Hello, friends and family! If you follow me on social media (Instagram & Facebook) you may have noticed that I gave myself a two week hiatus from technology as a minimalist birthday gift to myself. Withdrawing from daily social media interactions is good for re-calibrating the mind and eliminating the invisible mental static that builds up over time due to prolonged periods of cyberspace overload. It just so happens that at some point in my rejuvenating birthday break, my old faithful Lansinoh pumping bra, having worked overtime for my children through two breastfeeding journeys, decided it would retire to the lonely, dank world of "Bra-zkaban." It leaves behind an irreparably broken zipper and Oxi-resistant milk stains-- the proud marks of a dedicated lactation garment. However, in its untimely departure, it also takes with it the understated luxury of hands-free pumping. Having spent more than I'd like to admit on yummy birthday food and new nursing tanks (it took me two breastfeeding journeys to realize just how worthwhile and liberating nursing tanks are!), the prospect of purchasing another $50+ pumping bra was upsetting to me. And so I did what any "pinteresting" minimalist momma does best: DIY.
Admittedly, I've never been much of a DIY'er. In the past, I've been able to come up with great ideas but my clumsy, artless hands are just not crafty enough to realize my vision to perfection, leaving me with no choice but to abandon my craft in utter frustration and disappointment. I recognize that over-idealism and perfectionism are more of a hinderance than a motivator when it comes to actually completing DIY projects so this is an aspect of my personality that I'm working on. One of my personal development goals this year is to be more resourceful and patient when creating my own solutions to daily hurdles such as hands-free pumping. Thankfully, designing a DIY pumping bra is so simple that even an inexperienced DIY'er like me can do it.
This project only takes five minutes and has saved me a nice chunk of change. What I like best is that it has given purpose to a forgotten cotton night-nursing bra that was taking up space at the bottom of my lingerie drawer. I never liked this bra much for night nursing or exercise but it's nice to see that not every purchase that hasn't met my expectations needs to end up in a donation bin or on an Ebay listing. There's a great sense of accomplishment when implementing thrifty modifications to bring new useful life and practical value to something that didn't spark joy or serve a purpose before.
If you are in need of a hands-free solution to pumping (what multi-tasking momma isn't?), I do hope you'll give this bra hack a try.
What You'll Need
Step 1: Mark
Put on the bra of your choice and adjust your breasts accordingly for a natural fit. Using a marker, mark the location of each nipple.
Step 2: Trace
Place the stem of your flange on the mark you made in Step 1. Trace around the flange with a marker to outline the area of fabric that will be removed in order to create the slits that will accommodate your flanges during pump sessions.
Step 3: Cut
Using a pair of very sharp scissors (such as the kind that seamstresses use), cut over the circle that you traced in Step 2. I personally find it easier to carefully fold the fabric circle drawn onto each "breast cup" in half and cut along the lines as if it were a semi-circle. Whatever your approach, when finished, you should have two circular slits in each "cup" of the bra.
Step 4: Pump!
"Look, ma! No hands!"
Put on your re-imagined lactation bra, insert your flanges, and pump away as you enjoy a matcha latte and avocado toast, page through a good book, watch Youtube videos, or write for your blog. Lord, my "millenial" is starting to show...
I'll be posting another quick, easy five-minute DIY (DIY Under Five) in the coming days so come back and visit soon!
This past weekend saw the close of my latest interior design project: our office play nook. I never saw myself as the type of mom to give my kids a playroom, especially not in our modestly sized home. The advent of the whole playroom thing is a maximalist American trend that milks the excess of space in oversized suburban homes for what it's worth; playrooms aren't the norm in most other countries. Admittedly, most suburban homes in the U.S. are blessed with more square footage than an average sized family knows what to do with, hence, all the non-essential luxury spaces like: walk-in closets, guest rooms, offices, man caves, and, you guessed it, playrooms. Granted, I'm sure that there are plenty of smaller scale American homes that can afford to sacrifice certain spaces for the nonessential purposes of childhood recreation. Ours is an example of the latter, a home that covers our family's needs beyond measure without being incongruously huge; we are a family of four after all, and our open-concept 1400 square foot townhome is comfortable enough to grant us the luxury of personal space while keeping us close together all the same. We don't need more than that and could honestly live with less.
