Confessions of a Once a Month Cleaning Dropout

Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and Steady Mom

Well, now.

This is awkward. (Kidding–kind of.)

You see, one day over nine months ago I had no idea what to write about for an upcoming post. Brilliant thoughts seemed scarce to come by, and I eventually decided to share how I cleaned my house once a month.

It never occurred to me that this would become one of the most popular posts ever published on this blog. Or that it would lead to three more posts on the same topic.

In fact, I still occasionally receive emails from readers letting me know that once a month cleaning (OAMC) changed their lives. So you can imagine how I started to feel when I realized that this method, which had once been a perfect fit, was no longer working out in our home.

What had changed?

1. Paper and Good Ideas

One morning I awoke to find my seven-year-old consumed with cutting paper–hundreds of pieces that can be found on the floor of his room at any time. The idea of cleaning these up only once a month was, of course, ridiculous.

Since I try to keep in mind that my job is to say yes, I didn’t want to continually put a damper on my kids’ good ideas just because they might be messy ones.

2. Working Mamas

In theory it sounded simple to take one day off each month from all other work to clean. At first, it was simple.

But I found that with both writing and cleaning, I enjoy working in short bursts. And with new books to write and blog posts constantly on the go, it became challenging to arrange nothing else for one day.

3. Moving

Last October we unexpectedly moved to the country. This represented a dream come true in many ways, but it also meant that all of our routines were up in the air for a while.

We waited to discover our “new normal” and to figure out how to best make life work in our new space.

4. Older Children

This was probably the biggest factor in my decision to change our cleaning method. My children have had regular chores for years now, but I still did the majority of deep cleaning myself.

But at the ages of 8, 7, and 6, the time began to feel right to train them in more thorough cleaning. So I started to consider the best way to involve them. Next week I’ll talk about what cleaning method we’re currently using.

I long ago gave up on formulas and labels, having learned that life happens in seasons. Our job as parents, when it comes to both cleaning and homeschooling, is to hold on to what feels right one month, while being willing to let go of it the next.

We need to enjoy the freedom of doing what works when it works, and then discarding it when it stops. In this way we allow life to flow gently from one season into the next.

What cleaning method are you currently using? Have you ever found a need to switch strategies?

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She is the co-founder and editor of Simple Homeschool, where she writes about mindful parenting, intentional education, and the joy found in a pile of books. Jamie is also the author of a handful of titles, including her newest release, Give Your Child the World.


  1. Awww…made me giggle. I am one of those who found this cleaning style revolutionary, and actually tipped the scales in favor of us homeschooling next year. (one of my big concerns was keeping up the house while homeschooling) But it is more the concept of keeping the house tidy on a regular basis and deep cleaning once a month that changed my life. For me deep cleaning once a month looks more like deep cleaning the kitchen one week, deep cleaning the bedrooms one week, deep cleaning the family room/living room one week. Each area is deep cleaned once a month – but not necessarily on the same day. But the key to me is taking 15 minutes to an hour each day to make the house “look” clean. (inspiration from your before and after pics)
    Glad you are able to be flexible. Hope your “new method” works as well

  2. Jamie! I’m shocked! You’ve rocked my world to its foundation here… (Kidding…)

    I’m still using my variation on your once-a-month cleaning routine; instead of taking one day (a bit much with two toddlers running around) I do one area of the house each day for a week, one week a month. Theoretically. Everything fell apart over the holidays because we were so busy, and stayed fallen apart through January because we completely overextended ourselves. But my son’s birthday is Sunday & the whole family is coming over, so this week became my once-a-month cleaning week by default.

    Apart from the blip over the holidays I find that this plan really works for us, so I’ll stick with it…until, like you, I find it doesn’t quite “fit” anymore. xo
    meghann’s latest post: :: one week ::

  3. I was inspired by the once a month cleaning notion too, and seeing as I could never get a full day “off” (with a toddler) it became “cleaning week,” the first week of each month was spent heavy with chores. This lasted about two months for us. A little a day keeps the cobwebs away here 🙂
    The best discovery ever for me has been keepandshare (or any other electronic calendar system I guess would work). I put in all my cleaning tasks for the year and the frequency they need to be done, just picking a starting date for the rotation. Each month I print out the new calendar, and voila! It tells me each day what to do. A lot of things I have on a weekly or twice weekly rotation (laundry days, vacuuming, etc) but I also have all monthly, quarterly and annual tasks programmed in as well. No more thinking involved. I know everything will get done when it should as long as I check my calendar.

  4. I’m not a once-a-month cleaner (though a monthly deep clean sure wouldn’t hurt). I just wanted to chime in and say “OH! THE PAPER!!!” My kids (4 and 6) are newly scissors-obsessed and tiny bits and pieces are EVERYWHERE!

