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A word on cleaning

I have been getting a lot of e-mails lately from readers. First of all let me just say that they are all so sweet! They have been the nicest e-mails that totally brighten my day. Several similar questions keep popping up about cleaning — “How do you keep your house so clean?” and “What is your schedule/routine for cleaning and laundry?”

So! Thought I’d answer you all at once. :) First of all, my house is NOT always perfectly clean. If I’ve given you this impression, I’m truly sorry because just like a lot of you, I have children. And we all know that when you have children, messes are never ending. I have two girls whose goal in life is to drag out as many toys as possible and then have a party with them.

I also have a baby who like all babies, creates as much laundry, spills, spit ups, dirty diapers and messes as is humanly possible.

My house gets trashed on a daily basis and is by no means perfectly clean all the time. Just wanna throw that out there and keep things real.

That being said, I feel like I do a pretty good job of staying on top of my house work and I’m more than happy to share my secrets.

Secret #1) My personality. I have always been a clean freak. When I was a little girl my sister would beg me to play dodge ball with her, but I was too busy organizing my room and re-arranging the furniture. As teenagers, she would stay up late listening to music. I would stay up late scrubbing our bathroom and organizing our hair accessories.

I really like things to be clean and orderly. And while I don’t like to admit this to my husband, I actually enjoy cleaning. I love to turn on music and get lost in housework. Very therapeutic to just clean and let my mind wander. I feel the most content and happy when my house is clean and because of this, I clean a lot. A LOT a lot. My close friends who ask me how I keep my house so clean always get the same answer from me — I’m always cleaning!

Secret #2) I have to admit that I DO have a little help. I have hired house cleaners who come every other week and “deep clean” my house. They do in about two hours what would take me four days. Kenny’s not a fan of our cleaners (not them personally, but the idea of them). It drives him crazy that I spend the whole day before the cleaners come cleaning our house to get it ready for the cleaners! But before they can mop, dust, and scrub, I have to get everything picked up and put away. Plus I love to have all of my laundry done before they come so that for one peaceful day every other week I can feel like everything is “caught up.”

Am I grateful that I am able to afford some help with housework? Extremely.

Does having help make it easier to stay on top of things? For sure. I only have to deep clean every other week and if I can’t get to something, I know that the next week it will be done.

Does having help make it so my house is always clean and I don’t have to do much? I wish! But no.

Secret #3) I have a daily cleaning routine. I’m going to share my routine, but I recognize that this won’t work for a lot of you. It’s unique to my situation at the time with small children and a husband who works late a lot of nights. I’m sure once my kids are older, my routine will change. I do believe though that what you do and when you do it doesn’t matter. What matters is that a daily routine is in place so that your house never reaches the point of being completely out of control and overwhelming.

During the morning/early afternoon I don’t clean a lot – other than picking up messes we make from breakfast and snacks. I’m busy shuttling and entertaining my kids, exercising and running errands. If I am home and have some time, I work off of my to-do list in my binder. By 3 or 4 in the afternoon I like to have all of my kids home. In fact, this year my girls are taking gymnastics and swimming lessons on Saturday mornings so that during the week we have our evenings free. The time change we just had is my all time favorite! I love it when it gets dark earlier because it makes it easier for us to be home in the afternoons. After Ellie gets home from school I give my girls some time to relax and play and then around 4:00 we have a snack and do homework and DEAR time. Then it’s straight upstairs for a bath. This is when my cleaning starts.

Immediately after I put my girls in the tub I start a load of laundry. Then while they play in the water and the clothes are washing I attack one room at a time (upstairs). One room at a time is key! It’s easy to go to put something away in another room and get side tracked. I don’t lose my focus. I keep working on the same room until that room is totally picked up and clean. Then I move on to the next room. I work fast! I bustle around putting everything in its place, checking on the kids and switching out and folding the laundry. In the bathrooms I put items away and wipe off counters and mirrors. Because I do this every evening, bathrooms stay looking nice. I usually have time to get one load of laundry washed, dried, folded and put away during this time and another load going that I finish up later that night while Kenny is reading to the girls. Again, because I do a load or two every night, I don’t get too behind on laundry. A lot of nights a load is left in the dryer and that is what I start with the next night. I always run the dryer for 5 minutes again the following night to get wrinkles out and to have warm clothes to fold. :)

I wash the girls’ hair and get them out of the tub half way through my cleaning frenzy and then I put them to work!

Secret #4) My girls help. I’ve found that assigning them specific responsibilities is key – pick up the crayons in the playroom – put the barbies back in their bin – pull your pajamas out of the pile of laundry and put them away.

(Addison – age 3 – folding laundry in her bride dress)

I can’t say “clean your room” and expect anything to get done, but if I give them a specific task they do a lot better. Yes, in the beginning this was way more work than help, but because I involve them with the cleaning every evening they are actually starting to become better cleaners. My timer and quarters are great motivation on those nights that they aren’t feelin’ it. Some nights we play music (Gwen Stephani is a favorite for cleaning – lately Christmas music) and some nights we play “freeze” where the girls clean until I say freeze and then they freeze for a minute and then start cleaning again. I know. Sounds so silly, but any way I can make cleaning into a game helps to get my girls moving.

