Staying Ahead of the Mess {Challenges of Motherhood}

Let me start with a big fat disclaimer. I am not a perfect housewife. Pretty far from it actually! But, as time goes on (7 years cohabitation, almost 5 years of marriage, 2 years as a mom) I am finding what helps me keep a “groove” so that the housework does not drown me. Because lets face it – most moms are in serious danger of getting taken down by mountains of laundry that seem to spring up from nowhere. I am even going to include pictures of my own house – without cleaning any more than normal.


So how how do I keep up? Schedule, organization, and learning to let go.

My first step is a schedule. At one time I thought that housekeeping schedules were just a bit much. After all, it is the same things over and over again and I should be able to remember them. Right? Wrong. I started to realize that my “clusters” of mess were created by forgetting the small chores many times over. Then you end up with much bigger mess. After looking at many different “systems” on the internet, I sort of mashed them into my own that works for my family.

  • Create a list of tasks that need to be done each day. For our home that would be dishes, vacuuming downstairs, picking up laundry (it never makes it in the basket), toy clean up, and wiping down tables/counters.
  • Create a list of tasks that need to be done once a week. This might include changing/washing all the bed sheets, washing towels, and cleaning toilets and tubs.
  • Create a list of tasks that need to be done once or twice a month. My list includes vacuuming all of the upstairs, cleaning the fridge, and reorganizing spaces such as the diaper changing area and toy space.

Some systems also go into tasks you do once or twice a year, but I don’t include those. One big reason is that we are renters and many of those type tasks are more on the home maintenance level. If you have tasks that need to be done a couple times a year or in certain seasons, feel free to make a list of those too. A good way to keep these lists is in a house management binder. I will admit, I don’t have one of these yet – but one day Pinterest will show me a cool printable one and I will do it.

Now look at your lists and daily/weekly schedule. How can you fit in your daily tasks into your daily routine? Think about how often you need to do dishes (do you have enough that they must be done at each meal throughout the day?). Think about how often toy pickup needs to happen to make your space livable. When is the best time to vacuum? Jot these down in schedule format – not so much with actual times but more like “before nap” or “after lunch”.

Now we need to fit our weekly tasks in. These are the tasks that tend to really get away from us. Changing sheets on all the beds once a week keeps us sleeping soundly and cleanly (just google how much the average person sweats at night and you will see what I mean). Pick one day a week to do this task – change sheets, wash the dirty ones, fold and put away. For my family this task is done on Monday. Towel washing day is Wednesday. On those two days, I don’t do any other laundry usually unless I need to throw in some cloth diapers (which is easy laundry anyway).


Now fit in your monthly or bi-monthly tasks, and you are set to go. These I usually have to mark on the wall calender to remind myself. I have even created a “Magic Eraser Day”. On that day, I bust out that life saver and attack scuffs and scrapes and marks all over the house. This cuts down on the general grime (like the floor boards, corners where little hands touch often, and fridge handles). You know, the grimy spots that you suddenly see one day and go “OH MY GOSH” and irrationally feel like you live in a garbage pit? Yeah, no more of that if you attack that stuff once a month.

Now put your daily and weekly rotation (two separate sheets) on the fridge. Write your monthly tasks on the calender. You are ready to go!

You will notice I didn’t focus on clothes laundry. I left this out because everyone has a different laundry volume. My family of 3 (almost 4) is going to have a lot less laundry than a family of 7. You know your volume of laundry, so decide how often you need to wash to stay on top of it. Do you need to do at least one load a day? Two? Every other day? Figure that out, and fit it into your schedule. (*Just a side note on the picture below – those things hanging over the washer/dryer are the “lost socks”. If I keep them right there in front of me, I find the matches much faster!)

laundry room

Here is our basic schedule for the day:

Daily Schedule

Of course some days this changes. For instance, on Mondays instead of loading clothes in the wash, I strip the beds and wash the sheets. Sometimes we pick up toys before bath instead of after; it depends on the time. In the evening we also do some things at the same time – for instance bath/dishes are on the same line because whoever is not doing the bath is doing the dishes. This way we kill two birds with one stone and our evening is basically open after that. The point is that you have a basic guide to your day.

Eventually this all becomes second nature and you don’t have to look at your schedules. That is when you have hit your “groove”. You will also learn what you can fit in during other tasks. For instance – bathroom cleaning doesn’t make my list anymore, because I clean the bathroom during bath time.

My second step was organization. This is pretty self-explanatory. The more organized you are, the easier it is to clean. Some basic things to implement are really going to have to do with the kids in your home.

  • PURGE the toys. Watch your kids for a few days and see what they play with again and again. See what they are just making a mess with (for instance, just dumping a basket of small toys but not playing with them for long). Then get rid of toys – lots of toys. The less you have, the less you have to clean up. The less you have, the more creatively your kids will play with what they have.
  • Create a place for everything. Cars go in a car bin, blocks go in a block bin, books go on a book shelf. Puzzles are put away with all pieces in place (and if they don’t have all the pieces, toss them). Not only will this help your home look more orderly, but it helps your kids clean up and play more efficiently. For instance, if they are looking for a car, they don’t have to dump a whole toy box – they just go to the car bin and get that car.
  • Create play zones. Set up a small table just for coloring and keep those supplies there. Buy (or make!) a car rug and store the cars near it. Again – organized toys and supplies makes for less clean up.

