Open Thread: Keeping a Clean House

How to Keep a Clean House as a Working Mom2017 Update: We still stand by this advice on how to keep a clean house as a working mom, but you may also want to check out our latest discussion of when to hire a cleaning service for your home. 

What changes did you make to your cleaning routines after you had kids? Is a cleaning service essential to you as a working mother? The last time we talked about hiring a cleaning service on Corporette, I was struck by how many readers agreed that a cleaning service became a necessity after having kids, and the same was true for me, so I thought we’d discuss. I was particularly intrigued to hear moms of older kids (I think among comments here) talk about how having a daily housekeeper in the post-school hours really helped them bridge the “too old for a nanny, too young to be home alone” time period. (Pictured: Clean kitchen, originally uploaded to Flickr by Ben Sutherland.)

For my $.02.: Today is the most wonderful day of the fortnight: our beloved cleaning professional, Olga, is here at Casa Griffin. I was always highly (highly!) resistant to getting a professional to do our cleaning before we had kids, but it started to make more sense when Jack started crawling (and, um, throwing things like applesauce everywhere). It’s now become a non-negotiable for us, in that we will find room for it in our budget somewhere — I love the clean house, the sense of peace and calm that Olga leaves behind, and the fact that I can devote most of my time to either working or mom-ing.

We still do a lot of organizing before she comes to make sure that she can focus on cleaning, and she generally does the floors (mopping, vacuuming), the surfaces (dusting, washing), the mirrors, the bathrooms, as well as changing our sheets, washing our towels, and working on specific tasks like cleaning the walls or windows. We got her number after a friend of mine was waxing poetic about Olga and how wonderful she was. She had such a busy schedule that we had to wait a while to get on her roster, but we’ve never looked back.

How did you find your cleaning service (or person)? What do you ask him/her/them to do? How often do they come? What do you and your partner (and kids) do in the interim? Did you have a cleaning service before you had kids, and did you make any changes after becoming a mom?how to keep a clean home as a working mom

Working moms discuss how they try to keep a clean home despite a hefty work-life juggle -- come share your best tips for keeping a clean home as a working mother!


  1. Nonny says:

    “What changes did you make to your cleaning routines after you had kids?”

    I stopped having time to clean.

    Well, sort of. I still clean, but have to cram it into my Sunday afternoon while SO watches the little one. And basically I do what needs to be done most. Floors are top priority. Bathrooms second priority. Kitchen kind of gets cleaned pretty much every time I cook. In general, standards are lower (except floors, where standards are higher).

    Not to mention that this is a massive point of contention between me and Mr. Nonny. It never enters into Mr. Nonny’s head to help with the cleaning. He will do it if asked, and actually does a pretty good job, but will never take the initiative. It’s not like he doesn’t do anything else around the house – he is pretty responsible about other things – but still. I was away (with the baby) last weekend and asked him specifically to clean the oven (which hadn’t been done in eons). I came home to a beautifully clean oven, but did he think to vacuum, or clean the bathrooms, or anything else that has to be done as part of the regular weekly routine? No. I was super p*ssed off. I want to find a cleaner but can’t seem to get any recommendations for good cleaners who actually have time for another house.

    • Spirograph says:

      This, exactly. My husband will complete assigned tasks, but he apparently thinks we have some resident elves that put away clutter and laundry, wipe the table and kitchen counters, and vacuum up the food my toddler throws on the floor at every meal.

      I still do 80% of the tidying the night before our housecleaner comes (and at all other times), which is frustrating, but keeping the nagging or fighting with my husband about the rest of the cleaning out of our marriage is worth every penny. We found our cleaner through recommendations from our neighborhood listserv/community association; sometimes they can squeeze in an extra house if they’re already in the neighborhood. I agree with the comment below that the first few cleanings are always the best, but we’re happy overall.

  2. greenie says:

    We’re in need of hiring someone BUT I feel that there is so much organizing to do before-hand. We are very tight where we currently live and it feels like there is too much clutter for a professional to be able to actually clean. So how “clean” (clutter-free) does your home need to be for a professional to actually come and clean it? Christmas preparations are not helping the cause one bit.

