“How do I keep my house from becoming a total wreck during the holidays? I have very little time for cleaning, so I need quick housecleaning tips to help make the house look presentable!” This was the question posed to me recently by Metro Family Magazine when I offered to contribute to their article on dealing with holiday stress. The only thing that keeps me from falling out of my chair laughing is that the person who asked me to write on this topic has never been to my house, seen the inside of my car or laid foot in my office. To put it bluntly, housekeeping is not my strong suit.
My ready tips on dealing with holiday stress have more to do with maintaining a budget or a schedule that wouldn’t cause children of all ages to have meltdowns. But since this was the question I was asked and I knew I lacked the personal expertise, I went to my MOPS girls for advice. I asked my fellow mommies on the MOPS International Facebook page what tips they had to offer in this area. Here is my summary of what my 30,000+ closest Facebook friends had to say:
Decorate accordingly: Minimizing clutter from the beginning will make maintaining it much easier in weeks to come. Resist the temptation to bring out every holiday clearance knick-knack you’ve ever purchased. Put some of your year-round decorations away. The empty holiday decoration boxes are excellent places to store things you’ll bring back out in January.
Designate hiding spots: There’s nothing wrong with sweeping a little dust under the rug or stuffing a few thousand toys in the hall closet. Cute baskets or bins for storing toys and homework allow you to quickly pick up entire piles and set them aside for later. Have a room you can designate the “dump room” where you can close the door when company comes over. What they don’t see won’t hurt them.
Involve your kids: As moms we want to make the holidays special for our kids. That doesn’t mean we become their personal assistants, picking up after them as they go. Make it a contest against you or the clock to add some fun to the routine. Take advantage of Santa or the Elf on the Shelf watching. A little motivation never hurt anyone.
Clean as you go: Every time you walk from one room in the house to another, pick something up and carry it with you. Wipe down the sink or toilet when you’re in the bathroom. Put the breakfast dishes directly in the dishwasher. At the end of the day or right before dinner, walk through the house with a laundry basket, simultaneously picking things up as you’re putting them away. A little bit at a time goes a long way.
Prioritize: Determine which areas in the house guests will see or will make you feel most sane if they’re clean. Kitchen and bathroom countertops make a big impression. Stack dishes in the sink, do a quick wipe down of counters to keep surfaces clean and de-cluttered.
Set a timer: You don’t have much time to clean anyway, so diving in for an “hour of power” can motivate you and make what little time you have more efficient. Limit your cleaning time to a set amount like fifteen minutes or an hour. You will force yourself to walk away and be satisfied with what you accomplished.
Adjust expectations: Tis’ the season to let the Martha Stewart standards go. The holidays are meant to be a time when memories are made with your loved ones, happy memories that is. Don’t let the stress of how your home looks override the fun you are having with those who are in it with you.
I always find great, practical ideas when I go to other MOPS moms, whether in my local group or in my virtual world. What tips would you add to the list? Help this housekeeping-challenged mom out as I tackle my first holiday season as a mother of four.
Alexandra Kuykendall is Editor of Mom and Leader Content for MOPS International, and a regular contributor to MomSense magazine, Connections magazine, the blog at mom-ology.org and MOPS video curriculum. Widely accepted as an experienced mommy-expert, Alexandra represents the mothering voice at national conferences to audiences as large as 5,000. She lives in Colorado with her husband and four children, ages 9 to newborn.
Denver-based MOPS International is a non-profit ministry that creates communities to help “Better Moms Make A Better World.” Since 1973, MOPS International has served millions of mothers and families in thousands of local MOPS groups across the U.S. and in 38 countries internationally. MOPS ministries include Classic MOPS, Teen MOPS, Military MOPS, International MOPS and MOMSnext. MOPS is the best in the world at creating authentic communities of growth that invite women into a spiritual relationship.