Melissa's kitchen sink

I'm not the world's best housekeeper.

I just have a lot to juggle in life and can't seem to fit deep cleaning days into my week or stay on track with color coded chore charts. Don't judge. I'm not good with coupon clipping either, but that is another topic all in itself.

I'm a pastor's wife in a brand new start up church, I run my own business (The Inspired Room) and I have a busy family. To say I am running in a million different directions every day would be an understatement. I am a busy woman, but I wouldn't trade any one of my responsibilities! God is good and I feel blessed by all he has brought into my life and the opportunities I have to serve Him.

But am I a failure as a homemaker?

In spite of my lack of time to keep an immaculate house, I will admit I am happiest and most productive in other areas when my home is tidy, clean, fairly presentable. That is an interesting dilemma for me. How do I juggle it all?

At some point along the way in my 23 years as a wife and homemaker, I decided since there was no way I was going to be able to spend every waking moment housekeeping, I had to simplify my expectations and figure out how to keep my home looking "clean enough." I needed to find a system that worked for me and let go of the expectation that I could measure up to how someone else might do it.

I eventually settled in to four daily systems that work for me. I know they are not going to win me the Homemaker of the Year award, but I just have to be realistic about what works for me.

1. Morning routines. This routine involves at the very least: some quiet time, making the bed, taking a shower (hanging up my towel when I am done, of course!), putting on very simple makeup and getting dressed right down to my shoes. I usually toss in a load of laundry as I am getting dressed. I find if I start out the day with those few things, I am ready for anything.

2. Clean sinks. I learned the Flylady system back when my son was born. I was taking care of him and my two grade school girls and during the day I was watching my nephew who was born five weeks before my son. All that and working part-time! With four kids taking over my tiny house, I ran into frustration over having too much to handle. Flylady to the rescue! She broke it down for me and I listened: clean and shiny sinks, always.

I follow this principle both in our bathrooms and the kitchen. Something about striving for that shiny sink keeps me from letting dirty dishes pile up in the kitchen and icky stuff like hair and spit greeting me every time I pass through the bathroom.

3. Cleaning frenzies. Since the beginning of our marriage, my husband and I have utilized what we call "cleaning frenzies" to give our home a quick clean up. A cleaning frenzy might last ten minutes or even up to an hour. Quite often everyone in the family participates, including the kids. We run around picking things up, putting things back, and generally tidying things up.

Sometimes we focus on one room; sometimes it is an entire house frenzy. Sometimes it is a task frenzy, like dusting or cleaning all toilets! It works like a charm to make a big impact in a short period of time. Even one "10-minute cleaning frenzy" a day keeps the frustration away.

4. Nightly kitchen clean up. Every night, almost without fail, we clean the kitchen. We put away dishes, load the final dishwasher load of the day, wipe off counters, and polish up the sink. There is nothing like waking up to a clean kitchen to make your day feel less overwhelming.

If I have my basic systems and routines down, my home stays "clean enough" for me most of the time.
My family knows the routine and we all have to pitch in and do what needs to be done. Keeping up on things means I rarely feel overwhelmed by housekeeping. When my home is maintained on a daily basis, it is really easy to add in a few extra tasks now and then to really shine things up or get things organized.

But if I let my daily routines go, my house soon spirals out of control. And when my home is out of control, pretty soon I am spiraling out of control too. It is a crazy cycle.

My house isn't perfect by any means, but I am OK with that. It is CLEAN ENOUGH! And that is good enough for me.

For more simple ideas for your home, come visit me at my blog The Inspired Room.

What are your tried and true homemaking routines?
What is your biggest area of frustration in keeping your house clean?

by Melissa Michaels, The Inspired Room

  • Amy

    Confession: I get to cheat a little in this phase of life… I’m a mom of two young kiddos (4 & 2) and the Director of a missions organization in South Africa. It’s culturally appropriate for us to have domestic help… so I do, and she’s a godsend!!

