The Case for Once a Month Cleaning

The case for once a month cleaning
Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and founder of Steady Mom

This post is part one in a three part series about cleaning. You can find the second post here and the third here!

Late last year, I thought I had it made when I booked a local company to clean my house once a month.

Any homeschooling parent knows that a home needs more than monthly care, but I figured they would do the deep cleaning, and I could keep up with the rest. It sounded like a dream come true for this work-at-home mom.

But it didn’t turn out that way. The cleaning company were used to customers who worked outside of the home. Not a problem, I thought. The kids and I will just go out for a few hours, and return to a tidy house. But when the cleaners failed to show up on time, after I’d worked hard to get the kids ready, it started to frustrate me. And when they didn’t clean the way I wanted or return my emails, I decided to move on.

Then one day I had an epiphany. If the cleaners could deep clean my whole house once a month, why couldn’t I?

Turns out I can, and I’ve been doing so for the past three months.

Here’s how it works.

I searched online for a traditional cleaning checklist (Here’s an example) and created my own based on our home and what needs to be done every four weeks.

I only clean and care for the kids on monthly cleaning days–no formal homeschooling, writing, laundry, or cooking.

The focus for the rest of the month becomes keeping the house tidy and doing any essentials–wiping the bathroom or vacuuming the floor. It’s amazing how a tidy, uncluttered house can fool people into thinking it’s clean.

Hand-written? Yep, ’cause I’m high-tech like that.

Here are the benefits I’ve found in once-a-month cleaning.

1. It isn’t always on my mind.

By cleaning every four weeks, I’m only deep cleaning my house 13 times a year–hooray for that!

As a result, I’m not constantly thinking about when to fit in cleaning or how dirty something is. My calendar lets me know exactly when the house will be clean again. Nothing hangs “undone” over my head.

2. It reflects our family’s values and helps me combat perfectionism.

I honestly don’t want to be remembered for having an immaculate house. Changing the lives of children, loving my family–these are the reasons I get up each morning. But I don’t want to live in a pigsty either. Once a month cleaning feels like the right balance.

It also helps me combat perfectionism–by working this way I’m declaring that ‘this level of cleanliness is enough.’ I’m not striving for something that isn’t really important to me anyway.

3. I’m cleaning when it really needs to be done.

In the past, when I cleaned on a weekly basis, my rotation list would occasionally tell me to clean something that didn’t look dirty. I found it hard to get motivated.

But every four weeks I can easily see that the floor needs mopping, the tub needs scrubbing, and the bookshelves need dusting. This was especially noticeable last week after our vacuum died. Many thanks to those of you on Facebook who chimed in with recommendations for a new one! (If you’re curious, we ended up with this Hoover–so far, so good.)

4. The house shines and sparkles–for at least 24 hours.

My favorite part of having a cleaner? Returning to a house that sparkled and smelled clean.

Now, even though I’m doing the work myself, I still get that feeling. Even the microwave shines for a day!

5. It saves money and fits with our homeschooling lifestyle.

I hate having to abide by someone else’s schedule. I love that I can arrange my cleaning to fit with the rhythm of our days, without having to work around the timing of a cleaner.

Every four weeks on cleaning day, my husband brings takeout home for dinner. Even with this treat we save a considerable amount compared to what we paid for cleaning services. And there’s nothing like the reward of pad thai to keep me working through the afternoon slump!

If you haven’t yet discovered the right cleaning system, think it over and see if once a month cleaning might work for you.

Have you managed to find a cleaning system that works for your homeschooling family?

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She serves as editor of Simple Homeschool, and blogs about mindful parenting at Steady Mom. Jamie is also the author of two books: Steady Days and Mindset for Moms.


  1. Briliant! Absolutely Brilliant!! This is likely the BEST idea — EVER!! Well, except for grace, that is, but i think that this idea might fall under a form of grace, don’t you think?
    Sally’s latest post: Mystery of History- Week 1-ish

  2. I do love the idea of this, because I too would rather spend time doing things I love, than cleaning, but I am concerned about the maintenance part.
    I usually feel like I am cleaning all the time, even though I definitely don’t deep clean very regularly. Regular cleaning and maintenance just seems to take up a ton of my time. So, even if I am intentional about spending a chunk of time deep cleaning once a month, I worry that I might still feel like I am always cleaning just trying to keep up with the regular maintenance. How do you balance that?

