Credit: kakisky @ morgueFileAs a single parent, you are always short on one thing - time. Between work, cooking and shopping, homework and bath time and all the driving, there is barely time to sit down and think about yourself for a few minutes.
If you want one of the beautifully clean homes you see on television, but are short on time - even weekend time, you will need to set a schedule for cleaning. Rather than a big annual clean, follow this frequency for kitchen cleaning. Afterall, your weekends will only become busier as your children grow.
Things to Do Every Evening
Do the dishes. All of them. Okay, a wine glass or tea-cup from the end of your day is forgivable, but you need to do the bulk of the dishes after dinner or dessert. Rinse your dishes and load them in your dishwasher, if you are fortunate enough to have one. You may want to hold off on running the machine until the next day, but think about what the next day holds before walking away from it. If you are going to have too many dishes stacked up after the next meal to fit into your dishwasher, then you won't have saved yourself any time. If you need to wash your dishes by hand, then do what you can as you are preparing dinner and everything else after the meal. Allow dishes to air-dry between other chores and keep at it until you finish.
Your children should be taught as soon as possible that they need to get their dirty dishes to the sink. Enforcing a family meal time will help, not only with ensuring you still get quality time with the kids, but will set a standard for clearing their places. By the time they are ten-years old, they are capable of washing their own dishes.
Wipe all countertops and any appliances used for food preparation. Also, make sure to wipe down the kitchen table. Getting rid of crumbs straight away will keep the ants (or worse) away. Your stove may not look greasy now, but wait until it sets. Extra time to clean is something no single mother has and leaving these tasks until the morning can lead to a lot more work at the end of the week.
Take everything out of your kitchen that doesn't belong there. From toys to laundry to mail, move it if it doesn't belong there. Getting these items to the room they belong in, even if they don't get put away will save you time and hassle in the long run. Better yet, take any items to your young child's room as you go to tuck them in. Get your older child to take their items with them as they head towards their room after dinner.
Before switching off the light and heading to bed, take a quick look around your kitchen. If there is anything that stands out, take care of it straight away. It could be that the floor needs a sweep or the garbage needs to be taken out. If it is time to change dish clothes or towels, do so. An extra five minutes in the evening are often much easier to find than five minutes in the morning when trying to get the kids off to school and yourself off to work.
Things to Do Every Weekend
Clean the fridge, inside and out. Fill the sink with warm, soapy water. Grab a cleaning cloth and a roll of paper towels. Open up the fridge and start with the top shelf. Immediately toss anything that has gone off or just simply isn't going to get eaten. Place everything else on the nearest counter. Wipe down the shelf with the soapy cloth and then dry it straight away with a paper towel. Replace anything that belongs on that shelf, leaving items for lower shelves until you get there. Work your way down the fridge, repeating these steps. After you replace everything that belongs in the fridge, clean the outside. Wipe down the top of the fridge and the doors, including any handles. Take a quick inventory and throw away anything that won't be eaten.
Clean your oven and microwave. As long as you do this every weekend, you won't need to do a big clean very often, if ever. Use a degreaser inside your oven as well as the outsides. Then rinse off with a damp cloth so that your next meal doesn't smell like cleaning products. Dont' forget to wipe down the hood, although you may need to dust it first. Make sure you lift your microwave to clean underneath it. If there is food splatter inside your microwave, fill a bowl with water and set it inside the microwave for about 30 seconds on high. The steam will help release anything stuck to the sides.
Dust any lamps, fans, blinds, pictures or anything that can collect dust. Pick one item a week to give some extra attention to, such as a light fitting. Just as it is with your oven, you will rarely have to spend extra time for a big clean.
Sweep or vacuum and then mop after all the dusting is finished. This is a great job for children to help with in the kitchen, as it usually doesn't lead to broken dishes or light-fittings.
Wash all vertical surfaces in your kitchen, such as walls and windows. You can generally do a quick wipe on walls and cupboard fronts. Just fill your sink with soapy water and get stuck in, working from one corner around the room. Rinse your cloth often. Don't forget to wipe down any door frames and doors.
Wash curtains or blinds. If your kids can reach the blinds, this is a good job for them to do. Check labels for curtain care. Some can go in the washing machine, while others will need to go in for dry cleaning. This is a good time to wash any area rugs that go in the washing machine as well.
Wipe down shelves in cupboards. Pull out any dishes or food stored and wipe down with a damp soapy cloth and then dry with a paper towel before restocking. Throw away anything that won't get eaten and don't forget to check expiration dates. If you are storing old utensils, appliances and dishes that are no longer used, then take this opportunity to throw away or donate. If you have a teenager who is heading off to college soon, grab a box to start storing items that can be used in a college dorm.
By keeping to this routine and assigning the right chores to your children, you should always have a home that is tidy and welcoming to yourself and your family, not to mention when others visit.
If you stick to this frequency, you should be spending less than fifteen minutes a day, around thirty minutes a weekend and maybe an hour or so every couple of months. You can start regardless of the state of your kitchen, just add a couple extra minutes on to each day until you get it down. As a single mom, you always need more time to spend on yourself and your kids, have a look for some ideas for other rooms:
And if you are looking for tips on cleaning a messy child's bedroom, try How To Clean A Child's Bedroom.