21 Practical Home and Family Management Hacks (Help for Frustrated House Cleaners)

Can you believe it? This is the final installment of our 8-week “Help for Frustrated House Cleaners” series. (If you’re new here, why not start at the beginning with “Help for Frustrated House Cleaners: Sweep Away the Lies You Believe?”) Working through Mindy Starns Clark’s book The House That Cleans Itself has been quite a ride, hasn’t it?

I’ve been praying that as you read this series, you’ll find ever-increasing freedom to manage your household in a way that suits you and your family.

And although we’ve already learned a ton together over the last seven weeks, there are always more tricks we haven’t heard of yet that could come in handy, right?  

21 Practical Home and Family Management Hacks

This post is packed with practical hacks for you to try on for size.

What works for me may work for you; or… it may not.

So, test out the hacks you think will suit you and your family and your current season of lifeand forget the rest.

Below you’ll find:

  • Sara’s 10 Favourite Home and Family Management Hacks; and
  • 11 More Amazing Home and Family Management Hacks.
21 practical home and family management hacks

Sara’s 10 Favourite Home Management Hacks

1. The Secret Bag Solution

Store a roll of kitchen bags at the bottoms of your garbage bins. Whenever a garbage bin needs emptying, fresh bags are ready and waiting.

2. The Versatility of Vinegar

Vinegar is antibacterial and versatile. I use it to:

  • Clean the bathroom (sink, toilet, tub, and floor). Just spray and wipe down every surface to a sparkle.
  • Clean windows and mirrors to a streak-free shine.
  • Freshen the washing machine. Pour 1 cup vinegar and 1 cup baking soda in the tub of the washing machine. Then, run the hottest cycle possible.
  • Freshen the house by spraying a light mist of vinegar over upholstered furniture, throw pillows, curtains, and mattresses to eliminate odours and kill bacteria.

3. The Silence of Sticky Notes

When your brain is already full of schedules, lists, appointments, chores, etc., do you find it difficult to focus on family members’ constant questions and requests?

Then use the power (and silence) of sticky notes. Here’s how it works:

  • Example #1: If my daughter approaches me and says, “Mom, it’s pizza day tomorrow. Don’t forget to put money in my lunch,” I answer, “Write it on a sticky at my desk so I’ll see it in the morning.”
  • Example #2: “Mom, when can Meghan come over to play at our house?” “Write it on a sticky,” I say.
  • Example #3: “Mom, you forgot to pay us allowance last week. Can I have it now?” “Write it on a sticky so I remember.”
  • Example #4: “Mom, you haven’t read a chapter book at bedtime in a while. Can you tonight?” “Write it on a sticky, and I’ll think about it.”

You get the idea.

I can attend to each sticky request when I’m not in the middle of cooking supper or brushing my teeth or scrubbing a toilet. Some requests can be taken care of within the hour or on the same day, but some end up on my agenda to take care of the following week.

4. The Broom Facelift

Extend the life of your broom by snipping off unruly, stray bristles with a pair of scissors. Then take your broom outside and sweep vigorously back and forth through the grass or snow to clean off dust, crumbs, and hairballs. (This works especially well after sweeping broken glass.)

5. The Frugality of Freezing

Cook once but gain two meals by doubling recipes that can be frozen. You’ll save energy, time, and your pocketbook from last-minute take-out.

You can also make extra of just one ingredient that will save you time for another meal, such as cooked chicken breast, cooked ground beef, etc.

Examples of meals that can be frozen and reheated later are: soups, chili, casseroles, extra cooked noodles, guacamole, turkey pie, and cooked chicken breast.

6. The Leverage of Limits

Designate each day of the week as either a “Screen Day” or a “No-Screen Day.” Write down the rules so your family understands them clearly. (Even better, let them help you make the rules, just like we talked about in “Convert Chores into Family Fun.”)

Your kids will buck – at first. But here are the benefits you’ll likely soon gain:

  • There’ll be less arguing about whether they can have screens or not. Just ask your kids questions they already know the answers to, such as: “Is it a screen day today?” “Are supper dishes done?” “Do you need to finish any homework first?” If the answers are all yes, then they can have screens until it’s time to get ready for bed.
  • Your family will interact more. You’ll talk more, play more games, do more puzzles, read more, and play outside more because, on certain days, screens aren’t an option.
  • Your children will be more thankful for the screen time they do get.
  • You’ll gain positive-influence-leverage on no-screen days. For example, your children might not be normally interested in watching a faith-based movie or a documentary about integrity with you – because they’d rather play video games, right? But if you ask them on a no-screen day, just watch how quickly they’ll often agree to join you!

7. The Rhythm of Routine

While working as a maid at a hotel years ago, my trainer taught me to clean every room in the same order, every time. Not only will cleaning go faster this way, but you use less brain energy by creating a rhythm of routine. I follow a routine rhythm for washing dishes, sorting laundry, and cleaning the bathroom.

8. The Might of a Mantra

My sister taught me to repeat this phrase to my children when they complain about chores: “Families work together.”

