Help! I Homeschool & My House is a Mess!

home + family homeschool Sep 25, 2015
Help! I Homeschool & My House is a Mess! -- 7 Survival Tips

Some days I feel like I have to make a decision: Will we get everything done with our homeschool work today or will I actually get my house clean? There doesn’t always seem to be a middle ground. It feels like it’s one or the other. Balancing homeschooling and housework is very hard work. Overwhelming work. It probably shouldn’t have surprised me that one of the top questions I was asked this summer at the homeschool convention I spoke at was how I kept up with my house and homeschooling. It just showed me that other homeschool moms were thinking the same thing. Honestly, I don’t always get to my housework. My house definitely does not stay as clean as it did before I started homeschooling.

I should give myself some grace in that I now have five kids in the mix. I started our homeschool journey with three. I heard someone say the other day that trying to keep your house clean with kids is like trying to brush your teeth and eat Oreos at the same time! Ha! That was a perfect visual for me! We have a two-year-old in our house now, and we joke that she is our little tornado. She’s always looking for adventure and that usually includes climbing up on something and dumping out whatever she can find! I’m sure her little mind keeps thinking over and over, “Will there be treasure in this box? In this drawer? Over here? Over there?” I’ve been slowly learning to let it go. Not the house so much as my attitude of perfection. It probably helps that some little person is singing “Let It Go!” at some point in the day — almost as though to remind me. Please hear me in that you don’t have to completely let your house go when you start homeschooling.

There are ways to get things done that I’ll discuss in a moment. However, it is so important to remember your first priorities and know that it’s okay to not have a perfectly put-together house all the time. It’s okay for your house to look lived in. I find that the less I stress about making my house look perfect before people come over, the more they feel relaxed to let their kids play and make themselves at home. I joke that my mess is to bless people. I made a YouTube video about “keeping it real” and showed my homeschool room at the end of the day. It looked like school happened. :) So, how do I get it all done? Well, you’ve already probably guessed — I don’t! I don’t get it all done, but I do get what is most important done. It’s a matter of prioritizing.

Here are a few practical tips to help you survive the juggling act of homeschooling and housework!

1) Lower your expectations!

Know that something has got to give. You may not be able to keep the house as perfectly organized and tidy as you did before you started homeschooling. That’s okay. You have to give yourself some grace! Homeschooling is a full-time job! Mommyhood is a full-time job! Just make sure that you warn your spouse that you are lowering your expectations. He may not appreciate the surprise.

2) Prioritize!

As I already mentioned, I don’t get it all done. I’ve had to learn to let go of perfection! It’s a matter of prioritizing. Just like in life you make the most time for your priority relationships — with housework, you prioritize what is most important to you and your spouse to have done on a regular basis. Counters are important to my husband. Floors are important to me. So, we make those two things a priority to keep clean and tidy. Know that those are the two hardest things to keep clean and tidy in our home. But when it happens, usually at the end of the day, — Ahh! It feels so good!

3) Get help!

Hire a cleaner! This was recommended to me at the first homeschool conference I ever attended by two different speakers. I remember thinking that every woman in the room was probably wishing her husband was sitting next to her so she could elbow him. Truly, if you can find money in your budget to hire a cleaner to come every other week or even once a month for a deep clean, it will be so worth it. I literally told my cleaners what my budget was and asked them what they could get done for that amount. I thought through what was the most important thing that I wanted to be done and what would help me the most — and had them do that. I’ve been really amazed at how much they can get done on the budget I gave them. {Please trust me that my house does not stay clean for long, so we still have to do plenty of housework here. But for one hour the house looks amazing}

4) Train your kids to help! 

We are a family and our kids are part of our family unit. Housework is teamwork. It’s not just about mom running around trying to serve everyone else. Everyone needs to be pitching in. Even little kids can be a great help. I start training as young as 2 years old. This doesn’t mean that my toddler can vacuum a whole room by herself, but she can hand her sister the clean spoons from the dishwasher to put away. Teamwork! Most little kids think that chores are fun anyway! {Here’s a cute video of my three-year-old daughter learning to hang her own laundry} I actually train my kids to do the chores I dislike the most: laundry, dishes, and trash. :) My helpers definitely bless me tremendously (& they don’t even know how much)! By taking the time to teach them the most efficient way to do chores, and you will bless them for life! Don’t expect perfection as you are training them. It takes time. It took me over a year before I turned over the girls’ laundry to my older boys. There were so many dresses that couldn’t be put in the dryer, & I had a set way of hanging things. We just kept practicing and tweaking and eventually, they were ready. I just tried to encourage them along the way. It’s always a great moment when they say, “Okay, Mom. I’ve got this.” Don’t forget to praise them! I still remember my mom telling me that I was the best sink cleaner and made the sink shine better than she could. :) I always looked forward to cleaning the sink as a kid. I was so proud of my work. I asked her recently if she did that on purpose to get me to clean the sinks. She told me, “No, you actually were really good at making sinks shine.” Her words encouraged the best from me!

5) Make a list!