    Also, we host a home group for our church every week and I although I’ve really learned to let go of my perfectionist tendencies when it comes to cleaning before having people over, I still like to have a fairly clean and presentable home. I’m not sure how that would fit with deep cleaning just once a month? How do you handle having guests?
    Thanks for a this great post and ideas though!
    Emily @ Live Renewed’s latest post: Benefits and Challenges of Joining a CSA

    • Hi Emily. I’m going to write a follow-up post about exactly how this plays out in real life for me, so that may answer some of your questions.

      But just as a quick answer–I tidy my house lots, but I don’t consider that cleaning. That’s just part of my daily life–cleaning dishes, sweeping up after meals, vacuuming the living room rug or floor when it needs it, etc. If we have guests, those are the types of things I would do to prepare–but those are things I would do anyway as upkeep.

      Thanks for your comment!
      Jamie ~ Simple Homeschool’s latest post: 5 Ways to Simplify Dinner in a Homeschool Kitchen

      • Thanks Jamie! I’ve been mulling over this the past week or so, and I think what doing this would mean for me is that my house would actually get deep cleaned – not just surfaced cleaned and maintained – more regularly than it does now (which is not very often). And that would overall help me to feel like my house is clean, instead of feeling overwhelmed about all the cleaning I have to do. So, I think I’ll have to give it a try for a few months and see how it works for me. I’ll look forward to your follow-up post too!
        Emily @ Live Renewed’s latest post: Going Green vs Buying Green

      • Elizabeth says:

        I guess some of this comes down to semantics. What you call “tidying” – I absolutely call cleaning, and some of the once a month/deep cleaning things….I just almost never do unless it looks really bad (e.g. every few months!) My daily tidying/cleaning = sweeping floors of rampant dog hair and food crumbs, repeated wiping down of bath countertops, repeated wiping down of kitchen countertops and dining room table, and cleaning up after my husband, who is a total slob, bless him. Every few days the essential tidying/cleaning = cleaning bathroom mirrors, dusting (our house gets dusty VERY quickly), wiping down the MANY stainless steel surfaces in the kitchen. The “essentials” keep me busy enough! Can’t wait until my daughter is old enough that I can delegate some of this to year, but she is only 8 months old :)

  3. I like this idea – I wonder how long it takes you. I have a hard time getting psyched up for a long cleaning binge…..sometimes breaking it into pieces with the rotation method works better for me. I follow the fly lady’s schedule when I can keep up.

    I have peace of mind that each area of my house will be focused on once a month and I don’t get overwhelmed with doing it all at once! Thanks for the ideas!

  4. I love, love, love this idea, Jamie.

    As a busy mom of 3 who runs a business from home, I often struggle with finding the time to clean – I know it needs to be done but it manages to fall to the bottom of the list. Then, when I DO actually clean, it’s so much harder because I’ve let it go for so long.

    This is the perfect solution and one that I think any mom can manage. :)

    Thanks so much!

  5. This seems like a great idea…I just don’t know if I can pull it off with five kids. Things tend to get pretty gritty around here fast. Truth be told, my floors cannot wait a month to be vacuumed or mopped.

    It’s certainly something for me to think about though! It would be nice to free my mind of cleaning so I can pursue other things with more focus. :) Thanks for the idea!

    • I know the feeling! My kitchen and dining room floor are just about gross by the end of the day! My solution? I broke down and bought a shark mop! It takes 5 minutes to do the floors, they dry instantly and (if need be) it’s super quiet so I can use it after the girls go to bed!

  6. I’m so glad I found this article! I decided to try this a few days ago but wasn’t sure how well it would work for our house. I also have a list of daily tasks that aren’t really cleaning but they are wonderful for preventing total household chaos! Its great to hear that is possible! Thanks!

  7. I love this! It’s kind of liberating. The regrets I have head from other moms whose kids are now grown is often that they wish they had spent less time cleaning and more time with their kids. This seems like a great compromise.

  8. I have been doing this for awhile now and I love it! I also tidy everyday and I clean anything that looks tragic. But for deep cleaning, it doens’t have to be done but every 3-5 weeks. It frees my mind to play with my littles and stop fussing about the house. Jaime, if you are just starting I think you will find it wonderfully freeing.
    Karen’s latest post: Wow- It is Really Hard

  9. I so have to try this. Thanks for the idea! I have really been struggling with how to “do” cleaning and have tried tons of systems…nothing works for me. This sounds different and like it might work.

