Keeping Your House Clean with Small Children Underfoot

The following is a post from contributing writer Dianna Kennedy.

Want to know why you rarely see pictures of my house?

I’ll let you in on a little secret.

I stink at cleaning house.

I was halfway decent when I only had one child.

Now, with a teenage daughter and four children under the age of six, my house looks like a cyclone hit most days.

If you have children, this may happen one day at your house.

If you have children, this may happen one day at your house.

I know that there are many of you out there like me — let’s work together to make things a little more manageable in our homes.

1. Have Realistic Expectations

I often joke to my friends that I need a indestructible Little Tikes house, only big enough for all of us.

Messes and accidents happen with children, like the Great Oven Incident of 2012. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not worth getting that worked up over.

In my house, I try to minimize the potential messes and damages as much as possible.

Put breakable items away for now. Paint the walls with a washable paint and invest in Magic Erasers.

Leather couches are very forgiving, but you might want to rethink the glass coffee table. If you want things to look nice, low maintenance flooring is your friend.

2. Talk with Your Husband

You and your husband are a team. You both are busy, and you both have strengths and weaknesses.

Look over the things that have to get done and make out a plan to divide and conquer.

In my house, I’m the laundry queen, while my husband handles most of the meals and kitchen cleanup.

Your roles may look different, but the end result is working together.

3. Have a Teaching Spirit

I know. It’s so much easier to send your husband with the children to the park while you get the house manageable. That doesn’t teach your children how to help out.

Slow down, take some time and show your children how to clean. In this video, my kids are learning how to wash dishes. I had a little water to wipe up later, but they did a great job.

4. Praise, Praise and More Praise

Right now, my boys are at the age where they love to please Mommy. When they drag the laundry hamper to the kitchen, I tell them how strong they are. While they help me load the clothes into the washer, I explain to them that they are being SUCH a help to me.

Kindness goes a long way with children. Try your best to temper your words and spirit.

5. Less is Best

I’m not a minimalist, but it hasn’t taken me long to figure out that the more stuff I have, the more there is to clean.


Take some time while you’re cleaning to throw things out — broken toys go in the trash, outgrown clothes go in the Goodwill pile or sorted to be sold.

Helpful tip – we keep a box by the front door for donations. When the box gets full, it gets loaded into the car, and off it goes.

6. Find Some Friends

Chances are, you’ve got friends who are in the same messy boat as you. Chat them up, and see if they are willing to trade some time with you.

Have one mother handle all the children for a few hours, while the other mother goes home and cleans. If you tried this a few times a month, you’d be further down the road to a clean, decluttered house.


7. Make it a Game 

We set the timer in my house, and see who can pick up the most stuff before the bell rings.

I like doing this especially before bed, since it means I wake up to a mostly clean living room. Ta da!

8. Live By Example

I often tell my children that we can’t go outside to play if the house is a mess.

I try to encourage them to get their work done first, then we can have fun. (I should probably follow my own advice. It’s hard to fold laundry while chatting on Twitter.)


9. Age Appropriate Chores
With the exception of the baby, everyone is capable of helping out in my home. Check out this list of age specific chores – the ideas there may surprise you.

Around here, the boys are able to clean windows and doors and dust with no help. With a child sized broom and dustpan, they’re able to help sweep the floor. Rachel can vacuum, as long as I’ve made sure everything is off the floor.

They all help with getting dirty clothes to the laundry area, loading them in the washer, and helping me fold and put them away.

10. Hire Some Help

If it’s in the budget, maybe a few hours of hired help can get you back on track.

When the boys were small, we had a housekeeper who came twice a month. I ran around like mad before she came, picking up toys and clothes. It was stressful for me, but I could guarantee the bathrooms and kitchen were clean for a few hours.

Do you have tips for keeping your house clean with young children at home? Be sure to share your thoughts to help us all out!

Dianna is the Catholic Queen Mother Bee at The Kennedy Adventures. You’ll find her writing about her misadventures in homeschooling, living her Catholic faith, and trying to stay fit …. all while managing a large family. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Google + and Pinterest.

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Dianna Kennedy
Dianna Kennedy is the mother of six, writing at The Kennedy Adventures. She shares resources for Catholic homeschooling, including printable Rosary cards for children and Saint Fun Fact Cards. Connect with her on G+, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.


  1. says

    good tips- I’ve got another one
    Joyful Chaos
    If I cleaned my house everyday for two weeks at the end of that time period, my house would be clean.

    If I cleaned my house once a week for two weeks, at the end of the experiment, my house would be clean.

    And what if I cleaned my house only once, at the end of the two weeks?

    My house would be just as clean as if I had done it everyday. It might take a bit longer is all.
    This new way of viewing housework lifted a whole burden of guilt off my shoulders.

    • says

      I don’t think I carry guilt, but rather fall into a pit of martyrdom. “OH MY GOODNESS! WHY am I the only one who sees this mess????”


      Getting the kids involved has really helped us. Not to mention the panicked speed clean when someone is coming over. 😉

    • says

      Repeat after me.


      It’s been my mantra for a few weeks.

      Not to mention, I’m slowly preparing them for grown up life. My grandmother loved me enough to relieve me of any chore duty. Made for easy teenage years, but rough as a young adult.

      Thanks, K!

  2. Cher Ada says

    When my son was born, sleep became an unattainable goal, a never-come-true dream, a fantasy, an abandoned hope. Even with my husband’s help, and even after the baby began sleeping through the night, my body just would not sleep. I functioned, if that’s the right word, in a constant haze of fatigue, both mental and physical As a result, housecleaning became a non-entity; I concentrated on the absolutely essential: feeding and taking care of the baby, laundry, and whatever dishes were generated by paltry homemade snacks or takeout. I had totally forgotten the concept of “cooking.”
    One day, a very dear family friend called to say that she would like to come over and see the baby. I couldn’t say “no”, because I didn’t want to hurt her, but could I say “yes” when I saw what my house looked like? Dust everywhere; carpets looking as if tumbleweeds were growing on them; junk strewn everywhere; the stove with grease and splatters almost entirely covering the surface; let’s not even mention the bathroom.
    I said yes, she came over. As soon as she walked in the door, I began to apologize, and she stopped me, saying: “I’ve been there. You can have either a clean house OR a baby. The house will be here a long time, but “baby” won’t be a baby forever.” I blessed her then and I bless her now, God rest her, whenever I think of that scene…btw, I finally did get a good night’s sleep–10 MONTHS after my baby arrived!

    • says

      Oh, Cher! I could have written your response!

      When my twins were born, one of my dearest friends came over, brought us dinner, and CLEANED MY BATHROOMS — I wanted to die. I was mortified that I couldn’t get a handle on everything.

      My friend knew — the sheer mountain of things we have to do on a daily basis pales in comparison to our primary vocations as wives and mothers. Your friend is exactly right …. we need to be gentle on ourselves, too. I’m slowly surfacing from the chaos and mess that is having a new baby in the house. My youngest daughter is 10 months old!

      Great to have you stop by!