Our home is a standard 3 bed/2.5 bath, and because our children are still quite young, they will be room-sharing until their personal needs for privacy increase, freeing up one room in the house which, up until recently, was used exclusively as an office/workspace. Now, if you read my kid clutter post, you know that one of my secrets to controlling kid clutter is by creating play nooks throughout the more frequently inhabited areas of the home, play nooks that are easy to tidy and aesthetically harmonious with the home's design. In our case, the two areas in which we spend most of our day are the living room (downstairs) and the office (upstairs).
That said, we didn't have such a play corner upstairs which often led to file boxes being opened, office supplies being displaced, and electronics being mishandled at the curious hands of our two year old. My husband and I spend a fair amount of time in our office space. For him it's a place to pore over legal documents, communicate with clients, and advance his secondary career as a writer. For me, it's where I grade papers, plan lessons, write blog posts, and pump (usually while doing all of the above). We never leave our children downstairs without supervision (or anywhere for that matter), so we take them with us to the office when we need to work. Given the time that we spend up there, it's important that we share this space peacefully with our children.
The play corner strategy has proven to be an effective one for adulting in harmony with toddling toddlers; the play table in our living room keeps our two year old from exploring our very interesting kitchen cabinets and scaling our oh-so-climbable bookcases. Very rarely do I find myself redirecting in this area of our home so in order to achieve this same effect in the office, we'd need to create a play nook there too. I decided that the play nook would need to be entertaining enough to keep her from venturing into our workspace. It would also need to be gender neutral for baby brother to grow into, take up relatively little real-estate in the way of square footage, and run on lots of imagination fuel, maximizing the pretend-play possibilities well beyond their toddler years. And, because I'm a self-proclaimed design snob, it would have to look whimsical enough for children without being too cringy for adults.
After much brainstorming, pinning, visualizing and ultimately putting it all together, here are the results...
Throughout most of my home I've stayed within a muted color palette of soft grays, whites, and varying shades of taupe with selective pops of divergent color. However, I decided that for the sake of making this play nook the happiest little place in the house, I myself would play outside of the comfort zone of my usual color choices. I'm quite satisfied with the synergy of the colors and patterns that I chose. I love the interaction between the cool, soothing mint and warm, cheery coral; these soft pastels add color without being loud and overstimulating. The pattern play between the tribal print on the teepee and the rugby stripes on the area rug keeps things visually interesting without getting too busy. The result is that perfectly balanced sweet spot between playtime and downtime.
I chose as the centerpiece of the play nook, a trendy mint teepee with a subtle southwestern pattern. The selection of a teepee over another play table or a mini playhouse was intentional. The teepee, much like the play table downstairs, is a natural gathering point, which means most of the active play time and toy clutter will gravitate towards the teepee and not all over the office floor. In addition, it has that "grow with me" quality that I look for in larger ticket children's items; I can see the teepee evolving with my children as they go from playing "house," to having sleepovers, to using it as a cozy reading/study nook. Heck! Even I love hanging out in this teepee and I'm well into my twenties.
I dressed up the teepee with a few throw pillows, one on each side to hold open the flaps of the entryway. These pillows make the teepee an even cozier place to snuggle up with a good book or have an afternoon tea party with a few stuffed animal friends. I particularly love the way the messages on these pillows align so perfectly with the notion of exploration and happiness through imagination. Within the teepee, I've placed a "hot air balloon"canvas bin that holds their "upstairs toys" and a couple of cuddly blankets. When not in use, the toy bin is tucked away discretely in the corner of the teepee.
On the main wall we hung 18 inch white wooden letters that spell out the very function of the nook, defining the space and setting it apart from the office function of the room. They were a pain to hang, as the holes on the backs of the letters were poorly planned but my tenacious and clever husband overcame the impractical design. And I'm glad he did, as I really like the way that the letters add dimension to the wall without outshining the pieces in the forefront.
