How I’m Keeping My Home Tidier than Ever, Even When Life Is at Its Craziest Yet

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I remember making the transition from working woman to stay-at-home mom when my oldest child was born in 2011.

Although I had never been a particularly clean or tidy person, I imagined what a stellar housewife and homemaker I would be with ALL THAT time on my hands. Of course, the house would be spotless, sparkling and tidy. Plus I’d reorganize everything and be crafty and have fabulous meals on the table each night.

Pit Stop

How do you think that worked out for me?

Well, for one thing, I didn’t count on how much more work my home was going to be with the switch to being at home all day, plus the addition of an infant, turned toddler, turned preschooler, plus two more little ones within a few short years.

And I didn’t realize that the problem was more me than time.

Me, who had never been disciplined when it came to house chores.

Me, who suddenly had no structure in life and who is given to laziness and overwhelm in situations like that.

Me, who had never before experienced prolonged sleep-deprivation.

Needless to say, that transition did not look quite like I thought it would.

I deeply wanted to be the stellar housewife I’d imagined, but instead my house ran me. I never felt on top of it.

While I worked at it a lot, truly making strides in the area of self-discipline and idleness, it was still a discouraging, losing battle in my mind.


What changed?

Over the years, I’ve watched a few of my friends run their homes well, and I’ve marveled at how they made it look so easy. I had no more excuses than they do, yet their homes were always tidy and not a particular source of overwhelm.

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I’ve tried to learn from them, and I’ve had many significant breakthroughs along the way! I’ve made several changes in the way I approach my homemaking fundamentally, and now I’m passionate about helping women achieve the same breakthrough! That is why I created the Help for the Hopeless Homemaker Online Course (find out more about that here).

But for starters, one of my breakthrough realizations was: when it comes to my children, I needed to…
Make them WAIT.
What do I mean by that?

I realized that because I’m such a people-oriented person, I was consumed with the interpersonal dynamics of my children and family at the expense of fulfilling the practical interests of the home.

I wasn’t creating stops in our day to keep up with the house as we went, and as a result it was a constant mess,

…despite all the (untimely) work I felt I was putting into it.


I wasn’t making my children wait on my attention while I attend to the needs of the household as our day progressed. I was immediately joining them in the next activity.

And most parents know how quickly a home can go from bad to worse to fatal.

So, now any time my children and I transition from one activity to another, I make a point to get the previous activity all cleaned up and restored to its former glory before we move on. Sure, they should help, but realistically a 3-year-old and 1-year-old are not going to be able to do a whole lot, and that’s OK. They still have to wait and/or participate…. Or, for heaven’s sake, go entertain themselves.


So, for example,

  • When I get them out of the tub in the evening, we do not proceed to pajamas and bedtime until the bathroom is totally restored. They can wait. And, realistically, it only take about a minute.
  • In the morning, we’re not done dressing them until their beds are made and rooms picked up. They can wait a minute or two for the breakfast, and our day starts with order.
  • When it’s time for their afternoon TV show, they can and will pick up a basket or two of toys, but more importantly, that show will not start until I have the family room back to ready: throws, cups, pillows and toys all back in their spots. They can wait.
  • When they are all ready for bed, in pajamas, bathed and hugged goodnight by dad and siblings, they will not start their nighttime book until all their clothes are put away, toys returned to their proper spot and everything tidy. They can wait.
  • And after dinner, they can’t have my attention until dishes are done, counters wiped, clutter cleared away and floors swept. This is hard for them at times, but… they can wait.

This provides much needed structure for me that prevents the mess from compounding.


All of these things are becoming part of our routine as a family.

Of course, there are exceptions. The needs of these little people are still the first priority, but i’m learning to reorder the rest and so are they.

Funny I didn’t think of this before.

And it extends to more than just the kids.

  • When we have company over for a meal, we used to let the dishes sit until our friends left so they could have our full and undivided attention, insisting that we would do it later when they offered to help. Now we do the dishes and tidy up while we visit with them. It feels natural and no one minds that! (Although I will say, our entertaining is pretty informal at this stage of life).

I apply this mentality to myself as well. It’s helped me put routines in my day for a tidier home.

  • I’m not finished “getting dressed” until my bed is also made.
  • I disallow us from “leaving the house” until the kitchen is tidy.
  • I don’t get to sit down to rest until such and such is done. Most of the time, I can wait until the job is done to proceed with my day.

This philosophy might sounds harsh to some, but believe me, my children are surviving and adapting quite well to this new approach. It’s becoming the new flow of our day, and they are learning to help clean up more than ever.

