How to Keep a Clean House When You Live in a Fixer-Upper

One of the first things I learned early on when we moved to The Someday Home was that fixer-uppers require a little extra attention when it comes to making them feel clean and tidy. Living in a construction site, by nature, is messy. It’s dusty, dirty, cluttered, and you never know what one of the kids will pull out of one of the holes in your floor… not that that’s ever happened here >clears throat uncomfortably<.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am no domestic goddess. True, I love a clean home (actually, I love being barefoot, but I’m SUPER freaked out about crud sticking to my feet), but I love watching Netflix and crafting and playing with my kids more. I’m not at all interested in spending hours cleaning house… so, how do I do it? How do I live in a perpetual construction site without putting on shoes or losing my ever-loving mind? It’s simple: lower your standards. The end.

Ha! Just kidding… kind of. That’s definitely part of it. But there are some tips I’ve learned to live by to make it a little easier.

Safety first

Obviously, you want to make sure you always leave your home in a safe state for those who inhabit it. My kids have learned, through our constant renovations, that there are times where certain areas of our home are off-limits, and some areas that require boots and work gloves. We always try to keep our worksite contained as much as possible, and if a project is going to stretch over more than a weekend, we are sure to put away tools and dangerous items where the kids can’t reach them (because, y’know, kids…). It’s worth mentioning that sometimes it takes a little bit of extra planning to make sure we can complete our project in phases that will allow for clean(ish) living in between.

Buy a robot vacuum

eufy robovac

Me from 20 years ago can’t believe such a thing exists, but, by the grace of God and the fine folks at Roomba, it does. I had wanted one for years, but we never could justify it until we removed all the carpet from our home. Aint no way mama was going to be sweeping and mopping the entire house every day. We don’t actually own a Roomba, ours is a Eufy, but we love it all the same. We named her Rosie and she’s a proper member of the family. She runs around at least every other day, cleaning up crumbs, sawdust, and Dexter’s fur, mostly. Girlfriend even had a run-in with a turkey (and a whole pan of turkey drippings) thanks to Dexter last year around Thanksgiving time, and after disassembling her, cleaning her out, and letting her dry, she still runs like a champ. Somedays she’s my favorite member of the family.

Keep as much debris outside as possible

If I’m lucky enough to not have to do our dirty work directly inside our home, it usually means we’re working in the garage. Sawdust, insulation, and drywall crud can easily get tracked into the house, so it’s important to have a good rug right outside your door and to really enforce the “clean feet” rule. If you’re coming in my house and you’re not taking your shoes off, you damn well better wipe them off as good as you can. Barefoot Jessie is pretty easy going until she’s stepping on garage crud. I really like a thick, bristle-y rug for right outside my garage door.

Try to keep the mess to one area


This isn’t always possible, but when we’re working in the house, I try to contain as much of the mess to one room. All of the tools, supplies, and mess needs to stay in that room, at all costs. If we’re getting really dirty (taking out walls, cutting out the floor, etc.), we’ll cover the doorways with painters plastic, to try to contain as much mess as possible.

Stick to a regular cleaning routine

I’m rolling my eyes at myself as I type that. As much as I hate cleaning, it is a necessary evil, and probably even more so when you live in a fixer-upper. In addition to running Rosie 4-7 times each week, I really work hard to stay on top of all dusting, disinfecting, wiping, and scrubbing. I wish I had a magical solution to share with you guys here, but unfortunately, I don’t. The closest thing I have is an epic house cleaning playlist (with tons of Tom Petty and Fleetwood Mac) and a yummy-smelling scented candle. For some reason, cleaning doesn’t seem so bad to me if I can lose myself in a lilac field while belting out “Gypsy” as I’m bent over a toilet.

Accept that sometimes, it’s just part of living in a fixer-upper

As much as you try to fight it, sometimes it’s worth remembering that this is part of what you signed up for. There’s a reason that not everyone chooses to live in chaos and construction, but if this is what you’ve decided your family is all about, then you have to embrace what you cannot change, at least for a while. Nothing is permanent. Not even the duct tape holding my kitchen floor together, as repeated passes with a steam mop has confirmed. If you’re anything like me, clinging to the idea of what your home will be like someday is enough to get you through the rough patches.




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