It’s near impossible keeping our house clean and tidy with a toddler. The minute I clear all the dishes from the sink, put toys in their place, or vacuum, inevitably there will be a pile of dirty dishes, toys everywhere, and crumbs on the floor ten minutes later. And let me preface this by saying our house is no where near a spic and span. As I type this I’m staring at a layer of dust starting to build on our TV stand. I’m also not a neat freak, my husband is actually much tidier than I am. But, even I have my limits and with a child I have no choice but to keep up with the mess as best I can (or be buried under it). Here are my tips for staying on top of things.
1. Choose 3 things to get done daily and make a checklist.
It’s much harder for me to ignore what needs to get done if I make myself a list. I like to keep it to three things I must complete that day because I’m not trying to overwhelm myself and honestly, three is enough. There are actually great resources on Pinterest that outline what you should do each day to keep your house tidy. Unfortunately, those types of things don’t work for me, I just do better keeping it a little flexible. There are some things I do tend to do on certain days of the week, like I usually change the sheets on Mondays, but if I do it on Tuesday because we had a play date to go to then NBD. When I have a checklist, I feel like I need to get what’s on it done. Today my to-do list included doing a load of laundry, cooking dinner, and changing the sheets. And yes, I consider making dinner part of my to-do’s if it’s more intensive than using the crockpot. And yes, my sheets are incredibly wrinkled because I left them in the dryer overnight, but hey, they’re clean!
2. Start as early as you can.
When I can, I try to start dinner during Ava’s first nap or in the afternoon. If this means chopping up the vegetables so they are ready to throw in the pot later, or measuring any spices out before hand, I fit it in when I can. Sometimes while she’s finishing up her lunch I’ll do this because she’s contained and entertained. That way I’m not spending the whole hour of her second nap doing meal prep and I can fit in other things. You can even do the prep at night if you have the energy and it’s one less thing to do the next day.
3. Maximize your time.
Showering in the morning before Ava wakes up or the night before is also a time saver for me. Keeping the diaper bag stocked is another so I’m not worrying about it before we run errands. Make enough of dinner so you can have it for lunch the next day (which may or may not work with a picky eater). All these little time savings add up and you can devote the time to something else.
4. Let go of the guilt.
This relates to many arenas of being a wife, mother, and SAHM. I used to only do chores when Ava slept, I felt like it was wrong to do dishes and laundry when she was awake. Then I’d be running around like crazy trying to do everything during naptime and night and I never caught a break. Or I’d be so exhausted I’d just let things pile up. Or I’d snap at my husband because I felt like I had to do it all because I was home and he worked all day. Or I felt bad that I just didn’t have it in me to cook dinner that night because I had a million and one things to do and Ava was a fusspot. I had to let go of the guilt. It’s okay if I fold some laundry while she’s playing independently or even have her ‘help’ me when she wants to be involved. Or I’ll give her some measuring cups and spoons to play with while I get dinner started. It’s not all day, most of the time we’re doing all the usual reading, tea time, playing with her stuffed animals that she loves. And my husband does as much as he can to help me too, I just need to let him know (as he always says, he’s not a mind reader).
5. Take advantage of modern conveniences.
We never used a dishwasher until having a baby. In our apartment, it didn’t make sense to since it was just the two of us. Now that there are three of us and it’s not like she uses a ton of dishes, but it’s just extra time to wash by hand. My mom never used the dishwasher when I was growing up, I think that rubbed off on me. But times change and I am now devoted to that fabulous piece of kitchen technology. Also, the crockpot is my BFF. I use it at least 3 times a week these days. It literally takes me maybe 15 minutes max to fill it (sometimes less depending on the meal) and I don’t have to actually cook. Even setting the coffee pot timer the night before can make a huge difference when you have a busy morning ahead of you. I’d actually love to get a Roomba, but I’m afraid Ava would think it was a toy and mess with it.
These are the things that help me now while I’m still home with Ava. I’m not sure when I’ll be going back to work (no definite plans as of yet, but it’s in the cards) and I’m sure things will change and I’ll need to come up with some new strategies to stay on top of everything. If you have any tips to share, I’d love to know!