It’s all about organization of time. It’s about creating the habit or tidying as we go. I’m also planning to call in roofing and siding contractors as I can see stains on our walls and ceilings. I already looked for residential roofing contractors around here and found a roofer I can call if I need help with roofing repairs.

It’s about doing it all immediately, before it becomes overwhelming.

My home is tidier than ever, despite the fact that life has never been more overwhelming with these two goobers and 6-months-pregnant exhausted.

Katie's iphone 072

As children and pregnancies and responsibilities and sleep-deprivation keep on coming, I’m thankful that I finally found an approach that works for me to keep my home tidy throughout the day. It’s truly a stress-reliever and improves everyone’s quality of life.

And you know what? When my home is tidy, it’s not so difficult to imagine cleaning once in a while either.

This is just one of the many, simple-yet-life-changing realizations I’ve had as I’ve sought to change how I run my home fundamentally.

The process of re-inventing myself from the “constantly-behind, idle-prone and overwhelmed homemaker” I once was has been immensely eye-opening. I feel like I’ve figured out what works for someone like me.

I’ve learned that it all comes down to doing a few simple and strategic things with diligence.

After many years of observing friends, and after much trial and error, I’ve boiled it all down to 3 essential daily habits. With these 3 habits in place, a home can function pretty well! Without them, it will be perpetual catchup.

While I used to feel like a failure as a homemaker, I know feel a sense of success and satisfaction.

I’d love to share these 3 simple (secret) daily habits with you. If you focus your energy into establishing them, I believe you will achieve the same breakthrough in your homemaking that I did.

Can I share my secrets with you?

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  1. Diana says:

    Love how you put this! I’m a lot like you described–someone who just can’t quite figure out how to get it all together in homemaking! 🙂 But I have also come a long way in the last 5 years.

    Maybe you answer this in the course, but my question is this: how do you make this work when you have an infant who literally can’t wait. Yes, he can wait a minute or two (usually crying) but I can’t leave him to do the heartbroken, hyperventilate cry for 15 minutes while I clean up the supper dishes. Supper dishes are my nemesis (and his fussiest time of day), and there’s not a guarantee I’ll get those 15 minutes in the morning either. Yes, it is just a phase, but 6-8 months is a long time to be in the phase! (And the answer might just be: change your routine slightly depending on needs of the day. And that’s tough too–I do better if I can do the same thing every day!)

    Seriously love your strategy and the way you described it. Going to work on it!

    • Diana, oh how I understand the survival times with babies. That is really tough. My best idea would be to make it your routine to do the dishes after the baby is down for the night. And if that one thing is all you get done, I think it’s still a good goal. Dishes back in their places at night makes the next day seem brighter and more hopeful (to me at least). But mostly, just do what you can and embrace the limitations of this time. It’s okay. 🙂

    • Diana says:

      Thanks for the encouragement! 🙂 It’s always good to hear that it really is tough, it’s not just me not knowing how to do things. Ha 🙂 (I should know that by now–he’s number 3! But I think he’s also the fussiest in many ways.) I have made myself run the dishwasher every night, which almost always happens after everyone is in bed. But right now our bedtime is so late (due to other schedule things) that I have trouble making myself do much more than the bare minimum. I definitely agree that a clean kitchen makes a morning infinitely better–I can’t wait to get back to it!

  2. Hannah Beth Reid says:

    Thank you for these great thoughts on making routines and keeping life flowing! What great habits you’re passing along to your children!

  3. Melody says:

    Good tips. I don’t have kids yet and I am already hopelessly messy.

    • I can relate! Getting disciplined has been a loooooong road for me, but with God’s help I am a different person than I was before kids, and I have a great sense of satisfaction with where I am now. Best of luck!!

  4. Chelsea says:

    My husband and I work together to do a “10 minute cleanup” of the kitchen after dinner each night. We set a timer and seriously speed clean. This is the crankiest time of day for our kids (4 and 1.5) and previously we always jumped right to bedtime routine. Now we just ignore their crying/whining/unnecessary aggression until the timer goes off.

    • Timers are just the best! That concept helps my productivity so much. Isn’t it amazing what you can get done in 10 minutes? I love that your husband pitches in too. 🙂

  5. Mary says:

    Love this! Super helpful! I am totally gonna put this to practice tomorrow. Thanks for your blog, just found it on pinterest. I’ve been trying to think of ways to help my 3.5 year old to help around the house. I love the stop before you move on concept!

