Tag Archives: Cleaning

Toddler Chore Chart

photo 2Several months ago we implemented simple chores into the kids’ morning routine.

The issue I immediately ran into was that toddlers need a way to keep track of what chores to do, but they can’t READ a list.

(And I REALLY don’t like nagging … er …having to be their verbal reminder)

All the charts I found online had the chore list written out and then a picture next to each item, but I decided to simplify the chart down to the bare bones, and this has worked wonderfully.

I also tacked each of the charts on their favorite color of card stock, put the first letter of their names on the top (because they can recognize ‘their’ name letter), and stuck it in protective sleeves.

As soon as we finish breakfast each morning, I put the charts in a central location, and they check their charts.

They usually race each other to finish, and I recently started rewarding the winner of the race with a nickel.

photo 1

On smooth mornings, we are dressed, with a clean house, and ready to start school half an hour after my husband leaves for work. (Not every morning is smooth, but even on rougher mornings the charts help the kids take responsibility, give us a stronger start and take pressure off.) I also made a chart for before supper. (The times I remember to use it, it works great, but we don’t usually get to it before my husband gets home.)

So these are the toddler chore charts that have worked for us. :-)


Clean Up Meals Fast

supper fast

For years after dinner clean-up took me longer then I’d like to admit. I’d either take an embarrassingly long time cleaning every night or quick pile the food covered dishes by the sink and

face the crusted over chaos the next day…or 3 days later.

After watching more experienced mothers, reading blogs, and figuring out a couple things on my own, meal clean up has gotten a lot faster – and much more consistent.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Make 3 piles before you leave the table.

  • Refrigerated

I put this pile away first in case I get called away. That way at least the food is safely being refrigerated if I don’t make it back to my clean-up for a while.

If you have a hard time organizing, don’t organize the food twice!!!

To keep food from having to be relocated to the kitchen, organized, and then loaded into containers, I dispose of the relocation and organizations steps and put the food into containers right at the table. The majority of my bakeware is multi-purpose. It has glass lids for baking as well as plastic lids for storing. If I cooked with a stove-top pan, I grab a  container from the kitchen and scoop the food in at the table.

  • Throw-Away 

Again, don’t relocate garbage to the kitchen. Position a trash can between the dining room and kitchen and get rid of it right away.

  • To Be Washed

Pile up dishes with silverware all on top and drop them all into the sink. Even if you don’t have time to wash the food off right away, getting water on them will stop time consuming crusting.

2. Cut Down on Condiment Clean-up

  • Keep them in an easy-to transport tray

Consider an easy-to-wipe box or tray in your frig or with common condiments. Grab the box before meals. Put it back when you’re done. 6 items moved in the time it takes to move one.

  • Keep them at the table

Salt and Pepper, Butter, and many other condiments could be kept in a tray in the center of the table.

  • Make sure you only bring what you need

My kids love ketchup. They also love ranch dressing. (IE: They are normal kids). I am also one of those soft parents who will give them 1/4 cup of a condiment on top of their 6 green beans to help them eat the food they don’t like.

I only get those condiments if one of them is struggling to eat the food, and then I only bring one. Why make more mess then necessary?

3. Limit items at table

  • Silverware

Not rocket science, but it only dawned on me this past year of marriage that if we’re just having soup – just give everyone spoons. No reason to deal with other utensils.

It gets back to priorities. There is a place and time to be proper and use perfect ettiquette, but for us, if we’re not having a formal dinner, less utensils means less stress, less mess, and more time.

  • Serving Dishes

I’ve gotten really into using one skillet or casserole dish if possible.

For Skillet: Cook meat first. Set aside. Cook the rest. Add meat back in. Mixed or in separate piles, you can then just bring one serving dish to the table.

For Casserole: Layer food in casserole dish. (Because I cook most of my meals one day a week, I like having one dish per meal to layer the meat and sides in.)

Mexican: Layers of beans, corn, cheese, made-ahead hamburger, and then topped with either cornbread (and then cooked for 30minutes), or after cooking – chips or lettuce.

Chinese: Layers of rice topped with any vegetables and meat.

Mashed potatoes topped with meat and gravy.

Noodles topped or mixed with anything.


4. Consider Paper PlatesThis summer we are preparing to move and doing multiple house projects. I felt guilty, but I bought a massive pack of styrofoam plates, and it does seem to cut down the clean-up significantly!!

I keep a garbage can next to our dining room table, stack the plates and any throw-away food bits and napkins, and throw them away without ever having to carry them anywhere. :-)

I was so inspired that I bought a package of bowls to use for the plethora of cereals we’re using up before the move. Though breakfast still requires several dishes, breakfast clean-up is taking me about 2 minutes. :-)

5. Everybody takes just one dish into the kitchen

We have a 3 year old, a 2 year old, and a 1 year old, but if they are just responsible for taking their dish and cup into the kitchen, it does help cut down time.

So Those are the tips that have cut my meal clean-up down to about 10%. Do you have any other tips?

My Cleaning System: Part 2

Yesterday I shared with you cleaning methods at which I tried and failed. Then I started to think about what I wanted my house to be rather than the process of how to get it there. I realized that in order to achieve a clean house all at once, I needed to clean my house all at once. This is the method that works for me. It may not be your best method, but I highly recommend it. Here’s what I’ve learned and how I’ve made it work through job changes, and the addition of children.