  10. I have to ask… do your kids clean along with you? Because so much of the advice I read seems to involve how wives keep up with their cleaning chores (all of which irritates me to no end). One of the best things you can teach your kids is that their efforts are appreciated (as well as necessary!). I think it’s also crucial to teach them that you aren’t their maid.
    Wendy’s latest post: Spring Planting in Raised Beds

    • I agree with you Wendy :). When I work out a cleaning schedule for our house, my three kids share in the load. The last few months we haven’t been on a schedule so when something needs tending I pick 4 main areas or things that need to be done and let them each choose what they would rather do. I know it may not get cleaned spotlessly or even as well or the way that *I* think it should be, but I think it is good for them to help maintain our home and will hopefully prepare them for the future. I also hope that by having them help, they will start taking more responsibility for the mess they create. I know it has helped with laundry. The kids have been washing their own clothes since the twins were 4 and the oldest 7 (with help, as needed) and that really cut down on unnecessary changing of clothes and throwing clean clothes on the floor instead of putting them up. Once they were in charge of washing all of their clothes they started to take better care of what they did. The same with dishes. We don’t have a dishwasher anymore & I hurt my back a few months ago, so the kids (now 9 &13) had to start doing dishes. They aren’t so likely to mess up as many dishes either and will reuse their cups now.
      Thanks for the article – I will have to start trying this deep cleaning once a month :)

    • Elizabeth says:

      OR how about including DAD along with the kids?! :)

  11. Okay I am gearing up to try this tomorrow (my supper for tomorrow is already made, I doubled a crockpot recipe for today and tomorrow). I can’t wait to read a follow up post of how this actually LOOKS in your family. Especially how you maintain the kids during this time- how they help you, what they do when they are not helping you etc.

  12. Cynthia Coffey says:

    I’m on my second month and LOVING it. I also find it hard to get motivated to clean something that doesn’t look that bad.

  13. This has alot of merit; especially for families with little ones. A home needs to be tidy not perfect. Clean not sterilized. While some of these would need to be tweaked for my particular family, i like the idea very much of an uninterrupted cleaning day where you can get in that mindset and stay there until the job is done. Great post.

  14. #3 I’m cleaning when it really needs to be done.

    This is me. I have such a hard time getting motivated to dust a shelf that’s showing no signs of dirt. However, because it’s on my list, I feel like I NEED to do it. Then, when I don’t, I feel guilty. :( I really think once a month cleaning is worth a try for me. It’s essentially what I end up doing anyways, but I always feel guilty when I miss a day of cleaning. What a great suggestion!! Thanks for posting!
    Leigh Ann’s latest post: Blogging with a Vision – Part 2

  15. Hallelujah! THANK YOU so much for this post!

  16. Cynthia Coffey says:

    Month 4 is tomorrow. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for an idea for cleaning my house that works! Another benefit to mention: The house gets pretty gritty towards the end of the month, so I am actually excited for cleaning day. Excited about cleaning?! YEP!

  17. Well, I have cleaned once a week ever since I can remember…Cleaning, just because I felt I had too…My Son is now gone, and my Daughter is 15 and very busy…Now I think I am doing it out of habit…I am definetly going to give this once a month thing a try…I just hope I don’t go crazy thinking my house is dirty, lol! Thanks so much for the advice!

  18. cleaning my house is the biggest pain in the world. that’s why i hire someone to do it for me!

  19. Thank you! I DESPISE cleaning. I think I’ll try this. Surely I can spend 13 days this year cleaning.

  20. Funny, I just did the same thing – priced a once a month cleaning service. When I received the quote, all I could think about was all the OTHER things I could do with that much money!

  21. I know this is from a while back, but I love it! I was just contemplating whether we could afford the once-a-month cleaner. I’m definitely going to do this instead! Today’s the day … I’m going for it! Thanks, Jamie.

  22. One bad experience with a specific cleaning company shouldn’t turn you off to the idea totally! There are plenty of good ones out there that are inexpensive, thorough, and have good customer service to boot..

  23. This has me so excited! Such a great idea! Thanks so much for posting about this!

  24. It is a great post and thanks for your kindness sharing.
    Sorry, i dont have enough time that I can clean on a weekly basis.
    However, I think I’ll try this.

  25. Sounds like a great idea! I go around feeling guilty all the time that I’m not doing my assigned daily cleaning chores, but really, if I just set aside one day a month (and roped the kids in for a cleaning blast and then a treat) and did them all, the house would look better and I think the guilt would disappear. I’m going to give it a whirl! Thanks so much!

  26. This is a great idea! As a new homeschooler, I have been feeling very overwhelmed with all the tasks.

  27. LOVE this! First year home schooler here! Totally going to try to apply your ideas here!!
    April’s latest post: We’re getting better at enjoying paradise.

  28. Being your own cleaning service. How cool is that! Very efficient, and I can see how it would take the pressure off for the rest of the month.

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