  6. Nurah says:

    The best article on keeping a house/home tidy. I found this article on pinterest and it was the fifth or fourth one I read and the others I found the advice so so but ths article, I truly find the advice beneficial and I plan on implementing this very day. It’s 6am and actually can wait for my little ones to wake up.

  7. Hannah says:

    Great post! I am so guilty of the same thing and I feel like my house is a constant wreck! I will definitely try this approach. It makes total sense to clean as you go but why I don’t do that I don’t know lol

  8. Colleen says:

    This post may actually be life changing for me. I have always been desperate to NOT make people wait since I was a dawdler and dreamer as a child. So I would leave things undone so that those around me didn’t have to wait. Being able to identify this has put meat on the advice of picking up after myself as I go. I completely believe that making our kids wait teaches them patience, and in this context will also give them the tools they need to be diligent through their lives. I just had never put two and two together. So THANK YOU! Praying it sticks! 🙂

  9. Chiara says:

    I really agree with your post, but lately I have found it difficoult to apply this method. I still work, so when I am back home, especially if huaband is still at work, my 1 year old who just got picked up from daycare is tired and just wants to be with me, play with me or just be held. Yesterday for example it was difficoult for me to even prepare her dinner, and I had to turn on the TV to distract her, after trying to distract her with different toys. And I feel very guilty of putting her in front of the TV after being out all day, but I needed to make her dinner! Sometimes I just give up and don’t have MY dinner… I think at this stage I just can’t win…

    • That is a difficult age, because they really don’t understand waiting very well. I felt a lot guilt using TV to distract my first born, but that was something I came to terms with much more by the time my second came around. I would encourage you to not feel guilty about that! Kids love TV, and I think a little age-appropriate TV is a nice treat for them, just like a little ice cream. 🙂 Hang in there! This method will work better for you in time!

  10. lisette says:

    Wow! That’s an inspirational piece!
    So simple and yet so true! Oh I’m so going to work on this during summer break. I never stopped to think about it this way, I always just blamed myself and I never got around to finding a real solution. This really is me and my problem you’re describing.

  11. Jelli says:

    Kate, I feel like you wrote this for me. I’m currently in the same situation- a 1 and 3 year old and 7 months pregnant. I’ve tried halfheartedly to use these same scenarios to keep the house clean, and when I’m diligent (and my kids know it), the house does stay tidy, but I have a hard time sticking to my guns when my little boys looks so cute begging to read another book before he puts his toys away. I guess I need to practice setting limits and sticking to it. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Aw, that is sweet! I understand your struggle. Normally mine are asking me to do something I totally DON’T want to do, like pretend we’re pirates hiding from imaginary dragons or something, so it’s easy to make them wait! 😉 However, for your own sanity, do it. This system has worked wonders for my home!

  12. Wonderful blog post! I know I tend to jump when the kids need something and while I’m getting better at it, it’s good to remember that it won’t hurt them to wait a minute or two while I finish something up. Thank you!

  13. I think I’ve tried just about everything to keep my home running smoothly and not look like a disaster area all the time. We all keep different schedules, so it’s hard to do much when someone is always sleeping. One adult works 2pm-12:30am, one works 12:30am-12:30pm, and I seem to never get enough sleep. Trying to keep a QUIET home, while also getting stuff done, is nearly impossible. My bed is never made, somebody is always in it. I have to carefully time when I vacuum or run the dishwasher so as not to disturb anybody (and ensure there’s hot water for the non-stop shower sessions). I never ever do dishes after dinner. My oldest son’s chore is to the dishes, and dinner is at 6, followed by bath time and bedtime at 7. There’s no time in the evening for him to do them, so they get done the next morning (or after school during the school year). 3-6pm every day is homework and chores time, and just about the only time the house looks decent.
    But, come August, my youngest will be in Kindergarten. I like to dream of having the house all clean all the time. I do work from home, I’m a full time student, and the only time I get to see my husband is 1-2pm every day. But mostly, I’m just lazy and don’t want to finish chores before sitting down for a little quiet time. I really need to work on that.

    • Wow, that’s complicated! It sounds like you have some good coping routines in place though. Probably this is not a season for a perfectly tidy house. Yes, you can work on any lazy tendencies you’ve identified, but other than that, it sounds like you have a difficult schedule with many constraints!

      I would suggest identifying the one scenario where you think you could most improve and work on that. For example, I just began a nightly pickup of the main living areas after the kids go to bed, a time when everything in me wants to collapse on a coach. But as I’ve stuck with it and created a habit (I’m 20 days-in-a-row in!), it’s making a HUGE difference in how I feel about my home all day. Best of luck!!

