Moms of Toddlers - How Do You Clean?

Updated on June 03, 2011
L.D. asks from Dallas, TX
14 answers

Help! I have a three year old and a one and a half year old and I work full time.

House cleaning is the biggest exercise in frustration! I turn the vacuum off, and my kids are playing in the toilet! I walk around the corner with the mop, and my son has pulled all the keys off the keyboard with his teeth. I try to iron, but my daughter attaches herself to my leg and sobs and screams until I pick her up. I fold laundry, and when I go back to get it with the laundry basket, my children are frolicking around in it like its a ball pit at Chucky Cheeses.

In short, every time I turn my back on them, they have caused some new and bigger disaster. I've tried, with little success, to have them "help."

How do you do house cleaning without losing your mind?

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answers from Houston on

I finally got a baby gate corral-type thing that I put my toddler in with some toys so I can load the dishwasher and do other quick chores. I know what you mean, though. I can't take my eyes off the kids long enough to get anything done! I also use the high chair and snacks for my toddler and set up coloring books at the kitchen table for the 3 and 5 y/o's so I can get things done in the kitchen like mopping, paying bills, washing dishes, etc. I also separate the older two each to their rooms to do some chores. They get in a lot less trouble playing on their own.

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answers from Chicago on

It's a losing battle. Just plan on your house looking like a pigpen until your kids are a bit older. My youngest is a toddler. I run around like a chicken with its head cut off while he's napping. I try to clean, spend time with my preschooler and catch up on phone calls that need to be made, appointments scheduled etc... Our living room is gated and super-childproofed so sometimes I throw him in there if I really need to get something done. He's usually in there watching a Barney episode while I make dinner. Gotta do what you gotta do.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I seriously know what you mean! Mine is 26 months, and I try to make sure he's asleep, in his high chair or stroller with a book or small toys where I can see him, someone else is watching him, etc. I have to think ahead to outwit him and close doors to rooms I don't want him going into without me, using door knob covers so he can't open them, put the laundry basket where he can't get into it and so on. More mental work and preparation for me (really not much) but it sure eases my frustration.

And, yes, he cries sometimes when he's stuck while I do something, (I always explain it'll be just a few minutes,) but at least I can get things done without him getting into something or clinging to me crying.

Hope this helps : )

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I don't =)

But seriously, occasionally we all put on aprons and have "Cinderella Saturday or Sunday", that makes it more fun for everyone and gets everyone involved. We play "whistle while you work" or other fun clean up songs (our preschool has a whole CD of "clean up" songs, like the ones from Barney and KaiLan too, Hi ho Hi ho it's off to work we go, whistle, etc...) and then all sit back and watch a movie when the work is done!

Give them simple chores that also teach them things, like sorting socks by color, pattern, etc.. or little kid brooms, vacuums, etc. All the kids at preschool fight over who gets to sweep and hold the dustpan! Or put them in swimsuits and an empty bathtub with sponges and diluted dish soap and let them scrub all the dirt off (only safe if you're right there cleaning the mirror, sink, toilet, or floor!). Squirt bottles of dish soap and water make cleaning fun for them too. Baby wipes are good for surface cleaning tables, chairs, tubs, dressers, non breakables. I have my girls sort their laundry by whose is whose into two different baskets. Just a few ideas!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I feel for you! I usually try to get most cleaning done when they're asleep. I also bought a Roomba earlier this year which makes things a lot easier. The Fly Lady says to get up half an hour before your family, and on the odd occasion when I have actually been able to drag myself out of bed at 5.00am (she obviously has no concept of how early some kids can get up), I've done a little bit of housework. Other than that, all I can say is in feel your pain!

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answers from Dallas on

I understand completely what you are going through. Trying to clean a house with little ones running around is like trying to brush your teeth while eating oreo cookies. Completely pointless. I have an 8 year old girl who has major maturity issues and an almost 2 year old boy. It's extremely difficult. What frustrates me, I'll get an area cleaned and then not even 10 minutes later it's a mess again. I just want to throw my hands up in the air and surrender. The only thing that I can suggest is if you have an area that they can be confined in where they won't get hurt put them in that and get some of that stuff done. It's a race sometimes. I am always trying to beat my son when it comes to emptying the dishwasher or trying to fill it up before he takes everything out. It's rather frustrating. Sorry not much help since I'm experiencing the same issues. Just wanted to let you know that I share your pain!! Hang in there! :)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Fort Collins on

We finally set up a play room with a gate. The kids share a bedroom and the other is where the toys "live". When I am cleaning they are in their playroom playing or they can help... 90% of the time they chose to play.

We also have established that they are not allowed in our bedroom or the living room unless an adult is with them. They can sit in the "adult" rooms with us, but if they want to play they go to their playroom. It is hard to enforce these rules in the beginning, but once they see that they can play in the playroom without hearing "no" all the time, they will start migrating there on their own.

Good Luck

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answers from Sacramento on

Mission Impossible.....

; )

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answers from Washington DC on

I do some when someone else is home, or when a friend has her for the afternoon, or when she's gone to bed. She's pretty good about not getting into too many things, but occasionally we have crayon on the wall (WD40 works). I also admit to turning on Wonder Pets in another room while I clean the first one. We also keep the bathroom door shut to keep out the cat, which also eliminates the playing in the potty. When I cook dinner, she has her own little stove and I give her some bowls and measuring cups and let her "bake" next to me.

