One of the biggest adjustments to having children is trying to learn how to keep our home clean, especially when you have a toddler! If you have kids, you know what I’m talking about. This week I was visiting with some friends and they commented, “you seem to have it all figured out! How do you keep your house under control?” They both have toddlers and were feeling overwhelmed. I remember having this same cleaning tips topic of conversation a few years back with other friends when my boys were toddlers. They couldn’t believe that my main living areas did not look like a bomb went off, with toys scattered everywhere. They wanted to know my cleaning tips and how I kept it under control! How did I keep my house clean with two toddlers running around all day!
It made me take a minute and think about what the difference was. What was I doing that was so unique that apparently made such a big difference? What were my cleaning tips on how to have a clean home? I didn’t think I had it all together, but obviously something was different if so many people noticed a difference and wanted to know what I was doing. Now you need to realize, I do NOT have a perfectly clean home! But I also don’t have toys scattered everywhere, and I also have the ability to do a quick 5 minute sweep when I know when company is coming over to have a home that “appears” perfect. Well in the main living spaces anyway.
My cleaning tips; Keeping home clean with a Toddler
So now I’m going to tell you my cleaning tips. How you can manage your toy disasters just as easily as I do! But before we get started with the 5 simple steps on how to have a clean home, I want you remember the motto we keep in our home:
I’m not obsessive about every tiny spec of dirt. I keep a home that is clean enough to be healthy, but I don’t obsess about it to the point that I make everyone miserable and give my kids ulcers that they can’t LIVE in the house for fear mom will freak out that it’s a mess.
Now with that said, here are our Five easy cleaning tips on how to have a clean home that will help you have a clean home even with a toddler in tow!
Cleaning tips 1: Limit the Toys!
Depending on who you are, this may sound logical, a “duh” piece of advice, or it could come across as quite mean. But let me tell you, the less toys they have, the less mess they can make! I’m not talking about giving them one or two toys and then never letting them have anything else. I’m talking about not over indulging the child with toys. They are toddlers, too many toys can over stimulate them. When this happens it can actually cause your child to act out, throw more tantrums, be extra crabby, and difficult to manage. It’s not just about cleaning tips. It also affects their behavior.
When you limit the toys, you not only help keep the house clean, but your child becomes better tempered, and more grateful for what they have. We always know it’s time to box up toys when the kids start getting mean and nasty to the parents, to each other and stop treating their toys nicely. We then go through the toys and box up the ones they don’t play with as often and put them in storage and then throw out the broken toys. When we do this, every time our children’s temperaments have improved 10 fold! It still works wonders on our 7 and 8 year old too! They are never too old for this step!
But back to how it helps keep the house cleaner. Again, if they have less toys, that means less toys scattered everywhere that you have to pick up. Less toys for you to be stepping on every five minutes. A good rule of thumb for how many toys is a good amount. Have a toy box for most of the toys, and if the toy box is over flowing, there are too many toys. There will be exceptions for themed toys such as stuffed animals which can be placed in their own organizer, and kitchen toys which should be organized with the toy kitchen, and obviously the shopping carts, strollers and larger toy trucks won’t fit into the toy box. But if you can’t also easily organize and fit these larger toys into the one room with the toy box, you should do some more limiting.
These are a few of Jade’s extra toys, in the toy bin in the storage room. We rotate these toys through every few months, taking extra toys from her room and putting them in here before we bring any of these out. After about 6 months if the kids don’t miss much, we clean these out and donate a lot of toys to the Family Crisis Center in town.
Cleaning tips 2: contain the mess
In our home we only allow toys in certain rooms. Jade stores her toys in her bedroom yet they never stay there. In order to keep from having to gather up toys throughout the entire house, we limit the area of the house that Jade can go, which in turns keeps the toys in check as well. We keep the doors to the master bedroom, office, and bathroom closed. We also keep the baby gate up in the day even though Jade knows how to manage stairs. This keeps her from wandering throughout the house while she’s toting around her toys. We know if a toy of hers is missing it will be in either her room, the living room or kitchen, as those are the only rooms she has access to on her own. Thus those are also the only rooms where she manages to help her toys travel.
These cleaning tips will help limit the areas of the house you have to pick up throughout the day, saving you time and energy!
Cleaning tips 3: Schedule clean up!
This is the hardest of all cleaning tips. And at first it will take diligence and consistency. You may feel, “Why am I doing this?” and want to quit, but DON’T! I promise after you get in the habit it will become easier and you will be very grateful to have a much cleaner home which is more organized and not have to deal with the disaster rooms that end up taking you hours to clean!
Scheduled Clean Up means that at scheduled times in the day you pick up and put away of all the toys! This keeps the mess from getting substantially bigger and bigger as the day progresses. The most ideal and easiest to manage scheduled toy pick up times are:
- Before nap time! YES, this means if your child is taking 2 naps a day, then all the toys will be picked up and put away right before EACH nap!
- Before Meals. Again, this will mean a quick pick up before each meal!
- Before bedtime.
WAIT! Before you calculate all that up and realize that means you will be picking up toys 5-7 times a day, and say, “Forget this” and leave me; let me explain why this is BETTER than the one time a day clean up.
Each time you do a toy pick up, you are only putting away a small amount of the toys. It prevents the mess from getting out of control. At first it should only take you 10-15 minutes each pick up time. As you and your toddler get used to this system, it will get easier and easier to where it will start taking you only a brief 3-5 minutes per pick up. A brief 5 minute pick up scattered throughout 5 times a day is a lot easier than an hour or two hour clean up at the end of the day when you and the toddler are tired.
