Plan your peaceful Christmas: maintaining your home during the holidays

On Wednesday, Tsh talked about “guest-ifying” your home now, before the holidays are in full swing. Cleaning, decluttering and preparing for guests ahead of time is an important step, but once you clean and declutter, then what?

If you have young children, things probably won’t stay neat and tidy for very long on their own, and none of us want to spend the holiday season cleaning and organizing rather than baking, visiting friends and family and enjoying all that it has to offer!

I often get asked how we keep our home neat with four little ones. The key is that we literally clean up every single night before bed. We put things back where they belong, wipe down the counters and vacuum/mop any areas that need it. Because we do this as a family, it’s relatively painless and means that we wake up with a clean slate every day.

Here are some more tips to help you maintain your home and keep up with the household chores without sacrificing time with the people you love.


  • Keep a pantry inventory to keep track of items your need to replenish.
  • Plan your menus so you’re not buying extras you won’t use.
  • Clean out your fridge each week before you go grocery shopping and wipe down the shelves as you do.
  • Line the bottom of your oven with foil to catch drips and spills.
  • Clean up stove spills/boil-overs right away so they don’t build up or harden.
  • Get into a habit of running your dishwasher regularly and emptying it right away so that your dirty dishes don’t pile up in the sink. Or wash the dishes by hand.
  • Rotate your pantry stockpile regularly.
  • Use glass storage containers. They’re healthier AND you can see what’s in them.

Kids’ Toys

Photo from Deal Seeking Mom

  • Clean up every day and put toys away by set so that the mess doesn’t build up over time.
  • Rotate toys every 1-2 months rather than having them all available all the time.
  • Request clutter-free gifts like craft supplies, experiences and books (you’ll never convince me that children’s books are clutter!).
  • Give kids regular age-appropriate chores and have them help maintain their areas.


  • Limit the number of bath toys in the tub at a time.
  • Wipe down the sink every day. We use my husband’s towel from his shower (he’s supposed to be clean when he gets out, right?) or you could keep rags under the sink to use.
  • Keep a written inventory of medicine so you don’t find out you’re out of ibuprofen at 1 o’clock in the morning with a feverish kid.
  • Clean the bathroom while bathing your kids.

And More

Photo from Decorating Your Way

  • Don’t use your master bedroom as a catch all.
  • Think twice before putting something in storage — do you really need to keep it? Is it worth the cost of storing it, the time you’ll have to invest to take care of it and the space you’re giving up?
  • Follow the touch-it-once rule — if you pick something up, find a home for it right away rather than setting it down to be taken care of later.
  • When you take something out of storage, be sure to put it back in the correctly labeled box when you’re done.
  • Store your regular decor in your holiday boxes so they’ll be easy to find when it’s time to pack the seasonal/holiday decor away.

By looking for little ways to maintain your home every day, you’ll cut down on the company-is-coming panic and have more time for the things that really matter!

This post was brought to you by Cozi, an online calendar that families can share to make sure everyone is on the same page! Manage your calendar, shopping lists, to-do lists and even family memories from anywhere. Enter to win a $100 Amazon gift card by submitting a tip to Cozi’s Best Household Tips contest!

How do you maintain your home during busy seasons, especially when you might have more guests than usual?

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  1. Alison @ Femita

    Thanks for the tips Mandi. It’s a matter of routine really: clean as you go. If you make a habit out of this right from the beginning, your kids won’t know any different. Loving the christmas series btw!

  2. Amy Watson

    Thank you! I have been stressing about cleaning lately. I am hosting Christmas for my family this year and have been wondering how to do it with a baby and a 5-year-old. You have given me some GREAT advice…and I’m printing out the post about kitchen counter clutter and making my husband read it!

  3. Bolån

    I appreciate that your stressed out the importance of maintaining cleanliness, and how to make it simply stress-free. On special events, unnecessary furniture must go. As much as possible, I also try to be minimalist and focus on themed decoration.

  4. Amy

    Thanks for this – I really need to get the rest of the family on board, especially with not using flat surfaces for clutter collection, and cleaning up every evening before bed – a fabulous idea and really, so simple in theory.

  5. Amanda

    Wonderful tips, thank you. I really need to clean out some toys from the kids room. They seem to be drowning in toys, and there is more in the basement! Definitely need to give some of those away.

  6. Karen

    My mothers rule was to always have something in your hands when you get up. I can always find something that needs to be put away that I can grab no matter where I am in the house.

  7. Living the Balanced Life

    Hi Mandi! Fancy seeing you here!
    I wanted to say something about the dishes. My kids did the dishes for years and now they are almost grown and hardly home at all, so I have started doing them again. I started out by doing them the way my son had, letting the sink and counter pile until you could’t get to the faucet and THEN unload and load. This is the way it has been done in our home for probably 10 years. However, after the post you referenced, I decided to still use my dishwasher, but to actually load it as I go! I know alot of people doing that, but it was a major shift in thinking for me, but I LOVE it! My sink stays clear, I can get to the coffee maker in the morning, and I don’t always have that huge pile staring at me. And, of course, it is SO much cleaner!

    Very important that families with kids teach their kids to pick up after themselves. We are not their maid and they need to learn that in the beginning, and then again when they are teenagers, lol!

