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.
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?