I added a sense a whimsy to my children's personalized reading chairs by accenting them with these fun cloud and sun pillows. The chairs are the regular-sized Pottery Barn Kids Anywhere Chairs, which I happened to catch on sale. I wouldn't recommend purchasing without a generous coupon, as they are overpriced. These chairs come in three different sizes. I chose to go with the medium size because the smallest looked like it wouldn't last past the toddler years and the largest was not significantly larger than the regular chair. I've personally sat in my kids' Anywhere Chairs and I find them to be supportive enough for my adult height and weight, comfy even, so I expect that these will be "grow with me" type items that can be used for years to come.
At the far left corner of the nook, I've styled the narrow vertical wall space with a playful unicorn head, a vibrant "Happy Place" sign, and a whimsical cloud-shaped bookshelf. The shelf is quite stable but I wouldn't load it up with much more than a small selection of books as it isn't designed to hold a lot of weight. I rotate the books from the nursery library weekly so that the selection on the cloud shelf is always fresh for teepee time.
By far, my favorite design choice for styling the teepee has got to be these LED fairy string lights. They were fairly inexpensive and do not need to be plugged into any outlets. I simply wrapped them around the poles and let them hang down the sides of the teepee fabric. My daughter loves turning them on at night before bed; it makes story time so much more magical and "hyggelig."
Perhaps having a play nook like ours does not align with minimalism in the strictest sense but it does align with a few of the principles of domestic minimalism: the intentionality of surrounding yourself only with things that bring you joy and setting strict limits on clutter. We've been mindful to avoid filling this space with an excess of toys by limiting toy storage to one modest toy bin (if the toys don't fit, it's time to declutter). Unlike most playrooms, the idea behind our nook is not to house an abundance of toys; toys are not the main attraction. It's the teepee and reading chairs that are the true stars of the play nook, acting as the launch pad for the most minimalist plaything children have: imagination.
I hope this tour of our play nook has inspired you to take on some new creative design projects in your home, for yourself or for your children. Thank you as always for your readership.
Clutter-free and toddlers don't usually come together in the same sentence, much less in the same room. But it doesn't have to be this way. Whenever family or friends come to visit I often hear them say, "Do your kids have toys?" and "Do kids even live here?". The answer to these is: yes and yes. Yes, my kids have plenty of toys. And, yes, they live here. But the fact that we have small children doesn't have to be self-evident in every space of our home. Here are my tips for keeping "kid clutter" under control.
1. Keep Toys Hidden in Plain Sight
I'm going to start with the cleverest clutter-busting tip on this list, the one that has saved our home from looking like one giant play zoo: invest in furniture that serves a dual purpose, its hidden function being storage. All of our "toy boxes" have both an adult function and a child function. For instance, we don't own a coffee table in our home. Instead, we use a large faux leather storage ottoman as our "coffee table." It also doubles as a foot rest or extra seating when we have lots of guests over. But perhaps the best kept secret is that our ottoman is home to my toddler's larger ticket toys like her dollhouse, cars, trucks (yes, girls can play with trucks!) and a number of stuffed animals. And since it's made of a wipeable faux leather material, it also functions as our downstairs diaper changing station. Three functions in one.
We swiped up this ottoman at Home Goods for under $100 when we were furnishing our honeymooners' apartment way back in our newlywed days. Back then, it was primarily used as our "Netflix and Chill" foot rest or seating for when my husband and I used to do some gaming after dinner, you know, before children happened. Little did we know 6 years later we'd be finding so many new uses for it!
Another example of the functionality of a dual-purpose storage piece is this tufted bench I picked up at Walmart for a little over $50 when we first moved into our house. I've seen similar benches at Home Goods and Target at reasonable price ranges. I chose to style this little bench with a few coordinating throw pillows to make it more "hygge." I've also accented it with a framed reproduction of my favorite Klimpt, a tapestry that my husband and I picked up at a busy Florentine market years ago on our Italian honeymoon. This sentimental artwork aggrandizes the tiny bench that would otherwise get lost in the long, empty vertical space above it (we have 11 foot ceilings downstairs). For adults, this is a cozy little spot to page through a book from our nearby bookcase. For our children, this is the place where major playtime decisions are made. The space blends so seamlessly with the rest of the house that there is no way you'd ever guess that this is my daughter's primary toy box!
