Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Learning To Clean With Baby

When you have your baby, you may find that your cleaning routines have been called into question. If you have not kept house well, or at all, in the past, you will find that you will not be able to be so lazy once you have a baby. Many poor housekeepers point to research showing that a sparkling clean house is not healthy. They are right, but that is no excuse for living in dirt and chaos. If you have been less than diligent in caring for your home, you can begin, even after baby is born, to get better.

The first step is to make a routine. As soon as baby arrives, you will realize what many parents before you have learned. The baby will set the schedule. There simply is no way around it. A newborn essentially needs to eat, sleep, and poop, and you will have to work everything else around that. You will need to give yourself a couple of weeks to adjust to your schedule, and then you can begin to set out a routine.

Start by writing down what bothers you most. Do you wake up to dishes in the sink? Do you have to search for 10 minutes to find your keys? Do you know where important documents are located? Figure out one issue and then solve it. Using the examples above, you may need to make it a point not to go to bed until the dishes are done. (You may even go with using paper until you can get better.) You may install a key rack by the front door, and you should have a file of important documents located in an easy-to-reach place. Today, you can solve one of your organizational dilemmas, and then tomorrow you can begin to tackle everything else.

Despite what many gurus will tell you, I know first-hand that getting organized can be a painful process. In the end, you will be happy with the result, but getting there can be tough. You will need to spend some time, and enlist help if baby is still very new, cleaning every room in your home. You will eventually need to clean out every room, tossing and organizing, but for now, you need to learn to keep it clean. You should clean up every room over a weekend or a couple of days that you have.

Then you will need to make a list of daily chores. At a very minimum, that list should include dishes as well as straightening each room in the house. You will use this list to guide you through your first few days of cleaning up. While you will not need to completely clean a room, meaning that you do not need to dust and vacuum everyday, you should plan a pick-up of each room. During the pick-up, you will go through the room and toss trash, take things to their places in other rooms, and put away everything that goes in that room.

Do it at the same time everyday so that it becomes part of your day. You will not need to go back through rooms. Accept that it will need straightening again tomorrow. (Once baby gets a little older, you may want to move to more than one clean-through per day.) Just accept the day of clutter that accumulates and focus on the daily pick-up.

Once you have this pick-up down, then you can expand your cleaning efforts. If you have not vacuumed regularly, for example, that is a priority. Well before baby turns one, you will find him or her putting everything under the sun into his or her little mouth. Get yourself in the habit of vacuuming at least once a week. You should be vacuuming well-used rooms daily, but you can work on getting there as you go.

Remember that your baby will mean a lot of changes in your life. You should be prepared to make them with a smile. It is best to get into the groove of cleaning while you still have a little one because then you will be in a better position to teach your baby to help with the chores when she or he is older.

By Julia Mercer

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