A Step-By-Step Guide to Cleaning Your House When You Have a Toddler

Does the thought of cleaning your home make you feel despondent? I felt the same way for a long time, especially after I had a baby.

It’s taken a few years, but I’ve finally perfected my method. None of what I do came from the results that popped up when I googled “how to clean your house fast when you have kids.” Most of those posts gave unrealistic guidelines about how to clean your house in 1 hour. They were probably written by someone who doesn’t have to live their life in 15-minute increments because they have a toddler.

I’m not going to lie. There is nothing easy or fun about cleaning your house (with or without a toddler). Much like dieting, there is no magic solution that will make it more tolerable – especially if you don’t have the time or energy to tidy up during the week. Using the method below, it generally takes me 3-5 hours to clean my 1,114 square foot home from top to bottom, and that timeline includes toddler interruptions like breakfast, second breakfast, snack, lunch, and a gazillion potty training breaks. Every weekend my family picks one day to be “watch movies and clean the house day.” plop my kiddo in front of some mindnumbing TV entertainment like

Are you ready to hear my super secret ket to successfully cleaning your house when you have a toddler? Here it is! … Plop your kiddo in front of some mindnumbing TV entertainment like Little Baby Bum or Moana on Netflix during this timeframe so that I can get things done as quickly as possible.

The most important thing to keep in mind when you’re cleaning your house is that you must avoid distractions at all costs! The biggest distractions are social media, TV, and organizing (organizing if different than tidying up and cleaning, and is a topic for a future post).

Oh, and let’s not forget the biggest distraction of them all … your precious little minion. The key is to set firm boundaries with your child. Let your toddler know that you are not available to play until after you are done cleaning the house. Tell your kiddo what they can and cannot do to help. My son is required to pick up his dirty clothes and his toy cars. He is also required to help take out the trash and the recycling. He is allowed to help me wipe down the dining room table and he can “check” my Swiffering after I’m done. That’s it. He is not allowed to do any other cleaning or the process will take so long that it will never get done.

Here are some photos of my messy house before cleaning.


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Stage 1: Prepare yourself

Take a shower. Brush your teeth. Put real clothes on. Have breakfast. Drink coffee. Drink water. Take your vitamins. Open the shades to let some natural light in. Welcome back to the land of the living!

Whatever happens, don’t skip this step. It will make you more productive and a happier and more tolerable person in general.

Stage 2: Dishes and laundry

If there are clean dishes in the dishwasher, empty the dishwasher. Collect all the dirty dishes scattered around the house. Open up the fridge and pull out any science experiments that have sprung up. Our goal here is to clean, not to create penicillin. Soak anything that it needs it in the sink. Put everything else directly into the dishwasher.

Gather all the laundry in the house and put it in your laundry room (or near your washer and dryer if you don’t have a laundry room) so that you don’t miss any items as you continually do loads of laundry throughout this process. Do not sort your laundry by color or you will end up with an endless amount of laundry loads. Instead, sort it into 4 piles: regular clothes, delicate items, towels, and sheets. Prep your clothes as your sort them into these four piles (check your pockets, unbutton anything with buttons, tie off hoodie strings and zip them up, etc.). If you come across anything that needs to be dry cleaned, put it directly into your dry cleaning bag. When you do your laundry, use a Shout Color Catcher sheet to ensure that the colors don’t run together in your laundry loads. Now, put your first load of laundry in and run the washing machine. It doesn’t matter what order you do your laundry in, but I recommend doing your delicates first so that they have more time to dry.

By this time the dishes in the sink should have soaked long enough for you to scrape them off and put them in the dishwasher. Once you have done so, run the dishwasher. Have something that needs to be washed by hand? Wash it, dry it, and put it away immediately.

If you’re not lucky enough to have a dishwasher, wash all of your dishes by hand and put them in the drying rack. Then dry them all immediately, put them away, dry the drying rack, and put it away. As someone who lived without a dishwasher 15 years, I know how tedious this can be and that it is far less convenient than letting the dishes air dry, but this really is the best method if your goal is to achieve a clean house in a short period of time.

Stage 3: Tidy up

Tidying up is defined as picking things up and putting them down. Pick up trash and put it in the trash can. Pick up recycling and put it in the recycle bin. Pick up items that aren’t where they belong and put them where they do belong. The order in which you choose to tidy up will vary depending on the layout of your home.

The order in which you choose to tidy up will vary depending on the layout of your home. I like to go in order of the room around the house, but you may prefer to start in the kitchen or in your bedroom.

When you open my front door you are greeted by a long hallway. Our jackets and shoes tend to pile up by the door, so I like to start here since it is the first thing people see when they walk in. It’s also nice to tidy this area first because this is where I pile recycling and trash bags as they fill up throughout the cleaning process, so having a spot for that pile is crucial.

The next space in my home is the hallway bathroom, so I tidy that next. This usually involves picking up and putting away my son’s bath toys, dental hygiene items, any tissues or paper towels that haven’t been put in the trash, and a few Hot Wheels that he decided to “park” there. You may be tempted to clean the sink, toilet, or bathtub at the stage, but don’t do it! We’ll get to that stage next.

If you find something that belongs in a different room, bring it to the correct room and put it away. For some reason, my husband’s toothpaste was in the hallway bathroom instead of the master bathroom. I picked up the toothpaste, brought it to the master bathroom, and put it away in the medicine cabinet.