    • Melissa says:

      Unperfect Family- Oh wow, honey, I just want to hug you. I hope you don’t mind, but I went to check out your website out of deep concern for you. Even your description of your life makes my heart ache with understanding and sadness. I used to have that life, odd hours, letting life happen to me instead of really LIVING life. The husband and wife like dark ships passing in the night.

      Something is going to give. I almost feel like begging you to change your circumstances so you don’t have to relive the same heartache I’ve lived through. I’d love to suggest to make time to read His Needs, Her Needs by Dr Willard Harley Jr. Change your life now before it changes you.

      I wish you the best. <3

    • Melissa says:

      This is great. I only wish I had read it years ago! lol I have four little ones, 13,9,5 and 2. I’ve only been a sahm (part time wahm) for the last two years and it was a huge adjustment! My youngest loves to follow me around while I’m cleaning and often mimics what Mommy does by trying to help. The past few years my goal has been to simplify and eliminate all of the non essential parts of our life. The first year I focused on my schedule and this year I’m working on our belongings.

      I just laughed while reading because most of what you wrote sounds similar to my life. In my first marriage I was so lost. Learning how to manage a home and be responsible for myself, my husband and a helpless baby, it was a huge adjustment. I’m so thankful I’m at a season in my life where I can enjoy my children and get the work done at the same time.

  14. heather says:

    I’ve been trying to sign up for your newsletter and posts, but on the three or four pages Ive tried, I get the same error message: “An invalid Interest Group was selected.” Would you please sign me up? No need to publish my comment, but you may want to investigate this error. Thanks, heather

    • Felicia says:

      Heather, mine said that to me too when I tried the first few times. My first problem was a space in my email address. It said that to me once more after I fixed that, so I just unchecked and rechecked the boxes which seemed to work. Hope that helps!

  15. Diane says:

    It took me a lot longer to figure this out haha! I had my first baby in 2006 and I’ve just been bumbling along in a lazy/overwhelmed cycle for *years*. It took 4 kids and lack of a dishwasher to finally just get fed up with the chaos and get a system going. Thankfully mine are ALL old enough to help and are required to (ages 3-8) after all meals, crafts, and play times. They all also have personal chores they must complete each day.

    Life has been so much simpler these past few months because the kids understand we need to do this and that before we get to the other thing they/we want to do. It took discipline but it is worth it to teach your children to work hard before they get to do the next thing and instills a sense of personal responsibility.
    Thank you for this post!

    • That is awesome Diane! That is exactly what I need to work towards now that my kids are getting a bit older. The oldest just turned 4, so she IS old enough to make a real contribution. Once we get potty training nail down I’m thinking of trying a sticker chart to motivate her to consistently do a few designated jobs. Do you do anything like that or have any insight there? Or do you just use the motivation of the next activity (which is what I’m currently leveraging, but it’s not always motivating)?

  16. Morgan says:

    I like this philosophy. I work full time and my husband stays home with our two kids (2yo and 8mo) and he is definitely the cleaner and tidier one in our relationship (thank goodness). I continually have to motivate myself to put my shoes away, clean up my dishes, etc. I even timed myself putting the dishes away to put in perspective how LITTLE time it takes because in my mind it and other tasks were too overwhelming. It takes like a minute and a half…
    We are working with my daughter teaching her to put dirty clothes in basket and helping with dishes and other cleaning skills I wasn’t
    taught to value. Im going to try to learn from your philosophy to help my husband with more housework ☺️

    • That’s awesome Morgan! What a smart idea to actually time the tasks that we perceive to be burdensome but really, aren’t. I may use that on my blog. Such great insight! Good luck adopting this philosophy! I hope it helps you as much as it has me. I think one reason it’s motivating is that I have more opportunities for rest and breaks throughout the day. I don’t have to do dishes or pick up after the kids go down for a nap or start a TV show because it’s already done! More time for a few pursuits that nourish and fill me up (like responding to blog comments!) 🙂

  17. Felicia says:

    Wow, can I just say how incredibly THANKFUL I am for this blog?! I’m a new stay-at-home mom/wife of a 3mo old, and this has been my struggle since I can remember. I’ve never viewed myself as a slob, but since being married and living with someone who has different expectations of how a living space should be kept, I’ve certainly realized that I’m no Susie Homemaker. Don’t get me wrong, my husband is wonderful and is (in my mind) the glue that holds our family together. Certain things like standing dishes and piles of laundry just stress him out more than they do me. Before we were married, I built up this image of the perfect housewife and was so excited to tend to my husband and our house, to be the “perfect Christian wife.” Somehow I thought that even though I had always been a self-admittedly lazy person who hated chores, that as soon as I was married that would all change in an instant. Apparently, it doesn’t work like that (shocking I know)! Thus, this has been my struggle for the last 3.5 years since I said “I do.” Arguing over house work and feeling completely guilty (but never enough to ACTUALLY change my habits) about not fulfilling this fantasy that I promised myself and my husband.