    Love this post. Don’t be embarrassed; things do change, and quickly!
    Anne’s latest post: 7 Books That Changed My Life

  5. I use the Scattered Home Executives notecards in a box, but heavily modified and MUCH reduced frequency for many of the tasks. It comes and goes. When we had the baby (2.5 years ago now) I didn’t use it for over a year, but now we’re back to it and I love the simplicity of it. It’s all right there, and I was able to include cards for when to prune certain plants and to save time for canning in the summer months.
    What’s most helpful in our home, though, is that every Saturday we all clean together. We now use the card system, though in the post I don’t think I was using it:

  6. I had a conversation just today with my DIL about how plans have a way of not working out. You think it out, come up with a solution and, sooner or later…

    I came across the once a month cleaning idea a few months ago. I think it’s a great idea. I plan to use it but to hire someone, once a month, to help me do it. I have a hard enough time keeping up with the day-to-day and find it nearly impossible to get to the deep cleaning. Once a month deep cleaning will help my day-to-day immensely.

    I just purchased “One Bite at a Time” and think it’s just about the BEST book on simplifying ever! With this and once a month cleaning with hired help, there just may be light at the end of my tunnel.
    Leslie’s latest post: Too Fast, Too Much, Too Loud

  7. Oh yes, THE PAPER! Our cleaning chores have been revolutionised this year because on New Year’s Day I gently but firmly and then loudly quit. I just quit. We moved home after two years in another city, my children are growing up, my husband not only co parents but co chores and I found that to ease him into his new job I was taking on the bulk of keeping our house from collapsing round our ears, it became easier once again to mutter under my breath and clean up and then get angry and shout than to gather all the energy and do something different. We all got sick over the Christmas period, especially me and I had a few days in bed. Which got me to thinking which led me to quitting which lead to the Everyday Care list and three weeks in I’m astounded by the turn around in our family life. My nearly 12 year old eldest is actually adding jobs to her list – yesterday she had the two middle ones do all the clean dishes putting away and she washed all the breakfast dishes!

    I do quite like your once a month deep clean idea!
    Kestrel’s latest post: Leaving the planning and getting spontaneous…

  8. I just put up a blog post on this topic …….inpired by Tsh, we talk about preparing our homes in the days to come before Candlemas on February 2. It’s a wondeful sentiment to realize that what works at one time may not work the next and to allow those changes to flow as they may! Thank you for the reminder!!!
    Marcy’s latest post: New Post on DO

  9. Once a month cleaning did not work for me. I like doing a little cleaning here and there. Like 5 minutes at a time, so that they house seems to keep itself clean!

  10. Good for you for changing when that method didn’t work anymore! I have found that once-a-week cleaning is more my style. Mondays are my clean, clean, clean day… get everything in order as much as possible, and then all I have to do is maintain it through the week. It works really well for us. I keep trying to do it other ways but nothing else seems to really work very well for me.

  11. Seasons is exactly right, sometimes it flows one way and sometimes another, that is the great thing about homeschooling we have such freedom!
    Emmalina’s latest post: New World

  12. I try to do the FlyLady thing. I am not very good about keeping to a schedule or following the “rules” though!

  13. “We need to enjoy the freedom of doing what works when it works, and then discarding it when it stops.” Wisdom, not just for cleaning, but for everything!

  14. Thanks for your honesty. I am learning from you that it ok to change routines and plans to fit with our changing family. In the past I have struggled with trying to keep routines the same while around me life changed. Our household is now running smoother as I learn to be more flexible.

  15. I am a serial changer. I find a system, fall in love with it and continue faithfully for a few months and then…we change it up. I do it with my to-do lists, our routines, the way I organize. Honestly, it kind of surprises me (and other people, LOL!), because I seem so type-A that you’d think I’d stick with one thing, but — like you — I think it’s much better to adjust to the season!
    Mandi @ Life…Your Way’s latest post: Free Valentine’s Day eBook and Printables {Finding Cupid}

  16. Wow Jamie! It’s really a good reflection!
    I usually change up my cleaning method, or I’d better say more adjusting it to the new seasons of our family life than changing it completely.
    Since about 6 months I have been using the “old and safe” once a week daily blessing morning, that includes weekly cleaning routines plus one different focused task a week, rotating between them monthly or every 2 months (it depends on the task). And, of course, I do my best to keeping up with daily routines during the rest of the week. But with my third boy on the go now, it will soon change again and I think it would be really less stressful to work by 20′ burst cleaning chores method. But it all depends on….what life will bring!!!! You are so right, flexibility is the key of success of every routine! 🙂
    Ludovica’s latest post: Being a mom or acting as a mom?

