it.

Beth Keck

Elizabeth Keck lives with the man of her dreams, her two wild boys and beloved dog, Ellie. She’s a foodie who loves coffee and writing about faith, french country decor and her crazy life at http://www.ellieandelizabeth.com/