How to Clean your Home when Life gets in the Way

Today I’d like to welcome Autumn from the fabulous blog, Space for Living.

Have you had a busy week (or two or three), and now your home looks disheveled beyond repair? For those times in your life when a big project or looming deadline throws you out of balance, how do you keep the chaos in your home under control?

When you are pressed for time it may be tempting to let your normal household cleaning list fall by the wayside, but a sense of calm and order can help home be a space to recharge. Taking a look at which chores matter most will allow you to be very deliberate in how you spend your time as you change up your cleaning routine to match your busy schedule. Here is a chore list to use when you are too busy for housework and feel overwhelmed or too busy to think. The list is in order of importance so do as many as is realistic for your schedule.

1. Dishes

If you can only do one item of maintenance, do the dishes! If you put off dishes you will soon find an overwhelming mountain of plates and glasses with caked on food and grime. These dishes will take twice as long to clean than if you had worked on a little bit after each meal.

Keeping your kitchen tidy is taking care of yourself too. You will be more likely to make fresh, healthy meals at home with a clean kitchen.

2. Make your Bed

This is a small task that makes a big impact. Throw the covers up, fluff the pillows and your room will instantly look 85% cleaner and more put together.

3. Laundry

Dirty clothes are so persistent! If you have a washer and dryer in your home, try to throw a load in a day to keep a large pile at bay. If possible, delegate the folding and putting away to another family member. Truthfully, I hate laundry so I will gladly accept any arguments against this chore if you have enough underwear and socks to tide you over. But beware, that growing pile of dirty clothes might eat you alive if you leave it alone for too long!

4. 5-Minute Pickup

You might not have enough time to do a full house pick up, but even 5 minutes can make a huge difference. Recruit others and your productivity will soar with a little team effort. Set a timer and make a race of it.

5. Bathroom Wipe

After washing your hands use a damp towel to do a quick wipe of the bathroom counters and sink. You can break out your favorite cleaners next time. For now, just keeping the sink free of crusty toothpaste is enough to keep your bathroom from looking too frightening.

Let’s set realistic expectations on ourselves and our time. If we are concentrating on the list of chores above, there are chores we are skipping. But remember your goal for those days or weeks that feel overwhelming is just to keep your house in order, not to deep clean for company.

Sweeping and mopping the floor can wait. I know this may drive some people crazy but whether you mop today or one week from now it won’t necessarily make the job take longer. If you are really busy, don’t waste your time on chores that can wait.

Along the same lines, you can skip vacuuming this week, you and your carpet will survive a little wait. Some might argue with this strong statement because when it comes to making a big impact, vacuuming can make a house seem clean. Sure those lines in the carpet might make you feel productive, but I am concentrating on maintenance mode. If you are having visitors then by all means whip out the vacuum and do a quick run over the high traffic areas to give it that freshly cleaned look.

The same goes for dusting, cleaning mirrors, and scrubbing your tub. They can all wait until your temporary time crunch passes. Do I even need to mention that filing and decluttering can wait to? This is not a permanent condition and you will be able to get back to your normal house maintenance routine soon.

Don’t forget to schedule in something physical to help relieve the extra stress built up from your hectic schedule. You could multitask by turning on some dancing tunes while folding laundry or doing a quick, (I mean run!) house pick-up. Getting your heart rate up is such an important part of combating stress.

With these 5 tasks done and some chores ignored, you can make it seem like everything is under control until you catch back up with life. When you do catch your breath, your home will be back in tip top shape in no time.

What about you? When you’re feeling overwhelmed, which chores do you let slip by the wayside? Anyone feel guilty if they can’t get to their weekly dusting or is there another chore that you can’t let go of?

Autumn shares ideas to create Space for Living on her blog. Her favorite organizing solutions emphasize practicality over perfection and joyful living over clutter.


Filed under: Guest Bloggers


32 Responses to How to Clean your Home when Life gets in the Way

  1. 1
    Joyce says

    Great post!! I do all these things if I don’t have time for anything else. Making the bed makes a huge difference even if you will get back into it again later or even if no one will ever see that you made it. Another thing that I have to do is sort the mail right after I get it from the mailbox. If I don’t take the junk mail to the recycle bin it’ll just start piling up. Even if I don’t have time to look at some of the mail, I still take it out of the envelope and recycle that.