It’s important to figure out what is driving you the craziest! I literally go throughout the house and write down everything that needs to get done in each room. Pile of papers? Endless pile of laundry? Focus on getting the most important things done first. What areas are driving you the nuttiest? What would be the best plan of attack? I assign those things on my list to the family (& sometimes to the cleaners). Some jobs need to be broken down a bit into bite-size pieces. I don’t just say, “Clean the family room.” We break it down into what specifically needs to get done, then we work together to make it “clean.” I love my whiteboards! I keep one in the kitchen so I can write down all the little things I see left out. I can’t tell you how much this reduces stress in our home (and in me). Instead of me blowing my top when I see things forgotten or missed (again!), like reminding my kiddos for the millionth time to put away their shoes in their shoe bins as I trip over them. I just add it to my list! Then I add a child’s name or initial next to it.  This helps me remember to follow up, too. I often forget to check on beds or chores in another part of the house when I’m busy getting things done everywhere else. So, this board adds a bit of accountability. If you don’t have a whiteboard, just use a piece of paper or a sticky. I should note that we have an “Extra Chores” list. These are the things like baseboards, grout, windows, etc. that don’t always get done. These projects are assigned to the child “needing” to have extra work.

6) Get organized!

Assign days to get specific work done. Create a checklist for kids and family — things that need to get done daily. I actually wrote a blog post about how I split up our days and tasks. There is even a video from a Periscope I did on laundry tips on this post! Here is the link. Basically, we try to assign major tasks to certain days & daily tasks to certain times of the day. Keeping to this routine helps to ensure that things get done.

7) Meal Planning

The question I get asked most often when I tell people that we have five kids — aside from “Are you crazy?”— is, “How do you feed everyone?” Meal planning is my secret to feeding everyone! Simple meal planning can make such a HUGE difference in your day and save you the headache of trying to decide what to make for dinner at 6 pm when everyone is already hungry. I actually plan out my meals for the week and do one big shop to gather everything I need. Now when my kids ask me what is for dinner, I just direct them to the list. I’ve actually created a handy-dandy Menu Planner & Grocery List. You can see it at this link. This weekly meal planner is a subscriber freebie, so be sure to sign up.

If you really want to make mealtime easy, make your crockpot your best friend! I pulled every recipe I could find that was crockpot friendly and did searches online for good recipes. I also asked my friends for their favorite slow cooker recipes. I took this precious compilation of recipes and put them all in one place — my Easy Meals list! This is just a list that holds all my easy recipes in one place. It is a lifesaver for me!

Favorite Tools for Easy House Cleaning

Honestly, having the right tools makes all the difference. I find I'm much more likely to get on top of a mess or just get to the daily needs of my house when I have all the right tools in the right places. Let me run you through what I use and where I keep them.

Hoover Linx Cordless Vacuum: I hate lugging out my big vacuum constantly to get to messes on the floor. I use it for big vacuuming days, but for the day-to-day jobs I use my cordless vacuum. I keep mine in my kitchen area (right next to my trash can). Honestly, this is my favorite housekeeping tool! My floors would be VERY crunchy without it.

Swiffer Dusters: I love these handy-dandy dusters. The kids LOVE these handy-dandy dusters! Dusting is another of my least favorite jobs. These dusters make it quick and easy.

Swiffer Mop:  I promise I don't work for Swiffer. They just happen to make housekeeping tools that make my life easier. We don't always pull this mop out. I have a different mop I use for big jobs, but this one is great to use for quick jobs that need more than a little wipe with a paper towel. I keep mine in the pantry next to my big broom & hand broom and dustpan. I use the wall space to hang them.

Clorox Wipes: I have these wipes under every bathroom sink for quick easy clean-ups. This is how I keep my sinks and toilets clean in a house of seven. I don’t like Kirkland wipes as well. They leave streaks. {I should note that I also keep a toilet brush and plunger in almost all the bathrooms}

Buckets with Basic Supplies: My "bucket list" is different than most. :) I have a bucket with my basic cleaning supplies in my laundry room. I have everything my kids would need to clean around the house inside it. I try to keep my more all-natural products in it. I just started using essential oils, so I'll be doing a post soon with some of the cleaning supplies I created to use around the house -- for now, I use Mrs. Meyers products.

Mirror and Glass Cleaner: It's hard to find a good glass cleaner that doesn't leave streaks. The one I've been using lately seems to work fairly well. I like that it is ammonia-free so I don't have to worry about any natural stone in my house. I keep this cleaning product in a high cupboard in my laundry room with my other cleaning supplies. I'd love to keep it under every sink, but don't want my littles to get into it. {I guess I could put a child lock on a low cupboard, but I just don't want a lock on every bathroom cupboard}

So, there you have it!

Housework doesn’t have to go out the door when you are homeschooling — only your expectations of being perfect. Give yourself grace! Know that there will be a season when your kids are grown and out of the house. Your job as a homeschool mom will be done. Forced retirement. You can focus on keeping things in place then — even though my advice would be the same for you then, too: Grace! I hope my tips helped you to get a glimpse into how we do things in our home to keep our sanity. If you would like, you can check out my M.O.M. series — Master Organizers of Mayhem! It was a ten-part series on some of the simple rules I created for our home that help me keep my head above the water.

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