How to Keep a Tidy Home with Kids

Happppppppy Monday you lovely people! Today I’m in the mood for a little chit chat, so I thought it would be fun to talk about a question I frequently get on Instagram–how do I keep a clean and tidy house with little ones running around? This comment always makes me chuckle a bit because it’s not really that clean. I mean, if you stopped by for a visit you’d more than likely see that my lamps need to be dusted and my kitchen floors need to be mopped. But, despite those things, I do manage to keep things tidy and organized (well, mostly). The toys are generally cleaned up and in their place, the kitchen table is usually free of dishes and clutter, and the beds are always made. And while there’s really no secret formula, there are a few things I do to keep a reasonably tidy home with a five and two year old running around—and one on the way. It generally involves lots of caffeine and a few simple strategies, which is what I’m going to share with you today!Practical Ways to Keep a Tidy Home with Little Kids. Great tips for how to keep a tidy home with small children.

Teach simple routines.

The easiest and most simple way I keep things tidy is by establishing routines with my kids. This sounds a bit more fancy than it really is, but it’s basically teaching them easy concepts like we make our beds in the morning, put our clothes away, and clean up toys when we’re done playing. Sure, go ahead and scatter every block across the living room while you’re playing. Go for it! But remember, you’ll help put things away when playtime is over. Obviously how much they can help will depend on your child’s age, but it’s important to teach them early that we clean up before moving onto the next activity. It’s become one of my golden rules and it’s really the easiest way to keep things tidy.

Set rules and stick to them.

I often get asked how I have so much light colored furniture with little kids. Well, it’s simple–I set simple rules and stick to them. And you might be surprised to hear that my rules really aren’t that bad. For example, my kids can eat in our living room. It’s not uncommon for snack time to happen on the couch or the living room rug, but there are only certain things I’ll allow them to eat outside the kitchen. For example, food that is sticky stays in the kitchen. Juice is always in the kitchen. Chocolate? Always in the kitchen. But things like cheese sticks and granola bars can be eaten anywhere. This goes a long way in keeping the furniture clean. Obviously things happen and there’s occasionally an accident here or there that causes a mess, but all you can do is clean it up and move on. That’s life–accidents happen.

Practical Ways to Keep a Tidy Home with Little Kids. Great tips for how to keep a tidy home with small children.

Creative toy storage. 

Call me crazy, but I strongly believe that my home should not look like a daycare center just because I have sweet, adorable children running around. Obviously I want my kids to have toys and fun things to play with, but I think it’s important for those things to be organized and kept in their place. I don’t want every room to look like a toy factory. For example, in our living room we have only one bin of toys that always stays out. All the other toys are stored in the reading nook bench. We take them out when the kids are playing, but they go right back in when it’s clean up time. That bench is a fabulous way to store their stuff and keep things organized. I’d definitely recommend investing in cute baskets, bins or other creative storage options that will help keep the toys cleaned up and tidy.

Set boundaries. 

I obviously love vintage decor and my house is full of antiques. And you might think that antiques don’t really mix with kids, but I can honestly say it’s simply a matter of setting boundaries and teaching them that not every item in the house is something they need to play with and touch. Obviously this takes time and a bit of strategy on my part. For example, I don’t put fragile or expensive items within their reach–it’s just not worth the risk. But at the same time I don’t think I should stop decorating with items I love because I have kids. They know what is “theirs” and what is mine. And to be completely honest, it’s never been an issue. For example, I have a crate sitting on my coffee table right now that is full of old books, a few spindles, and a galvanized watering can. The kids never mess with it, despite it being in the middle of the living room. They know it’s off-limits and not a toy. I set those boundaries early and I think it’s important for them to understand what’s a toy and what’s not. Obviously this depends on how old your kiddos are, this won’t work with a six-month old and you’ll have to adapt accordingly, but it’s an important boundary to establish early.

Practical Ways to Keep a Tidy Home with Little Kids. Great tips for how to keep a tidy home with small children.

Our front room is a great example of boundaries. This room is overflowing with some of my favorite antique treasures. Nothing in here is necessarily breakable, and honestly a few more scuffs here and there would only add more character, but it’s not exactly a kid-friendly space. And you know what? That’s ok. This is mama’s favorite room and the kids don’t really pay much attention to it. Sure, they’ll occasionally drive their cars around in here or run through while chasing each other, but it’s not where they want to spend their time. We have other areas of the house they’d much rather be in, like the living room or playroom.

Give them household chores. 

I think one of the greatest tasks of being a parent is teaching our kids responsibility. And I believe it starts at a young age with simple and age-appropriate chores to help keep a tidy home. For example, my two year old is responsible for taking her plate to the sink after meals. Nothing difficult or fancy, but she loves doing this simple job and takes pride in it. She knows we clean up the mess after dinner and she’s happy to a be a small part of it. My five year old is responsible for making his bed every morning, getting himself dressed, and putting his clothes away. He also does things like help me unload the dishwasher and wipe down the kitchen table. Even with little chores, they’re gaining a sense of accomplishment and learning that their contributions to the household are important. And helpful!