  17. Our routine seems to always be changing. I’ve got laundry down pretty well (one load a day and extra for bedding and such on Mondays) but the rest of the deep cleaning still needs some work so it isn’t a matter of “oh no, people are coming over, hurry up and wipe down the bathroom.” Just last night we instituted a nightly whole family clean up for 30 minutes and it worked out wonderfully.
    Steph’s latest post: When Crafts Aren’t Your Thing

  18. When we had our first child, I literally never cleaned. By the way, that’s NOT the best system! When we found out 2.5 years later that baby #2 was on the way, I started cleaning every day. My house was always spotless, though there wasn’t much creativity allowed to happen. That continued after her birth and for the first year of her life, then I got pregnant with #3. During the morning sickness part, I went back to never cleaning, then went back to cleaning every day at the end of the pregnancy. One he was born, I realized that cleaning every single day with a 5 year old, a 2 year old, and a baby just wasn’t going to happen…at least not the way I was doing it, so I started designating a day to each room. I’d clean them on their assigned day and then every fourth week I would deep clean the whole house. Then, I got pregnant with #4, so back we went to not cleaning. At the same time she was born, two immediate family members passed away and we started the school year. Little Emma is now 6 months old and we are still using the survival method. I do have goals, though…I mop and dust on Tuesday nights when my oldest and my hubby are at Cub Scouts and I try to have all laundry done and the house in decent shape before we go to bed on Saturday night.
    sarah’s latest post: Movies we have been watching lately

  19. 🙂 I just changed what I’m doing, too. Hey, if it motivates me to clean at all, I say a change up is good!
    Caroline Starr Rose’s latest post: Current State of Affairs

  20. I still clean the bathroom, sweep and dust once a week, but I have resorted to washing the kitchen and bath floors just once a month. Now that my kids are older, it’s very easy to wait that long between washings.

    I like the idea of having a clean house once a week. I guess my deep cleaning only happens when we are getting a lot of family over for a gathering. Having people over seems to be the best motivator for a clean house!
    Heidi’s latest post: Wright Brothers Museum

  21. I clean with my menstrual cycle. You could almost figure out what phase of my cycle I’m in by how many dishes are on the counter waiting to be cleaned. But overall I keep my house clean daily. I have two little ones and two large dogs, so there’s always something to clean. What has helped us is being minimalists so there’s not *stuff* all over. It’s really easy to maintain my home now that we’ve downsized our possessions.

  22. I still do the deep cleaning once a month. Actually it’s a two day thing for me. But every week I dust,vacuum and clean the bathroom. With my two 8 year olds I have to. Like with homeschooling, you do what’s best for your family at that moment. And like you Jamie, I’ve been thinking about what more they can do to help around the house. I’m looking forward to your post on that.

  23. This made me laugh because one of the most popular and controversial blog entries I ever wrote was about requiring your kids to stay in church service with you instead of putting them in classes/activities/whathaveyou.

    Yeah…a few scant weeks later our church started offering the above options…now my kids shuffle merrily off to class and we sit alone in church…ahem. Embarrassing indeed!

  24. I used to do a huge weekly cleaning day, making sure my entire house was cleaned every week from top to bottom. It was what my mother did, and I felt guilty when I did not do it. When I went back to work part-time, though, I was glad to have kids old enough to help out with the cleaning: 15 yo vaccuums and cleans one bathroom, 12 yo dusts and cleans another bathroom, younger kids in charge of cleaning up and dishes. When I read your post about once a month cleaning, it sounded great and I designated a Saturday to try it. However, everyone had done their chores that week, and the house just wasn’t that dirty! Since chores and a little mommy cleaning works for us, that is what we stick with. That means I hardly clean — and I try to feel sad about that :-)!
    Jen@anothergranolamom’s latest post: Homeschooling Resources: Book Sale at the Library

  25. Deep cleaning? What’s that?! 🙂

  26. You know, this cleaning business was such a cinch . . . until I had chilluns! 🙂 It took me a long time to finally accept that my cleaning ‘schedule’, if you will, needed to change with the seasons and needed to be adaptable on a weekly basis. I have a few things that I anchor to certain days that I just need to do to make sure we are not living in a dump, but I have to be free to just let things go with the flow sometimes. I have finally settled upon the fact that as long as I have some sort of a system, it doesn’t matter how many I go through in a year – ha! 🙂
    Roxy Schow’s latest post: breakfast

  27. I’ve never found a good cleaning plan that I could consistently work. I missed your original post, so I’m going to go back and read it now. Maybe once a month cleaning will be my answer.
    Tara’s latest post: The Power of Pilates

  28. Currently I’m on a once a week cleaning routine. With dogs, cat and sloppy people, things have to be cleaned often. However, I can’t clean the whole house in a day. And I wouldn’t ever call what I do DEEP cleaning. I clean up our main living area pretty well and the rest of the house gets cleaned when we’re having guests over! I’ve realized that with a 2 and 5 year old, my goal has to be: keeping the house livable and that’s it.
    shelli : mamaofletters’s latest post: Homeschool Priorities Part 6 of 6: Teaching Responsibility

  29. This is funny :). I’m glad you shared though. Since that is what all life is like- doing something until we find it no longer works for us then finding something else.

    I tried the once a month cleaning. It did NOT work for me at all. I’m still trying to figure out what does work, but life keeps changing for me. I’m in a stage of much upheavel and when the dust settles (literally and figuratively) from having a new baby and an unexpected needed renovation, I will figure it out. Probably 2013. 🙂

  30. Cleaning routines and furniture both get rearranged frequently here. Changing things up keeps it interesting for me… or something like that!

Share Your Thoughts


CommentLuv badge

Travel the world all summer with our
FREE summer book club, starting soon!

anabolic pharma