    • Tunnel says:

      Maybe an example will help: I always have a bunch of products, makeup, etc. out on my bathroom vanity and our cleaning lady always takes everything off the vanity, cleans the vanity, and puts everything back in an organized fashion. I also always have a small pile of mail in the kitchen that she moves that out of the way, cleans the counter, and puts it back. We brought all of our Christmas decorations up from the basement this weekend, but didn’t get a chance to put all of it out. So we had lots of boxes laying around when our cleaning lady came on Monday. Since there were multiple boxes, I didn’t expect her to move them out of the way when cleaning the floors, and she didn’t (she cleaned around them). We also have a shelf with antique collectibles that we have asked her not clean. Hope this helps.

      • greenie says:

        Those are great examples and do help a lot! It’s something we’ll look into in the upcoming year. It’s mostly mydaughters’ toys that are piled here, there and everywhere. But my husband and I also have a bathroom counter top full of products etc. Thanks for your reply.

        • My cleaning-for-the-cleaner routine is similar — we have areas in our home where stuff gathers. The credenza in the living room… the side table next to the couch… the chair in the master bedroom… the kitchen counters and our “drop station” when we first come into the apartment. I started to notice that if I didn’t clean those things when Olga came, they would still be sitting there, in almost the exact same position, two weeks later when she came back. So I started forcing myself to declutter those areas and put things where they belong — odds are good that we don’t “need” them to be out, and there’s a better place for that stuff to be. So I try to declutter those few areas. She could clean without them decluttered, but it adds to the general feeling of clean/calm/peace — and I can find stuff a lot better than if she organized it.

    • Before the baby I always tidied everything up very nicely before the cleaners came. Now it varies how much I am able to do. If there is clutter, they neatly stack/organize things and still clean the surfaces, so it seems like things don’t have to be perfectly neat.

  3. I have a Roomba. It was a splurge but setting it up to vacuum more than once a week is a necessity at our place, with a dog, cat, 2 kids and no mud room. It is just so nice to set it to go when I leave and come home to a vacuumed house. Definitely worth it (and clears up more time for me to do other things since I am no longer dragging the vacuum out)

    • Tunnel says:

      I’m getting a Roomba for Christmas! I’m so excited, and hope it works! I always thought of it as more of gimmick (a robot will clean your house like the Jetsons)…until I saw all of the positive reviews.

    • Anon0321 says:

      I had a roomba in law school and actually hated it (somehow I had inherited it from a friend)– we had too many wires around & it would always get tied up in them.
      I’ve also heard nightmare stories about animals peeing/pooping & roombas going through it and getting it everywhere.
      I wonder if they’ve gotten more sensitive & better in the last 7 years so that this isn’t an issue.

  4. EB0220 says:

    My cleaning person comes today, too!

    I found my current team through my in-laws, who have used them for years. My in-laws are far more meticulous than I am about cleaning, so I knew they would be fine.

    They mop or vaccum floors, clean bathrooms and the kitchen and dust. The put the clean sheets on the beds and empty the trash cans. Occasionally they do a bigger project, such as cleaning the hair out of the drain in the shower (yuck).

    They come every other week, but I’m thinking about changing to every week. With two kids and two messy parents, the house gets away from us pretty quickly. We don’t do a whole lot in the interim – take out the trash, sweep the kitchen, wipe down the table and kitchen counters.

    We had a service before we had kids because we are both seriously terrible at cleaning. Every other week was perfectly fine for the two of us, but our toddler makes a pretty big mess so I think every week would be better.

    In summary, I LOVE having a cleaning service. I would cut many many things out of the budget before getting rid of cleaning!

  5. I’ve had cleaning service on and off since before moving in with the now Mr. and having a baby (It started when my mom was visiting, and my place was even more of a mess than usual thanks to what felt like weeks of back to back travel).

    The first few services I had I found through my apartment or on-line, my current person is an individual who was recommended by a friend. All but the first did a pretty good job cleaning, my only ‘complaint’ is that across the board it seemed the that first few cleanings were much more thorough than subsequent cleanings.

    The Mr. was reluctant at first — claiming it was silly to pay someone to do what we should be doing ourselves, but really we weren’t doing it, and although he kept saying that he would do the cleaning, he never really did. I took that as what he really meant was it was silly to pay someone to do what he thought I should be doing (although he would never admit that). Anyway, my mom once advised me that if you can afford having someone come in to clean, it’s not worth fighting about who should do it. My ardent feminist side is still a little annoyed, but my practical, tired side really just wants clean bathrooms.

    Cleaning is pretty standard — floors, kitchen, dusting, bathrooms, changing sheet, but no laundry.

