Will This House Get Cleaned Before the Kids Graduate?

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

A note from Jamie: We just pulled into our driveway last night after over two weeks away. Imagine me surrounded by suitcases, piles of clothes, and three energetic children! I’ll be back next week to share some new thoughts–until then enjoy this cleaning repost. It was originally published on April 26, 2010.

Anyone who has been homeschooling long knows the secret for “getting it all done.”

The secret is–that there is no secret. And it is virtually impossible, especially with many little ones underfoot, to get it “all done.” When you focus on the house, the schoolwork slides. When you focus on the schoolwork, the house slides.

What’s the answer to this homeschooling versus house cleaning dilemma? How can you juggle all these plates and keep them successfully in the air?

While there’s no magic formula, here are four tips to help you win the home management battle.

1. Define your priority.

When your family chooses a homeschooling lifestyle, your priority is your children’s education. Not the state of your house. Realizing and accepting this will go a long way toward developing realistic expectations for your home.

This doesn’t mean, however, that you have to live in a pigsty. Think through the level of cleanliness that is possible given the amount of time you have, as well as the level you’re most comfortable with.

This will look different for each family and home. Taking time to consider this allows you to be intentional in an area that can sometimes feel out of control.

Photo by April Spreeman

2. Find a system that works for you.

There’s a plethora of cleaning advice out there–find the system that connects with you and piece together your own cleaning philosophy.

In this post on my blog Steady Mom, I describe the cleaning method I use to manage and keep my house running. My current goal is to keep everything in its place, and to confront cleaning tasks as they are needed and as I have time.

Many women find encouragement through Fly Lady’s method and Tsh wrote this wonderful e-book about tackling spring home cleaning.

Don’t compare yourself to other friends who seem to clean more than you–discover what works in your home, consider the time you have available, and then release the pressure to keep your home magazine-worthy!

3. Keep what you need and get rid of the rest.

I’m sometimes surprised by the number of houseguests we have who comment on how “clean” our home is. I think what they mean is that our house is not excessively cluttered.

Toys are not strewn everywhere (not all the time, at least!) and we make a real effort to keep belongings in the place assigned to them. That’s our priority, and it goes a long way to creating the illusion of a clean home.

So if the order of your home feels out of control, a decluttering of the most troubled areas may be all you really need. It takes time to manage and clean lots of unnecessary, unused stuff. Go ahead and free yourself of excess baggage–only keep what you really need and love.

4. Enlist your kids to help.

Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt

Part of our responsibility as teachers is helping our children learn to care for a home properly. When children are very young, of course, this help is minimal (and sometimes the “help” they provide causes tasks to take longer–that’s okay, too!).

As your kids get older, consider household chores as a standard part of their curriculum. I currently have a six-year-old and two five-year-olds, and I’m astounded by how helpful they are around the house.

Rachel DeMille, co-author of Leadership Education, states that if mothers of children over the ages of ten or eleven find themselves still cleaning, they have “missed their promotion.” She suggests that children take over the majority of cleaning during their preteen years, giving parents the freedom to spend more time teaching and mentoring other children.

The homeschooling lifestyle requires us to let go of our perfectionistic tendencies–our homes may not be featured in any magazines. But with a little planning, we can manage our homes the same way we manage our children’s education–with intentional thought and a sense of simple, beautiful individuality.

What system do you use to keep your house in order?

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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. I think clutter is the biggest obstacle for me. I agree that a house looks more clean when there is less “stuff” in it! I am working on that one, but don’t seem to be motivated to purge items until it is a bit too late at night… hmm… Yes, I’m working on this one!
    mamaTAVE’s latest post: Toddler Skirt Giveaway

  2. This is great! I was just saying to my hubby yesterday “I just have to come to grips with the fact that my house will not always shine.” We have people in and out all of the time and while it’s not a mess, it’s not as I would always like it. You are right, when you chose this lifestyle, the kids are your priority and I think I’ve accepted that. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂
    Gina’s latest post: Just Us Girls!

  3. My post today shows how I get my children involved in house cleaning. It´s in Spanish but I guess the photo explains the whole idea by itself. He´s my youngest boy, 2 years old, washing the dishes and enjoying it SO MUCH!


    Good luck reorganizing your home with your three energic children.

  4. Love the part about teaching the kids to clean. I am always amazed how many people are surprised by how much my kids do around the house. With up to 10 people living here, it is essential for everyone to help.

    Also love the comment about considering what level of cleanliness one is comfortable with. We need to understand that our life is made up of seasons. During the very intense season on having several young children at home, it is unreasonable to expect to be able to keep things as clean as we can in a later season.
    I Live in an Antbed’s latest post: Always My Choice

  5. I love number three. I was throwing things out tonight and thinking about how good it felt to simplify. I have also been trying to be more intentional about what I bring into the house since I am constantly complaining that we have too much!
    Amy’s latest post: out of doors learning

  6. Working on this, working on this, working on this…It takes daily effort, and also an ability to surrender too! I love what you said about defining your top priority…definitely the kids and the relationships.

  7. Thank you!
    Karen’s latest post: Challenging kids

  8. So good! Our house was really clean this summer, with everybody doing all their chores M-F (We take the weekend off chores and laundry.). Then we started back to school lessons again, and with me homeschooling 4 kids, the house has sort of slid back into “barely clean.” I try to keep surfaces picked up, but doing our daily chores has definitely taken a backseat most days. I’m trying to remember that someday it’ll all be sparkly clean, but that I have different priorities now. This drives me a little crazy, but that’s the best we can do right now! Being okay with that is my goal. 🙂

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