    So, flashback a year ago when I found out I was pregnant and then again four months ago when I quit my full-time job to be a SAHM, and wouldn’t ya know it…I thought for sure my luck would change with all this new time I’d have on my hands! HA! My guilt and feeling of being overwhelmed has only compounded since I’ve been home.

    To make a long story not quite as long as it could be…your blog has given me the hope and inspiration that I’ve been praying for to help me change my habit of laziness. While I’m kicking myself for not thinking of something as simple as this sooner, just know what a revelation you have provided me. I know it will be hard with an infant, but your method really just clicks with that weird niche inside of me that gets me motivated to do something. I am so grateful for you and your blog. It truly is a Godsend in this time of my life!! Thank you!!

    Thanks for dedicating the last week of your life to reading my comment 😉

    • YAY!!! That is SO fun to hear! Thank you for sharing Felicia! I truly hope that you will experience the same break through I have over the past year. And let me encourage you that it was a gradual process in my life. I started with making my bed every day and stayed super committed to that one routine until it was firmly established, then worked really hard to establish the routine of doing the dishes right after dinner, et cetera.

      Also, if you are a person who is motivated by box-checking and you have a smartphone, check out the app Commit. It’s like $2.99, but you put in the goal you’re working on (as many as you’d like) and then check it off every day. It keeps up how many days in a row you’ve done it, which after racking up 20 or more, I do the thing just so I won’t break my record! It has really helped me add little routines one at a time. I’m using it a lot with the eCourse I mentioned.

      Bless you!! Best of luck with your new endeavors and I look forward to getting to know you more through the blog!

  18. J.Lam says:

    -Let them wait, set a time and make good.
    -Always make good on your promises and threats.
    -Keep consequences relevant and scaled properly for age and situation.
    The main point that has kept down the crazies is being someone of your word. If your kids trust your word, they’ll be quiet, they’ll wait knowing full well you will take care of their concerns at the proper time.

  19. Sara says:

    Just wanted to say this is the only way we keep a tidy house. I agree with this! I would only add one thing, that giving the kids a little job to help you with will make them part of the clean-up process. Even if it’s as simple as throwing a paper towel in the trash can for you. As they get older they’ll do more. This has helped me a lot. My two year old just beams when I let him help me. It does take a tad bit longer to clean up though.

  20. Becca says:

    Interesting. For the most part, I manage to stay on top of the house & farm – I employed Nike’s slogan “Just do it” and that seems to work for me. I require the kids to help (ages 4, 2 and 8 mo) so sometimes it takes longer than normal and I have to re-do when they are done, but I love training them to help. I hope in the future it will make life easier for all of us to have the work distributed. At the same time though, I have learned to give myself grace if I don’t get everything done. All those little one and two minute tasks add up, and on particularly busy days, it really isn’t possible to get it ALL done and give my kids the time and attention they deserve.

    To each his own…the cleaning when guests are around bugs me; I don’t think I could do that…. Maybe if it was super close friends or family that were offering to help, but to start cleaning when we invited them for dinner and visiting just seems a bit rude to me. But again, to each his own!

    • Definitely agree that grace is important! I agree that the “cleaning up with guests” is a personal decision, and i offered it more as an example than a “you should do this too” point.

      But I will say, the stress from the big mess when company left was preventing me (subconsciously) from showing hospitality, and now that I’ve laid that aside, I’m able to thrive in that area and love opening up our home regularly. I truly hope out guests don’t think I’m rude, but I also hope they feel blessed by our hospitality and not picky about the way it’s done. Rudeness obviously isn’t my aim, but rather simply to make hospitality feel doable so I will actually do it.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  21. Beth says:

    I love this! It’s so simple! I’m a stay at home mom during the summer while I’m on break from my teaching job. I only have one little munchkin and even though he is very demanding of my attention, I’m learning how to keep the house cleaner and more organized. I love the idea that they can either join in and help tidy up or wait until you are finished with your task. It serves a two purposes! My you get a tidy home and kids who are learning patience!

  22. VB says:

    I think this makes ABSOLUTE sense. Teaching children to be self-sufficient is the greatest gift we can give them! This starts by watching us, and including them as they grow in caring for ourselves and our home. Further, they need to learn to wait…patience is golden at every step in life. BTW true friends won’t mind taking 10 minutes to clean up dinner 🙂 LOVE this!