This is also beneficial because then while the child is napping, you can enjoy the calm that comes with having a clean house. Well, at least the main areas of living. This also allows you more time during the nap time to do other household cleaning, or take some time to relax. It’s harder to relax in a room with toys scattered everywhere!
When the Husband was deployed to Iraq, I was living alone with 2 toddlers under the age of 3! I needed my moments of sanity! I found if I had the toys under control I was better able to manage the added stresses that came from life, daily living, single parenting and being a military spouse.
Cleaning tips 4: Involve the toddler in picking up!
Like cleaning tips #3, this will take time and consistency, and may be hard at first, but it is very crucial to this program succeeding. Why?
- You need to teach the child, even at 18 months old how to pick up after themselves so you are not left picking up after them well into their teens!
- The earlier you start teaching, the easier it will be!
- When the Toddler is involved it teaches them great skills, how to follow directions, and can even be a game for them!
- It keeps the toddler busy so they can’t then undo all the cleaning you are doing
- Gradually the toddler will stop making as big of messes! I don’t know HOW or WHY this works, just that it does! We’ve used this rule of thumb with all 3 of our kids, and over time the toddler stops pulling ALL of their toys out to play and only pulls out a few toys at a time.
- The toddler will start to help put toys away on their own without prompting from you! This may not happen until 2.5 or even 3 years old, but if you’ve been doing this system since they were old enough to walk and carry toys at the same time; you will notice that the toddler will start putting a few toys away on their own without any prompting from you.
Cleaning tips 5: Tips and Tricks for success!
Here are a few things I’ve found that really help make this system work well!
- If you are doing a craft project or activity with the toddler, be sure to clean up the current project before moving onto the new activity. Again, have the toddler help clean up! This helps the toddler learn to clean up one mess before making a new mess. It also helps the mess in the house from growing overwhelming. Five minutes now will save you an hour later! Plus if the project is play-doh it will save you lots of money from having to constantly replace dried out play-doh! (I’m talking from experience here from the days I got overwhelmed and said “forget it”. What?…. You mean I’m not perfect? Who knew!).
- Set the Timer! As you are beginning and getting use to the system or even when you get out of the habit and need to start again, get a good timer! Then set it to ring about 15 minutes before each nap time or each meal! When the timer goes off, it is time to start your cleanup. This gives you time to get the pickup accomplished and be ready for the nap time or meal, without then feeling rushed and hassled with the pickup. If you are prepared, it is easier to get the pick up finished. This also prevents those days when you lose track of time, realize it’s nap time and have a cranky baby and just throw your hands up in the air and say, “oh forget it!” and put the baby to sleep and leave the toys out.
- If the time it takes to pick up all the toys takes longer than 15 minutes, revisit cleaning tips #1. Take a step back and check how many toys they have and if they really play with all of them. Box some of the toys up and put them in the closet where the toddler can’t pull them out. See if they really notice the toys are gone. After a few months you can do one of two things: 1. Get rid of the toys through donation or garage sale, or 2. Recycle the toys by bringing the stored toys out for the toddler to play with and box up other toys that are currently out that the toddler isn’t playing with at present.
- Make it a GAME! Kids love games! When you make clean up a game, it makes it go much faster and is easier to teach the toddler! I often did games such as “I can pick up more than you can!” or “Let’s see who can go faster!” We also utilize that song from preschool, “Clean up, Clean up, everybody everywhere! Clean up, Clean up, everybody do your share!” We sing this song every time it’s clean up time. It really helps the toddler know what is expected, makes it fun for them, and it got to the point where all I had to do was start singing the song, and my boys would jump up and start cleaning and singing the song with me. Made for a much easier clean up time!
- Stuffed Animal Organizer! If you have a lot of stuffed animals, this is a MUST! Stuffed animals are hard to organize, and they take up a LOT of room in the toy box. You want something separate for the stuffed animals! And then you will teach your toddler that all the stuffed animals go in this organizer, and no where else. Yes, even an 18 month old can understand this concept. I know because all 3 of my kids understood where the stuffed animals go at that age, and they don’t put them in the toy box any longer. You want an organizer that is easy for the toddler to get into when they want the toy, and easy for them to put the stuffed animal back in. We use this fun Dragon organizer from Ikea. We actually got this back when we lived in Germany, so it’s been with us for over 6 years now and still going strong! All stuffed animals go here. We keep it next to Jade’s bed because then in the morning she can get up and pull the toys into her bed with her. Yet, she also knows about cleaning up before bedtime and she is quite insistent that all the toys be put back into the dragon and out of her bed before she goes to bed.
Our Cleaning Tips Results!
What you will find as you go through this program of cleaning tips is that at the beginning you may feel overwhelmed. You need to know this is normal! You are changing a lot of habits! Any habit is hard to change. You will need all the help you can get, but trust me this will be worth it! Don’t get overwhelmed and quit! Once the benefits start manifesting for you, you will love the changes!
- You will notice that the mess between each scheduled pick up will get less and less. Soon, instead of having to use the full 15 minutes to clean up, you may now only need about 5 minutes to get all the toys under control!
- The Toddler will be able to help more as time goes on, and soon you will have a great little helper.
- Because of spending 5-15 minutes throughout the full day picking up little messes as you go, you will no longer see the huge tornado fall out room of toys that takes hours to clean up.
Do you have some great ideas to add to our list to help keep your house under control when you have a toddler in the house?
We’d love to hear them! Remember, I’m not perfect, nor all knowing. Shocking, I know.
But I do have some tricks that have worked for me, but maybe you have something better! I want to hear!!
What do you think of our Toddler Toy Clean up system? Do you think it will work in your home?
Why or Why not?
What are your Cleaning tips to keep your home clean?