  8. Dawn Camp

    Mandi, these are fabulous tips. I especially needed “Don’t use your master bedroom as a catch all.” Everyone’s off-season clothes or things they don’t have a home for seem to make it there, and I want my room back!

  9. TAbitha (From Single to Married)

    I’m a firm believer in the “clean up as you go” rule. I had to do a deep cleaning a week or two ago and have found that it’s so much easier if I just keep picking up after myself as each day. Still tough sometimes, but much easier!

  10. Heidi

    I love love love it when we follow the rule of making sure the house is clean before we head to bed. It makes the whole next day automatically better when you start with a clean house and don’t feel as if you’re already behind. Good tips for all year round!

  11. Jaime

    I make sure to stick to my morning and evening routines, so that I know I’ll get the dishes unloaded, bathroom wiped down, beds made, toys picked up, etc. The house may not be spotless, but at least it’s tidy and neat. Thanks for a great post!

  12. Briana

    I’d like to know how long it takes you to do your end of the day clean up. I find that if I don’t stay on top of things all day and be “herding” my kids to stay on top of things all day, it is a colossal mess that feels overwhelming at the end of our exhausting days. Plus, how does one envision her spouse for this kind of continual “maintaining” of the home, particularly putting things in their home right away rather than just laying them wherever?

    • Mandi @ Life Your Way

      Hey Briana!

      I would say it does take us at least 30 minutes on a good day and up to an hour on a bad “pile everything everywhere” day, but that usually includes cleaning up from dinner and getting the kids ready for bed. We don’t expect the kids to help out the whole time. They usually do their chores and then watch a half hour of TV while we vacuum, put laundry away, etc.

      You could definitely split it up and do some stuff before lunch and some before bed, but we often feel like all we’re doing is cleaning all day when we do it that way, so most days we stick with our evening clean up. And even though we’re “working”, it always makes me smile because we’re chatting and laughing and working as a team, which makes it easier.

      My husband often leaves piles for later, but it’s his house too, so I leave them for him to deal with in his own time and just ignore them *or* if they really bug me I clean them up and try to do it happily. Putting my expectations on him (as if it’s a matter of right versus wrong rather than just preference) leads to fights, but accepting that he has a right to do things his way makes it much less stressful on both of us!

      • Sarah

        Wow, what an insightful response!

        “Putting my expectations on him (as if it’s a matter of right versus wrong rather than just preference) leads to fights, but accepting that he has a right to do things his way makes it much less stressful on both of us!”

        A much needed reminder for me 🙂

        Thanks for another fantastic post!

        This is where I get my daily dose of inspiration…..

  13. Alissa

    We are really focusing on the maintaining part these days, and then we decided it was well worth it to hire a house cleaner once a month to handle the deep cleaning! Not in everyone’s budget, but it’s a manageable option for us right now and the mental stress reduction is worth gold in this season of life.

  14. Becky@Organizing Made Fun

    It’s like you are in my house…I’m exactly like you – almost everything you said, we do! Love it!!

  15. Lauren

    Ooh – I’ll definitely be adopting the clean-the-fridge-before-shopping tip (or ‘appointing a deputy’ to do it for me!

  16. Prerna

    Hi Mandi! Thanks for the lovely tips. I agree, cleaning up every night is so important to wake up to a clean, fresh home in the morning.

  17. Sheridan

    I do the put the normal decorations in the Christmas boxes. That is so helpful!
    I like the idea of one toy in and one toy out. I have tried to implement it, but it is a challenge for my boys!

  18. Kelly O

    I have to add my vote for sometimes doing dishes by hand, particularly if you’re just doing a couple of things. It’s so easy, takes literally maybe five minutes (at least that’s the rule I set for myself – if it’s just a few things and I can get them done in five minutes, I wash by hand.)

    If you’re not sure about the five-minute thing (which I have swiped from FlyLady) just set a timer for five minutes and see how much you can get done. I shock myself sometimes when I’m not constantly looking at my watch and realize how much I’ve done in a short period of time. That bit of upkeep daily really does help things from getting crazy.

  19. Ginny

    We have a long way to go in our house in staying neat and organized for the holidays- the Christmas tree is still up from last year! I did get my family to help me take all the ornaments off after Easter but from reason my husband had a personal attachment to leaving the tree up. Either that, or he just conned me into not doing it.

  20. Heather of WA State

    Another way to keep your home clutter free after the holiday is over:

    When relatives and friends ask what to get our family or the kids for Christmas, I have a list ready. The list includes tickets to performances, memberships to zoo & museums, subscriptions to magazines, vouchers for cooking class, etc. I make a point of thanking people throughout the year for what they’ve given us (“We had such a good time at the zoo this weekend, thanks again for the membership!”), and many have said that they really prefer giving these types of gifts to going to the mall and buying stuff.

    Best of all is that it keeps money in our local economy. No one is buying cheap plastic crap shipped in from China or textiles manufactured with child labor.

  21. Jennifer Margulis

    I love Heather’s idea to have family give gifts of experiences. I’m so down on the cheap plastic stuff (that’s a nice word for it) made in China. I don’t want any of it this holiday season!

  22. megan stremick

    Thanks for these great ideas. I think these are great suggestions to use all year long. I am constantly trying to clean out and organize the house. I love the note about when you pick something up you find a place for it before putting it down. I find that I will pick the same thing up about five times in the same day because i keep moving it around without finding it’s ‘home’.

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