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How to Keep a House Clean With Kids: Toddler Edition

How to Keep a House Clean With Kids – Parenting’s Most Frustrating Dilemma

My home used to be spotless. Spotless, people! A clean house has always given me a sense of peace, organization, and motivation.

Then I birthed a tornado, ahem, child, and have since been able to make memes of my living room like the one below. One of parenting’s most frustrating dilemmas is how to keep a house clean with kids.

Why am I writing this post if this is my living room? Great question!

Because at the end of the day, and whenever guests come to visit, my house looks like this:

And keeping a clean house doesn’t take me that much time or energy! After three years, I’ve finally figured out how to keep a house clean with kids…at least most of the time, since my daughter spends most of her day at home.

How to Keep a House Clean With Kids – Toy Solutions

Ah, toys! They’re both a partner in parenting…and the greatest enemy of an otherwise tidy home.

Thankfully, there are a lot of little things you can do to minimize their mess potential.

Downsize your toys.

The fewer toys your kids have, the less they have to spread all over your house.

Bonus: recent studies have found that having fewer toys actually results in healthier, more creative play for younger children, plus deeper cognitive development. It’s a win-win!

Look for mess-free options.

We always pay a little extra for washable crayons, markers, and paints that easily wipe off of the coffee table and walls. Our daughter is also a huge fan of Water Wow books, which offer a great way for younger children to “paint” with water, then dry to white, so they can use them again and again.

Looking to get outside? Fill a water table on your back porch or balcony.

We throw in some extra bath toys for good measure and our three-year-old acts like we’ve taken her to a water park. (It truly is the little things!)

And all momma needs for cleanup is a bath towel.

Designate an activity table.

The purpose of this miniature coffee table is to contain all art projects, block towers, snack crumbs, etc. to a small designated area, rather than spreading them across the entire house. You could go the solid color or themed routes, or opt for a table with built-in storage.

We wanted to keep activities in the living room but also preferred our existing adult decor. So we found a table that offered a wood stain to match the rest of our furniture.

It wipes down easily, takes a beating, and is higher quality than our actual adult furniture.

While some parents prefer to tuck these tables away into kids rooms, I always preferred to place our in common areas around our home so that I could keep an eye on my child…and her mess.

If possible, make some toys inaccessible without your help.

My daughter doesn’t have easy access to every toy she owns.

A few are stored in tubs on the top shelf of her bedroom closet. Some are in a toy chest that she’s not strong enough to open on her own, thanks to our carpets.

This is one of the best ways to limit how many and which toys young children can pull out at once without asking you for help.

I like to store blocks, puzzles, and other toys with a million tiny pieces in these places. Then I can assure only one million-piece toy is out at a time.

Find practical toy storage solutions.

Your ideal storage solution really depends on the toys you have.

I originally purchased a large toy chest, a ginormous box with no dividers. That worked while my daughter was an infant, but once she started accumulating more toys, it got increasingly difficult to find specific toys inside.

Enter a fabric storage basket and a few plastic storage boxes. They fit well within the chest, allow for some toy sorting, and make it easy to lift out and play with just one storage basket at a time.

I like to keep toys hidden from sight but a lot of people prefer them displayed. The internet is full of adorable primary color toy bin organizers, though I’m personally a sucker for mints and teals!

How to Keep a House Clean With Kids – Home Solutions

Once you’ve got a handle on toys, it’s time to think about the rest of your house! By implementing a few simple strategies around common areas, you’ll be able to keep a tidier home within a shorter amount of time.

Put dishes in the dishwasher as soon as you’re finished with them.

Of course, I just want to relax after I’ve eaten something. Forget keeping a tidy home, I’m exhausted, am I right?!

But if I walk plates over to the sink before I melt into the couch, I can usually rinse everything easily, no scrubbing required. When I let the dishes build up for several hours, I always have to soak a few and work a lot harder and longer at it.

If you take just a few minutes here and there throughout your day, you won’t have 30 minutes worth of dishes waiting for you at the end of the day or the next morning. Do it long enough and it’ll become second nature to you and your family members.

Pick up around the house every night.

Picking up at the end of each day ensures a fresh start each morning and keeps our small messes from slowly building into a messy house.

I don’t bother with picking up toys throughout the day. It’s like cleaning up while a tornado is still in motion.

But every night before bed, we pick up toys and stray dirty dishes, wipe down the kitchen counter, and find a home for mail, artwork, and Amazon packages that have rolled in during the day. This is a cleaning process the whole family can participate in, with family members focusing first on their own messes (to help increase awareness for younger kids), then shifting to help others.