  2. 2
    Susie's Homemade says

    I do these tasks every day and it keeps my house looking great in between deep cleanings:-)

  3. 3
    Christine says

    All great points. I make sure to make my bed and tidy up the master bathroom by wiping it down each morning before our daughter wakes up. I’ll then take a quick walk through the house and pick up things on the floor. I agree about the kitchen. If it is not clean, I feel so out of order. We also do something called “quick clean” where we race to clean as much as possible in about 10 or 15 min.

  4. 4
    Good Enough Mommy says

    For me, minimum maintenance is:

    making my bed daily.
    doing dishes after each meal.
    vacuuming every couple days. (We have two black dogs.)
    swishing & swiping the bathroom three times a week. (Tuesday, Thursday, & Saturday)

    Doing those few things helps me keep may sanity when otherwise it would be easy for me to lose it.

  5. 5
    Jen says

    I agree about the mopping – not necessary if you don’t have the time. Instead of beating myself up about not mopping very often, I just take either a baby wipe or a clorox wipe and get at a couple of the really bad areas on the kitchen floor. An even better trick, my bathroom floor is dark gray tile, so you can’t see any of the dirt. I don’t even bother with the wipes on that floor and it looks fine in between the (not frequent enough) moppings.

    I also agree about the dishes – it will take a lot more time if you let it go, and once the sink fills up there’s just no room to move around and wash the other dishes. So I try to take care of this each day and I can usually manage to do that. The good thing about having a dishwasher is that you can put the dirty stuff in there and forget about it. But I hate emptying the dishwasher, why is that? It only takes 2 minutes but I just dread that chore! Can’t wait until my son is old enough to reach everything, that will totally be his job.

  6. 7
    Kara says

    Great post :) This is precisely where I am right now in life, minimum maintenance mode ever since my twins were born. I have been really good at keeping dishes and laundry caught up by doing a load, maybe 2, a day, and I try to make my bed every day. Other than that most chores wait until I have help from the Hubby or until it absolutely needs done.

  7. 8
    Rache says

    I hate dishes, but it is easier when there are only a few to do.

    I never knew how quick it could be to clean the bathroom until I stopped using cleaning products which were giving my son a rash, now I just squirt a bit of handsoap or showergel into the tub and basin as I’m getting out of the bath/shower and wipe it round with the facecloth I’ve used that day, then a quick rinse with water and throw the cloth in the laundry basket. I don’t need to worry about really rinsing because its not a harsh chemical, and I don’t need to worry about storing lots of chemicals and cleaning cloths in the bathroom where the kids could get at them.

  8. 9
    Susanne says

    Perfect timing. I needed this to get the load of guilt off my shoulders. I must admit the quick vacuum does relieve stress for me so that is a must for me twice a week.

  9. 10
    Heather says

    I often wash my bathroom down while my littlest is playing in the tub, He’s too little to be left alone even for moment so it’s the perfect time to do it. I either use Melaleuca products and don’t have to worry about the childproofing or a little bit of shampoo in the sink, start at the mirrors and work my way down.

    • 10.1
      Bethany says

      Me too – I have definately found that cleaning the bathroom while my daughters -2 and 4 are in the bath is the absolute best time to clean. I have to be in there anyway! (Plus my daughters usually get an extra couple minutes to play before we wash up and get out). Usuallly I’ll do one thing a bathtime – one night the sink, the next a wipe of the floor, and even, when I’m ambitious – the toilet.

  10. 11
    Tara @ Tara Being Tara says

    I LOVE this!! I try to remind myself that no one else notices the things about my house that I do… and, that sometimes, having a fun or real life is more important than having clean floors.

  11. 12
    Mom's Menu Planner says

    What an awesome article and sooo true! Time tends to get away from us Mommy’s and before you know it the house looks like a bomb went off, but these suggestions are perfect for a quick clean up and easy maintenance! Thanks for sharing :)

  12. 13
    Savannah says

    Thanks for the post! I just had my 3rd child (they’re ages 3, almost-2, and NB) and the new one isn’t sleeping much at needless to say, the house is looking like a wreck…thanks for the reminder that it doesn’t have to look perfect, and that 5 mins can go a long way

  13. 14
    Robyn says

    The dining room table must be clean. The dining room is right in the middle of the house and you see it from almost every room. My kids and husband like to dump stuff there when the come in the house and it can quickly look like a big pile. I make sure it is cleaned off every night before I go to bed. It makes a big difference in our house.

