When I was pregnant, I organized my spice cabinet alphabetically, arranged my linen closet by color, and cleaned the rubber seal on my fridge with a toothbrush. But once the baby was born, I didn't even have time to empty the dishwasher. And forget about dusting or vacuuming. Most new moms find themselves in a similarly messy situation, but a clean home isn't out of your reach! Got 10 minutes? Attack and clean one area. Have a little more time? Freshen up your whole place in about 40 minutes.
Spiff Up the Kitchen
It's the epicenter of your home and constantly in use. Keeping it mess-free will do wonders for your morale. These steps take mere minutes daily.
Step 1 Deal with the dishwasher.
"Incorporate a system of running the dishwasher right before bed and unloading it each morning, so you can easily add dirty dishes to it throughout the day," says Joanna Monahan of Major Mom, a national professional organizing business.
Step 2 Tackle the sink. Wet it with water, then sprinkle nonabrasive scouring powder or baking soda all over. Move on and let it sit.
Step 3 Be counter intuitive. Corral into baskets all nipples, rings, and tools for making baby food. Then wipe down your countertops, stove, and refrigerator-door handles with disinfectant wipes. A smart choice: New Lysol Power & Free Multi-Purpose Cleaning Wipes with hydrogen peroxide safely quash viruses and bacteria without bleach.
Step 4 Add the last sparkle. Go back to the sink and scrub it with a disinfecting wipe, then rinse the drain and garbage disposal in the process. Use one more disinfecting wipe to spot clean the floor.
Brighten the Bathroom
"Follow this plan once a week and you'll seldom have to do a major bathroom scrub," insists Anna Moseley, founder of the cleaning blog AskAnnaMoseley.com
Step 1 Shower away grime. Spray a no-scrub cleaner on the tile, tub, and door. If you prefer to go the natural route, try mixing 1/2 cup vinegar with a few drops of dishwashing soap. Move on and let it sit. (One caveat: Although natural cleaners can be safer with a baby in the house, they are not proven to be as effective against germs.)
Step 2 Focus on the sink. Squirt one pump of hand soap into the sink. Turn on the water and use a sponge (keep one stashed under the sink) or a disinfecting wipe to wash the basin and the soap scum around the drain. Rinse it out, then grab a hand towel to wipe down the sides of the sink, the faucet, and the counter. Toss the hand towel in with the dirty clothes and replace it with a clean one.
Step 3 Get rid of toilet germs. Use a disinfecting wipe on the lid, the seat, and the base of the toilet. Drop in a toilet cleaning tablet, such as Clorox Automatic Toilet Bowl Cleaner. You can also use a few Alka-Seltzer tablets and a cup of vinegar, or a mixture of vinegar and baking soda.
Step 4 Do a final rinse. Go back to the shower, turn on the hot water, and rinse the cleaner you sprayed on from the walls, door, tiles, and glass. Use another disinfecting wipe to clean up the floor. Toss it in the trash and empty the can.
Wear your baby in a carrier while you tidy up and chat to him as you go. Bonding plus a clean home: nice!
Step 1 Kick off shoes. One rule that will go a long way: Have everyone take their shoes off at the door to avoid tracking dirt around.
Step 2 Organize with baskets. "I have one in my living room for toys, one on my bookshelf for magazines, and one next to my couch for throws," says Jennifer Botchie Deinlein of Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. "I also have several in the baby's room for little things." Denise Garrett, a mom from Hicksville, New York, keeps a basket at the top and bottom of the steps and loads them with items for the next trip up or down.
Step 3 Pull up the covers. "If you only do one thing in your bedroom, make the bed. It takes about three minutes, and you feel like you accomplished something," says Barbara Reich, author of Secrets of an Organized Mom.
Step 4 Speed dust. Use a static duster, like a Swiffer, or a microfiber cleaning cloth to dust anything at eye level while you're walking around.
Freshen Your Floors
You need to vacuum or mop about once a week in each room -- then spot clean with a wipe or a hand vac.
Step 1 Do a quick pickup. Even on days you're not vacuuming, grab and toss large pieces of food and other items that stand out. Floors will stay cleaner longer -- and be safer for your crawling (read: curious!) baby.
Step 2 Deodorize rugs. Moseley sprinkles baking soda to neutralize odors without chemicals. (Just be sure to stick to a light coating, because it can clog your vacuum's filter.) Let it sit for 15 minutes, then vacuum.
Step 3 Handle wood and tile. Use a stick vacuum to pick up crumbs and dust bunnies, then mop (Swiffer's Wet Jet is fast). Or try Oreck's VersaVac, which vacuums and mops.
The Lowdown on Laundry
Doing a single load on most days is less stressful than letting dirty clothes pile up. More advice:
Step 1: Divide and conquer.
Put darks and whites in a divided hamper. Jeannie Kim, a mom to two from Milwaukee, does a separate load for each person in her family, including the baby. "Then I don't have to sort the clothes into different rooms," she says. Another idea: Designate a clean laundry basket for each family member.
Step 2: Keep those tiny baby socks together.
"Put pairs in a lingerie bag to avoid losing them in the wash," says Denver mom Robin Larabee.
Step 3: Spot treat.
"I keep a stain remover like OxiClean under the sink in each bathroom to treat spit-up and baby food before putting clothes in the hamper," says home organizer Barbara Reich. Other moms swear by pretreating with a small squirt of liquid dish soap.
Step 4: Fold as you go.
Resist the temptation to pile clean clothes in a basket or on your bed to deal with later. Leave them in the dryer until you can tackle them, and de-wrinkle an abandoned load by tossing in a wet washcloth and running the dryer a few minutes.
Originally published in the April 2014 issue of American Baby magazine.