HDYDI: Keep Your House {Semi} Clean with 6 Kids

You hire a housekeeper. HA!



It’s a question I get almost every week and one we heard quite a bit growing up, even though it was just my brother and I. Before I dive into how we do it, I think it’s important to note two things:

1. Everyone’s version of “clean” is different. For some, it’s a bleached bathroom, no dishes in the sink and mopped floors. Others just want things picked up off the floor. And, still others might call it a win if all the toilets get flushed at least once a day. There’s no judgment here. You gotta live in and love your own house, not someone else’s.

2. I thrive on organization. And when things aren’t in their place, I feel extremely stressed. Visual clutter is something I cannot handle but I’ve had to learn to let go of some of my idiosyncrasies because people need to live peacefully in our house.

Okay, with those two disclaimers off my chest, let’s chat about what we’ve learned in the trenches of keeping a house clean while having a big brood. Jaime, this post is for you!

Keeping your house clean with six kids

1. Tame the paper monster. If you don’t, it will tame you. Because our kids are school-age, we have a fair amount of paper coming into our casita. We have several systems in place to help manage all that crazy. When I pick up the mail, I sort it right in the van. The recyclables and junk immediately go in the recycle bin and never even enter our house. Will is my recycle man. School papers are managed in much the same way. They’re either signed, recycled or filed. I have a file in my office that’s used just for that. I also created bins for the kids’ school papers I want to keep and I put papers in them twice a year (December and May). We don’t subscribe to the newspaper, phone books were cancelled years ago, I have a “no soliciting” sign on the door and we pay most of our bills via electronic draft. Invitations and important “don’t forget this paperwork for school” papers are affixed to the magnet board in our laundry room. The kids use magazine holders for their arts and crafts paper and I bought a cheap caddy from HEB to corral all the markers and crayons. Now, I would be a big, fat liar if I told you that I did not have piles of paper in my house. I do. We ALL do. But, we just keep hacking away at them. I’m trying to give myself a pass since Gianna entered the picture. A newborn throws it all out of whack!

laundry room_048

2. Teach your kids how to do laundry – washing, folding, hanging and putting away. It will save your life. True story. We reorganized the closets when we moved in so the kids could put up their own laundry. Hi, game changer! Not only is it helpful for you, but the kids learn the value of teamwork, citizenship and responsibility. That is, if they don’t kill each other in the process.

wiml, blog_015 3. Sunday is our “pick up all this crap” day. We do have a housekeeper that comes once a month, but I suspect in a few years, I’ll cut her loose and move that chore to my kids. I do have sparkling clean toilets because that’s a punishment for sassing in our house. We are ruthless on Sundays. Don’t be afraid to get rid of things. 99.9% of the time you never miss ’em.

4. Deal with stains/spills when they happen. I have a small caddy in our laundry room that houses carpet spot cleaner, Clorox wipes and a water/vinegar solution along with some microfiber towels. I’ve found that having those things easily accessible makes cleaning up messes no big shake. And let’s face it, there are a lot of “no big shakes” happening at our house on a daily basis.

laundry room_040 5. Relegate the sports stuff outside. We did a massive cleanout of our garage last year and it is working beautifully – when people actually remember to use the systems. {ahem, BOYS!} There’s nothing I hate more than walking in my house and seeing soccer cleats, shin guards, mouth guards and clumps of mud all over the tile. Batty. Drives me batty. The hooks outside are helpful because the kids can just hang their bags out there and then pick them back up when we leave for said game or practice.

garage, blog_030 6. Assign chores. Let the bigs help the littles. You’re the mom, not the maid. Everyone has to pitch in and if you ask my kids, they’ll say, “Citizen of the Household duties are awesome,” with a side of eye roll, I’m sure.

chore-chart 7. Labels are your friend. We have them in our toy closet, in our closets, on the movie bins, in the pantry, in the medicine closet and everywhere in between. If you have a designated spot for something, it allows you to see when you’re running low. It also requires you to think about adding something else and often times it keeps you from buying something you really don’t need just because it’s on sale. We pretty much wrote the “for everything there is a place, there’s a place for everything” motto here at our house.

living, after, blog_019

8. Know that some days, weeks and seasons of life will derail your systems. Life happens. Be at peace with your Monica closet. I’ve found it’s easier to tackle the worst offenders first. Say, your after school routine needs some work because your house keeps vomiting paper. Tackle that monster first, then move on to the next. If you try to do it all at once, you will fail. Miserably. It could take lots of days, weeks or months to get where you want to be, but you just gotta start somewhere.