This can feel like a daunting task if it’s not already a part of your daily routine. But every time we run through this quick cleaning process, I’m amazed at how little time it takes, especially when I enlist other family members.

Maybe ten minutes? Not bad!

Use regular cleaning routines to spread cleaning throughout the week.

Assign either tasks (dusting, wiping down countertops, vacuuming, etc.) or rooms (living room, kitchen, master bath, etc.) to days of the week. For example, you might dust all surfaces on Monday, wipe down tables and countertops on Tuesday, vacuum on Wednesday, mop on Thursday, and do laundry on Friday.

I prefer to see one whole room completed at a time; it’s weirdly satisfying to this recovering clean freak. So I clean our living room on Monday, kitchen on Tuesday, bedrooms on Wednesday, bathrooms on Thursday, and do laundry on Friday.

The idea of regular cleaning routines is to make cleaning feel less overwhelming and time-consuming by doing just a little a day. Want help creating your own weekly cleaning plan? Click here to download free instructions and printables!

Want to find a way to shoulder the load together with your spouse? Check out this post about how to share housework more equitably!

Assign age-appropriate chores.

It’s tempting to believe that only older children can help out around the house, that you’ll tackle a chore chart and all of that jazz in a few more years. But young kids, and even toddlers, can handle a surprising number of simple chores that will not only make for a tidier home but also help them develop a greater sense of responsibility and independence!

Here are some age-appropriate chores for little kids:

  1. Putting dirty clothes in the hamper.
  2. Dusting furniture or cabinets with a cloth.
  3. Wiping up spills.
  4. Helping to sort clean laundry.
  5. Filling a pet’s food bowl.
  6. Putting toys away.
  7. Folding small items like towels.

These easy task ideas are manageable for children as young as toddlers and can help them feel like a contributing member of the household.

What about older children? Elementary-aged children can take on a variety of chores that help them build both responsibility and life skills.

Here are some age-appropriate tasks for this age group:

  1. Making their bed.
  2. Cleaning their room.
  3. Vacuuming, sweeping, and mopping floors.
  4. Taking out the trash.
  5. Folding and putting away laundry.
  6. Helping to set and clear the table.
  7. Feeding pets.
  8. Watering plants.

Enlisting the help of all family members, even younger children, on a daily basis will make a huge difference without any one person burning out. So bust out the chore chart!

Don’t fall into the “it’s messy anyway” mindset.

It’s easy to look around at my toy-strewn living room and lose my mojo to walk dirty dishes to the sink. Because the house is already destroyed, right? Wrong.

I try not to think of my daughter’s messes as pure destruction of my cleaning efforts, although they are. Instead, I view her mess as something that will be picked up and put away before she’s in bed.

It’s just a temporary mess on its way to being cleaned. This helps me to keep doing my part to pick up throughout the day.

And now you know the secret – how to keep a house clean with kids. When you can downsize toys, contain their mess, and find a practical system to pick up the house as you go, you’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to maintain a cleaner, more peaceful home.

What have you found helps in maintaining a clean home? Let’s chat in the comments!

Weekly Cleaning Plan

P.S. Like the idea of a weekly cleaning plan? Nab yours here for free!

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Monday 8th of July 2019

This is a really helpful article. I feel so overwhelmed by chaos in my home. I have 3 under 5 and my house can get so messy. I am going to try all these tips out! Wish me luck!


Thursday 11th of July 2019

Three under five - the struggle is real! Haha, I hope you find a lot of these tricks as useful as I have. I'm a reformed perfectionist, but have been able to maintain a (mostly) clean and peaceful home despite my art-crazed four-year-old, messy husband, and shedding-mc-shedderton dog, using these tricks! :)

Mrs. Match

Monday 25th of February 2019

Yes, I love this! I'm the same way. I have a lot of friends who ask me how I keep our house clean, and I tell them I make my kid clean up at the end of the day. It's amazing to me how many people I know don't make their kids clean up. We embrace the mess while the play is happening, and then we clean up, to start the fun all over the next day. The habit has created a tidy little guy who is pretty great at picking up, and does so even at friends' houses too.


Monday 25th of February 2019

I love that! I understand why people don't make their kids clean at first, because honestly, they hurt cleaning efforts more than they help when they're small, haha. But they have to start somewhere, and it develops those habits for the future. Might as well put all of their energy to good use!


Friday 22nd of February 2019

Please tell me what the name of the single drawer is??


Friday 22nd of February 2019

Hi J, are you referring to the toy chest? That's a Stuva storage bench from Ikea - If you were asking about another drawer, please let me know!