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answers from Madison on

Divide the task with your husband: One of you takes the kids out to somewhere, while the other cleans the house. In our case, husband prefers cleaning -- so lucky me! ;-)

He does the vacuuming and mopping the floors. I do the rest (dusting, toilet/bathroom, kitchen) either with my son "helping" or when he is sleeping.

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answers from Dallas on

I would suggest giving them one chore each; like fold towels or undergarments; something fairly simple and make a rule that it has to be done before they can play or do something that they love to do. They will get the hang of it; but they are not allowed to do any other chore except that one. Maybe they should have 2 or 3 chores to choose from and let them pick one. That way you can say This is the chore you chose to do and I know you will do a great jobl we you are done we can .....

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answers from Dallas on

My 2 1/2 yearold helps out. To wash dishes her job is to squirt the soap, in doing the laundry she helps toss clothing in washer, i put in the soap and she presses start. She assists with folding clothing, her job is to hand me an article of clothing at at time while we count, do colors, sing abc's etc. I even have her help with recycling, i wash and she puts in appropriate bins. Overall, I make it fun...did this with our first daughter too...she's 17 now but still loves chore time. We make it fun always dancing, singing, playing music or something.

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answers from Columbus on

I do less cleaning, LOL. Seriously, though, I try to clean when DH is watching the kids or when they are in bed. A couple nights per week, I do a 10-20 min cleaning of whatever is do-able or is the highest priority: I set the timer on the microwave and clean; when the timer goes off, I'm done (otherwise, I'd keep going and end up not going to sleep till really late, and feeling the next day because of less sleep).

The 3yo can help--he can put his own clothes in his drawers (heck, don't bother folding his, just separate it into shirts, pants and pair up his socks). Have 1 draw for shirts, one for socks, one for pants (or whatever), and have him put them away. He can help you take the dishes out of the dishwasher and/or put them in (except sharp or very breakable stuff). He can help wash dishes--fill the sink half full of soapy water and let him play with the non-breakable items in the sink. It won't really clean them too well (unless they are not really very dirty to begin with), but it will keep him occupied, and you can put the baby in the high chair with a snack so you can get something done for a few minutes.

We have the downstairs pretty much baby-proofed, so there is no access to stuff that they shouldn't have, and we have door knob thingees on to prevent them from opening the doors to places they aren't supposed to go w/o supervision.

Enlist your DH's help. Give him specific tasks (load & run the dishwasher; take the laundry out of the dryer & fold it, etc.). Have him take them to the park or even just outside to the yard for an hour so you can clean for 40 minutes and sit down and relax for 20.

Set up baby gates to keep the kids confined to a safe place (1 room if needed) so you can do some of the cleaning w/o them underfoot for a few minutes.

If your littlest one likes to be held, try getting a baby carrier. A sling is good for short periods; we used a mei tai, which my son loved until he was about 20 months (he was a snuggler and loved/needed to be held a lot). You can wear the mei tai on the front or on the back. If there are any "crunchy mom" groups or stores around you, call and see if they carry babycarriers and ask if you can come in and try on a couple of types.

We tried several times to find a good, reliable "mother's helper"--frankly, I didn't think my standards were too high; I just wanted to find a reliable, good natured middle or high school student who would come over for an hour to play with the kids, once or twice per week. I had a couple of people try but couldn't find someone who would stick with it; I was willing to increase the time and/or negotiate money. But, if you can find such a thing, it is an utter godsend.

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answers from Pocatello on

the 1.5 year old is tricky... do you have a play gate where you can "fence him" for a while with some toys... close to where you'll be cleaning? When my 1.5 year old twin nephews are being watched at our house... I put them in a large play gate and put plenty of safe, non choking hazard toys with them. I make sure that they are always within sight and hearing distance, and check them (and their diapers) often... (or if there is silence...)

With the 3 year old she should be able to "help" by now... With my 2.5 year old if I am cleaning the kitchen... she gets a rag to clean spots of the floor... or I'll send her to fetch dishes, or have her put trash in the can. If I am vacuuming she gets the little Dustbuster and vacuums the couches and chairs. She helps make the beds with me (fetch the pillows) and she puts laundry in the basket. Her tasks are small enough for her to handle... but big enough to give me time to finish my task.

That said... I gave up on ironing. I don't need ironed clothes very often myself... and it is too hard to iron "safely" with a little kid running around. if I MUST iron... i schedule it during her nap (but I am willing to guess you are at work during their naps... so not much help...)

I am a SAHM, so I have the luxury of having a lot of time to get things done during the day... BUT planning ahead is HUGE if you want to get a lot of cleaning done. Like, put all the dishes in the dishwasher and start the cycle... while those are going, clean counters, and floors, enlisting your daughter to clean cabinets with a cloth. Before the dish cycle ends... go get the laundry and take it to the laundry room... Start laundry, while THAT is going, unload the clean dishes... then put the laundry in the dryer (and second load in if you are doing one) unless you are washing sheets... make sure beds are made, and clean up bedrooms.... always have a task for your 3 year old... even if it isn't "real help"- Anyways... always try to do "double duty" if you can... one task is already "in process" while you start the next one... you finish on and are 50% done with the next one...

And know that *clean* and *immaculate* are two very different things. With some hard work, clean is totally do-able... but your house probably won't be a showroom for a while!

Oh... and always try to have several "toy cleanups" every day... use simple toy baskets or bins so things can be "tossed" in. At this age it is easiest for you and your kids to have everything in it's place... but don't stress over having your child's clothing neatly stacked and folded... it'll come eventually. I do hangers... much easier.

Good Luck!

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