  • When my son argues that he “doesn’t want to do the dishes, and why can’t I just read instead?” “Because families work together,” I say.
  • When my daughter sneaks off to another room when she’s supposed to be sweeping, I find her and remind her, “Families work together.”

I’ve used this mantra so many times that it’s hardly met with any resistance. It’s like their brains click on and they realize it’s futile to argue because this is what mom always says, and mom always backs up the mantra with action.

9. The Laundry Low Down

Sort laundry by convenience. Unless your family wears expensive, dry-clean-only clothing, it’s a myth that you need an abundance of load types.

I keep my fuzzy clothes separate from my black sweater, obviously; but otherwise, I sort laundry not by colour or material, but by family members. That way, when I fold a load, I only need to walk to one room to put all the items away.

I also sort one load for socks (so they’re all washed together, and I can match every pair!) and one load for towels.

10. The Fabulousness of Fun

Make work fun when possible.

I shared many ideas on how to do this four weeks ago in “Convert Chores into Family Fun,” but it bears reminding. Joy and laughter will increase your energy, motivate your children, and reduce stress.

Remember, though, to be kind to yourself. No guilt trips allowed if you’re feeling tired or grumpy and just don’t have the energy to make chores fun. I’m not always fun. Just ask my kids. But I’m fun when possible.

11 More Amazing Home and Family Management Hacks

11. The Shower Scum Hack

Use a mixture of 1/3 Dawn dish detergent and 2/3 vinegar to clean the scum off your shower walls and door. Spray liberally. Use a rag or sponge to swirl and scrub all over, leaving a soapy layer on the walls and glass door. Let sit 5-10 minutes. Then, turn on the hot shower and close the door. Let the shower steam for 5 minutes. You can also follow these instructions.

12. The Burned-On Food Hack

Transfer your meat (or other food) from burned-on or sticky bakeware to a fresh dish while setting the table. Squirt the original bakeware with dish soap and fill it with extra hot water. Let bakeware soak while you eat dinner.

13. The Messy Bedroom Hack

Create bedroom zones. Here’s a logical way to keep bedrooms tidier with less effort. (This reminds me of Mindy’s “Create Handy Stations” idea. I’m excited to try this out on one of my kids’ bedrooms soon.) Get the details here.

14. The Family Life Hack

Use an agenda, but keep it simple. Don’t get sucked in by fancy agendas filled with an abundance of tabs, sections, and envelope slots. They’re too complicated.

I learned a simple method of staying organized with a notebook/agenda years ago through Anne Ortlund’s book Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman, and it’s never failed me. I highly recommend it.

15. The Shopping Hack

Consider ordering for delivery or pick up whenever convenient.

For example, how much time and energy does it take you to buy groceries? Think about it. You…

  • drive to the store;
  • load groceries into your cart;
  • relocate items from your cart to the grocery belt;
  • pack items into bags and load them back into the cart;
  • relocate groceries from your cart into your vehicle;
  • drive home;
  • relocate groceries from your vehicle to your house; and then
  • put all the groceries away.

Would it suit your family to order those groceries online for pick up? It works for some but not for others. Consider trying it, but always do what works best for you.

16. The Fresh Bedding Hack

Store fresh pillowcases and sheets in bedroom closets or dressers. That way, when you’re tidying a bedroom and realize the bedding is due for a change, it’s a quick and easy job to get done.

17. The Toy Shuffle Hack

Just as we often store seasonal clothing out of sight, try dividing your kids’ toys into two or three sets, keeping only one set out at a time. Rotate toy sets every four months. That way, they always seem new and interesting to your toddlers and preschoolers.

Got older kids? Try shuffling sets of video games and books.

18. The Stinky Drain Hack

Freshen your drains with boiling water, vinegar, and baking soda. (Aha! Another wonder of the versatility of vinegar!) Often, this will also unclog any buildup and kill fruit flies. Get easy instructions here

19. The Supper Plan Hack

Plan supper in the morning. This eliminates “it’s-five-o’clock-and-everyone’s-hungry-but-I-have-no-plan-for-supper” stress.

I usually pull meat out from the freezer in the morning to thaw so it’s ready and waiting by evening.

(Bonus: You’ll know ahead of time if you’re missing an ingredient that needs to be picked up during the day.)

20. The Multiple Brooms Hack

Keep a separate broom and dustpan in logical areas of your home. I keep one set in my entrance, one on the main floor, and one in the basement. This way, I’m more likely to quickly sweep up because I don’t have to run to another room to get a broom when I see a crumby floor.

21. The Dirty Floor Hack

Use a spray bottle (I recommend filling it with vinegar, of course!) and a microfibre mop to quick-wash floors, rather than a pail with water. Find out more here.


Help for Frustrated House Cleaners

God cares about the whole you and every part of your life, even your house cleaning frustrations. You are God’s delight, and he understands exactly what you’re going through in this season of life.

“…You know me inside and out,
    you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
    how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
    all the stages of my life were spread out before you…”

Portions of Psalm 139:13-16 MSG

Why don’t we quickly pray together before you continue on with your day?