My son’s bedroom is up next. In this case, we had just changed the sheets and comforter the night before due to a potty-training accident, so I started with making the bed. If the sheets on the bed had been dirty, they would have been in the laundry pile and I would have made the bed once they had been washed and dried. Tidying my toddler’s room usually involves making the bed, picking up stuffed animals, putting away packages of baby wipes, and putting away the trains from his train table (which is the only toy he’s allowed to have in his room).

The washer is usually finished with the first load of laundry by the time I’m done tidying up my son’s room. I put that load in the dryer, put the second load of laundry in the washer, and start the washer and dryer.

Now it’s time to tidy the master bedroom. Since I’ve already picked up all the dirty clothes and put them in the laundry piles, this typically just involves making the bed, throwing away trash, and putting away items that have randomly accumulated on my nightstand. Sometimes it also involves putting away clothes on my drying rack that I never got around to putting away the week before or packaging up an online return order.

I typically have a lot of work to do in the master bathroom. I’m not very good at putting things back where I find them or throwing bottles away when I run out of a product. As a result, there are typically a lot of hair products, makeup, and trash strewn about. You’ll see in the photo that the laundry hamper is missing the lid. I could go look for it, but I choose not to. My goal right now is simply to tidy up the master bathroom. I know I’ll come across the hamper lid while I’m cleaning a different room, and I can put it back on the hamper at that time.

By this time, the first load of laundry is usually dry. I take it out of the dryer and pile it on a chair in the living room. If that chair has other random stuff piled in it, then I pile it on a chair in the dining room. I can fold them later. Put the next load of laundry in and run it. The dishwasher will also probably be done by this point. Pop it open so the dishes can release the heat and finish drying.

Whoever came up with the concept of an open floorplan definitely didn’t have a toddler. Our kitchen, dining room, and living room are all one large room so it’s usually a massive mess to tidy. There are toys to pick up, boxes to pack up and return from online orders, and the top of a desk to tidy up in the living room. The dining room table is covered in random stuff, and there are boxes full of food from Amazon Patry on the floor. Since all of the dishes are already put away or are drying in the dishwasher, the kitchen doesn’t require that much effort – just has a few snack boxes that are out of place and fruit that has gone bad for me to throw out.

The order doesn’t really matter, but I tend to start in the kitchen, followed by the dining room, and then the living room. I do most of my grocery shopping and regular shopping online, so I have a lot of boxes lying around. I put away all of the items in the Amazon Pantry boxes. For the rest of the boxes, I decide if I’m going to keep the items or return them. I box up, seal, and attach the return labels to anything I’m returning. I put away anything I’m keeping, break down the boxes, and pile them by the front door to take to the recycle room later. I also pile the boxes I’m returning next to the door. I also find the lid to the bathroom hamper in the living room. I think my son was using it as a race track. I pick it up and put it back on the hamper.

Mail is a perpetual problem in our house. Opened or unopened, it somehow ends up in piles strewn about all three of these rooms. In each room, I make a stack of opened mail and a stack of unopened mail and then put the stacks on my desk. I do not go through the mail. That would be organizing and right now I need to focus on tidying up.

By the time I’m done tidying all 3 rooms it’s time to pile the clothes in the dryer on the chair and put the last load of laundry in. By now, the dishes have cooled off and dried a bit more and are ready to be put away, which I do.

Stage 4: Clean, disinfect, and take out the trash

Congratulations, your house is tidy! But it isn’t clean yet. To achieve that you must dust, wipe, disinfect, and vacuum.

I usually starting running out of steam out this point, so I clean the bathrooms first. The bathrooms are the germiest rooms in my house, so it’s vital that they get clean before I run out of energy. Run toilet bowl cleaner around the inside of your toilets and let it sit. While it’s sitting, use a product like Windex to clean the bathroom mirrors and a product like Better Life what-EVER spray to clean and disinfect the sinks and countertops. Better Life cleaning products are safe for kids and pets and the brand is best-in-class when it comes to effectiveness. Now it’s time to wipe down the bathtub and showers. Once that is done, take a toilet brush, scrub the toilet, and flush. If the idea of keeping a toilet brush in your house grosses you out, try the Clorox ToiletWand Disposable Toilet Cleaning System.

Now it’s time to wipe down the bathtub and showers using Better Life Kitchen and Bath Scrubber. Once that is done, take a toilet brush, scrub the toilet, and flush.


Woo hoo! You’ve finished the part that most people dread. Next, I like to use Better Life what-EVER spray to wipe down the dining room table and the countertop and sink in your kitchen. You can use a Swiffer Duster to dust off your coffee table, TV console, desk, nightstands, and dresser.

Now comes the easy part – the floors. We have carpets in the bedrooms, tile in the bathrooms, and hardwood everywhere else. I start by using the Swiffer Sweeper on the hardwoods and tile and then go over that quickly with a Swiffer Wet Pad. Then I vacuum the bedrooms while the floors are drying.

Next, take out all of the recycling and trash and put new trash bags in all of the bins.


Stage 5: Laundry and dishes

Don’t stop now, you’re almost at the finish line! Just put the dishes away and fold and put away the giant pile of laundry that has been accumulating on the chair and you’re done!

Stage 6: Relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Whether you were cleaning because you just remembered the in-laws are coming tomorrow or cleaning for the sake of cleaning, take a minute to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Curl up on your couch and read a good book or enjoy a nice bubble bath before setting off to complete your next task.

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This post was inspired by today’s daily prompt: Popular

4 Replies to “A Step-By-Step Guide to Cleaning Your House When You Have a Toddler”

  1. Nice! I don’t have children and already, I find it difficult to clean up the house! There is just me and other half and sometimes I wonder how two people can cause so much mess! This post is inspiring me to go away and clean!

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