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The Cleaning Schedule of a Working Mom

The cleaning schedule of a working mom and how she keeps her house clean, tidy and running semi-smoothly. Filled with tips, tricks, and adaptable ideas.

laundry on an outdoor clothesline

Let’s just start off by saying I don’t have all the answers.  I don’t even have five of the answers.  What I do have is a system that works for US.  Our system is not a reflection of what is right or wrong or anything like that. How we do things is not an indicator that you need to do it the same way. Got it? Cool. Let’s move on.

As the daughter of people who like “stuff”, clutter makes my boobs sweat.  Growing up, no horizontal space was safe from a heap of something.  Every shelf, counter, or piece of furniture was covered in do dads, decoration, or crap.

I’m Type A (for those of you who know Meyers Briggs, I’m ESFJ), and my brain cannot focus when I am physically surrounded by clutter.  A friend, upon seeing my house for the first time, described my decorating style as “you know what the homes look like AFTER the producers come in on the show Hoarders”.  It takes me years of living in a place before I’ll hang pictures because plain white walls are so soothing to my soul.

About 90% of the time, if you walked into my house without warning, I wouldn’t be embarrassed.  The other 10% of the time is when of course you would actually come over.  I’m like Monica from Friends in that I do have a spare room full of stuff, but let’s be clear, the rest of the house is pretty orderly and tidy.

In this day and age, everyone is busy.  I can’t think of a single person I know without a busy schedule.  I am no exception: I’m gone from the home about 10.5-12 hours a day, my weekends are never restful, and for the last four years, my husband has been gone four to six days a week (overnights included).

The good news is, Gwyneth Paltrow has “wisely” pointed out that my life as a working mom is way easier than her life as an over-paid actress with a whole fleet of staff.  Because as she put it, working women have time in the morning to get things done.  And I totally do; waking up at 4:30 am to get everything done is such a treat! I am living the freaking dream.

A pristine home doesn’t fit neatly into my life, but a tidy home is possible.  Read on for a few tips and tricks that have been developed to work for me over the years.

The Cleaning Schedule of a Working Mom

1) Choose a tidy house over a clean house
Stay with me on this one.  I know you’re ready to bolt because it seems gross, but keep reading, please!  By keeping my house tidy, I’m more able to see when it is dirty, thus motivating me to clean it.  And if push comes to shove, if someone pops by unannounced, at the very least my house is tidy.

2) Be a truck driver
I once worked at a restaurant in Moscow, Idaho that was crazy popular for their “ladder night” of beers; a mini, small, medium, large, and then an entire fishbowl (an actual fishbowl) of Bud Lite for $7.95.  God bless America…or “Merica.

The place was always crazy, and woefully understaffed.  We didn’t have any expediters (people who help plate the food, get soups and salads ready, etc.,) or bussers; you did everything yourself.  Everything but cook. It was CRAZY on a Friday and Saturday night during football season.

My boss always said “be a semi-truck driver”, i.e., never walk around with an empty load.  Never come back to the kitchen without dirty dishes, and never go out into the dining room without a pitcher to refill drinks or clean silverware for the cutlery bucket (that is for my three Canadian readers).

This has served me so well in keeping a home tidy. I never walk downstairs without a basket of laundry to toss in the washer, or clean canning jars from the dishwasher to store in the basement. And I never go upstairs without a load of clean laundry, a bag of groceries, etc. I swear it sounds so crazy, but once you allow this to become second nature, your efficiency will skyrocket.

Trust.

3) Get rid of cable/turn off the TV.  
What in the world does that have to do with a clean house???  Everything and nothing.  When Troy was laid off (April Fools Day 2010 – NOT FUNNY), we did everything to cut costs, but cutting cable was one of the hardest things we did.  Looking back, I have no idea why it was so hard to pull that trigger, but I think I felt like some weird person for not having 479 channels.

The day our cable was finally shut off was a turning point for my productivity. I suddenly remembered that there was life without HGTV and the Food Network. Instead of watching people make food, I started making it myself. Instead of watching people talk about saving money, I saved my own by turning off the stupid machine.  I still watch almost everything I want to watch, but more cheaply and on my laptop or on our Roku.

4) Laundry
I “do” laundry almost every single day.  I start a load either in the morning, or right when I get home from work.  After Jack has gone to bed, I hang it up on my three drying racks.

The next evening, I throw everything in the dryer with a wet rag or dryer balls (hee hee) for about 10 minutes to get the “crunch” out, and then I fold it.  Actual hands-on time; about 5-15 minutes a day.  I’d much rather have perpetual laundry than try and get it all done on a weekend day, and feel tethered to my laundry room.  I know many people who feel overwhelmed by the mountain of laundry that greets them each weekend.  While I don’t adore doing laundry on the daily, the actual work I have to put into it is very small.

I keep a metal tub on our fireplace hearth by my kitchen to throw kitchen rags in since I go through them so quickly.  When the bucket is full, it gets a nice wash.

a green metal bin with dirty rags it in sitting on bricks

For more laundry tips, check out this post.

