Reader question… “I have one active duty military husband, 5 kids ages 6 months to 8 yrs, and 2 full time jobs (not a joke). I know I have a lot on my plate and that is what really makes it hard for me to get things done. However, having a DISGUSTING kitchen is NOT an option. I also feel that there is a way to keep my kitchen clean without hiring a maid. All my kids have daily chores they do one of which for my oldest is to wash 1 load of dishes/day. She does this well but we go through at least 2 loads per day because I try to limit our carbon footprint and save money when I can so I don’t use paper plates very often. :) I work from home for both of my jobs WHILE I watch my two youngest children so essentially I run a day care at the same time. Sigh. :) Any ideas of how to GET IN a routine would be much appreciated! I read your post on waking up to a clean kitchen and will start using the HOT WATER IMMEDIATELY technique ;) right away but the problem I find is my night looks like this: Cook dinner with kids running all around (stressful already), serve dinner, eat dinner, plop on the couch like I just ran a marathon when I finish eating and the kids are STILL eating. By the time they finish I am pooped and dreading even LOOKING at the kitchen. I also have a hard time getting around to mopping. Sadly it only happens once a month. (Hard for me to choke that one out just now). It’s disgusting I know. Help!” –Name withheld

Common hollyhock (Alcea rosea)

Perhaps this is not the time in your life where a spotless kitchen with a freshly mopped floor is even possible. Right now your life and your schedule are super busy and full, but children grow up surprisingly fast. They won’t remember if you always had the dishes caught up or if the house was always “perfect”… but they will remember “you”… and the memories you made together during these years. I think you need to give yourself permission to relax your standards a bit… it isn’t always possible to do everything. (I had to learn this the hard way after my back injury.) A happy wife and mommy is so much more important than anything else.

But what do YOU think? How do you choose your priorities when your life and schedules are so full? What suggestions do you have for this reader?

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This may sound sacreligious, but I deal with fibromyalgia, a chronic pain and fatigue disorder, and sometimes when I am too tired or in pain at night to deal with the kitchen I leave it overnight and deal with it first thing in the morning. Not ideal, but it works for me. Rinsing the dishes ahead of time and even leaving the pots to soak overnight makes the mornings not too painful, especially since I am fresh and don’t have the fatigue of the day weighing me down. :)

Amanda B

I have been in a similar situation. After 5+ years of that situation, I now have adrenal fatigue and a thyroid problem. I’ve decided that my health was not worth the paycheck. I gave up the job, re-prioritized and now try to focus on caring for my family.

I realize that is not an option for everyone. It’s not an easy financial option for us, but health is not easy to regain. Here are a few things that I found helped:

Freezer meals – I never had the block of time or energy to do a once-a-month cooking, but I did often try to do a once-a-week round or make double or triple and freeze them for later.

Crockpot meals – The crockpot was a lifesaver for me. I would put dinner in while I was making a morning snack or lunch for the kids. One pot meals save on dishes and cleanup. I really liked Stephanie O’Dea’s website – tons of kid friendly recipes.

For the kids: Older ones can have specific jobs for mealtime (set the table, make a salad, etc.), for the younger ones I would either have them doing a quick clean of the living room or bedrooms, so there isn’t so much to do after dinner.

Mopping: I use the Rubbermaid spray mop and the kids do a lot of the mopping because they have so much fun with it. My 4 year old can run it well. It’s economical and greener to be able to make your own solution too.

On nights I’m really tired, I set the timer and only make myself work for 5-10 mins (This works great with the kids too!). I would just get as much done in those few minutes and the rest waited until I rested for a while or took a shower/bath to relax.

You just have to be realistic. You are not a super woman. No one can do everything. Realize that you have a lot on your plate and while you make your jobs and your children the priority, the house will not be perfect. It’s always a trade-off!


My kitchen floor only gets mopped once a month but I do vaccume a time or 2 in between. I’ve come to accept that and let it go. The floor is patterned so it doesn’t show dirt easily and we keep shoes off in the house.

I would really like a clean house and I try to maintain a certain level because of our indoor allergies. I also need a certain amount of cleanliness and order in the kitchen to start certain cooking/baking projects some days. I like a certain level to maintain my sanity-out of sight out of mind, cluttered home, cluttered mind ;)That’s my desire and I try at times but achieving it…It’s always a challenge and my home is far from spotless.

I have a couple autoimmune diseases and multiple food allergies so I get fatigued and have to cook a lot and have a lot of dishes to wash plus our dishwasher died a few months back. Not a good combo overall. I wake to a sinkful of dirty dishes everyday-they get done after breakfast. My DH and teen son do help, usually whoever washes doesn’t dry and we place them in the “clean” side of the sink and someone else moves them to the counter to airdry in batches and someone else puts them away…all day long. It’s just a constant flow. Maybe not the most efficient system but it saves me energy and spreads the work fairly evenly so no-one feels over burdened. Until we get a new dishwasher, the only time my sink is empty and all dishes out of sight and put away is when company comes. I do still wash a lot by hand even when we have a dishwasher and we still do have to divide the labor.

I trained my son step by step from the time he was young. Took a little extra time and patience but it paid off. I broke up the dish tasks into small steps and also according to his height as he grew. For a while he just had to sort and place dishes on the counter then I would put them up in the cabinets or and/or he just put away things in the drawers and lower cabinets.

Reading this now makes me realize that I need to teach my teen to mop!

I started a couple years ago teaching him some basic cooking jobs for his future benefit but it also helps me. He can prepare rice in the rice cooker and stand and flip pancakes. I set up a breading station and he can bread batches of chicken fingers for freezing. I just get him set up and started and leave him to it while I do other things.

I quit working a while back when we mved to take care of my family and fight my health battles. I’ve never gotten back to work except to do a little tutoring at home. I would like the extra income and stimulation of work but
I can’t do it all and taking care of our heath comes first. Maybe when my son graduates…

Michele C.

I would make the cleaning a game for the kids (and for the adults) Give them each a color and use that for everything – towels, facecloths, toothbrush, plate, cup, bowl. And only one of each for the kitchenware and a couple of the linens. If there is a blue towel on the floor…then you know who is responsible for picking it up. Whatever works for your family, I think it’s important to teach the kids that they will always be participating in a living situation – and need to be responsible for their own things and their own mess. My daughter is graduating in May from college and it would have been a much better experience if the roommates she dealt with had been taught how to take care of their living space rather than everything being done for them when they were younger.

I would also consider how many toys, etc. the kids have (and you have) and if there is a way to store or donate of some things so that the daily tasks of keeping up with the house are not overwhelming. We keep a limited number of glasses and plates upstairs in our kitchen for day to day use and the extras are stored downstairs for company and when we have bigger meals together. Limiting what we use each each day helps to keep things in a manageable state.

A laundry basket for each member of the family (in their color) is also an easy way to quickly gather things that need to be put away and leaves the responsibility on the family member to finish putting their things away – but gives you a place to put things out of the main living spaces when you need them neat.

I’ve personally let things go a bit now that the kids are older and I am working full time – floors get swept when needed – vacuuming when I get around to it and I just try to clean up spots and spills as we go. What matters most is the atmosphere in your home. If it’s fun and loving, the rest of the work gets done eventually. =)