  23. Kerry Anne Elliott Dusablon says:

    Also all the therapy appointments are also for my 6 year old daughter who is Austic & nonverbal but she is willing to help or wait until I am done

    • VB says:

      I am certainly no expert, but if you do not already have a schedule/routine in place, do so. Post it with pictures. the 4 yo can wipe the table or chairs after dinner while you do dishes? This seemed to help me a lot especially for my son who needs to know what is happening “next”

  24. Kerry Anne Elliott Dusablon says:

    I read your article and it was very informative I am a stay home mom also had to quit job due to therapy ect my question is how to get the house clean and organized when I am always running to therapy appointments ?my other problem is my 4 year old son he has add so eating is asking to much (not trying to make excuses for this ) I would take all night just to do supper dishes and I trying to get him to help that don’t really work and if he is made to wait until I am done disaster ahead (destroyed anthor room)so all you would be doing is cleaning / organization in one room only have to do anthor when you finish that one (my husband is not to happy with me about this arrangement )

    • I would say you are in a difficult season of life, and maybe (you be the judge) it’s okay to create more reasonable expectations for yourself and your kids than the ones stated in this post. Your children have some special needs, and meeting them (along with caring for YOURSELF) are the most important priorities, not the tidiness of your home or necessarily doing things immediately.

      The only thing I can think of that might reduce the burden in a roundabout way is minimizing and simplifying your home so the mess is more controlled (if it’s not already that way). Here’s an article I wrote on that subject. This is the other piece of my journey to feeling more on top of my home and might be more applicable to your situation.

    • Kellie says:

      I know I can’t understand your situation completely, but I also have a son (ADHD) that has gotten into a lot of mischief while I have been busy with other things, whether it’s chores or visiting with a friend. After a few major catastrophes, I taught him that being able to be out of my sight is a privilege that is earned through a certain level of responsibility. For example, I would not let my 1-year-old play in the yard without me, but I can trust my older kids to stay in the yard and not destroy property or whatever, so they are allowed out without me, as long as they continue showing the appropriate level of responsibility. So for any of my kids that do not behave while I’m not in sight (whether by disobedience or developmental level), they must stay in my sight, usually in the same room as me until they can demonstrate the proper level of responsibility. So, if I am doing dishes, they can bring something to the table to work on or play with but they cannot leave the table. Once they can consistently do that without s fight or complaining, they might be allowed into the next room where I can hear them and occasionally check on behavior. As they continue to show responsible behavior, they earn more ‘freedom’. Of course, expectations need to be clear, such as “only get out one thing at a time and clean it up when you’re done” or “you can play in the back yard but stay inside the fence”. That way they know how to live up to their responsibilities and it’s easy to teach them about what went wrong if they don’t. I admit it can be annoying to have my kids in the same room with me constantly for a while but in the long run they have learned how to behave even when I’m not right with them and know that they need to show certain maturity before they get certain privileges. You should definitely be able to get housework done, even if your son has add. It just takes some teaching, reinforcing, and patience. (And it was around ages 4-6 when my kids have needed this technique the most. They want to be more independent but needed to learn how to be without getting into trouble.). Best of luck!

    • Hannah B says:

      Maybe having specific activities that he is allowed to do while you do dishes (or whatever chore) might help?

  25. Britta says:

    I’m so glad a friend of mine shared this! We are so much alike!!! I have a 5 year old, 3 year old, and a 1 year old, and I am also a very social outgoing person. I quit working full time when I was about 6 months pregnant with baby #2. I also had all these ambitions of a clean house, craft projects and dinner on the table. I have failed miserably.
    But you have shared Some great ideas that I will start with today and see how it goes! Thanks!

    • Wow, we are so much alike! I hope these ideas help you as much as they did me. But let me add that I sort of incorporated one thing at a time. First it was making me bed. Then after I did that a few weeks it was doing the dishes immediately after dinner, etc. I gave myself time to focus on one habit at a time, which was helpful for me since I had a long way to go. Blessings!

  26. Whitney says:

    It’s funny how God works. My husband and I hav been talking about more children but my “argument” was I cant keep a orderly house with just one, how on earth can I do it with more children?! So we said we would pray about it and look for encouragement. This article is in my newsfeed at 3:45 am. Thank you! You are so right.

    • Wow, that gives me chills! SO COOL, and so fun to know that God is at work! Thanks for sharing and many blessings on your future as you make these huge decisions!

