Mess and clutter in our living spaces can be a major source of stress and anxiety for families.
The first thing we want to make clear is what is tidy for you, is up to you. Every family functions differently, is in different phases of life, and can tolerate different levels of clutter and cleanliness. We encourage everyone to do what works for them and own it! Annie’s standards of organization and cleanliness may be different to mine, which may be different to Lauren’s. It’s important in all facets of life that the intentions you set are going to work for *your* family’s goals, not someone else’s. 🙂
What many people can relate to is that moment when you look around your home and feel like your head is going to spin off if you have to look at the mess any longer. And there are several studies to back up that organization and tidiness can affect mental and emotional wellness.
A 2010 study shared that women who described their living spaces as “cluttered” or full of “unfinished projects” were more likely to be depressed and fatigued than women who described their homes as “restful” and “restorative.” The researchers also found that women with cluttered homes expressed higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
In 2011, researchers at Princeton University found that clutter can actually make it more difficult to focus on a particular task.
A survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that people who make their beds every morning are 19% more likely to report regularly getting a good night’s sleep. People who were surveyed also reported benefits from having clean sheets — specifically, 75% of people said they get a better night’s rest when their sheets are freshly cleaned because they feel more comfortable.
If any of this rings true for you, read on! If it doesn’t, that’s ok too. You do you!
Five Daily Housekeeping Tasks
Last week we had Becky of the Clean Mama on our podcast. Becky has rocketed to internet fame (with over half a million loyal followers!) by showing families how they can take the stress out of cleaning.
When I came across the Clean Mama website I felt like HHHM had found it’s soul sister. Most people approach cleaning their homes like they do dieting – changing everything at once… In true-to-us fashion, Becky does not recommend this. Her philosophy to keeping a tidy home isn’t to go all-out, but to slowly work on daily habits, do what you can do, and don’t stress about what you can’t do!
The enemy to almost all goals is an all-or-nothing mindset. In our podcast with Becky we talked about what we call in HHHM the “all-or-something” mindset. For most of us, having a pristine, Pinterest-ready home just isn’t realistic on a daily basis. So why strive for it? Doing so leads most people to giving up (that’s the “nothing” part of all-or-nothing!) and feeling defeated.
Instead, Becky encourages families to commit to what’s realistic for them. You can start a quick, but efficient, daily cleaning routine with tasks that pack a serious housekeeping punch. Here are the five daily tasks Becky recommends all families work on adopting that will help them feel on top of the mess:
- Do one load of laundry
- Make the beds (this is a great habit to get children into early on!)
- Spot sweep/vacuum your home (crumbs under the table, etc.)
- Wipe counters in the kitchen and bathroom
- Deal with your clutter (piles of paper, messes on the floor, etc.)
The above five tasks should take anywhere from 10-30 minutes. If you don’t have that much time, or if the five daily tasks seem overwhelming for you, just start with one. You can improve incrementally over time. All-or-something!
What About the Rest of the House?
Most people will need to do more than the five daily tasks to stay on top of keeping a clean(ish) home. If you’re like me and have three little boys, the bathrooms are going to need your attention eventually (preferably in a hazmat suit). Becky recommends that in addition to the five daily tasks, families adopt a cleaning routine that includes cleaning one part of the house per day. The extra time it takes on a daily basis adds up to a huge time-saving at the end of the week. Here is how Becky structures her weeks:
Monday – bathroom day
Tuesday – dusting day
Wednesday – vacuuming
Thursday – washing floors
Friday – “catch all day” (anything she missed during the week)
Saturday – sheets and towels
Make a schedule that works for you!
Plan for Failure
During the podcast, Annie pointed out that when people start something new they often expect perfection and don’t plan for failure. This is true in so many areas of our lives. Becky accounts for this in her cleaning schedules and calendars (see, Friday “catch all” day!) because, as she points out, sometimes “the wheels come off.” You won’t be able to follow your schedule some weeks, and that’s ok. If you’re completely overwhelmed, doing one small thing is better than nothing. And simply pick up where you left off the following week. There’s no point in stressing about things you can’t control. Life is unpredictable! We should plan for, and expect, that our schedules will be derailed from time to time.
The Bottom Line: Don’t Stress
Developing a cleaning routine is about making your life less stressful, not more. This is why it’s crucial that your plan account for your individual and family needs.
I used to feel so much anxiety around my home, especially the year I had three children under four at home with me. I just couldn’t stay on top of the mess and it was a huge source of shame for me when friends or neighbours showed up at my door unexpectedly. Cue memories of my Mom losing her shit and making us clean like crazy people before anyone could come over, lol! For my emotional health, I knew I had to have a different mindset. Keeping my home clean and organized isn’t always a priority for me. That shouldn’t stop me from having people over or feeling like a “failure” at this “mom and wife thing.” Owning where you’re at in life, or your own individual mess in the world, can be so freeing. Hi, my name is Jen, and I’m a mess. Take me or leave me. 🙂
Many families opt to outsource their cleaning. That’s an awesome option too, if it’s in your budget. You can even #allorsomething your cleaning service. Have them come and do your whole house, or just your floors, or just your bathrooms, etc. You can schedule a cleaner to visit once a week, bi-monthly, monthly, etc. You’re probably starting to get the picture… We want you to find what works for you, and helps you feel at peace in your every day life. 🙂
The point of this advice, and Becky’s website, is to help families reclaim some balance and sanity around keeping their homes organized and tidy. In a world full of Pinterest images it’s hard to figure out what that looks like. The bottom line is there is no “perfect” home or cleaning schedule, it’s what’s going to work for you and your family.
Check out Becky at the Clean Mama – she has tons of free resources, schedules, and how-tos on her website as well as an amazing Facebook community where you can dive deeper into the Clean Mama philosophy. And be sure to check out the podcast where we covered additional topics like dealing with messy partners, trouble spots in the home, and do you really have to wash sheets weekly? 😉
Let us know your tips and tricks for staying organized in the comments!