5) Floors
We have a mix of disgusting rental house carpet, Pergo, and tile/linoleum (in the bathrooms).  After this summer’s remodel to accommodate my parents moving in, we’ll have hardwood upstairs, and carpet in the bedrooms (barf). We’ve had all hardwood before, and I highly prefer it, but I have allowed the carpet as a concession to my darling spouse. (update: I got all hardwood. )

My goal (read as goal, and not something that always happens) is to vacuum the whole house once a week.  In our $1,500 a month teeny 600 sq ft Los Angeles apartment, I would just have to plug the vacuum into one outlet the clean the whole place. Currently, it takes me about 30 minutes to do a quality job.  We have a 5-year-old Hoover Windtunnel and it’s been really decent for us. (update: we got a Shark and it is the best thing ever).

In February, I posted about wanting a cordless vac for quick clean ups.  I ended up buying this one from Costco with my yearly rebate (FYI, that is an Amazon link, but if you have Costco, the same vacuum was $25 cheaper there).

This cordless vac is everything I could want and more.  I took it to work before a big event because we had to make sure our offices were spotless, and three of the employees fell so hard in love with it, that THEY went out to buy one.  Did I mention part of it detaches to become a dust buster?  Oh hell yes, I love that thing.

For mopping, I use a Bissell steam mop, and have used it and like it for years. Works great on the Pergo, the linoleum in Jack’s and the downstairs bathroom, and the tile in our bathroom.

6) Bathrooms
The goal here is once a week.  Sometimes it is less, and sometimes it is more.  I use baking soda to scrub the toilet and sanitize it with plain white vinegar or Bac Out, an awesome product made by Biokleen, which is made in Washington State. Counters, sinks, and the surfaces of the toilet are cleaned with homemade surface spray.

When I need a quick clean, I use my three minute bathroom cleaning routine.  I deep clean the bathrooms probably every other time I clean.  Deep cleaning involves tubs, showers, baseboards, etc.

7) Dishes
I can’t handle a dirty kitchen left overnight.  The idea of having to wake up in the morning to clean it just stresses me out.  We use the dishwasher because it saves more water than washing by hand, but I do totally wash by hand as well when I am cooking large batches of something.

I clean as I go when cooking, and sometimes that creates a lot of dishes.  If I have used my oven during my cooking session, I throw any oven-proof dishes on the oven racks to “air dry” using the free heat. Now, if only I could remember to check the oven before preheating it the next day…

With the dishwasher, I run it when it is completely full (my version of full, not Troy’s in which there are three dishes put in there half-assed) immediately after dinner on the energy saving mode. When it is done, I open the door and pull out the racks to dry overnight, making sure I turn all the lids so that they can drain.  By morning, everything is dry, and I didn’t spend the extra money to use electricity to dry them.

8) Dusting
We’re supposed to dust?  Oh, my…

Honestly, I rarely do.  That’s terrible, I know!  But, when I do, I skip the expensive bottles of store-bought stuff and simply use inexpensive Homemade Dusting Spray.  When I have extra thirsty wood, I use a clean terrycloth towel to rub pure olive oil into the wood a little bit at a time. Here is a scratch on an old buffet I found at a garage sale for $15 (that later turned out to be worth $1,000…):

a wooden tv stand with water ring damage

And here it is after the walnut oil:

wooden tv stand

And here is a side by side comparison of the same piece of furniture oiled up and non-polished:

wooden tv stand that has been dusted

Walnut or olive oil is pretty cheap and can make furniture look beautiful.  Now, I’m not certain if it is safe for every piece of wood furniture, so always test a small unseen place before using it all over.

9) Green Cleaning

I make most of our household cleaners because they’re safe, effective, and cheap as hell!

I think that’s about it for tips and tricks on the cleaning schedule of a working mom.  Now, it’s your time to share your favorite ways to be efficient while cleaning!

Save the Cleaning Schedule of a Working Mom to your “Cleaning” Pinterest board.

Let’s be friends on Pinterest. I’ll help you find loads of other recipes like this one!

One year ago: The Time We Went to Disneyland and a South African Threatened to Kill Me.
Two years ago: Confessions, June
Three years ago: Two Babies and a Birthday – the Quilt Making Orgy
Four years ago: Mother Earth News Fair
Five years ago: Starting a Campaign to Remove a Term From Parenting Nomenclature

This post on cleaning schedule of a working mom was originally published in May 2014. I updated it in June 2017. I now work from home and take care of my mom who lives with us but have shared a current day in my life here.

This post contains affiliate links and we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you if you click through and make a purchase. This allows me to continue to provide free content, and I only share products that I use and love myself.

The cleaning schedule of a working mom and how she keeps her house clean, tidy and running semi-smoothly. Filled with tips, tricks, and adaptable ideas.