    • Jen says:

      Actually, our first child was four when our second came. I found it easier having two children vrs one. They have always played and played together. God will carry you through!

  27. Heather says:

    I never had to do chores growing up and now that I am a wife and mother it is hard to get a routine down that works. I really wish my mom had made me do chores. I am going to try this out with my daughter. Thank you.

  28. Jaime says:

    At the risk of sounding repetitive, I too love this post! I have three kiddos at home, we homeschool, and my house is in a constant state of disorder. My husband and I are stressed out because there is always something that needs to be done and there is nowhere to relax away from the mess! I’m curious about how the “making them wait” works on a practical level. My middle child is 4 and he wakes up about 20 steps ahead of me and I feel like I spend most of my day catching up to his busy little mind and body. We are trying to teach him patience. Do you have any tips on teaching them how to wait?

    • Hmmm… great question! I don’t have a highly active child, although I have friends who do, so I don’t know how helpful my advice is to your situation.

      However, I would say the key for my kids was repetition day to day and re-statement of what I was doing and why. I would sort of use the same phrases everyday and be as specific as possible. Like when they wanted me to come play or “see something” or watch them during that after dinner clean up time, I would say, “I will come after I clean up. I have to do my chores first. After dinner I need to clean up the dishes, wipe off the counters and sweep before I can play.”

      Over time they internalized that, although they still ask for my attention. I can ask them back, “What do you think I need to do first?” and they can repeat it for me, which tends to eliminate the pestering. 🙂 We’re still not perfect at this, but consistency has been helpful for them.

  29. Hannah says:

    This was great! You rarely see this opinion. It’s usually lots of articles and memes about being messy and dirty is ok because your kids should be first….. I think you ARE putting your kids first by teaching them order and tidiness. I totally agree. Though no one will likely admit it, the other way of thinking is just an excuse to ignore your chores. 🙂 Thank you for writing this.

    • Thank you so much Hannah! I really appreciate your encouragement and affirmation! I feel guilt from time to time, but ultimately I know this approach fits with my parenting goals, and it’s such a relief for me to have a (somewhat) tidy home. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  30. Beth says:

    We are working on this too. You didn’t mention it, but having a simple routine makes it easier to make a child wait too, because you know it will only be a minute. When I was constantly overwhelmed I always felt like I had to stop and tend to the child right away because I had hours of work to do and there never seemed to be a stopping point. Marathon cleaning just doesn’t work anymore, but it has taken me a while to give it up.

  31. Sheri says:

    I love the fact that you are teaching your children at a young age that order is important. Their are so many blogs out there that give women permission to have a messy house because they are just in that season. I’m not saying that everything has to be spotless, but being orderly is good. We currently have 7 of our 9 children living at home. We need to have order or our house would be total chaos. Dishes are done after every meal, we cleanup after projects, we put away laundry right away. Sometimes it feels like we are doing more work that having fun. However, from an early age, the kids helped me with everything. We learned that working together helped everything get done faster and we could move on to the next fun thing. So keep doing what you are doing and keep teaching the kids that there is a time for work and a time for play. Someday they will take over some of the work, do it on their own without being asked, and you will be thankful for the time you spent teaching and working together,

    • Thank you so much Sheri! What wonderful insight and encouragement from a mom of nine! I do get a feeling of “all work, no play, not a fun mom or life” guilt sometimes, but really, I do want them to learn to be disciplined in tasks and to appreciate and expect order as they get older. I look forward to the day when that will come naturally. Thank you again.

  32. Jessica says:

    Love this idea! But any suggestions for a working mom of a 4 month old? Hard to make him wait and I’m generally exhausted when I come home. It’s about all I can do to nurse him, fix dinner, bath and bed time and get ready for the next day! Any suggestions appreciated as I have that same overwhelmed feeling even though my desire is to have a tidy house.

    • Jessica,
      Honestly, my best suggestion is just to hang in there! I remember that age, and you’re right, they really can’t wait yet. I think if you’re accomplishing all the things on that list you mentioned, you are doing a great job! Your home just may not be very tidy for the next year or so, and it’s okay. Sometimes the frustration of not being able to doing it all is a good and growing process too.
      Your seasons is NOT an easy one, and don’t let anyone tell you differently because you “only have one.” I don’t think life has ever been harder than that first year with only one child. When the second came along, he had some built in entertainment! Again, hang in there! This too will pass.

