Even if you were a gung ho housekeeper before you had a child, there are probably a few Cheerios and toys (or toy parts) hiding between your sofa cushions now. And if you were a little lax before, you're most likely facing more muddy shoes, broken crayons, and smudgy fingerprints than you ever imagined.
It may seem like you have only two choices -- clean constantly or throw in the towel before you've even tried to wipe anything with it. But there's a happy medium. We asked cleaning experts and normal moms for strategies that'll give you the home you want in the time you have. Here's how:
Figure out which messes matter most
Set out to clean your house from top to bottom, and you'll exhaust yourself long before you've achieved your goal. Instead, concentrate on the high-traffic rooms, says Laura Dellutri, author of Speed Cleaning 101. Usually, this means the kitchen and bathroom, plus the entryway, living room, and any rooms that visitors may see during the next week -- say, your child's room, if that's where she and her friends play.
Decide what you'll do within each room, too. Grab a laundry basket and gather up any clutter (especially stuff that belongs in another part of the house), so you can get a clear view of the big picture. Then leave the room and reenter it with your eyes shut, advises Julie Edelman, author of The Accidental Housewife cleaning guide. When you open your eyes again, what jumps out at you? The dirty dishes on your dining room table? The spots on your carpet? Deal with your top five or six gripes and leave the others for another time.