making it home : nightly cleaning

I read something a few months ago that repeats in my mind dailyher house might be messy here and there, but it's always clean despite the presence of 4 children. Or something very close to that.

Each morning the best thing that can greet me, besides my family, is a clean house. When I walk downstairs and find a mess -- any mess -- I'm a bit more on edge. Can you relate?

Instead of starting with a clean slate and having only the day's matters to attend to, I'm playing catch-up from the day before. And I feel it immediately.

So it's important to me to straighten, wipe down, sweep, and leave the place in a pleasant state so that the next morning when I hit that prepared coffee maker, I'm a happy woman.

Though not anything remarkable, I'd like to share with you my nightly method for returning the house to its mostly-happy* state.
Source: wanelo.com via Erin on Pinterest

Here's what I do:

1. I give myself a time-sensitive incentive. read recently that a task takes all the time it is given. So if I give myself an hour to clean the kitchen, it will take me an hour. If I give myself 10 minutes, it will take me 10 minutes. And the less time doesn't have to mean less quality.

So I either take out ice cream to thaw or a beer to warm (which is how good beer should be served, with the chill off and not genuine-draft-cold). I may toss it back in the freezer once before I'm ready, but it keeps me moving. 

2. I watch the clock, and I'm done at 9:00pm, with a 5-minute grace period. Ace's bedtime is 8:00pm, which means we're out of his room by 8:15pm. On a night like last night when Hawk was at the Brewer game (and dropped a ball off one of Braun's fouls -- DOH!) and I put both kids down myself, I was downstairs by 8:30. Everything below took 30 minutes.

But that 30 minutes was worth every second.

3. I have an order, and I keep to it. This is key: the kitchen comes first. Ms. Mendelson suggests leaving the kitchen until last, but I'm the sort who feels peace if the counter is cleared, the floor is wiped, and everything is put away in the kitchen. If there's food out, I'm annoyed. If there's a dish awry, I'm irritated. Plus, it's usually the area of the greatest mess, so when it's done I know my work gets easier from that point on.

To me the dining room is an extension of the kitchen; technically I start there. Here's the order:

    • Clear dishes, discard/store food, load washer
    • Put away all food items from table like salt, olive oil, etc.
    • Brush all crumbs onto the floor from table, chairs, and Ace's seat
    • Wipe down table
    • Reserve/discard food from pots & pans in the kitchen
    • Start dishwasher (unless I think there's room for breakfast's dishes)
    • Hand-wash pots, pans, & plate chargers (we use for every meal)
    • Spray and wipe down counters & stovetop
  • DR/KIT:
    • Sweep & discard crumbs
    • Wash floors (really, this takes like 10 minutes max and is totally worth it)
    • Put away items like make-up, magazines, etc.
    • Use a baby wipe to clean sink and toilet top
    • Sweep up whatever might be on the floor
    • Put away toys
    • Put away clothes and diaper materials (with kids, something is always out)
    • Straighten furniture
    • Clear off entryway bench & bench bins
    • Straighten/store shoes 
  • Crack open my Hopilicious
Do you think you might struggle with it? Try this: time yourself for each task. You'll likely find, as I did, that what I avoided for fear it would take up my whole night was actually done in a matter of minutes. I don't have a stopwatch, but I watch our kitchen clock. I find I'm generally done with everything in the dining room and kitchen within 20 minutes.

What do you think? Do you have a similar or totally different routine you'd recommend?

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*Mostly-happy in that I am working to totally declutter every single room in our house before Christmas. My goal is to truly have a place for everything and everything in its place. I hate clutter. I hate mess. I hate things stuffed along a wall or kitchen counter. But right now we have a few things on the stairs and more things than places.


  1. new to your blog. cute family and great topics! keep it coming and I'll be back

  2. Jen, you know what, you're right! I timed myself and found that it took less time than I thought it would and I felt so much better when I woke up this morning and started "clean." Thanks for the easy to follow tip!

  3. I am so glad you're following up! If only my kids didn't take hour plus for me to put them to sleep and then wake up screaming shortly thereafter. Alas, I get nothing done during naptime or after bedtime because I'm attending to either one or the other and my DH is catching up on coaching/school stuff. So my house is always a wreck. But I like reading your thoughts. Someday when my kids go to sleep on their own and stay to sleep (there will be a someday, right?) I hope to have a clean house. Right now I am just trying to live through the absolute chaos.

    1. Just think of how much you're learning for #3... One day they'll sleep and it will all work out. We've employed a measured CIO again, and both kids are very happy as a result. And I may have gone to bed at 8:00pm last night and napped today because my body is exhausted after being preggo or a new mom for the last 2+ years!

      You did just move. Don't be hard on yourself! You're family is happy and that is a great gift many others miss.

    2. Thanks! I am trying to keep that in mind! Arch was home an extra few hours this morning before football so the kitchen is only half a disaster ;) Hope to see you before the year is through!!! Call me if you want to do something spontaneously...that is how we roll best.


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