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How I handle a messy home as a single parent

I can’t be the only one who struggles to keep up with a clean home. With work, kids work/social schedule, and taking time for self, busy is an understatement. I don’t know about you, but cleaning after all the adulting responsibilities is the last thing I want to do.  

The pandemic has kept us homebound most of the past year so as you can imagine, the number of things in our common living spaces has increased. Usually, we can stay on top of it and keep it manageable but for the past few weeks, I’ve struggled to stay on the normal cleaning schedule we have. Simply put, my house feels like a disaster zone. 

In response, my nagging to “clean up after yourselves” has been on constant replay. Whether you’re a single or partnered parent, I’m sure you can relate.  

Do you have images from “Hoarders” dancing in your head, yet?  

Before you pass judgement, my home isn’t as bad as I make it. Now, it isn’t HGTV ready (and probably never will be) but that’s ok with me. It’s comfortable, a little non-traditional, and works for us. But it’s messy. And we need to handle it. 

So how do I handle a messy home?  

Spoiler alert… I don’t. Well, alone.  

When my kids were much younger, I would barrel through all of it in a day and do it myself. I admittedly have control issues so doing it all myself seemed like the most rational thing to do. I mean, to just get the job done, amiright?  

But now that the kids are older, I have the continued responsibility of teaching them how to be a successful adult and that means relinquishing that control.  

Here’s my top 2 tips on what works for our family unit: 

  1. Create a system. When I get to the “I can’t take it anymore” level of messy, I write a list of what needs to be done in each room. I do this for our common living spaces: the living room, dining room, kitchen and main bathroom. Then I let my kids choose what chores they’re willing to do. More times than not, they will divide and conquer equally. Which is nice because it saves the fighting and nagging. One key thing I’ve learned about this process is setting a time frame of when I’d like it done is important. Otherwise, it won’t get done.  
  2. Shifting my mindset. When I get frustrated with the mess, I remind myself that one day, there will be no mess to clean up. This one in particular hits harder now than it did when I first heard it. I had a mentor whose children had been grown and out of the house when my kids were younger. I would always comment on her clean and organized home, asking her how she did it and how I could ever allow her into mine. There always seemed to be Legos or crayons all over the floor and handprints on the windows. Her response was something that stuck with me throughout the years… “There will be one day when the reminders of little ones will be gone, and you’ll miss it.” I dunno guys, it did something inside that I can’t explain. So, the clothes beside the hamper, the hair in the drain, the cups on the table… those things will all be gone once my kids leave my house. And I’ll miss it. So, yeah, I can extend a little grace and oversight. I’d rather spend time with them than have a clean home any day.  

In roughly 3-5 years, I’m going to have an empty nest. While it’s important to me to have a safe and clean home for us to live in, I have to keep things in perspective. Since my kids entered my life, I had to let go of the idea my home was going to look picture perfect every day. After all, they are what makes my house a home.  


If you’d like to connect with Beth Montgomery, she’s active on social media (Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn). You can also find her blog at 

Beth Montgomery
Beth Montgomery is a single mom of teens and is a Jill of all trades who lives in the Harrisburg area. While she wasn't born anywhere near here (or even in this country), she calls Central PA home (for now) and writes about her journeys through adulting... with kids. Visit her online at or connect with her on the socials.

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