We live in a tiny little bungalow with barely any room for our stuff let alone a new addition and all the stuff he comes with! I find myself wondering how to keep my house clean and tidy with a baby around.
You would think that a baby would travel light, wouldn’t you? I mean, there’s barely room for hand luggage where they come from, but they seem to send everything ahead of their arrival. So our tiny house found itself laden with bags of hand-me-downs, toys, bits of various baby equipment and accoutrements. I’m basically making my way around the place through narrow passageways between baby bouncers, piles of toys, used nappies….
Okay, so I may be exaggerating somewhat – it’s not all that bad, but it is slightly more difficult to keep the place tidy with a baby, not only because of all of the ancillaries that come with a baby but also because baby eats into your time to some degree. You have to decide on your priorities – when I get some down time, I usually prefer to do something enjoyable rather than tidy the living room. Maybe you find tidying enjoyable, so knock yourself out!
However, I have found that there are some things I can (and, indeed, should) do.
I’ll go through my day to figure out where I fit in the tidying, then look at how to take things further.
Obviously, there is an argument for keeping your stuff in order – you can’t leave your knife collection on the living room floor if baby is toddling around in there. I mean, he might just get hold of it and slash up your settee.
You’re probably not likely to do that though, and neither am I – but there are still lots of hidden potential dangers. Not in the same league as knives, but for instance I have guitars stored just by leaning them against a wall. It only takes a little push or pull to knock them down; it’s this kind of thing we had to think about.
Having said that, some people are clean-freaks (no offense) – I see absolutely no value in disinfecting every surface baby might touch. I don’t think this is better for them, and ultimately it might be detrimental to deprive their developing immune system of these day-to-day challenges that we all face – dirty surfaces, dust, etc. That’s what I tell myself.
I’ll give you a short run down of how I fit a typical day’s chores in around caring for a little one. Naturally, this will be different to what you are doing or will do – but it shows that it is possible to get a fair bit done. One quick caveat is that we’re not people who live in a beautiful, tidy, spacious mansion. We live in a cramped, little bungalow. A lot of our stuff is stored openly, so we have clutter. Oh well!
Also, I will admit, I sometimes have laundry lying around either unwashed or unfolded for days. I have better things to do!
In the morning, when I am not working at 4am, I like to try to get up with Kit and let Mum have a bit of a lie in – after all, she’s been up throughout the night so it’s only fair. So quite often at about 7-7:30am we get up, I change his nappy and give him something to chew on. At this point, it’s usually a stick of cucumber or whatever else he is willing to try.
First thing I have to do is feed Eggsmerelda and Henrietta (chickens) because they make an unholy racket if they see me making myself a coffee before tending to them. Then I feed the dogs, who aren’t nearly so demanding. I used to either just carry Kit or put him in a front sling for this, now he happily sits in a Jumperoo for a lot of this, although he comes to see the chickens with me.
Then I try to do a load of laundry and unload the dishwasher which, against all fire safety advice, I run overnight. Laundry usually involves holding Kit under one arm like a log and putting things in or pulling them out one handed and getting very frustrated when I drop clean clothes on the dirty shed floor.
The good thing about emptying the dishwasher first thing is that you don’t then need to have used crockery and cutlery building up in or beside your sink – just put it straight in the machine. Your mileage may vary.
At this point Kit tends to get bored, so I try to entertain him with toys (his favourites are a wooden spoon, doggy chew toy, and my rather costly smartphone) while I fold the laundry and drink the third or fourth coffee of the day.
Then I’ll wake Mum with a cup of tea and some breakfast.
We try to do something nice, go for a walk or do some gardening, in the middle part of the day. Because I’m on call for about 120 hours a week, it’s not always possible to get out of town, which means we often have to stay in and play with baby.
One thing I don’t really like to do is to leave boring jobs, like doing the dishes or laundry, until baby is asleep. Isn’t it much more gratifying to read a book or browse the web or do something enjoyable when you don’t have baby demanding your attention? Poor mum often finds herself trapped under the Big Baboo when he falls asleep – he’s a trial to move while having a nap, often waking up at the slightest disturbance and refusing to go back to sleep – but it’s alright for Dad! Sorry Mum….
So instead of that, during the day when I’m home I will do housework with Kit under one arm, or while he plays with toys. One thing that is pretty useful for this is a Bumbo – he has always been pretty patient sitting in it, and chewing on something fragile or making a racket. It may work for you, it may not.
Usually by now most things are done. Mum will often prepare dinner – if I’m at work, she wears the Moby Wrap with baby. It’s difficult to chop vegetables like this, and probably not wise to flambé anything at all, but other than that, it keeps him out of trouble.
After dinner, we all wind down for an hour or so. Then baby Kit comes with me to watch me fill the dishwasher, feed the dogs and tidy the kitchen. For some reason, he usually loves this part of the day and will sit quietly, chewing on his wooden spoon.
After that, most of the daily tasks are done – and the house is maintained in its usual state.
I know, you do all of this and you still wouldn’t want visitors at short notice! What to do? Obviously, low level mood lighting is the first step. Surely there must be more you can do? Letting the dogs “clean” the kitchen floor doesn’t count.
The only effective method I know of is to declutter – ruthlessly. There is a choice to be made here; do you want the nice trinkets and doodahs, or do you want “tidiness”? I confess to wanting the knicknaks, but maybe that’s not for you.
If you live a minimalist life, tidying is easy peasy. You don’t need to get rid of everything, really – but everything needs a place to go, so you do need adequate storage. If everything has a home, tidying take minutes – it takes even less time when there is less stuff to put away.
It’s also much easier to keep cobwebs and dust at bay when you don’t have a ram’s skull, stuffed crocodile and fish skeleton on a single shelf (no, seriously, this is why I happily keep the trinkets!).
If you do decide to pare down your stuff, I can’t blame you. In fact I declutter some aspects of my life when I find time. For instance, my clothes drawer.
A few months ago, I decided to fix my clothing situation – I had no room in my drawer so I never bother folding my stuff, and they ended up sitting on the floor or chair or bed or wherever (see, more storage is key to a tidy house).
I collected all of my clothes together into the spare room (this is important) and one by one put them either into a donation or a keep pile. I got this idea from Marie Kondo of www.tidyingup.com – her konmari method is a complete tidiness philosophy.
Marie Kondo suggests you tidy by category, not by room, hence why I moved all of my clothes into another room. When my drawer (and chair, floor, bed etc) is empty then I figure I have all of it.
You decide whether to keep or discard by touching each item and determining whether or not it “sparks joy”. This sounds a bit esoteric but it makes it so easy to decide – try it out of you’re not sure it would work for you.
Have a read of her book (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying) if you’re interested in learning more. With regard to keeping the place tidy around a new baby, what I have found is that having my own stuff in order really reduces my stress levels when it comes to everyone else’s mess. So even just the act of sorting out my underwear drawer leaves me feeling better about the house as a whole.
As a bonus, Marie Kondo elaborates a really cool method of folding your clothes, which leaves your stuff looking swish a.f. I’ll do a little infographic demonstrating this method.
If you have any comments on the above, tips for keeping your place looking tidy or just want some commiseration for your untidy house, let me know!