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18 comments on “The Cleaning Schedule of a Working Mom”

  1. My trick? Have an OCD husband who takes care of it all!!
    Woot!

  2. Oh how I wish that I could only dust and vacuum once a week! Seems we (me included!) track dirt in from the yard and gardens on an hourly basis. And have you ever seen how much a German Shepherd sheds? It’s truly unbelievable – during the hottest weeks of summer I actually have to vacuum twice a day just to keep the house looking presentable. As a Type A personality, I long for a spotless home but it’s just not gonna happen until I win the lottery (note to self: you must actually purchase a ticket to win) and hire a full time housekeeper.

    • Troy’s super aggressive allergies means we’ll never have a pet in the house. I swear there is a daily barrage of straw and feathers in my front entryway from taking care of the chickens. I have to use my little stick vac at the end of each day to avoid a mini barnyard by the front door.

  3. My trick is having an OCD stay-at-home husband clean. Works like a charm!
    I noticed my husband does the trucker thing. I should probably do that someday:)

  4. The trucker move AND a Friends reference all in the same post! We’d be good friends. 🙂

  5. I really have no excuse for not having a clean and tidy house as I am a stay-home-homeschooling mom, but I just SUCK at being tidy. I get pretty fed up always being the one to notice that something needs to be cleaned up, but I am trying to come to terms with it.

    I love that we have clothes lines in our rental yard, except that the hubby does (most of) the laundry so I don’t even bother suggesting he hang things outside. I’m just grateful he manages to get some laundry done each week.

    I try to remember to wipe the inside of the fridge before I do groceries because the fridge is pretty empty at that point. I don’t always (ok, almost never) remember to do this though.

    Great tips!

  6. These are great tips. I hate hate hate carpet too, but living in an apartment, I have no choice. Note: my husband is a truck driver and the loads he drops are not happy, healthy or clean! But side note, he does help with the clean up!

  7. These are GREAT suggestions. I’m struggling to keep a clean house with a full time job and a baby and I’m pretty sure I’ll utilize most of these ideas! I especially like 3 & 7! I’m not sure we could do without TV… we don’t watch much but my husband cleans up during sports games!

  8. I’ve been walking around for two days chanting “be a trucker” in my head. Now to get the kids on board!

  9. As a Mom of four and I work full time plus volunteer as an EMT…I hate my weekends. Same @$^; different weekend. Looking forward to utilizing your many awesome suggestions, so I too can enjoy my time off.

  10. Oh, my, THANK YOU for posting this. I found your blog by doing a disjointed Google search consisting of “stressed, work full-time, clean, cook”. I’m going to utilize these tricks as I tie my fiancé’s new puppy outside while I clean up his poop/urine that he sprayed from the kennel, then giving him a bath, then making dinner, then preparing a lesson plan for tomorrow. Oh, it’s a glorious evening (*sarcasm*), but your tips will help me finish before midnight (I hope). Thank you!

  11. i haven’t even read this article yet. i just wanted to thank you for the intro. i laughed a much needed laugh though i may have scared my coworkers!

  12. Love this list! I hate “how-to” lists that tell me how but enjoyed this list of suggestions that would
    Be easy to implement. Off to find a bin at the kitchen for our dish towels.

  13. I love your writing style! Haha! Thanks for the tips. I’m a full time working mom of four and all of them have different activities. It makes my brain hurt to have a less than tidy house. I get so frustrated about being the only one who seems to care (the five males in my house seem oblivious). I’ve tried so many schedules, apps, and other plans and things go great for about two weeks and then start to fall apart. I think because I try to do too much and it isn’t sustainable.

  14. This article rocked! Wow, I have been online (at work, lol) for the last 20 mins trying to find a FT working mom cleaning schedule – and oh my goodness so many blogs/routines I found just ticked me off they were so un-realistic for me…..however, yours put a smile on my face. Thanks for sharing! Sometimes I feel like I am the only mom that works FT. Glad to see that I am not.

  15. I just happened to come across your blog while looking for a cleaning schedule for busy working mom. I instantly loved your wit and felt a connection because I live in Genesee, ID! Thank you for being so real! Hopefully I can use some of your ideas to help keep my house clean. What I struggle with now is having 3 kids, ages 10, 12 and 14 and knowing whether or not to try and make them do chores and getting mad when they don’t do them, or just try to do everything myself when I’m out of the house for 11-14 hours of the day. No one seems to want to talk about that haha!

  16. I use the dishwasher and load her.him up I never ever use the heat for drying, I pull the top racks and bottom to eliminate water from lids and cups that keep the water and wipe them off..I shut the door and by beddie bye time they everything is dry…I wash a lot my hubs takes 2 showers a day me I am lucky to get 1 so I bought more towels and always do a big load once a week of towels, I too use many dryer racks, since my neighbors cut down huge arborvitae they are condemned to seeing my wash in the whole summer but mostly they dry in the garage where the temps reach over 100 easily..I make do it is just me and the hubs, but I recyle so much and give away tons of stuff to a no kill kitteh cat shelter they pick the stuff up..I also give new undies and socks and try to get to a resale shop my friend of 50 years owns for coats to the shelter for women and children..We don’t need things to make us happy! Love love your blog!!!!!!!!!!!!