A Frustrated House Cleaner’s Prayer

Dear Jesus, too often, we want to fit ourselves into a role or an expectation that you never intended for us in the first place. Thank you that we’re wonderfully made and that you know exactly how we function best, what changes to our homes will work best for our families.

Today, help us to accept your grace. Help us to believe that we don’t have to be perfect, that we only need to do what we can and rely on you to do the rest. We praise you for your faithfulness to us in every season of our lives. Amen.


Your Takeaway Challenge

This week (in addition to testing any of the hacks listed above that piqued your interest), choose to accept the season of life you’re in.

Don’t accept it in a bitter way by resigning to the assumption that life will never change; but accept your circumstances in a peaceful way, knowing that life continually changes just as we continually change. Because working with who you are and making your house work for you requires you to be honest about what season of life you’re in.

Here’s a quick story about how life seasons have affected my cleaning habits over the years and how I’ve needed to adjust my expectations accordingly:

Before I had kids, I used Saturdays to clean. I got all the deep cleaning done in one fell swoop, looked around the house with great satisfaction, and patted myself on the back for my productive cleaning session – knowing I didn’t have to worry about that kind of work again until the next week.

A few years later, and with two rambunctious toddlers running around, I couldn’t even get my breakfast dishes done in one cleaning session. I was so frustrated, I remember venting to my mom one day:

“I fill the sink, start washing dishes, and then someone needs a diaper change. Then, I come back to the dishes, don’t even get one cup washed before I hear the other kid screaming because he can’t reach the Mega Blocks on the shelf. So my dishes just sit there all day until the kids finally go to bed, and then I’m stuck washing crusted-on dishes in the evening when I’m totally exhausted!”

“Why not wash one sink-load at a time?” My wise mother offered. “You don’t need to get all the dishes done at once. And a diaper change can wait for one sink-load. A yelling child can wait for one sink-load. Before you know it, they’ll be done. Before bedtime, even!”

I followed her advice. Some days, my dishes were done by noon. Some days – the harder days – dishes were still left on the counter by evening. And I let them stay there till morning. Because I knew that I could keep tackling them the next day – one sink-full at a time.

Nowadays, my kids are older. They help me clean. They often wash dishes while I attend to other jobs. It’s a whole new world! Another season of life.

So be gracious to yourself: Adjust your expectations according to this season of your life.

Do what you can. Let go of what you can’t.


Encouraging Resources

Today’s blog post is the final article in an 8-week series written to offer you hope and help for your house cleaning frustrations. It’s an honest account of my journey through Mindy’s book.

Other articles in the “Help for Frustrated House Cleaners” series that may interest you are:

  1. Sweep Away the Lies You Believe (About Your Home)
  2. Outsmart Your Messy Zones
  3. Create Handy Stations
  4. Convert Chores into Family Fun
  5. Take Your House on a Prayer Walk
  6. Embrace Your Cleaning Personality
  7. How I Changed My Entrance, Bathroom, and Laundry Room to Fit My Family

God used Mindy’s insights, tips, and wisdom to help me tackle an ongoing struggle in my life.

Maybe her book would help you, too. The House That Cleans Itself has tons of helpful advice – far more than the little I share with you in this blog series. If you’re interested, you can purchase Mindy’s book here.

(But no pressure. This is not an advertisement. I won’t receive compensation for your purchase.)


A Final Word from Mindy

In her book, Mindy never tries to put me (or you) into a neat, little box. She never says – not once! – that if we just try harder, we can be like other women who appear to “do it all.” And she never tells us to work against the grain.

In other words, she encourages us to work with who we are and to make our houses work for us. I’m thankful to God that I found her book. It’s been a life-changer.

Here’s a final word from Mindy Starns Clark before we end the “Help for Frustrated House Cleaners” series:

“All these years later, we are still living in a House That Cleans Itself. We still use HTCI thinking for every new item we acquire, every rearrangement of furniture, and so on. Even so, we have learned the hard way that the system can fall apart once in a while. When that happens, it’s always for the same three-fold reason: We acquire new stuff, but we don’t get rid of any old stuff, and we don’t assign a place for the new stuff.

“…Whenever we reach that tipping point and the house starts to get out of control again, I know it’s time for another big purge. At least with a House That Cleans Itself, it’s easy to see what needs correcting and then take the proper steps to fix it.

“Over the years the most important lesson I have learned is that a House That Cleans Itself is more of an ongoing mentality than a one-time conversion process. As long as we remember that, the system continues to work like a dream and our house continues to stay clean.

“…Things around my house really aren’t like they used to be. Not at all. Now that you have read this book, that is my prayer for you as well. As you turn your home into a House That Cleans itself, you’ll begin to see lasting and effective change room after room after room. The system works. Let it work for you.”

(Credit: The House That Cleans Itself, pp. 211-213, Mindy Starns Clark, Copyright © 2007,2013, Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon 97408, www.harvesthousepublishers.com)

(BONUS: Did you know you can read a free PDF version of the first chapter of Mindy’s book on her website? Check it out here. )


I have loved sharing my journey through Mindy’s book with you. Thank you for following along. May God bless you, your family, and your home.

With love,

www.saralivingfree.com signature

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