I can be kind of a perfectionist about certain things, like parties or things I create. But overall I’m a fairly Type-B person. I don’t like to plan, I’d rather wing it, I’m a born procrastinator, and I’m really, really bad at tidying up. I’m very ideas-focused, which makes me good at creating new things, but not so great at completing every task I start, which includes that last step of putting something back after I’ve used it.
I managed fine as a single adult, and even once I got married things were still okay, but once kids entered the picture, it felt like a constant struggle.
I always feel exhausted by the end of the day, and the thought of having to go through the whole house to clean up after bedtime just feels like too much.
So the mess spirals out of control until it gets to a point that I can’t function. Then I rage clean.
Have you ever rage cleaned? Where you just get mad and furiously go around the house cleaning like a crazy person? No? Just me, then? Ok. Well, my husband often gets this concerned look on his face and then rounds up the kids to help clean up as well. Then after hours of cleaning, our house looks spotless…which lasts a day or two, and then we’d enter the spiral again.
But then…I discovered this amazing clean-up hack and it changed my life!
The 4-minute Difference
I attend Morning Mom’s Group at Substance (seriously one of the best things that has kept me sane as a mom!) and one day a mom told me about this trick!
She said that at the end of the day she puts on a “cleaning song”, and then everyone just goes around cleaning up during the duration of the song. At the time I thought, I have to try this! … and then I never did anything about it. For months I forgot about it, until one day I was about to rage clean again and was reminded of it. So I tried it.
And it worked!!
I turned on an upbeat song (and picked the longest one I could find, about 4 minutes long), and my family and I just went around cleaning up as quickly as we could while the song played.
When it was done, I turned to my husband and said, “I can’t believe we didn’t do this sooner!” And then I was mad! Mad that I had been a parent for seven years, struggling with the mess, and then in FOUR MINUTES our living area was completely clean. Four minutes! Who can’t find four minutes between dinner and bedtime to listen to a fun song and clean up together?!
To show you it works, I took some before and after photos of our living room.
This was a day that Bean and I stayed home all day. We have a floor cushion sandwich filled with stuffed animals and other small toys. We have Valentine cards on the floor (because where else would you put them?), an empty bag of cheese curds, slippers, an assortment of small toys, papers of various kinds, my son’s lunch box, and just out of view is a laundry basket of clean, folded clothes that has yet to be put away.
You may look at this photo and think, Good golly, you live like pigs! Or maybe you think, That’s pretty clean! We all have different thresholds for mess tolerance, right? But in any case, this is the reality at my house.
This is what our living room looked like at the end of the song! The song for this night was about 3 minutes and 40 seconds long. You can see that it’s still not 100% clean. There are still a few little things sitting out, but here’s the thing! I find that when we’re all up and cleaning, every one cleans up a little past the end of the song anyway.
So here’s what it looked like after everyone stopped cleaning a couple minutes after the song ended. Sure, it doesn’t look like a magazine, but my house never does. And yet, after this cleaning trick I feel like I can breathe a little better knowing that we won’t compound tonight’s mess on top of tomorrow’s.
Sometimes we spend the whole time in the living room, but some days the kids’ rooms bear the brunt of the mess, so we do it there instead. My kids know now, too, that if they decide not to clean during the clean-up song, there will be TWO clean-up songs that night and that they’ll miss out on more playtime before bed.
So while I can’t guarantee that this will work for your family, I can tell you that it has worked amazingly for ours. That’s why I had to share it, just in case there was even a small percentage of you who could benefit from this method! We’ve been doing it consistently for awhile now and the kids even ask for the clean-up song — Is this real life?
What works to help tame the clutter at your house?
Amber is a wife to her husband, Steve, and mom to her two children, Ethan and Stella. She grew up as a missionary kid in the Philippines and has a degree in literature from Bethel University. She writes about food and creative endeavors at By Amber’s Hands.