Within the bench, I've sorted out my kids' smaller toys by type and placed them in clear plastic bins that are easy to grab and put back. As a rule of thumb, I don't let my daughter play with with more than two boxes at the same time. She would have to put everything back in the boxes and deposit them back into the "toy chest" before grabbing a new box. These bins have been a major play time game-changer. Before we got them, picking out all these Peppa Pig figurines and Fisher Price Little People from the bottom of the bench was a dreadful undertaking! She'd literally have to empty the whole bench just to find the "Happy Birthday" Peppa or "Skye" from Paw Patrol. The bins have seen to that. All that's left to do is label them.
If you don't have storage furniture you can always find creative uses for furniture that you already own. The lower drawers in your TV cabinet or a beautiful basket at the bottom of your end table can serve as good places to store toys away.
Aside from toys, another source of "kid clutter" that I like to keep out of sight when not in use is the diaper caddy. Containing diapers, burp cloths, toiletries and clothes in one place such as a caddy or basket is a good idea but an even better idea is to keep it somewhere accessible when needed but hidden in plain sight when not in use.
I like to "hide" our diaper caddy on the bottom shelf of an end table in our living room, where I spend most of the day with my kids. The end table is also very close to the storage ottoman that I love to use as a makeshift changing station.
2. Invest in Quality Play Furniture
I know it may be tempting for a frugal minimalist to want to purchase a budget-friendly plastic play table in loud colors that may or may not have popular preschool characters on it. And a more extreme minimalist mother may forgo the play table altogether and that's cool. If you're either of these types of mommas, do you, girl! You know your family's needs best. As for for me, I find that I'm somewhere in between. I want my kids to have a play station where I can "contain the chaos" and keep the clutter off of the floor. But I also want it to be aesthetically pleasing because, quite frankly, I'm a home decor brat. I'm the reason companies like Pottery Barn Kids and The Land of Nod exist! I'm selfish, like pretty things, and can't bear to let Disney and Sesame Street furnish my home.
The play table I chose to give my daughter for Christmas is the Pottery Barn Kids Carolina Grow With You Activity Table. Yes, a pricey choice, I know. But I was very intentional about this purchase. I wanted to invest in a table that is not only beautiful, blending seamlessly enough with our home that we wouldn't need to hide it or "tolerate" it, but also one that would grow with our children. The Carolina table has been a wonderful choice because of its height and upgradable features. The height of the table and chairs is comfortable enough for my daughter and I to play for hours. The wood is definitely sturdy enough to support an adult. I can attest to this as my daughter enthusiastically seats every grandparent, aunt, and uncle that visits at her table. Perhaps the best part is that when my kids outgrow the pretend play phase, we have the option to evolve it into a homework/study station.
You certainly don't have to go the pricey Pottery Barn route. Companies like Target, Ikea, and Melissa & Doug offer beautiful, high quality play tables at much lower price points. But if you do decide to go through Pottery Barn Kids, make sure you wait for a 20-25% coupon with free shipping to get the most bang for your buck. It certainly reduced the price of our table significantly!
The take-home message of this tip is to look around for play furniture that doesn't make you cringe, that fits into your space without creating visual clutter (like a brightly colored character themed table might), and blends seamlessly with your decor. We chose to go with a white table because our home has a lot of white accents. But if your home is furnished with natural wood-grain textures, an unpainted wood table might be a better option for you. Find what makes you happy so that you don't feel like you need to wince every time you look at it, especially when you're trying to soak in you home's ambiance. Your kids honestly won't care what it looks like so long as they have a little place in your family room to claim as their own.
3. Create Simple and Elegant Play Nooks throughout your Home
Once you've invested in some quality play furniture and identified hidden storage solutions around your home, it's time to create play nooks in the main areas of your home. Simplicity is key here because in order to keep clutter under control, the play nook needs to be sensibly styled so that it is easy to tidy. We live in a bilevel home and spend most of our day in the family room so logically, this is the best location for our downstairs play nook. The play table currently sits by a corner window of the family room, a short distance from the storage ottoman and the tufted bench (from Tip #1) so all my daughter has to do is walk over to either of these, choose the toys she wants to play with, and take them to her table. Here she plays with her dollhouse, has tea parties, reads books, and colors. The possibilities are endless! However, the playtime chaos is confined, for the most part, to this corner of the family room, which makes tidying up at the end of the day fast and easy.