  • Kelly

    I am right there with ya- and I don’t mind admitting that when we get to Uganda as missionaries I will have domestic help too! God knows just what we can handle!

  • Marilyn @ As Good A Day as Any

    Yes! With these systems you’ve mentioned, chaos is kept at bay. People think my house is clean. It isn’t. It just has an overall appearance of cleanliness…because of these few systems you mentioned.
    PERFECTIONISM MUST GO! No beating oneself up for now having things 100%. Shoot for a shiny sink and a few evening tidying up routines and keep moving.

  • jeannett

    My running thought through the day is: “if someone showed up unexpectedly, would I be totally mortified?” That’s not to say my house is model home perfect…oh NO…just that it doesn’t look like a bomb went off in it. It helps me keep up throuhout the day. And for the record, no one has ever shown up unexpectedly, but that’s not really the point, now is it? :)

  • Pam

    Jeannett’s question — “if someone showed up unexpectedly, would I be totally mortified?” — causes my breath to catch in my throat because most days I would be mortified.
    Melissa, thank you for showing me such a simple system for keeping a house that is presentable. Now, if someone would just drop by unexpectedly…

  • Lindsay

    I am terrible about washing dishes. I live in a tiny apartment without a garbage disposal or a dishwasher and I love to cook. Unfortunately that makes for almost an extra 30 minutes of cleaning every evening. On busy workdays, I often struggle to find the energy to wash, dry, and put away the dishes.

  • Marci@OvercomingBusy

    I’m a flylady girl myself. I make sure my sinks are shiny and my bathroom counters are wiped down every morning after I get ready for the day. Just like you, I make sure the kitchen is clean before I go to bed. Nobody likes waking up to a dirty kitchen. Every Friday is field trip day here, so if the kids want to go they have to help clean in the morning. They are in charge of their bathrooms, bedrooms and the toyroom. That gives me time to vacuum and mop and clean the other bathrooms.

  • Angela Nazworth

    These are awesome!!! Thank you!!

  • Shanyn

    Thanks for your great post! I found it very inspiring. I thought I would share my ‘homemaking’ post with you as well…be brightly blessed,always and in all ways!

  • Jenny

    Oh my gosh… I am soooo glad it is not just me that struggles with this. I love your routines and in thinking through them, it is ALL of these things that make my house feel clean too, so maybe I’ll start trying them!

  • Anna

    I totally agree – routines are the key! I have a 6-week-old and simple routines are my lifesaver. Doing dishes ASAP… a couple cleaning chores each day… wiping down the bathroom and sweeping the kitchen floor daily… picking up after breakfast and before bed… making the bed every morning… just these simple things contribue to upkeep and motivate me to continue keeping up!

  • Mandy Roberson

    People often comment about how “perfect” my home seems or what a great housekeeper I am! HA! It is so not true! All I do is use your same method of cleaning up at night – cleaning up the kitchen is a must because I can’t stand waking up to a dirty one! I also do the “five-minute quick clean” where I grab all the toys and put them away and just generally straighten the main living area. It makes it so easy to speed dust or vacuum whenever absolutely necessary! :)

  • Chrissy

    Melissa, I really loved this post! You make some very interesting points about things to do to make the everyday a little less daunting. I like the morning routine – that’s SOOOO important! And the sinks! Although I’ve read the Flylady’s posts in the past, you said it in a way that really spoke to me.
    I’m all about finding a little peace in a chaotic world! Thanks for this post!

  • Bevy

    I recently made my own confession in a post called “It’s time to come clean”…simply stating that ‘I’m coming out of the closet’- with the fact that I don’t like to clean either. ;) However, I do, do tidy.
    I so appreciate you, Melissa, with the way you’ve pretty said what I wanted to say in my post – yet in a much more clean and uncluttered manner. Thanks for reiterating my thoughts. ((smile))

  • Catie

    Great post! I really would like to get a little more “ready” for the day in the morning, too. I’m SAHM so sometimes it feels pointless to do so, but when I do it I feel so much more motivated!!

