If you’ve got kids, especially small ones, chances are you don’t get much time for spring cleaning. What with runny noses to be wiped, nappies to be changed, clothes to be ironed, nutritious meals full of cleverly disguised vegetables to be cooked and endless silly games to be played, you’d be forgiven if the nearest you got to spring cleaning was swishing the worktops down with a baby wipe in between tantrums.
OK, so maybe it’s not quite that bad – but the reality is that most mums spend a big chunk of their time each day just keeping on top of the child-related chaos in their homes, which doesn’t leave much left over for proper deep cleaning.
So if you long for a home that’s an oasis of calm, clean, organization, but you’ve got a small army of little people seemingly hell-bent on foiling your plans, read on for some top tips on spring cleaning even when your time (and patience!) are in short supply…
1. Make a list – and then make a timetable. There is absolutely NO way you will be able to spring clean your whole house without getting waylaid by the kids at some point, but if you’ve got a schedule it’s much easier to pick up where you left off. List all the jobs you want to get done – clearing out cupboards and drawers, washing windows, scrubbing patio furniture – and then plan out which days you will tackle each job. Be realistic about how long it will take to do things, and don’t forget to plan in some one-on-one time with your little ones too!
2. Make sure you’ve got the right kit before you start. There’s nothing like a duster shortage or an almost-empty bottle of bleach to take the wind out of your cleaning sails and have you reaching for a cuppa before you’ve even begun! Make sure you have plenty of cleaning basics to hand – bleach, cream cleaner, glass cleaner, furniture polish, sponges and lint free cloths should form the basis of your kit. It’s also a great idea to keep a supply of cleaning products upstairs – store them in a small bucket or caddy with a handle so you can grab it and go when the cleaning bug bites.
3. That ‘tortoise and hare’ story you read at bedtime has a moral for busy mums too – slow and steady wins the race! Tackle small areas at a time and don’t start a job you can’t finish. Taking on too much at once is really daunting and you’re much more likely to run out of steam before the job is done. For example, rather than aiming to clean out all your kitchen cupboards in a day, plan to clear out one or two every day until they’re all finished, or instead of vacuuming the whole house, do the downstairs one day and upstairs the next.
4. Take advantage of nap times. It’s a little known fact that a job that would have taken you an hour before you had kids can be done in 15 minutes after you’ve had them – provided the little darlings are safely out from under your feet of course! If your child still takes a nap, use the time to do an awkward job like cleaning the oven while they’re out of harm’s way – just make sure you set aside 10 minutes to put your feet up before he or she wakes up! If you have older children, sit them down with a fun activity such as painting or playdoh that will keep them amused while you get on with what you need to do.
5. Set up a toy rotation system. Children accumulate toys at an incredible rate, but in most cases they will play with a handful of favourites while the rest languish at the bottom of an overflowing toy box. Toy rotation is a great way to keep things neat and also get value for money from toys. Just select a reasonably small number of toys – let’s say 15 maximum – and store those in your child’s main toy box. Put the rest of the toys away in an upstairs toy box or cupboard. Then once every two weeks or so, replace the toys with new ones from the cupboard – to your kids, this is almost like getting brand new toys while for you, it means a tidier living room and less picking up to do.
6. Children love to copy their parents, and almost as soon as they’re able to walk and follow simple instructions your little ones will get a real kick out of ‘helping’ mummy with jobs around the house. Try giving your toddler a damp cloth to help you clean the bath, or invest in a mini brush and dustpan so they can help you clean the floors – this has the added bonus of keeping them busy while you get on with the real cleaning! Remember to keep cleaning products out of the reach of young children. Older children make great spring cleaning assistants – get them to help you sort through clutter in the spare room, organize the airing cupboard or polish your knick-knacks and reward them with plenty of praise when they do a good job.
7. Make it fun – and not just for the kids! Bigger children can be less than enthusiastic about helping around the house, and putting a little effort into making chores fun can go a long way towards taking the ‘nag factor’ out of getting them involved. Try writing a selection of simple jobs onto pieces of paper, then fold them up and put them in a bowl or jar before allowing your child to select one. Give them a spray bottle filled with a weak soap and water solution and a cloth, and let them squirt and wipe all the surfaces. Make a game out of pairing socks with a small prize for the winning child. Make a reward chart so that kids can earn stars or points for helping out, with a treat or special outing as a reward when they achieve their target – spring cleaning doesn’t have to be boring!
8. Invest in good quality storage. Children usually come with vast quantities of miscellaneous ‘stuff’ and if you find yourself stashing toys, books, schoolbags, clothes and shoes in every available crevice in your home, then chances are you need some more storage! Declare war on clutter this spring by investing in some clever storage solutions. A storage bench at the front door is a great place to store shoes and doubles up as a seat for little ones. A row of pegs at child height will encourage your kids to hang coats and bags up instead of abandoning them on floors and chair backs, while a couple of large, lidded baskets in the living room make a stylish solution for keeping toys neatly out of sight. Furniture with added storage in the form of deep drawers and low shelves is ideal, allowing you to create family spaces that are both functional and beautiful.
9. Get creative! Spring cleaning doesn’t have to be about just cleaning; you can breathe new life into your home and even make spaces more functional simply by rearranging furniture or treating yourself to some bright new accessories. Moving the furniture creates an ideal opportunity for cleaning hidden corners, while changing room layouts for spring is a great way to wipe the slate clean, giving your home and your mood a much-needed boost.
10. And finally…never, ever underestimate the power of the baby wipe. With the ability to clean everything from fresh biro on leather upholstery to sticky handprints on walls, baby wipes are every mum’s secret weapon! They’re also perfectly safe for little ones to use and gentle enough to clean without damaging furniture, fabrics and soft furnishings. Keep some in your cleaning kit for emergency jobs – no-one will ever know your home isn’t this spotless all the time!