Upstairs, I'm currently creating another play nook in the office, where my husband or I spend a good portion of our evenings, writing, working, grading papers, lesson planning, etc. In our current home, a modest 3 bed/2 bath, we don't have a spare room to designate as the "playroom" nor do we want one because it is a better use of space to combine the play space with the office so that the kids are under constant supervision while we work. Since this particular play nook is completely separate from the more formal areas of the home, such as the family room and dining room, I've chosen to go with more color here while still keeping it simple, elegant and minimal. In the current image, the play nook is still missing a few finishing touches. There will be a future post on how the office play nook turns out so stay tuned!
4. Donate and Declutter Regularly
Finally, it's always a good idea to regularly assess what we've accumulated, what gets used regularly and what has fallen out of use, that way, we don't have to worry about clutter overcoming our carefully planned storage systems and play nooks. I often hear parents complain about how the toys are always out in the open because there simply isn't enough room in the toy box or playroom anymore. If this is happening to you and the kid clutter is robbing you of your inner domestic peace, it's time to assess how many toys there are in total, which ones get played with and which ones are played out.
My children are two and under so I am presently in direct control of which toys we keep and which ones we donate. Regular decluttering prevents the quantity of toys from building up. As a rule of thumb, any occasion in which toys are received, such as Christmas and birthdays, are used as opportunities to declutter. Whenever our children receive a gift, we go through the toys they already own and see what can be donated to make room for this new toy. Kids grow so fast at this stage that there's always at least one toy they've outgrown. Same goes for clothing but wardrobe management is a topic for another day.
If your children are old enough to make responsible decisions about their belongings, get them involved in the process of going through each toy or game, deciding how often each one gets played with and determining if it holds any sentimental value. Some things may not be played with often but may trigger a strong emotional response, such as a fond memory of the person that gave it to them. It's important to be able to distinguish between honoring the sentimental value of a certain toy and justifying the hoarding of toys that no longer "spark joy," as organization guru, Marie Kondo, would say. The decluttering process is a lesson in mindfulness. It's a lesson in gratitude, in acknowledging the good fortune of simply having objects that bring us joy. It's also a lesson in giving up some of what you have for the happiness of others and not holding onto more than what you need to be happy. It's a lesson I wish I'd had more hands-on opportunities to learn as a child but that I hope to share with my own children when they are old enough to understand.
It is my sincere hope that even one of these tips has been helpful to anyone struggling with reclaiming their inner domestic peace amid the wonderful chaos that is "kid clutter." Thanks for your readership.
Before I got married, had children, and bought a house, I was not a particularly tidy person and didn't have cleaning habits under my belt. On the contrary, I was something of a hoarder. The walk-in closet of my apartment was embarrassingly full to the brim with clothes and shamefully lined to the top with shoes. My kitchen cabinets were also quite an anomaly, bursting with china and niche cooking gadgets I would never ever use. It's a wonder they even stayed shut. To make matters worse I hated cleaning and avoided doing so at all costs... that is, until the house was unbearably filthy, at which point, what would have been a 1 hour job became a weekend-long project. But shortly after we moved into our very own home, the clutter bug in me moved out.
The South Florida housing market was and still is hotter than the innermost circles of hell, so as you can imagine, it was an uphill battle all the way up until closing day to purchase our humble fixer-upper townhome, a tattered foreclosure that hadn't been occupied since 2008 and that happened to be situated in a quiet, well-manicured community. It wasn't turn-key by any means. It was missing some appliances. Some of its door knobs were rusted over and the kitchen cabinet knobs were missing altogether. The bathrooms hadn't been cleaned since the original owners moved out and all the closet doors were either broken or falling off the hinges. The house was in desperate need of TLC. It had been through a lot. But then again, so had we.
