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If you have small children, you know how hard it can be to keep your house clean. Here are some strategies to help you avoid getting stressed out and make your home presentable in case you have unexpected guests.

Set Realistic Expectations and Communicate Them
If you had high standards for cleanliness before you had kids, holding yourself and your young children to those same expectations will only leave you frustrated. Make keeping the house clean a priority but be realistic. Focus first and foremost on preventing chaos and accidents.

Have your kids play in designated areas and don’t let them take out too many toys or books at once. Teach your children to clean up after themselves when they’re young. Even babies can be taught to put blocks and other toys in baskets. Once kids are mobile, they can return toys to the places where they belong on their own.

Have your children eat at a table or in a highchair, not on the couch, on the floor, or in bed. Teach them to put their dishes in the sink or dishwasher and to wash their hands after they finish eating so whatever they have on their hands doesn’t get smeared on other surfaces. Sweep, vacuum or mop up messes quickly so they don’t cause accidents or attract insects.

Teach Your Kids to Pitch in
Have separate areas for dolls, trucks, stuffed animals and other types of toys. If your kids play a game with multiple pieces, teach them to clean up before they begin playing with something else. When they finish using crayons or markers, remind your children to check to make sure they are all in the box. Teach your kids to put their jackets, shoes, backpacks and lunchboxes in designated areas when they come home from school. If you enforce these rules consistently, your kids will put their things away without being told.

If possible, do some cleaning when your kids are napping, watching TV, playing outside or participating in other activities. Set aside some time (10-15 minutes should be enough) for everyone to walk around the house and look for any toys, shoes or other items that need to be put away. Play cheerful music and make this a fun part of your family’s daily routine. Going to bed with the house in order and not having to worry about picking up the previous day’s mess in the morning can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed.

If you have young children and struggle to keep your house clean, you’re not alone. Setting realistic expectations, enforcing rules and praising your kids when they do a good job can go a long way. Be clear and consistent so your children can develop positive habits. Tell them that the less time you have to spend cleaning, the more time you will have to spend with them.

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