  • Kathy

    Fun post ~ so nice to see another mom who considers “clean enough” to be OK! Although, I am not as concerned with the sink/kitchen…I am OK with leaving stuff until the next morning if I just need to get to bed NOW. I am more refreshed to tackle it then {some times ;-}
    My issue is the dust. I don’t like to dust so I leave it until the kids write me notes in it or until I get REALLY sick of seeing it. {scary I know but its true}
    Any tricks in the dusting department?

  • Dionna

    I love that expression – “Clean Enough!” That is SO me. :)

  • Sarah

    As a mother of two young children and a work from home husband, I have learned that it is easiest for me to have three daily clean-up times. That way my house never becomes a total disaster and in the event that someone unexpectedly stops by(which happens a lot at my house, actually!), more than likely they will catch my house in some stage of cleanliness.
    Stage one: I make sure my beds are made and the dishes are done before I leave the house in the morning or before we start on any kind of playing at home. Coming home to a pile of dishes or unmade beds gives me an instant case of the crabbies.
    Stage Two: Before my girls go down for naps or quiet time, we pick up all the toys and put all the lunch dishes in the dishwasher.
    Stage Three: Before bedtime, the girls clean up again. I also make sure the kitchen is clean and if my day has been busy running (and not at home), this is when I take 20 minutes to do one task: dust, laundry, bathroom, whatever. I recently heard the quote, “If you say good night to your house, it will say good morning to you.” What is better than starting your day knowing that your house isn’t a disaster?
    (Oh, and because we live far from family, I count on weekend visitors to be my motivation to really clean….if I know someone is coming in a couple of weeks, I let myself get REALLY lazy on cleaning until it is a few days closer to their arrival).

  • Linda Stoll

    “Clean Enough” allows you the time and space and energy to be who God has called you to be in this season. There’s just enough discipline and enough grace to make it all work out well and free you up to be the woman you really are.

  • Tracey

    I learned from the FlyLady my first year of marriage and I am so thankful. Now, with 2 little ones I can keep things running smoothly with a few simple FlyLady routines. And when the laundry gets backed up, I just remember to reboot the laundry and drive on!

  • Tammy

    I have a morning and evening routine that keeps me track. I work full time as a teacher and routine is part of my personality. IN the summer I have morning, mid day and evening routine that allows me a bit more freedom cause I am home. I think clean enough is up to each of us and what we can do.

  • Marsha

    I like the way you think! I am neat and tidy by nature but if I want to actually enjoy my family, “clean enough” is the order of the day. Thanks for the great post!

  • Janelle

    Whenever my house starts to get really out of control, I plan a get together at my place because I know I’ll panic-clean, and then it’ll be easier for a few weeks.

  • Courtney(Women Living Well)

    I quoted you and linked up to this article on my post today! Thanks for the practical advice. Here’s the link to my post:

  • Abbie

    Gotta love Flylady! And the reminder of cleaning up the kitchen BEFORE bed – too often I don’t and then I regret it in the morning!
    Something else I do is limit my kids toys in the playroom (or area) and box up many that sit in the basement and come out as we take others down – this can be daily or weekly. The kids enjoy their toys more and we all have much less to pick up!

  • Kathy

    Thank you. I am in that crazy cycle right now and needed this. I will def. be checking out this flylady site. Excellent post.

  • Hope

    I use the Flylady system too. I wonder how I ever functioned without it! I have morning routines & before bed routines. I too put a load of laundry in first thing in the morning….I do the weekly home blessings, etc. It’s made a huge difference. If I start getting off my routines, my house truly suffers. Most of the time I can have the house “company ready” in about 15 minutes.

  • Pingback: Making peace with the dust (and occasional petrified noodle) | Project Zen()

  • Pingback: Do dull women have immaculate houses? - Make Me A Mary()

  • Pingback: Do dull women have immaculate houses? | Crunchy Librarian()