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I have two kids under the age of 5. My house is immaculate all the time. I'm kidding about that second part. Yes, I've got toys all over the floor. Yes, there's cereal smashed between the cushions of my couch. Yes, there are marking pens with all the caps off left strewn about (and subsequently drying out) in my kitchen at all times.
But, if you knocked on my door unexpectedly and wanted to come in, I wouldn't panic. (But I just might holler through the door and ask for three minutes...)
As 1950s as this sounds, I try to make a habit of staying on top of our messes. I don't wear an apron and I assure you there's no "Darling, can I offer you a stiff drink" to my husband upon his return from work (while standing all dressed up in high heels). I don't have a daily (or weekly) housekeeping service. I don't have a spouse who finds relaxation through washing dishes (or is inclined to pick up any kind of dishes at all for that matter... bless him). I don't have robot-children who pick up their own messes (where can I get some of those ... ). But there is a hell of a lot of bending down, picking up, throwing in the bin, yelling at my kids to help me or else no this, that and the other.
Little efforts throughout the day add up big time.
Here are my five favorite tips for getting (and keeping) your neat freak on—all in the name of fighting the good household-keeping fight:
1. Fix the bed
(Just like your mama said!) I hate fixing the bed. Don't know why. It just seems like it takes sooooo long. Guess what: It really doesn't, so I do it immediately after I get up before dealing with kids (I used to do it before running to get the baby or brushing my teeth when my girls were still in cribs). And if you must get the baby first, then put the baby IN the bed. Makes for a funny bed-making experience ... and gets the job DONE.
2. Dishwasher runs every night
Waking up to clean dishes and an empty sink is the best feeling ever. (My 20-year-old self would've felt so bad for identifying this as "the best feeling ever," but here we are.)
3. Dishwasher gets unloaded every morning—while drinking coffee
The scene at my house: We wake up, I sit my girls at the table, give them food, make my coffee. They eat food and I drink coffee while I unload the dishwasher as fast as I can. Then I eat something. This also makes the dishwasher empty and available and loadable for the entire day (meaning, dirty dishes go straight into the washer—not into the sink).
There is no "laundry day" at my house. Laundry happens about every other day. If I wait for each of my bins to fill up before I bother throwing a load into the wash, I'd spend an entire day folding laundry. Yuck. With smaller, more frequent loads, you can fold the laundry in a few minutes while your toddlers color at the kitchen table (yes, this is how it happens at our house).
5. Pick up frequently during the day
I prefer to encourage my kids to help out (who am I kidding? I yell). My personal rule is: If you're going to another area of the house (to change a diaper, to change someone's clothes, to look for your keys that your 3-year-old took in a mad-dash of "let's hide these from Mommy it will be funny")—take a toy, shoe, article of clothing or other applicable item with you and put it away. Don't go room-to-room without returning something to its rightful place. Little efforts throughout the day add up big time.
As for the rice so expertly smashed into my glass table, inside the nooks and crannies of the booster chair and down the front and sides of the princess dress in the picture above? Well, I don't have any tricks for that. I just wiped it up while cursing under my breath.