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The Gradual Cleaning Method, (aka) how I keep my sanity trying to keep a tidy home with little kids underfoot.

*Hey there, thanks for stopping by my website. This article is super old, so it has been archived as I no longer update it…so proceed if you wish…but it is definitely not my best work. Please stop by my home page, here, and see some of my better content. Thanks! ~Sarah*

Finding balance with housekeeping when you have small children can be really tough! There are some days that I feel like I’m walking in quicksand just trying to keep up. Some days it’s so bad that I genuinely have to give myself a pep talk to get up and work on it when I know that it’s going to look like a tornado hit my home shortly after I am finished. I love my kids and they deserve not to live in filth, so I came up with a cleaning method that brings me so much peace. I know, I’m a dork, but I named the method “the gradual cleaning method” because it is just that. I take it one step at a time and I broke it down so that each chore can be completed in 5-15 minutes. With each step I tackle the entire house, not just one room. I have found that to be the key to making this work. This makes it so that the entire house gets cleaned and organized and not just room by room, because when you only clean one room, the stuff from the other rooms gets dragged in to the room that you just cleaned, which is beyond frustrating and very counterproductive.
Here is my list. It doesn’t matter which chore I start on, I just decide which chore is most necessary and start on that. I have found it easiest to use a Magnetic Photo Frame, print out the list, and add it to that frame so that I can use a Magnetic Dry Erase Markerto keep track. I kept losing my chore list and would have to start a new one…which wastes tons of paper and is a total pain. There is a photo of my blank list below that you are more than welcome to print out for personal use. You can just re size the photo so that it will fit in whatever size frame you go with. It is currently at a size for a 5×7. I just designed my list on so you can try that if you don’t like my exact list.

I’m going to show you how big of a difference crossing off a few chores on the list makes. REMEMBER that  this is how much cleaner the entire house gets…which is awesome! Plus, it’s basic time management that when you lump chores into like categories you save lots of time.  Here is my family room, on a typical day, if I haven’t been keeping up on it. Yep…embarrassing but I’d rather that you think I’m human than think I’m some sort of super-mom and feel bad about yourself as a result.

The next photo shows what it looks like after doing the BEDDING. All I did was go around the whole house (starting on the formal living room so that it is always the cleanest room in the house) and grab anything that falls into that category and got it folded and put away (it’s a sneaky way to organize). Any bedding that needs washed gets put in the laundry room or I try to start that load right then if the machine is free.  I like to do bedding first because it is so bulky and some of the other items can often be hidden underneath it, but you can start on whichever chore is going to make the most impact, whatever that may be.
Next I picked up LAUNDRY. I really struggle with laundry. I sometimes think that it is the bane of my existence, I hate it so bad! Anyway, when I do this chore I just get the clean all put together and get the dirty all put together. I usually try to sort it while I’m at it too, but sometimes I’m doing good just to get it in a basket.
Next came TOYS & GAMES. When I do toys and games I make sure to end at the play room so that it gets organized really well. The strangest thing happened when I started doing this…the kids actually play in the play room again, now that they can see the floor in there…go figure!
I must have missed taking a picture because the next one shows when GARBAGE has been picked up as well. When I do this one I gather any garbage from any and every surface, then take out the trash if it needs it. I make sure to get anything that is a size the baby could choke on and larger. Wow, take a look at just what a few quick chores can do for a house…it’s already clean enough that it would only take a few minutes to pick anything up if we had surprise company.
Next I gathered DISHES and started a load. I always wipe down the counters and table at this step too.
I also gathered SHOES and put them all where they go.
Next  the MISCELLANEOUS stuff got put where it goes. Bam… the ENTIRE house is ready for some deep cleaning if I have any more time or energy. Getting the house to this point, at least every couple of days, is crucial because if I’m not keeping up with the basic tidying, it’s a pretty safe bet that the deep cleaning is also not happening.
I think that the best part about breaking up the work is that it makes it easy enough for small children to help with too. I frequently hand the kids (ages 3 and 5) a bag or a container and have them work on an easy chore by themselves. It’s a tricky way to get them to clean their room too;).
*One good thing to remember is that the spouse that works outside the home still needs to help a bit.*  
It can be maddening for the person at home to have cleaned the same room over and over and it not look like you did anything! The last couple of weekends my husband has been helping get the house picked up a little and it makes it so much easier for me to keep a handle on it throughout the week. Not that I do it perfectly, this list just helps me break it down so I don’t give up.

Don’t forget to print out this list if you’d like to give it a try. Personal use only!