When I was working, my husband was also working, and my kids were in daycare all day. This meant that my house was always a mess, but it would be more or less the same mess Monday through Friday, because no one was home between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. during the week. The kids would have a few hours in the evening to wreak havoc, but most of that time would be taken up with me preparing dinner/them sitting in front of Dora or Yo Gabba Gabba, eating dinner, and then preparing for bed. What cleaning that did happen usually occurred on weekends or (if, say, someone was coming to visit) very late at night, after the kids were asleep.

Fast forward to now. I set out on this whole stay-at-home mom thing with the thought that my house would be much cleaner now, since I would be home all day.

That was one of my more misguided perceptions about being a stay-at-home mom. Like one of my favorite memes says,


I used to not mind cleaning the bathroom. That was before I had kids, and then before one of those kids started using the potty consistently. (As excited as I am about the thought of not changing diapers when my youngest becomes a potty “expert,” I cringe to imagine what the toilet will look like – they are both boys, after all.) Now, not only does cleaning the toilet take FIVE TIMES AS LONG (how in the world did urine get THERE?), but I generally do it while the boys are in the play room across the hall under vague supervision. This means that the bathroom might get somewhat clean, but the trade-off is having a wrecked play room…which I guess is the point of having an upstairs play room (close the door when adults come over and no one has to know – unless they use the bathroom and get nosy). But, still, it’s disheartening.

Last month, I fell under the siren song of “new year, new me” and decided that this year will be different. I will do cardio, in whatever form I can, while spending all day in my house (it is winter in Ohio). Also, my house will be clean(er). So, I spent the afternoon tidying, sweeping, and wiping – with a workout playlist blasting on my phone. And I got things done.


I think the secret to me cleaning in earnest is the music. After some serious thought, I think I’ve identified three reasons the music was key:

1. It kept me moving. If I try to tidy and clean with no soundtrack, I will get distracted by every stupid part of every stupid toy that I happen to come across, try to find the rest of the stupid toy to match it to, and, in the process, discover fifteen more stupid parts to different toys that need to be reunited. As my husband sometimes tells me, I focus too much on details and not enough on the big picture. If I “let [my] body move to the music,” as Madonna commands, I will do something more sensible and efficient, such as shove all orphaned pieces on a bookshelf above eye-level, where they could conceivably stay until I decide to read the books behind them. Or we move.


2. It either kept my kids distracted enough that they didn’t make 50 requests while I picked up one room, or it drowned out their small voices making irrational demands (probably both). They both like to dance, and we’re somewhat lacking in physical activity in the cold weather, so it’s a win-win-win.


3. My no-doubt awkward combination of a cardio dance workout and cleaning apparently looked like so much fun that both boys actually helped me pick things up for more than a minute at a time (it may have helped that I bribed them with the promise of Netflix if they completed the tasks I laid out – never underestimate the power of bribery).


Anyway, I made the first floor of our house the tidiest it’s been in a while, and it stayed that way for another whole day (because I made my kids pick up everything when they were done with it before they could move on to something else). Then the weekend happened and I stopped caring.

That’s okay, though. Now I know the secret.