(Just a few weeks ago – scrubbing the dining room chairs while mom mops the kitchen floor. In dress ups of course. My girls clean best when they look fancy. :)

After the upstairs is done, we all move downstairs and I make the kids dinner. While they are eating I pick up the living room/kitchen area. I would love to sit down together as a family to eat, but most nights Kenny isn’t home early enough to eat with us and aside from cleaning the downstairs I am also taking care of Kole (feeding and holding him) while the girls eat. That’s just our reality right now! Then Kenny gets home around 7:00 and I put Kole to bed and finish laundry while he reads to the girls and puts them in bed.

So I basically clean my whole house from 5-7 every evening.

My goal is to be sitting on my couch with kids in bed and everything clean by 7:30 – 8:00 PM. If nothing interferes with my afternoon at home, I manage to pull it off. Kenny and I eat a later dinner together and our popcorn is always popping by 8:00. :) Then it’s time to watch our shows and hang out together while I blog. My little treat at the end of a long day.

A few of my favorite cleaning supplies:

1 – Resolve Carpet cleaner. Best carpet cleaner EVER. I love this for any little spills or spit ups on the carpet. Spray a little, wait a little, wipe a little. Magic. I am a freak about clean carpets and this stuff has been my best friend since having children.

2 – Cascade Complete for the dishwasher. Costs just a few dollars more than regular Cascade, but I see a big difference in the way it cleans my dishes.

3 – I so love Pledge! Always makes my tables so shiny and clean. Plus I just love the smell! Whenever I use it Kenny comes home and says “It smells good! You’ve been cleaning.” I always think – actually I’ve just been Pledging. :)

4 – Plain old Ammonia for mopping my tile floors and Comet for bathroom sinks and counters. Boring and unoriginal, but after trying all kinds of new products I always come back to the basics. They get the job done!

5 – Weiman Granite and Stainless Steel wipes. My FAVORITE. They are five bucks each at Target and I LOVE them. I wipe down my stainless steel appliances with a wipe every day. Takes two seconds and they shine like new. I use the granite wipes once a week on my granite counter tops and they really make my counters shine.

Those are the supplies that I use over and over again!

Tips that have helped me to stay on top of house work:

Make a place for everything. Don’t let flat surfaces or that spare bedroom become a catch all for any and everything. Find a home for things and while you’re cleaning put them there. (same as my tips on staying organized)

-Attack one room at a time and don’t stop until that room is finished. Then move on to the next room.

Create a daily routine (whatever works with your schedule) so that you are staying on top of the housework and not letting it get out of control.

Involve your kids as much as you can. Teach them how to clean and make them responsible for cleaning up their own messes.

(Ellie – vacuuming with mommy – age two)

Hope that answers questions! Gotta go. I’m quite sure there is something in this house waiting to be scrubbed. :)

xoxo, Erin
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30 thoughts on “A word on cleaning

  1. Thanks erin this is just the post I need to get remotivated. I also have 3 kiddies, and make excuses but no more, really 2 hours out of your day is not alot. Just another question do you make all the beds in the morning before heading out? One thing I struggle with, i make ours and forget the kids,. Thanks Jill

  2. Erin- Thank you SO much for sharing…I love hearing how other moms do things…I can always take away an idea or two and it’s make my life easier. You are awesome.

  3. I am glad I found you again! I read you a while back… This post spoke to me. Yesterday I tried putting the timer on for 15 minutes, well I had to reset it 3 times, 45 minutes and I still felt like I could pick-up/clean for another 45. I will strive for 2 hours a day – I consider myself a neat freak too and glad I am not alone.
    p.s.Would love to know how you make a stainless steel kitchen sink sparkle?

  4. Hi Erin – I feel like you and I are separated at birth (although I am quite a few years older than you!) You are an amazing inspiration. I, too, like to have things in order, and at times I feel guilty that I spend so much time on cleaning – but I do feel my brain works better in an organized environment!! Thanks for the step by step instructions!!

  5. First of all, you are awesome for so many reasons. Of course, just because. But also, many things stood out as I read this post – you are loving and embracing the stage of life you are in right now (the many joys and also accepting the challenges of the busy career stage with your husband, etc.). You also are embracing and loving and including your girls the place they are at and including them. That is so beautiful. You have a beautiful system that works. I also have times that I have had a housekeeper and it is awesome for that deep cleaning. (This past year with Steve’s layoff we have cut that out and I am missing it.) Perhaps this post could inspire me to go get my house cleaned and it did. Moreso, you inspired me! Thanks.

  6. Kids actually want to help if you give them the opportunity, so great advice for those out there that haven’t tried it yet.

    I find that if you let yourself just put something on the counter or on the floor where it doesn’t belong it tends to linger, so my trick is to just put it where it belongs the first time around and to remind myself to do so if I feel like slacking. :o)

  7. So funny how Kenny feels about the house cleaners. I thought my husband was the only one! He even fired them because he thought I was cleaning for them to clean and that was worthless. I need them back, though, because the peace of mind is priceless.

