Start early by just letting things go. Clean up kids’ toys by just scooping them into the nearest receptacle or pouring everything into a toy box. Don’t worry about keeping sets distinct or books on the shelves. Do this for several weeks.
The night before you plan to clean, have dreams about finding an extra room in your house, and realizing you can use it as a pantry or the baby’s room. Wake at 2am and have trouble falling back to sleep. Spend the time thinking about your game plan the next day.
On the day of, drop the baby at daycare and the 3-year-old at preschool. Swing by Target for any cleaning supplies you might still need. Skip Starbucks, like the dedicated and devout person you are. Head home and drink the ready-made Starbucks coffee in the fridge while you collect the curtains from your son’s room and the bath mats from the bathroom. Take only these things to the laundromat to wash. On the way, ponder how often you’re supposed to wash curtains. Then stop pondering, because that way lies madness.
Set the wash cycles and go home. Spend 20 minutes moving furniture and washing windows before going back to move stuff to the dryer. A 45-minute cycle. Repeat.
In your son’s room, dump out every bucket, bowl, and box you can find. Sort through myriad toys, move them into piles: Monsters Inc, blocks, tiny-sized books that you keep finding all throughout the apartment, trains, puzzles, motorcycles. Quietly choose a couple piles that are going to disappear before the day is up. Sit back and survey your piles, wonder where the other half of the stuff is. Remember the toy chest in the living room, and fetch that too.
Go get the curtains and bath mats. They’re dry and extremely soft despite not using dryer sheets. Look at the laundry detergent and realize it was fabric softener. Oops.
Work for four and a half hours on your son’s room. Feel inordinately proud of it when you back out of the room, admiring your handiwork. Think of the time your husband said he used to love it when he’d come home from school and his mom would have cleaned his room for him. Imagine how happy your son will be when he comes home.
Work on the kitchen. You hate sweeping, hate mopping more – do it anyway. Work on your bedroom, although it’s actually not in bad shape. Move bags and bags of stuff to the living room – stuff for the dumpster, but even more stuff to donate. Tons of baby gear, clothes from everyone’s dressers, three boxes of baby feeding stuff. Sweat. Check your fitbit – you have almost 6000 steps already, despite having only left the apartment to go to do laundry.
Finally, realize the end of the day is nearing. Clean your way into the bathroom, as if you’re painting yourself into the shower in the corner. Feel accomplished and satisfied with yourself today. Then realize that you’re out of soap. Appreciate the situational irony, then use your son’s watermelon-scented 3-in-1 soap. Rinse off in cold water.
Put on clean, folded clothes from the diminished piles in your dresser. Lay down for a minute to enjoy the sun coming in the clean windows.
Wait for your progeny to come home and destroy it all.