The Ultimate Big Family Cleaning Guide

My mama always said, “If you make a mess, clean it up!” Now that I’m a mama myself and I’ve come to realize that this is my circus and these are indeed my monkeys, I find myself heeding this advice more than ever. While my tiny and not-so-tiny humans are 99% responsible for the messes in my home it somehow falls to me to ensure we aren’t living in complete filth. Here’s a breakdown of five ways I keep my sanity and somehow a fairly clean home with our family of six.

1. Clean As You Go. Days are long gone when I could look at a mess and keep walking, thinking to myself “oh, mom will grab that.” Shoot!!!! I am the mom!!! Cleaning as I go has become a habit even outside. Walking to my garage or to the end of the sidewalk to wait for the school bus, I find myself thinking: is there a weed I can quickly pull? a piece of trash blowing around? My biggest hot spot of a dumpster fire is my kitchen. Here are my top two tried and true clean as you go tips for keeping it under control:

First, when it comes to meals start with an unloaded dishwasher that can be filled while cooking. It’s overwhelming to get done with a wonderful dinner and look around to dishes piled high everywhere! This will help eliminate that.

Second, keeping a small amount of warm soapy water in the sink throughout the day will make for easy wipe ups of little spills and crumbs and the big jobs of your countertops and appliances will go a little smoother.

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2. Call In The Troops. Families are a team and speaking from a large one, it really does take a village! Chores are for everyone around here, starting at the age of four. On a busy night loaded with homework, baths, dinner and the occasional trip to the emergency room for stitches, having a little person that knows to set the table and then clear it after a meal can be lifesaving!

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3. Say No To Clutter. Less stuff means less to pick up, put away and dust. Take an inventory in each room and get back to the basics. Ask yourself a few questions: Are we using this? Are we needing this? Is this benefitting us or bringing us joy? If any answer is no it might be worth considering donating to another child, family, local library or thrift store etc. A practice that helps keep me sane is that around birthdays and holidays I do this in anticipation of new things entering our home.

4. A Few Minutes Before Bed Is My Good Morning Insurance. I do this even on my most exhausted nights. On one of those nights where we’ve gone out and left the kids with grandma, and have come home to smiles and happiness and the mess of a frat house, I just need ten to fifteen minutes. A few moments to put everything into some type of order for me. Because when I wake up, if everything is in chaos, I find my mood in chaos and that spills over into how I parent, and that isn’t fair to anyone. I’m for real on this one! A quick, doable clean up job. This could mean getting all the dirty dishes off the table and counters and into the sink and quickly wiping down those counters and table, then dashing through the house and tossing toys into their respective room baskets and getting dirty clothes to the nearest hampers. Just a few basic things can set my entire mood for the next day.

5. I’m a Basket Case. Speaking of room baskets: this is my all that and a bag of chips advice! You know that fabulous saying “a home for everything and everything in its place”? Oh, I love that alright, but as a parent I completely believe in creating the homes however I wanna. I need homes for things that are practical, easy to get to and in every single room of my house. While I do have days that I devote to putting each child’s toy in their own room, in its own little space on that shelf devoted just to that one particular toy, this is real life! Day-to-day parenting can come down to basic survival so I do baskets, bins and organizers.

My top choice is baskets. Those beautiful, big, cloth-covered bad boys you can find at Target. They hold a ton and to me they are worth every cent. I have yet to have one break or wear out and I have an almost 17 year old! The fact that you can purchase them with lids is the be all end all for me. And they don’t have to be expensive, I own plenty of cute, colorful baskets from the Dollar Tree!

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Here’s what I do. I set up these beauties all over my house and disguise them as wonderful decorative pieces, like I’m one of those hip mamas. In the living room I have square ones that I push up to the coffee table and the kids use them as seats to eat snacks on. I put them in the entryway with a throw pillow on them to look like a bench. You get the idea. Their real purpose? For me to throw all my crap in. Nonstop. Everyday. Each and every time I walk by any piece of crap, it goes in a basket. The object could be from a room two stories away; doesn’t matter to me. I toss it in, stick a lid on it, and keep on walking. My house looks decent all the time to anyone who may drop by, but most importantly, it looks decent to me! When the kids were all younger I may have devoted only one day a month to putting all those objects away. These days it’s more like one or two days per week.  


There are so many more in-depth rules I have for myself for keeping a clean home, for sure, but if I could talk to myself 20 years ago, this is the advice I would give. Simple things can go a long way and a lot of times it’s all about finding your own parenting groove. Through trial and error and many tears I learned that messiness did not equal a happy mama for me, so I came up with creative ways to make it when I had very little sleep and even less motivation to clean anything at all. Find your parenting groove. It’s all about what you need to be content each day. Not your neighbor, your friend, your relative or even yourself the week before last.

lifestyleJessica Miller