Given the herculean challenges that we had to overcome in order to become homeowners, I silently vowed upon signing that contract that I would channel all of my gratitude to the heavens and all of my homeowner's pride into bringing this home to the most beautiful and pristine condition it has ever been in and keeping it there. This house WILL sparkle, damn it! My cleaning routine is, therefore, a very personal ritual. As I clean each area of my home, I reflect on how fortunate I am to have a beautiful home to clean and how keeping it this way brings my family and me so much joy. I want my husband and children to come home every day and feel that love in every tidy corner of our home, no, our sanctuary.
That said, I'm not a slave to our house by any means. What I do, I do out of love and gratitude, but it helps to keep my homemaking habits sustainably simple and effective, in other words, minimalist. So without further ado here is my weekly task list:
1. Clean all Surfaces and Decor
I kickstart my task list by dusting and wiping down all the countertops, appliances, bookshelves, decorative pieces, lamps, mirrors, and furniture in our home. It may seem like a lot of work to start but it this step is what keeps me in tune with how much we've accumulated. Of course, this task is much easier to do when surfaces are almost bare, which is a great reason to keep clutter at a minimum. As a domestic minimalist with a love for interior design, I'm not the type that can go without any decor at all so most of my surfaces have at least one item on them that brings me joy. As a rule of thumb, I limit myself to a maximum of three decorative items per surface, usually fewer.
I use a microfiber cloth and a tried and true multi-purpose cleaning spray, such as the Method French Lavender Multi-Surface spray (which is kinder to wood pieces than vinegar but just as kind to the environment), on all furniture and surfaces to disinfect the areas. I also try not to neglect light switches, door knobs, and cabinet knobs during this phase.
It is important to take this time to reflect on how the items and furniture surrounding me make me feel. If I find that I no longer enjoy cleaning a particular piece or that looking at it no longer brings me a happy, cozy feeling no matter how I style it or where I place it, I know it is time to set it in the donation bin where it may someday reach a family that'll love having it in their own home.
The dust that was removed from surfaces and decor during the dusting and wipe down phase will have now settled onto the floor and is ready to be removed permanently with a vacuum. I prefer the vacuuming method for this step but if you don't own a vacuum cleaner (you should!), you could sweep or use a dry mop, such as a Swiffer, with a microfiber cloth attached to the mophead. My Bissell vacuum has settings for different types of flooring, which works brilliantly in our home since our first floor is tiled and our second floor is carpeted. We also have a 7 x 10 medium-pile area rug in our family room that needs regular vacuuming. I use the "bare floors" setting for my tiled areas, the "heavy carpet" setting for the upstairs, and the "medium carpet" setting for the area rug.
3. Steam Mop
Once the floors are free of dust, crumbs, hair and all other lovelies the vacuum obliterates from our home, I go in with my steam mop. You could mop the old-fashioned way, like I used to for years, but I've found it extremely liberating to get rid of my wooden stick mop, bucket, old shammies, and jugs of harsh floor cleaner (looking at you Fabuloso and Mistolín!), all of which cluttered up the cleaning closet more than it should. It was also an extremely ineffective method of cleaning, as the water and shammies needed to be changed often and the floors took forever to dry between the 2-3 rinses required for a "decent" clean.
A steam mop really simplifies the art of mopping. Not only is it effortlessly quicker and easier on your back, but it is also much more hygienic. It bears mentioning that steam cleaning is ultimately better for the environment, requiring much less water and minimizing household use of harsh chemical cleaners which are some of the biggest culprits of domestic pollution. Fortunately, you don't have to spend hundreds of dollars on a decent steam mop. I got my Bissell steam mop from Macy's for under $90 and tacked on a 25% off coupon to bring it down even more. Money well-spent.
Although the steam alone does a fantastic job, for bonus points, I like to squirt a little bit of vinegar or eco-friendly floor cleaner on each area and then go over it with the steam mop. The heat of the mop really works the cleaning agent into the floors without leaving a film. It also makes it easier to wash the mop pad later. My current favorite store-bought cleaner for this "bonus step" is the Method Lemon Ginger Squirt + Mop.
