There are neat freaks out there (and we use that term with admiration) who seem to have a home that always looks like an HGTV ad, and then there are those whose house always looks very “lived in.” Whether you fall into one of those two categories, or somewhere in between, one thing you have in common is that whatever you did before having a baby in the house is about to change. Your main reason for cleanliness now becomes to create the healthiest environment for your little one. How you go about getting and keeping it that way just got a little more complicated.
Finding time to do your normal housework between all the feedings, diaper changes, and gazing at your tiny human can be a challenge. For some, it feels overwhelming, especially when you factor in the sheer exhaustion from lack of sleep. Not to worry. We’ve got eight tips for cleaning house with a newborn from pro-parents who’ve been in your shoes.
#1 Decide what’s most important.
Make a list of all the areas and things in the home that need to be cleaned. Big and small. Think room by room. Then, give the tasks a priority ranking.
#2 Be realistic.
We can all use a ride on the wave of optimism, but now is probably not the time to decide your home is going to look better than it ever has just because you’re on leave from work, or becoming a stay-at-home parent. You don’t want to set yourself up for failure. That doesn’t mean you have to set your expectations low, low, low. We’re shooting for “realistic.” Plan to take the overwhelming job of cleaning your home with a newborn attached to your hip, and break it into bite-sized pieces spread over several days.
#3 Make daily, weekly, and monthly lists.
Create a short list of areas that need to be cleaned every day. Make another list for places and things you want to tackle sometime during the week, and finally, a short list of tasks to do each month. Give yourself days off for a well-deserved break from anything but the daily routine or to coordinate with your partner’s free time.
Sample Daily List: make the bed, wash the dishes, wipe down the kitchen, do a load of laundry (wash, dry, fold, AND put away), and sweep or vacuum the floors (because you don’t want baby’s face down for tummy time next to dust bunnies). You don’t have to be a germaphobe to make floors a priority each day, especially if you have indoor pets that shed.
Sample Weekly List: wash the rest of laundry and put it all away, tidy up the living/family room, change sheets on beds, clean the bathrooms, vacuum the less trafficked areas, clear out leftovers and expired food from your fridge (like the night before garbage day).
Sample Monthly List: put away bulk shopping items like toilet paper, paper towels, and of course, diapers and wipes. Wash the windows. Do the nitty-gritty scrubbing, like baseboards and disinfecting grout. Bag up baby’s outgrown clothes and store them in your closet or garage, or get them out of your house by passing them along to another new parent.
#4 Set a timer.
To keep things feeling manageable, plan to tackle something for 15-20 minutes. That’s just long enough for baby to nap, bounce, or do time on the playmat.
#5 Do more in the morning.
Get as many chores done as early in the morning as possible. Once baby’s fed and content, you may have the energy and motivation to jumpstart your day. Spread the rest of your must-dos out over the day, perhaps after you’ve had a chance for a power nap with baby, or when your partner comes home. They get QT with baby, and you can finish up your daily list.
#6 Bounce that baby.
Put all that baby gear you got to use. Bouncy seats, activity centers, the play yard, swings can keep baby safely contained, and working on their developmental skills, while you’re hands-free and cleaning. Plus, you can move LO around the house with you. Talk to baby, sing songs, start teaching them the ABCs, and play peek-a-boo as you go about your business.
#7 Vacuum during naptime.
You may have a white noise machine or sound soother in the nursery, but the hum of the vacuum can create the same effect. Some parents plan to do the vacuuming just before naptime, and basically lull the baby to sleep. Running the vacuum cleaner at that time also gets your little boss used to catching Zs through the noise, which makes life easier on you. It’s no fun if your little angel needs a silent home in order to fall asleep.
#8 Put them in their place.
Have a designated spot for things like magazines, receipts, mail, or items that build up and need to be sorted. If it’s a new system for you, label these areas, so you and anyone else in the home get used to putting things where they belong, which means less tidy up time later.
Have a catch-all basket that you keep at the end of the main hallway, or at the bottom of the stairs. During one of your fifteen-minute cleaning slots, pick up items that are out of place, and toss them in the basket. Then at another scheduled time, return those things to where they belong. If you do these steps once a day, you won’t end up with the dreaded buildup that leaves you wanting to just shove it in a closet and run away.
When it comes to cleaning house with a baby on board, it may take a few tries, but you’ll get into your flow. Just make sure you also schedule time to sit back, put your feet up, and look around at all you accomplished. At the end of the day, if your house is cleaner than when you started, you’re winning at parenthood.