20 minutes a day

Every night before my husband and I go to bed we spend about 15 to 20 minutes tidying up the house. We pick up any toys that are still out, put dishes away, and straighten things up. We both sleep better when we do this and it definltey helps the next day start on a positive note. I absolutely love walking into a tidy, clean kitchen first thing in the morning. And even better when the coffee pot is full of deliciousness and waiting for me.

Practical Ways to Keep a Tidy Home with Little Kids. Great tips for how to keep a tidy home with small children.

I’m all about creating a home that is warm and comfortable for my children. I want them to have fun, play, and make messes. I want this to be their home first and foremost. But at the same time I think it’s important to establish boundaries and routines that help keep things tidy. And really, a little effort goes a long way. It doesn’t have to be extreme and it’s not even that hard. In fact, it’s more a matter of discipline than anything. Even when I don’t have the energy to tidy up and put things away, I always feel better after it’s done. And I really believe the kids feel that too. Everyone benefits from a clean, organized home.

I’m still figuring things out as I go along and I’m certainly no expert on this subject. But these simple tips have really helped me and I hope they can help you too. I’d love to hear your own tips and tricks to keeping a tidy home with little ones, so don’t be shy. Spill the beans in the comments below!

Leave a Comment


  1. Suzanne Beare-Knight wrote:

    You are such a warm, geniune person???? I love your attitude in this post, and, of course, always adore your gorgeous posts of your home❤️

    Posted 2.20.17 Reply
    • Sarah wrote:

      Suzanne! You are too sweet, thank you so much. Big hugs to you!

      Posted 2.21.17 Reply
  2. Sandy A wrote:

    I agree with your list, and we brought up our children doing the same. I always said if a child is capable of taking a toy out to play with, they are capable of putting it back where it belongs. If i could add one or two idea…one would be gleen out toys every six months or so. Children grow away from toys quite quickly. Donate to churches, daycares, womens and childrens shelters, neighbors. This helps with a neat and clean home, and all the recipients appreciate your donating. The other is try not to buy every cute toy you see you know your children would just love…that was always the hard one for me…

    Posted 2.20.17 Reply
    • Sarah wrote:

      I completely agree Sandy, if they can take the toy out to play with it they can put it away. Exactly right! And we actually do clear out old toys every few months, I should have mentioned that in my post. Especially after Christmas and birthdays, we always grab a trash bag and fill it up for Goodwill. Thanks for dropping by!

      Posted 2.21.17 Reply
  3. Susan wrote:

    To me your column today is full of the love you have for your children shown by teaching them early that boundaries and responsibility are a part of family and future success. Keeping you all in my taters, can’t wait to hear more on the new bairn.

    Posted 2.20.17 Reply
    • Sarah wrote:

      Thank you so much Susan, that really means a lot to me. And stay tuned, I’m planning to share a pregnancy update very soon!

      Posted 2.21.17 Reply
  4. Angela wrote:

    How wonderful that you are teaching your children responsibility and showing them that there are boundaries in their little world. As they get older they will be well adjusted to live in the grown up world. I raised my children in the same way and now as grandma my beautiful grand kids too. God bless

    Posted 2.20.17 Reply
    • Sarah wrote:

      Thank you Angela, I really appreciate that. It’s definitely not always easy, but I know it will pay off in the long run. I’m just grateful for the opportunity to teach them these lessons now!

      Posted 2.21.17 Reply
  5. Ruth penny wrote:

    Well said and I was nodding my head in agreement as I was reading this. Have a wonderful week and god bless you.

    Posted 2.20.17 Reply
    • Sarah wrote:

      Thank you Ruth, I really appreciate that!

      Posted 2.21.17 Reply
  6. Marilyn Soto wrote:

    So true -too often I hear folks say ” my kid is out of control” but it’s really the parent that has to make the rules, stick to them and set the boundaries while giving age appropriate responsibilities ——That’s called parenting and it sounds like you’re doing a great job!

    Posted 2.20.17 Reply
    • Sarah wrote:

      That’s so true Marilyn, boundaries are so important for little ones. I’m really just getting started in this parenting game, but I can see what a difference it makes already. And it isn’t easy! Thanks for all your encouragement and support! xoxoxo

      Posted 2.21.17 Reply
  7. This is really something that I’m totally struggling with right now. I just don’t have the energy to time to keep up with it and it sometimes seems like a snowball…once the mess starts, it is so easy to get behind. What the real problem is that our house is pretty small and right now there’s just not a “home” for everything, which is making a lot of clutter and overwhelming me! I need to start making a better job of focusing on fixing it, thanks for the tips girl!

    Posted 3.3.17 Reply

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