9. Mark it down that the moment you fall off that wagon, all your friends will drop by to visit. Never fails. I’ve also found that if you’re having an event at your house, things magically get done. I feel like saying, “Man, if you were here two hours ago…”

10. But along with #9? Never apologize for the state of your house. You live there. I once read a great reflection on this very thing and I have approached my welcome to the house very differently. It usually starts with, “I hope you don’t mind a crunchy floor because that’s how we roll here.” Love where you live, the messes are a reminder that people you love made them. Once you know your threshold of crazy, then you can find your peace.

Bottom line? Be a team player and take pride in where you live. For me, making people feel at home has always been my charism. Hospitality and southern gals are like biscuits and butter. Happy vacuuming, y’all!


  1. Nicole on September 9, 2014 at 8:19 am

    Love this HDYDI! I’d say we have the hardest time with #1 because hubby picks up the mail and gets the kids home off the bus from school, and things wait for me to deal with after I get home and make dinner and get kids to whatever event they have or homework gets finished. That wait makes the paper pile multiply by 50! We have a pretty good handle on #2. Our #3 day is Saturday morning (when we don’t have a kids’ sports event, then it moves to the afternoon), and we need to figure out a system for #5. I like this all in list form, because you can decide which one to tackle, and realize that it’s one step closer to a cleaner household.

    My grandmother had a sign in her kitchen ever since I can remember (now hangs in my mom’s kitchen). It reads “Dull people have immaculate houses.” I believe that statement 🙂

  2. Jaime on September 9, 2014 at 9:42 am

    Kathryn thank you thank you!! I love getting sneak peeks into how you make it all work – your chore chart was fantastic! Something to remember when the ‘littles’ get to be ‘bigs’!

    • Kathryn on September 9, 2014 at 10:53 am

      Hope it helps. And, remember, the littles can do chores too!

  3. Jena on September 9, 2014 at 10:33 am

    Definitely love getting any tips I can in this department! One day I’ll get it down, but for now, I’m just doing what I can when I can. I go through seasons of motivation…sometimes I’ll set the timer and do as much as I can in 10 min (and then since I”m on a roll, I’ll usually do more). Right now, my motivation is getting some extra steps on my fitbit, so I’ll put stuff away and do chores until I get my net “dot” (=2,000 steps). I think the “having a place for everything” is the biggest thing! It’s so much easier and nicer to clean when there is a place for everything (and not too much to fit), so paring down and finding good places helps big time!

  4. Mary on September 9, 2014 at 11:10 am

    What type of carpet cleaner do you use?

  5. Beth (A Mom's Life) on September 9, 2014 at 11:12 am

    Looks like you have a great system going! Love that chore chart!

  6. Kimberly on September 9, 2014 at 11:47 am

    I’m pretty much the same way. I throw away as much mail as possible before it overtakes my kitchen island. We have stair baskets on the stairs, one for each kid, and we try to empty them on a regular basis (before they start overflowing!). When you have all little ones, it is HARD to keep up the house. I say spend the money on a maid to come 1-2 a month if you can afford it just to keep your sanity. I let mine go 5 years ago, because my kids are old enough to help. When they can empty the dishwasher and put away their own laundry, you will feel like you’ve died and gone to heaven. My oldest (15) does all his own laundry, start to finish…and I’m going to train my 12-year-old soon!

  7. Colleen on September 9, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    This post is awesome and honest! And I will be adding the “cleaning toilets when sass mouthing” to our punishments very, very soon! We will have the cleanest toilets in the neighborhood (3 girls = lots of sass)

    I do love your chore chart, but I noticed that there’s nothing on Luke’s slot. What kind of chores does he help with? I have an almost 4 year old who likes to help but is sometimes just more in the way!

    From one organized soul to another – You Rock!

  8. Heather on September 9, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    LOVE this post!! Beautiful home 🙂

    Please do tell where, oh where, you found that Chore Chart!!!??? I need one desperately!!

  9. Megan Lee on September 9, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    Kathryn this is a great list! I was in the process of finding “homes” for the toys when school started for Anna. Holy Paper Pile Batman! Getting control of the paper piles has just moved to slot #1.
    (One day we will have clean floors, but it is not this day.)
    Where did you get the chore chart? It’s gorgeous and looks totally practical!
    Thanks again for the ideas!

  10. Elise on September 9, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    Love, love LOVE this post! I am with you on the need for organzation, gal! Great ideas, Kathryn. Thanks for sharing.

    • Elise on September 9, 2014 at 4:58 pm

      *organIzation 😉

  11. Verdina on September 9, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    I can’t even keep the clutter in check and I’m the only one living here. There is paper everywhere!

  12. Lori on September 9, 2014 at 10:36 pm

    Love this post!! 😉

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