  8. I loved every moment of reading this…it really gets me motivated to clean. I do enjoy cleaning but don’t have a lot of time and end up doing it on Saturday. I like the idea of a load or two a night to stay on top of laundry though! I love those Cascade tabs and they really do make a difference. Comet is another favorite too…it really deep cleans. I will look for that carpet cleaner because I’m kind of a freak about spills too. Thank you SO much for always taking the time to share and inspire us (me)…it’s truly appreciated. I always enjoy reading your blog.

  9. Hi Erin,
    Love your cleaning post! I do things very similarly… of course right? We also have someone deep clean in between my cleaning and it helps out A LOT. I do my best work in the evenings too when I put my girls in the baths. That is when I usually start folding laundry and switching loads also, but I never thought to clean the bathrooms then. I am going to do that tonight!!

    I love that 5 min clean sweep thing… A quick run through of each room and do what you can for 5 mins. Sometimes that is all ya need to do.

    And by 7:30-8 most every night our kids are in bed and it’s time for me and my husband to do what we want. The best part of my day.

  10. Erin- I love this post. I have been reading your blog for a few months and I love it. I also strive to be super organized and was the kid also organizing and cleaning her room, but now with 1 child and 1 on the way I feel like I am constantly playing catch-up. This post helped me realize that I have lost my everyday system and need to get it back. Thank you!

  11. Oh Erin! I just had to laugh when I started reading this, thinking- if they only knew she has cleaners helping her out! Wow, I’m impressed you let out your secret. But, even with hired help, I think the reality is, it’s just YOU!!!

  12. Oh how I miss those cleaners!!! Do you still use the same ones I used to use??? I miss them so much. *sigh*

    I love your tips. I think the one that hit me the hardest was sticking with one room at a time. I am the queen of distraction/multi-tasking. I start the dishes, then all of a sudden I’m sweeping, then before I know it I’m upstairs folding laundry but the dishes still aren’t done.

    There’s now way I can do it in the evenings so I have to squeeze it in earlier. Wish I could stay on a specific schedule but I always seem to veer from one.

    Anyways, what am I talking about??? There’s now way to keep this house clean regardless of any schedule. :)


  13. Thanks for the tips Erin. I also enjoy cleaning, and can’t relax if it’s not done. When my kids are at school, and I have lots to do I always ask myself “What on this list is the hardest to do when the kids are with me?” Those are the things I make sure I get done before pick up time.

  14. Hi Erin, love this post!
    I’m a new blogger living in Scotland, UK and we’ve been snowed in this week. My kids are going stir crazy and my house looks like a tornado went through it!
    Thanks for the tips, will start attacking the house tomorrow :-)

  15. first – I love the picture of all the pillows and blankets at the top of the stairs. My son just started pulling everything out having a sleepover party. too cute.

    Second – your tips are a great help.

  16. Such a great post on so many levels!! First, thx for starting with a messy house pic…that kept me reading through the “I already know how to do it but just gotta do it” to realize that I could learn a few things from you;) Have you tried the yellow (lemon) cascade packet thingys? I think they might even be better…they got a dark ring off of my crock pot that I thought was permanent. Love the packets and if you have a newer dishwasher…the only thing that works well with the high efficiency…not enough water to rinse the other detergent off. Thought of you today as I began my cleaning extravaganza…all 60 minutes of it. (and half a bath/bedroom later). it’s a start!

  17. I just wanted to explain to you why I haven’t been blogging or commenting very much lately.

    Don’t be jealous.

    I wasn’t going to tell you but we are good friends and so I want to share my good news.

    Marc and I have been taking “krump” lessons at night after our kids go to bed. We are getting really good. We think we are going to try out for SYTYCD so you and Kenny might not be able to sit with us next year. But we will get you backstage passes if you want.

  18. It’s really hard to find the best product that will surely clean everything in our home and I’m so glad that you finally find the right one for your home. As for me, I am lazy cleaning everything in my home, especially my rugs so I let St Petersburg carpet cleaning do the cleaning for me. And they are really great in terms of giving cleaning services not only in my home but in most homes near our place as well.

  19. Ok Erin, tried the Cascade Complete and see why you love it! Holy sparkling dishes, man, this stuff is AWESOME! Thanks for the recommendation! I also tried Resolve, and I am never living without it again! We have berber builder grade carpet throughout our apartment and are buying a new house soon and will be picking out new carpets and I was so afraid to go beige, but after using this stuff after a sippy of dark chocolate milk made its way to my carpet, I tried it. I figured if a clean freak like you recommends it, why not give it a shot? It was AMAZING! Sprayed, waited, wiped and dabbed, and voila! Clean! Like it never happened! Thank you thank you thank you! Now, can you share your laundry regimen as well? Favorite laundry products? Amy from NY :)

  20. Hi Amy! What a fun comment! Thank you! I’m so happy you tried those products and loved them. Hearing from you made my day. :) I don’t have anything all that special to recommend for laundry. I just use plain old Tide. :) Thanks again! So nice to “meet” you!

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