Living Room

Now, my last tip. Learn to let go.

Not everything will get done every day. Some days you will be tired. Some days your child will be sick. Some days you won’t be home. This is when we need to take a deep breath and realize that we have not failed and our home will most likely not explode. Forgive yourself if the clothes pile up – they will eventually get done.

There is a fine line between keeping your schedule and going crazy because of it. This is why I have kept my schedule basic and flexible. Some home organization and cleaning systems have so many steps and so many rules…and it was just too much. Create enough structure to keep you on track, but not so much that you feel guilt.

Learn what is most important to you. Are dirty dishes the one thing that really makes you nuts? Then make sure those are at least done before bed, even if you let other things go. If you really need a made up bed, make sure that gets done for *your* sanity. Everyone has that one thing that makes them feel like they have a clean home. Figure out what that is for you.

Now I want to hear from you! What do you do to keep up with the mess of life? Do your older children help, and if so how did you instill those helpful habits? What is your “one thing” that makes you feel like you have a clean house? Share your tips and hints in the comments.


  • Elizabeth

    As bad as it sounds, making my 3yr old daughter a “house job” chart really helps. Many of her jobs need to be accompanied with a harder adult job. So not only is she learning responsibility, we’re working together and best of all helping her get her stickers makes me remember my jobs! 🙂

    • Mama Bice

      I don’t think that sounds bad at all! Just today, I started to ask my son to help with bigger tasks, like picking up laundry and (sort of) helping to make beds. I want to start a sticker chart for him, since the kid is OBSESSED with stickers. He is 2.5yo and is still learning to follow directions so it takes longer, but we are going to work on it. 🙂

      • Elizabeth

        We’ve had the sticker chart for a good half year now. We’ve even added extra jobs because she likes filling the chart so much 🙂 (she gets a present at the end of the week if filled) this will eventually be allowance money lol. We use Saturday as a “free” day, where she has no jobs but can catch up on ones missed.

  • Anne

    Great post! We have 7 kids so delegating is essential and starting them young with whatever jobs they can (or want to) do is very helpful.
    I’ve found for me that washing laundry daily, but folding only twice a week works best…and I really need to get the kids folding too;)
    I can’t believe how much difference it’s made for my sanity to have the “rule” that I don’t do anything after the kids go to bed. Despite that I rarely have a messy kitchen in the evening and I’ve amazingly found time to get more done during the day so my relaxing time is truly relaxing!

    • Mama Bice

      That is a good rule! I have sort of been doing that as well, or rather, I have been focusing on making sure to do something for *me* after bed time. Reading a new book, working on my recipe binder, doing a craft…something that makes me happy and centers me. We mothers have to keep that “me time” in order to keep our sanity sometimes. 🙂

  • Rebekah

    Great tips! I always have a hard time breaking down when to do things, though, since I work outside of the home. Absolutely nothing gets done on weekdays which leads to a huge struggle to try and catch up on weekends. Most weekdays, it takes all I can just to get the kids out the door semi-on time in the mornings…I am totally at a loss when it comes to sqeezing in a chore too 🙁

  • G Wilkins

    My partner and I don’t have children, but we borrow my niece (now six yr old) at least twice a year. I have plenty of toys and books for her to play with when she’s with us and she’s welcome to make all the mess she wants; just when it’s time to switch tasks or go somewhere I have her help pick things up. She loves to help with dishes and is actually quite handy when it comes to baking.
    When we don’t have her, household chores are divvied up between the two of us per our preferences. For instance I love doing dishes but hate mowing. Easy enough – he mows and I wash. Things we both hate doing are shared – like washing windows.
    I’m also a big fan of the no-nag rule: if I feel the rugs are looking dingy (vacuuming is my partner’s task), I may gently bring it up, but only once. He has to walk on them barefoot same as I do. He gets to them when he’s ready 😉
    Fortunately we do have a similar sense of cleanliness which is very helpful. Probably if one of us were a neat freak and the other a slob it’d be a little more tricky and scheduled lists would be needed, but for the most part we both identify the need to clean at the same time!

  • Myranda W

    Great post! I am so encouraged to read your tips! I feel like my home is “clean” when my dishes are done and the counters are cleared of clutter and wiped down. As long as I have those clean areas to look at, I don’t get as overwhelmed with everything else.

  • Kinzie

    HAHAHA. you change your sheets once a WEEK?! I tend to change sheets when I notice they look like they need it. Shameful, I know. But man! THERE’S SO MUCH TO DOOOO.

    I have a friend who’s a SAHM and she’s so anal about her sheets. She IRONS them. I cannot imagine having that kind of TIME.

    • Mama Bice

      I definitely don’t iron mine! 🙂 I don’t have an issue with less frequent sheet changes if it works for you! I have just become very addicted to the fresh feel of fresh sheets. It’s my “happy moment” on sheet change day!

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