This one, four-minute daily activity has saved my sanity. I don’t know about you, but I’m not exactly the most naturally tidy person, and now that I have tiny humans living with me, things easily spiral out of control. A mom friend of mine told me about something she does with her family, and it took me months before trying it out for myself. And then I could’ve kicked myself for waiting so long because this is a seriously life changing cleanup hack. LIFE. CHANGING.
I can be kind of a perfectionist about certain things, like parties or things I make. But overall I’m a fairly Type-B person. I don’t like to plan, I’d rather wing it, I’m a born procrastinator, and I’m really, really bad at tidying up. I’m very ideas focused, which makes me good at creating new things, but not so great at completing every task I start, which includes that last step of putting something back after I’ve used it.
I’d managed fine as a single adult and even once I got married with doing little thing to make sure things didn’t get completely out of control mess-wise, but once kids entered the picture, it felt like a constant struggle. I was always exhausted my the end of the day and the thought of having to go through the house and clean up after a long day just felt like way too much.
So the mess would spiral out of control until it got to a point that I couldn’t function. Then I’d rage clean. Have you ever rage cleaned? Where you just get mad and you furiously go around the house and and clean like a crazy person? No? Just me, then? Ok. My husband would get a concerned look and then round up the kids to clean as well. And after hours of cleaning, our house would be spotless. This would last a day or two, and then we’d enter the spiral again.
The 4-minute Difference
I attend a weekly mom’s group (seriously one of the best things to keep me sane as a mom) and I remember one week, one of the other moms talked about how every day, at the end of the day, their family puts on a “cleaning song” and everyone has to clean during that song. At the time I thought, oh, that might help things. I mentioned it to my husband, and he also thought it was a good idea. And then we never did anything. For months we forgot about it. Then one day, something reminded me of it. And I decided we’d try it that night.
We turned on an upbeat song. I picked the longest one I could find at about 4 minutes. And we all just spent the time that the song played cleaning as quickly as we could.
When it was done, I turned to my husband and said, “I can’t believe we didn’t do this sooner.” And I was mad! Mad that I’d been a parent for seven years, struggling with the mess and in FOUR MINUTES our living area was clean. Four minutes! Who can’t find four minutes between dinner and bedtime to listen to a fun song and clean up together?
To show you this works, I took some before & after photos of our living room.
This was a day that Bean and I stayed home all day. We have a floor cushion sandwich filled with stuffed animals and other small toys. We have Valentine cards on the floor (because where else would you put them?) An empty bag of cheese curds, slippers, an assortment of small toys all around, papers of various kinds, my son’s lunch box, and just out of view is a laundry basket of clean, folded clothes that has yet to be put away.
You may look at this photo and think, good golly, you live like pigs! Or maybe you’ll think, that’s pretty clean for our house! We all have different thresholds for mess tolerance. In any case, it’s the reality of our house. This is just what our house looked like leading up to the cleanup song.
Need inspiration for new music at your house? Here are some of our favorite albums:
They Might Be Giants: No!
Laurie Berkner: Victor Vito
Justin Roberts: Pop Fly
Here it is at the end of the song. The song on this night was about 3 minutes, 40 seconds long. You can see that it’s not 100% clean. There are still a few little things sitting out. But here’s the thing! I find that when we’re all up and cleaning, every one of us cleans up a little bit past the end of the song. Because when there are only a couple more things to do before it’s clean, we’d all rather take another minute to finish it. And even if no one else does it, when I only see a couple things to clean, I don’t get that feeling of overwhelming hopelessness I get when I see lots of mess. And so I grab those couple things and then we’re good!
So here’s where we ended up after everyone stopped cleaning, a couple minutes after the song ended. Sure, it doesn’t look like a magazine, but my house never does. But I feel like I can breathe a little better, and I know that we won’t compound tonight’s mess on top of tomorrow’s.
Sometimes we spend the whole time in the living room, but some days the kids’ room bears the brunt of the mess, so we do it there instead. Or a mix of both. And the kids know that if they decide not to clean during the clean up song, there will be two cleanup songs that night and they’ll miss out on more playtime before bed.
I can’t guarantee this is the thing that will work for your family, but it worked so amazingly for ours, I just had to share in case there’s even a small percentage of you out there who can benefit from this method! We’ve been doing it consistently and the kids even ask for the cleanup song now! Is this real life?
What works to help tame the clutter at your house?