Perhaps the most rewarding part of steam mopping is that glorious moment when you remove the microfiber pad only to reveal that your "passably clean" floors were in fact covered with a layer of gray filth indiscernible to the naked eye.
By laundry, I am not referring to washing my family's clothes and linens. With two under two, I'm doing laundry every other day and would never ever dream of saving it all for cleaning day, especially considering that everyone's wardrobe has been purged to the point where we can't wait until we are down to our last outfit. Laundry on this list refers to cleaning all of the soiled steam mop pads and microfiber cloths. I like toss all these items into the washer along with kitchen textiles and bath mats. I then proceed to run a hot, heavy cycle with detergent, vinegar and several drops of antimicrobial tea tree oil, which is the key to keeping the washing machine from smelling unpleasant or developing mildew over time.
5. Bathrooms: As far as bathrooms go, my husband usually takes care of that for me. It's probably because I've been pregnant/nursing for nearly two years consecutively. However recently I've gotten back into doing it myself. I like to use a homemade solution of baking soda, dish soap and essential oils like lemon, grapefruit and tea tree and work it into the tub and tile with a dense sponge. Then I give it a good rinse and dry it down with some clean towels. I also use a solution of baking soda, vinegar and disinfecting essential oils to scrub our toilet bowls clean. (Tea tree oil works especially well in the toilet bowl!) Our cabinet surfaces and sinks are maintained daily since I usually wipe them down before bed every night with multi-purpose cleaner and a microfiber cloth.
And that's all there is to it. The whole routine takes me about 1-2 hours to complete in my 1400 square foot home. The key to getting it done so quickly is sticking to a daily tidying routine that maintains the house in good order between deeper cleanings. It would take a lot longer to complete these chores if the house weren't already picked up and tidy to begin with. (I'll have a separate post going up about establishing a daily tidying routine very soon.)
I used to set a weekly "cleaning day" for myself but because of the mentally and physically draining nature of teaching coupled with the unpredictable nature of toddlers, I find I need to be more flexible about this. One week it may get done on a Monday, another week it may be a Wednesday thing, and some weeks the tasks get broken up across several days. What matters is that it gets done.
Contain and Entertain: How to Clean with Toddlers
So how does one carve out weekly opportunities to clean with two young, dependent children? I like to follow the foolproof principles of "Contain and Entertain" or "Zone Denial" as my husband calls it. (Personally, I like my terminology better, as it's a little more benevolent).
My son is still quite young so it's a hearty nursing session and off to the Rock 'n Play with him. My daughter, on the hand, is two and a half so the principles of "Contain and Entertain" currently apply best to her, especially that "Entertain" bit. When she was younger, I "contained" her in a Pack 'n Play and "entertained" her with some toys that only came out while I cleaned. Now that she's older, I sit her in the high chair with some paper and Color Wonder markers or I give her a tablet and load her favorite nursery rhyme app. The point is to contain her in a safe place where I can keep her away from the cleaning products and outlets I need to access temporarily.
In addition to keeping her busy with special activities, I also like to talk to her while I'm getting the house clean. I describe in simple, direct language what it is that I'm doing and why it's important. I find that as she gets older and observes my habits, she wants to help out more. On more than one occasion I've caught her grabbing kitchen towels to wipe down her own messes whenever her sippy cup leaks. She's even offered to help me dust and wipe down her play table. The "maestra" in me loves that I get to use my cleaning routine as a teaching moment. I want my kids to grow up knowing the value of taking good care of their belongings and living spaces, as these are all blessings that don't always come easy (Lord knows it wasn't easy for us!) and for some, unfortunately, may never come at all.
What is your cleaning routine like? How do you make it simple and sustainable?
Thanks for sticking with me until the end of this post. Until next time, ciao!
About la maestra:
Bienvenidos! Bem-vindos! I'm Ali, a World Language maestra from Miami who went from hard-core maximalist to soft-core minimalist upon becoming a mother. The flexible form of minimalism that I practice, domestic minimalism, allows me to run my household efficiently and foster a home free of clutter and full of joy for my whole family. This is where I record my experiences as a wife, working mother of two, and homemaker. Thanks for stopping by.