    • Ceri says:

      I would say two things that are vastly different for you with a 4 month old. First, it sounds like you work outside the home. If that’s the case, you really can’t relate to this article at its essence. And a 4 month old doesn’t really create mess. So, even if you’re at home, you shouldn’t be so overwhelmed unless you’re (or partner or animals) a slob. When you have kids in the home all day, you will know what this gal is talking about. Somehow the home stays pretty well clean when you’re not in it. Weird, i know. I’ve gone back and forth from the workplace to the home and every time I catch myself thinking one might be easier. But, the house always creeps up on me. I’ve learned time management is huge! There is a time and place for everything! Even if it’s the unused crib that doubles as a huge laundry basket or the kids don’t get to catch lightning bugs with me every night this week. It’s a balance.

      My second comment would be to utilize a day you could have help on for a few hours and prep your meals for the following several days (whether it’s vegetable chopping or freezer meals – get meals organized!). Heck, depending on what you do outside the home, you may be able to meal plan while there. I worked at a bank in several roles but always managed to meal plan during the day (even if it cut into my lunch/social hour).

      Lastly – Babywear! Your baby won’t mind being held while you’re hands free. It may take a couple different wraps or carriers to find one your baby loves but at that age, that’s really all they want outside of feeding and diapering. Heck, they don’t even care if they get a bath. Search for a local babywearing chapter in your area so you have access to a variety of carriers/wraps before purchasing your own – they can be costly for a good one.

      The biggest thing though is to relax. Enjoy this time with your new baby. Whether you got an easy one or a challenging one, treasure the infancy. It’s gone way too soon. Trust me, I’m on 4 (considering going back to “work” to rest) and there is a season for everything. Oh, and husbands/partners/baby daddies ARE capable of helping with everything. (So are neighbors, church members, grandparents, friends). Don’t be too prideful or stubborn to ask.

    • Julie says:

      Babywearing! It saved my bacon!

    • Kristen says:

      One thing I wish I had taken seriously back when we had one (took me three more kids to really appreciate) is the impact limiting what you bring into the house will have on the ease of cleaning it. Sounds silly and a little obvious, but I loved to shop, especially for the kids, but once I really figured out what we actually needed, and even limited excessive gift-getting (my kids ask for teddy bears for their birthdays that the donate to foster kids) it’s made cleaning easier for all of us!

    • I concur with Kristen! That is what I’ve found too!

  33. Samantha says:

    I have been struggling with this exact issue! When I quit my job 6 months ago, I had big plans for getting so much done and organizd. I knew being a stay at home mom job was going to be a breeze, but boy was I quickly proved wrong. I became sooo lazy about my chores and my poor husband would spend his day off helping me get caught up. This idea of cleaning as you go sounds like a fantastic fix, and I’m definitely going to put myself to the test tomorrow and try it! I always did the same dish cleanup hold while having guests, for fear they would feel it rude. However you right, it’s a natural order, they will think it normal because as would I. Thanks for this inspirational post!

  34. Toni says:

    I enjoyed this read. Thanks for the tips 🙂

  35. Thanks says:

    Thanks for that. I wasn’t spamming, but I don’t like putting my details on websites.

    I agreed with your overall principle and many of the specific examples. I just guess there were a few like having guests over that for me personally are a bit further than I would comfortably go.

    The wording about dinner guests also made me a bit unsure of whether you are joking:
    “When we have company over for a meal, we used to let the dishes sit until our friends left so they could have our full and undivided attention. Now, no more. ”

    The whole ‘now, no more’ just confused me for a second. I genuinely am not criticising you, and although I may not put into practice everything you said I appreciated your article so thank you (and I hope this clarified slightly)

    • Thank you so much for checking back! I was hoping you would. Yeah, good point about the wording being confusing. I may rework that a little bit. Thanks again!

    • Dri says:

      I kind of think this is the difference between just hosting someone and true hospitality. Hosting if often about a show and doesn’t really exhibit true life. Hospitality is about bringing someone into your life, living life together… Which includes doing the dishes. I think it’s an important distinction.

  36. Confused says:

    I can’t tell if this is satire or serious? Partially because some of the advice seems very practical and some personally seems way over the top. I’m genuinely curious, I’m not disparaging the article.

    • I am actually being serious in this post. I would say more, but I can’t tell if you’re real or a spammer since the name and email are bogus. 🙂 Check back if you’re real! Can you elaborate?

  37. Samantha says:

    Loved this post! Yes I do make my child wait! It teaches them patients and order. It is great to teach them at a young age to pick up after themselves and the help momma!

  38. Jan says:

    I strongly subscribe to the notion that kids WILL learn that the world doesn’t revolve around them…..the sooner they learn that, the easier life will be for them. Good job, Katie!!

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