At that time, I calculated that I had approximately 4 hours a day to do things (this was when I worked full time but before I had kids), so I decided that if I left Fridays open as my cleaning day it would be attainable. I chose not to do any real cleaning until the first Friday arrived. The first Friday came and I accomplished my goal—completely clean house. Then, I had to make supper and lunches for my husband and myself. I left for work feeling close to a failure and the kitchen was a wreck. The next week, I learned to start earlier.  I also discovered that if I was going to let the house go during the week, my lack of cleaning could not include neglecting clutter. On Thursdays especially I had to be sure and de-clutter or I would spend too much time doing that project on Fridays. As the weeks went on and the Friday cleaning became a habit, my confidence in my housekeeping skills grew and I felt more prepared to have guests into my home. Since I chose Fridays as a cleaning day, weekends were a natural time for company. Almost no prep, and we were ready to whip up a meal and open our home! Then our son was born…

After an insane amount of nursing problems, I had very little time to clean or cook or anything! For months, I did just a few jobs a day, but then he started to have consistent nap times, so I had 2 hours slots. For over a year, I was able to “cram” my 4 hour cleaning session into 2 hours. I still did it on Fridays. After our daughter was born (my “efficient” sleeper) I am able to clean the entire house in exactly 1 hour. I work crazy fast and there is no time for extras, but it works. I often wonder how many hours I wasted during those years of spending 4 hours on the exact same thing! Funny how kids push us to work harder than ever before. 

At this point in our lives, I nanny from home on Wednesdays and my husband teaches piano lessons from home on Thursdays. I changed my cleaning day to fluctuate between Monday and Tuesday which allows us to relax over the weekend and make a mess without worry. This also helps me to jump start my week. We have been very happy with this method. If someone does come over on the weekend, I take about 10 minutes to vacuum the downstairs and quickly wipe down the bathroom. That’s it and we’re good to go!

You might be reading this and thinking that it seems silly to give so much thought to when and how I clean—I don’t blame you! But I think it is crucial to give careful thought to how we’re going to do things, otherwise we’ll never achieve the end result we want. Think of how you want your house to be and then make a plan of how to get it to that point. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

“Even if you shoot for the moon and miss, at least you’ll land among the stars.”

Tomorrow I’ll share with you exactly what I clean and when. Also some tips to make it go faster and how to prep for cleaning without actually cleaning.


Cleaning: My System Part 1

The Scene: 

Your house is a wreck. You just put your children down for naps and you are exhausted. You head down the stairs to face the mess and are so overwhelmed by it you spend most of naptime wandering, eating, trying to figure out where to start. Before you know it, the baby wakes up and you accomplished very little.

How many of you have faced days like this? I sure have! Multiple times. I’ve had people ask me where I start when I’m facing a large mess, so I started to think about it. Here’s what I’ve discovered.

The Plan:

First, if you have enough time, start with the dishes. I’ve observed that if you will be cleaning for any length of time (more than 20 minutes) you will probably be snacking or preparing food for others along the way. You might be unloading the dishwasher or trying to complete a kitchen project and dirty dishes will only slow you down. We all know what it’s like to move them and rearrange them to make it work, but it’s only a waste of time. Buy cute dish gloves, put them on, and knock those dishes out in 10 minutes or less. Then move on to the rest of the house!

Start with the living room. It’s the most important/showy to keep up with. Look at the mess. Force yourself to view the items as groups. Before you pick anything up, mentally assess your groups. My groups are usually things like, kids’ dirty clothes, garbage, dirty dishes, toys that go upstairs, toys that go in the living room, and things that go to my husband’s office. This step should take less than 10 seconds. Then I decide which group (or item in a group) looks fun. This might sound weird to you, but there is always 1 item that is easy and you know exactly what to do with it without thinking. Sometimes it’s as simple as picking up a coaster that fell on the ground. Start with your fun or easy item. While you’re down there be thinking ahead to the next fun or easy item. Your excitement at taking care of these fun items will continually push you to conquer the next group. Don’t allow yourself to stop thinking in terms of fun or easy because even once you knock out several of those items there is always another that is more fun than the next. Do this until you are finished.

Don’t allow yourself to become bogged down by taking things all the way to their home. Make piles. All things that go upstairs, I place in piles on the landing. It’s not unusual for my landing to be FULL when my kids get up, but it saves time so I’m not running up and down the stairs or getting distracted. While my kids are eating their snack, I take it all up and disperse it quickly to its correct locations.  Papers that need to be sorted go in piles on the dining room table. I will sort them later in the day. Not when I’m trying to quickly clean up. Just don’t forget about them!

When the living room is done, move to the dining room, hallway, etc. however your house is set up. Keep going until the clutter is in piles and taken care of. Don’t allow yourself to get bogged down or distracted. If something is slowing you up, set it aside to do later in the day and find the next item or group that looks fun and easy. Keep moving and you’ll be amazed at how quickly and easily you can clean up a messy house!

The Recap:

  • Do the dishes
  • Assess your groups
  • Find 1 fun or easy item or group
  • Make piles
  • Always think ahead to the next fun or easy item or group
  • Don’t get distracted—keep going until it’s done!
  • Go back the time consuming items later

Happy Cleaning!!