The Cleaning Trick That Saved My Sanity


clean house final

I haven’t been a mom very long.  Less than 18 months.

When I joined the ranks as an At Home Mom, I aspired to maintain our home as a place of order and peace. 

i.e.,  To keep it clean

Then the baby turned into a toddler.  A fast, curious toddler. We call him “The Lidless Blender.”

Fellow Moms of Littles:

Please, someone, tell me you’ve been there…


The {Previous} Daily Scene 

1 PM: the 1 year old’s Glorious Nap Time.

The House: A Bonafide Wreck.

The Mom: Type-A though she is, finds herself torn between Bone Weary and Duty Bound.

“I so want to sit down…….. but I really should clean…”

And so – with a sigh – I grit my teeth and dig in.
This nap affords me precious little time to make this place shine, which means moving at warp speed and breaking a sweat that should warrant canceling my gym membership.

In a blur, I stash toys, shoes, laundry and dishes.  I fiendishly wipe down countertops, tabletops, appliances, and finger-smudged windows.  With eyes flashing, I dry mop the hardwoods and vacuum the carpets before giving the guest bath a quick once-over.

Refusing sustenance but pausing briefly to wipe my brow, I check the clock:
He’ll be awake soon…

I have to hurry and sit down!

But “No!” I instead load up the paraphernalia that magically migrated downstairs and haul it up, dumping it haphazardly on our bed ~ which incidentally needs to be made.  Backing away from the pile momentarily, I turn my attention to the master bath.  In the interest of time, I decide Windex is antimicrobial enough this time around, and every dang surface gets a dose of it.  Drop a Clorox tab in the toilet, and call it a done deal.

Back to the pile on the bed… Fling it into two piles… baby stuff, our stuff…
and then I hear him.
He’s awake.
I’m not finished.

And I’m mad because, once again, I never sat down.

Worse yet?
…I have a sinking feeling that this will all be destroyed in T minus 10 minutes.


Confession: I can’t do it, you guys.

I love an orderly home as much as the next mom, but seriously.
If you’re anything like me, when your busy toddler goes down, the introvert in you craves her few precious minutes to read or rest or just Be.
(Or to fire up her TiVo and watch two episodes of Modern Family.  Whatev.)

So these days, I employ:

The 20 Minute Trick

It’s exactly as it sounds.  And it’s awesome.
Ready for this complex formula?

The Blender goes down for his nap.
My oven timer gets set for 20 minutes.
I clean like crazy until it dings.
And then?
I stop!

I pour myself an iced coffee and head for the hammock with my latest book.

What a concept! 

As simple as it is, by shifting my mental goal from “having a house that shines” to “cleaning nonstop for 20 minutes”, two important things can happen:

1) I can sit down guilt-free, having successfully met my goal.
I have permission to recharge, and instead of seeing only what didn’t get accomplished, I’m amazed at what a difference I made in 20 minutes!

~ and of infinitely greater value ~

2) When nap time is over and my precious boy calls out for me… instead of feeling annoyed, I’m refreshed.  Even joyful to see him!  I feel strangely free to spend time playing on the floor instead of half-heartedly managing him as I attempt a few more to-do’s.
Moreover, my joy extends to Dad, for he no longer arrives home to a burned out wife and her begrudged, never-quite-finished list of chores.

Do deeper cleans happen?  Of course — but they don’t drive the daily grind.  And when those days roll around, I find I don’t even mind them because tomorrow won’t be a repeat.  I hopped off the hamster wheel.

My selfish inclination is to find worth in my stuff and how it looks.
But my son needs a joyful mom, and my husband needs a peaceful wife.

Some things are just more important than having a perfect house.


  1. Great idea! I work full-time outside of the home, but we do something similar. On Saturday morning after breakfast, I turn on cartoons for my “blender”, set the oven timer for an hour, and my husband and I both clean and tidy up for 60 minutes. Does EVERYTHING get cleaned every week? No, but we manage to have the kitchen and living areas clean and tidy, vacuuming done, and linens in the laundry. Then I have the rest of the weekend to relax without feeling guilty about housework!

  2. Brilliant, Janet! It must save you so much frustration during the week.
    PS – Props to your husband for tag teaming this with you. What a guy!

  3. I love this idea! I am definitely going to incorporate and stop feeling guilty whenever I take breaks during naptime 🙂

  4. Amazing Idea! Although it’s one of those that I’m saying “why didn’t I think of that?”. Thanks for sharing this idea I’m definitely going to be using a version of it at home now.

  5. This used to be my approach as well but what the heck do you do when your kids quit napping?? Seriously people I could use some ideas…. my 4,5 and 6 year old rarely nap, I work 25 hours a week, and they NEVER STOP MOVING like ever….. I always thought by this age they would kinda entertain themselves and individually they do but put three siblings together w/o supervision and ….blender without a lid x 3… just trying to figure out how to keep up!

    • Hey Emily! I’m not there yet, but would it be worth a try to use the timer and make it into a game with the kids? 10 minutes instead of 20? Maybe just before bedtime or dinner, so the “picked up” version remains for more than 5 minutes? Won’t be perfect, but like my approach, it might just result in an improvement!
      Shooting from the hip here… I’ve often wondered the same thing — what on earth will I do after naps are extinct?! If you find something that works — be sure to report back!

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