    Right now she comes every two weeks, the day before is a frantic picking-up spree so that she can clean. Even though I’m on maternity leave now, it takes a lot longer to pick up because of the baby (both stuff-wise and time-wise). The frantic picking up is annoying and sometimes stressful, but so worth it, because really, if we/I weren’t forced to do it, it wouldn’t happen. The Mr. even grumbles a bit about this, but I think he’s now realizing that if we didn’t have the service we’d have to pick up AND clean.

    In theory we try to pick up and clean between cleanings, but really it’s pretty limited to a quick sweep/wipe down of things. There’s no carpet, just rugs, so that makes it a bit easier I think. I’ve thought about bumping it up to every week, but really that seems too frequent, especially when I go back to work and the house is empty the majority of the time. Maybe when the baby is bigger and starts generating her own mess.

  6. Cleaning service, a roomba, and a shark steam mop! I do a load of laundry every day to stay on top of it; clothes, towels, sheets, whatever. That keeps it from piling up.

    I got the best advice from a friend right before my son was born, she said to do dishes and laundry every day and don’t worry about the rest of it. That kept me sane during the early days.

  7. mascot says:

    For reference, 2 working adults, one 4 year old, two shedding dogs and sandy soil in our area that tracks everywhere. We have bi-weekly cleaning. We were doing weekly cleaning, but found that the decluttering before our housekeeper came was too time consuming and our house wasn’t that dirty. We really need cleaning every 10 days but that is another story. Between cleanings, we vacuum the kitchen/family room every 4-6 days and clean the kitchen Our declutter strategy is to clear all the countertops/furniture tops, pick up everything off the floor, and put out clean sheets. Similar to others, the declutter ritual is a necessary evil that prevents us from descending into chaotic clutter.
    We first started with a cleaning service before kids and are really happier not to spend what little free time we have properly cleaning. There are plenty of other house chores/maintenance that we have to do and choose not to outsource.

  8. CPA lady says:

    So far my husband and I haven’t hired anyone. We have a 10 week old and two cats. My husband is almost compulsively tidy and clean. I’m more of a slob, but by no means is our house a wreck. I think what works for us is a combination of a few things:

    1. a roomba
    2. not having a lot of clutter
    3. me repeating two mantras to myself: “put it away, not down” and “clutter is delayed decisions”
    4. my husband is a consistent maintainer who religiously does daily chores while I’m a fast and efficient cleaner who does bigger cleaning projects in one big burst
    5. lowered standards– the house is clean but not crazy clean
    6. a small/moderately sized house
    7. an addiction to the website unf*ck your habitat, which always provides me motivation

  9. Anonymous says:

    So what do you do when your spouse, not your kid, is the cause of the mess? My husband is on a multi-month-long business trip and I’ve noticed that I barely have to clean while he is gone. I wipe down the bathroom counter and mop the kitchen once a week, but otherwise the house stays spotless between my monthly professional cleanings. When he is here, I have to do a complete house cleaning twice a week. I know he is bad about clutter, but I have no idea why the floors and kitchen are so much dirtier when he is around.

    • EB0220 says:

      Same problem here. Drives me insane. I’m not super clean by any means, but I can keep up with my toddler and myself when my husband’s gone. When he’s not traveling, he works from home and is always leaving dishes everywhere, tracking in mud, moving things around. Arrrghh!

    • Midwest Mom says:

      Yep. My only advice is learn to let it go. We have a 3 year old, and I swear, DH is messier than our child! It used to drive me crazy, but I’ve realized that’s who he is, I’m not going to be able to change him, and there’s nothing wrong with clutter (although my mother would disagree). As long as our house is (relatively) clean, I’m learning to let the neatness go unless I want to drive myself crazy trying to keep it that way. Definitely not easy though.

  10. We hired a cleaning service after our second child. The first year with a baby and 2 year old it felt impossible to keep clean, even with the cleaning service, but now that they are 2 and 4 it’s gotten much, much easier to keep everything clean. They bus their own plates and can play by themselves while I take 5 minutes to put things away after dinner. They can also put toys away (under the threat of losing them if they don’t) and that keeps clutter way, way down. I find that doing a little bit every day keeps things overall very manageable in between cleanings.

  11. This is my main question about hiring a cleaning service — do you give them a key to your house? Do you have to be there when they are cleaning? I so want to hire someone, but don’t understand how I’m supposed to let them in. Is everyone else generally comfortable with giving out a key??

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