  14. 15
    Handy Man, Crafty Woman says

    Yes, if it’s crazy and I don’t have much time to clean, dishes & laundry MUST be kept up with, at the bare minimum. Next would be a quick (5 minute!) wipedown of each bathroom. MAYBE a quick vacuum if someone’s coming over, lol.

  15. 17
    Kalianne says

    Thanks for this post, I found it so helpful!!
    I haven’t used a system for maintenance recently.

    I guess I’ve been taking an ad hoc approach: Attack what looks worst – that would be the kitchen. Next I would tidy-up around the house, any soiled clothes would go in the laundry hamper to be dealt with another day (no wonder I have frequent laundry crises)! Then I’d make the bed, or if in a hurry, I’d pull back the covers to air. Looks productive.

    Dealing with the bathroom in a crisis is easy, I shut the door. Out of sight out of mind! Oh dear. Then I’d spend an inordinate amount of time vacuuming and wonder why I find maintaining my home so laborious!

    Actually, I do know better – I have followed a system before. Just slipped back to bad habits lately.

  16. 18
    Frugally Savvy says

    Cleaning my house is the one thing that I seem to procrastinate on the most for some reason.

  17. 19
    Shannon says

    THANK YOU for these tips! They were so timely. I was just going to go to bed last night but then I read this and it took me 20 minutes to wash the dishes, get breakfast ready and tidy up the living room…life was so much calmer this morning because I took those extra 20 minutes!

  18. 20
    Melisa says

    Great ideas but I trade making the bed for sweeping the living room. I have 2 house dogs that shed like mad. If I don’t make the bed, the bedroom, where no one else goes, looks messy. If I don’t sweep the living room, where everyone spends time, it looks dirty. I can handle messy better than dirty.

  19. 21
    The Happy Mother says

    This is an awesome post! It is so easy to feel overwhelmed and discouraged. Having a list like this will help me push through the negative and get stuff done!
    When I am in “crisis mode”, this is my plan: by 10 am, I aim to 1. make my bed (and those of my kids too little to do it alone), 2. put in a load of laundry and 3. know what is for dinner.
    The 5 minute pick up is a great idea. I do that in my kids’ room (I have 5 kids) when I feel like they are getting out of control. Thanks for the great tips!

  20. 22
    Jessica says

    You and I have vastly different definitions of busy. If I have time to do the dishes, the laundry, a 5-minute pickup, and a bathroom wipe, it’s a particularly slow day in my life. My advice would look something like: Order takeout, because you will hate life if you have a sink full of pots, pans, plates, and silverware to wade through when you finally finish everything else. Get out one drinking glass and rinse it out when you want to drink something else. Be careful not to throw things in the hamper if they don’t really need to be there: that towel you dried off on, the jeans you only wore once or twice, go put them back. Don’t throw them on a chair or hang them on a doorknob; go put them back. My ability not to be neurotic about cleaning is essential to my success. I know exactly where my priorities are, and I feel really guilty if I spend time making things pretty instead of investing in my future career by working hard (or relaxing so that I don’t burn out).

  21. 23
    Poppylop says

    Thank you so much for this. I really needed some good and manageable {practical as well} tips. I think I might be able to manage this. Thank you.

  22. 24
    Suzanne says

    I really appreciate the simple, easy does it approach.

  23. 25
    Sam Henderson says

    What a great post. It’s such a good idea to keep a short list of must do’s to keep from being overwhelmed. Thanks for the info.

  24. 26
    Christa says

    I work part-time 2nd shift and am very tired the day after I’ve had to work, so my tasks on that day are basically making sure the dirty laundry goes in the laundry area and focus on putting the kitchen in order. Then when I’m more rested the next day I do 2 loads of laundry 1)darks only and 2)mixed (usually things that don’t necessarily need ironing so they can stay in the dryer longer until I can get around to putting them away) Wiping down the bathroom daily is a must and making the bed are always a necessity. Not a perfect system yet, but am working on it. Great post, thanks for the ideas


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *