10 steps to a cleaner house for you and your family

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Let’s start out with some honesty: My house isn’t perfect. Certainly not.  It is not even tidy sometimes.  But it is rarely bad enough to be embarrassing or dangerous.  (although if you go in my craft room you wouldn’t continue reading this…I need to take my own advice!)  So clearly, I place a certain level of importance on having a clean home even if only subconsciously some of the time.  To me, having a clean home is worth the time it takes…at least to a certain point. But that might not be the case for you.  Or you might think it is worth the money to pay someone to clean for you.  Or you might be someone who cleans all the time and wants everything exactly perfect.  Any of these things is okay.  You aren’t a bad mom or homemaker or woman no matter where you sit on the cleanliness spectrum.

If you don’t ever want to clean another thing again, fine.  Stop reading this, hire someone to clean for you, and be done with it.  

If, however, you want a few tips for getting family involved in cleaning so you only have to clean sometimes, this post is for you.

The 10 Steps to a cleaner house for you and your family:

  1. Put away 5 items. 
  2. Put 10 things away in each room.
  3. Set the timer.
  4. Stash away.
  5. “3 days and you pay”
  6. Laundry Basket store.
  7. You cook, I clean.
  8. Junk drawers and closets are good.
  9. Keep your sink and counters clean.
  10. find great products.

1. Put away 5 items. Go!

A couple of times a day I yell this to my family and they know the drill.  Put away 5 things.  No, little pencil shavings don’t count.  Make them count!  You would be surprised what gets put away with this little method.  And there’s a whole lot less grumbling about cleaning when you’re only asking for 30 seconds of time.  Try to keep this at a consistent time of day so you don’t drive your family nuts. And if you are lucky, they might just take it upon themselves to start without being told.

2. Put 10 things away in each room!

If the house is getting away from me I do this for a few days…every time I walk into a room I put away 10 items before I walk out.  Every room I walk into gets this treatment.  Yes, sometimes it gets old and I just stay in one room on purpose.  But really…it works, especially for those little things that need to be brought to another part of the house.  If you want to include your whole family, maybe make it just one item in each room.  Every time someone enters a new room, they pick something up. Just one Saturday of this will help your home become much tidier!

3. Set the timer.

Sometimes a room needs more attention then the first 2 steps can offer.  So, I set the timer for 15 minutes.  Whoever is in the house with me cleans hard and fast for 15 minutes in the room that needs the most attention.  Let’s say there are 4 of us.  We all clean for 15 minutes.  1 HOUR! Oh yeah baby!  If your family isn’t used to helping you with the cleaning, you might want to start with setting the timer for just a few minutes and build up.  Remember though, everyone lives in the home and makes the mess together.  There is truly nothing wrong with expecting everyone to help keep it neat and tidy. And 15 minutes is a perfectly reasonable expectation.

4. Stash away.

10 steps to a cleaner house. Tricks for getting your family and kids involoved by NellieBellie

I like pretty stuff.  Sadly, I don’t need any more pretty stuff.  But I often think I do, or that if I give away any of my pretty stuff I will regret it.  So…I stash it. In a box, in a closet, wherever it is out of sight.  Then when I go to clean out the space where it has been stashed, I run across that item again.  If I haven’t needed it or wanted it in that time, I don’t feel badly about getting rid of it. I suggest you try that method…see if you can live without a few things.

 Have a few bins in the garage or a closet where you put things you really don’t think you need, but are afraid you might regret parting with.  Every once in a while, go through the bins and throw out the things you now realize you can part with.

5. “3 days and you pay”

I have 2 kids, a husband, a dog, and 2 cats.  I make enough of a mess all by myself without their help.  But, they are sooo intent on helping make a mess.  Really, I don’t need the help!!!  So we have a little rule.  I’ll ignore the mess, not nag, leave you alone about it…for 3 days.  Then…if I have to tell you to pick it up…you pay me.  Every time I remind you…you pay.  I make enough money every week to pay for my fancy coffee.  They are getting smarter. I make less money.  But at least this way I don’t get so frustrated…I just think about coffee.

6. Laundry basket store.

This is another method for family mess that I use sometimes.  The laundry basket.  Every night at a designated time (keep it consistent and reasonable!!)  everyone’s items need to be picked up.  After that time comes and goes you gather up a laundry basket and proceed to find all items of theirs or that they were responsible for and fill your basket.  At the end of the week they can “buy” that item back.  If it was their responsibility but not their item…they “buy” it.  In my house payment is in the form of chores.

7. You cook…I clean. Vice Versa.

This is just courtesy.  But, it also saves time and energy.  And Momma’s nerves.  And…and…it teaches your kids valuable lessons on teamwork!

I do much of the cooking in our house.  My husband works late hours and I have dinner ready when he comes home.  The kids usually take turns helping with dinner.  Then, after supper, my husband and the kid that didn’t help clean up.  I leave the kitchen so I don’t “hover”…cause I do. It’s bad.  And we leave them to clean.

When a kid cooks for us (it happens sometimes) we clean. Although, the mess they make…it doesn’t always seem fair.  And sometimes, we even have to tell our children that their mess is an unreasonable mess for what they made, and they’ll have to help clean, too.  They’re learning to use fewer bowls, to try not to make a mess all over the counter, to be conscious of the mess they make.  Because they might have to clean it up if they go too crazy.

We believe that it’s important for our kids to recognize the effort that goes into daily activities.  They need to know that cooking and cleaning is hard work.  They need to appreciate when others do it for them.  And they need to learn to do it for themselves and others.  It’s a valuable skill.  And…it’s helps me stay sane!

8. junk drawers and closets are good!

10 steps to a cleaner house. Tricks for getting your family and kids involoved by NellieBellie

I have a junk drawer…or two.  And a closet that is a mess…or two.  They are necessary for me.  I have a day to clean.  I have 10 items that I don’t know what to do with.  I put them in the junk closet, or drawer.  My space is clean.  My brain feels free.  My closet is full.

All is well.

Granted, at some point I will have to clean it.  But maybe by then I won’t want those 10 items anymore.  Remember #4 ?

9. keep your sink and counters clear!

 Nothing is worse for the psyche then seeing dirty dishes and counters.  Something about that that just screams at you.  It’s annoying.  Just keeping your dishes washed and put away can make your entire house seem that much cleaner.  

Reduce the amount of dishes you use when cooking.  Think about reducing the number of dishes you have. Now that we live in an apartment, we have a lot fewer dishes.  We have enough (about) to serve two meals.  That means we run out of clean dishes really quickly; especially mugs (we drink a lot of coffee!).  While this is annoying sometimes, it also means that we never have more than a sink of dishes waiting to be washed.  We don’t have any more!  When we want coffee, and the mugs have run out, we wash them.

Multipurpose items are great!  Especially if they go from oven to table to freezer…score!!  Keep what you use and use often.  Unless you really love them, ignore all the gadgety appliances for the kitchen.  A few basics are most important.  Think about stashing everything else away.

10. find great products!

There are great cleaning products out there that make your job easier!  Cleaners, scrubbers, mops, you name it.  Find what works for you…then abuse the crap out of them!!  I love Mr. Clean erasers, Mrs. Meyers multi-purpose, and plain ol’ baking soda and vinegar.  Swiffers are my friends.  And cold-water Tide is the best invention in my life.

I don’t use much else. No sense cluttering under my sink.  I find what makes my job faster…and do it!

Here’s a great link for natural cleaning solutions!

 Okay, there are 10 steps to a cleaner house for you and your family. What tips would you add?


Nellie is the founder of NellieBellie, and takes basically every photograph you've ever seen on this site. She also runs our web design business, the Savvy Sites Administration.


  1. Heather Luckhurst

    September 26, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    Janel! Love these tips….my hubs always complains that when I cook I dirty every pot and pan in the kitchen….(I do that on purpose so it makes him look like the ‘bettter cook’!!) Am I a no reply blogger?

  2. Bliss

    September 26, 2012 at 7:32 am

    I don’t want to play the put-ta-way game today.


  3. Melissa-TheHappierHomemaker

    September 25, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    Oh my goodness Janel!
    1: I am jealous your kids are old enough to contribute. Mine are 5, 4, and 1 and are much more mess-producing than mess-reducing!
    2: that being said I LOVE your idea of the laundry basket store-my four and five year olds will “get” that-I’ll collect all their items they leave out before bedtime! Yay!
    3: Love the “10 things” and timer tips too-I think my older boys will understand that as well!
    Thanks so much for the tips-seriously you don’t know how badly we need that here!

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