My friends would laugh at the thought of me being considered as a naturally organized person, although Motherhood has definitely challenged that area of my life and I have become more so with each child, out of necessity!
Let me first say that toys strewn everywhere is not a sign of a mess. It's a sign that younger kids live here. We pick up our toys when we leave the house or before we sleep (nap time and bed time), if we get around to it (always before bedtime). So, toys can't count as the house being "dirty". Food crusted on an old casserole dish count, but not toys.
I do not have a cleaning system. My take on it is simply priority. Or, a better word: SURVIVAL. Everyone has to be fed. That means that grocery shopping has to happen every Monday, for us. I make a menu Sunday night (for all three meals, every day) and make my shopping list according to where things are in the store. I write out our menu and adhere it to the fridge. I also keep three notepads on our fridge (Grocery Store, Target, To-Do) where I can quickly write down what we need when it comes to my mind. I have to prep the food ahead of time (be it cutting up fruit and storing it in containers for snacks, or making meatballs and such ahead of time for dinners), so Monday afternoons are dedicated to food prep (simple or complex). I know, all of that seems very involved, but being prepared gives me freedom for the rest of the week. So, that takes care of the food part of survival.
Secondly, everyone has to have something to wear. My best way to tackle laundry is to do a load every day. As soon as I get up, I throw a load in the washing machine. Somewhere in the middle of the day, I move it to the dryer. Then it gets folded and put away. I cannot, for the life of me, survive with a Laundry Day. It just piles up too quickly around here! My anxiety reaches new heights when the hamper is overflowing and then I just stand there and do nothing. Keeping it under control is key, for me. And, let's be honest--if it says "Dry Clean Only", it gets tossed to the top shelf of the closet! No time, right now, for that. There: Everyone can survive, fully-clothed.
Then beyond that, it's seeing things that need to be done and doing them as I can. I try to make the beds as soon as we get up. I try to put food in the same place in the pantry every time so it will stay under control. I try to keep dishes out of the sink and keep the dishwasher running. I try, I try. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I do not. But constantly thinking ahead has proven to be the best means for me to keep my sanity!
A great way to accomplish a lot is to practice the "60 Second Rule". I set a timer for one minute and clean as much as I can. It's amazing how much can get done in just a minute! If I walk through the laundry room and notice it is unusually cluttered, I give myself 60 seconds to quickly put things away and wipe down the countertops and appliances. If the kitchen seems overtaken by mail and sippy cups and plastic helicopters and purses and bags and food and pieces of string and bits of half-eaten cereal bars, I give myself 60 seconds to put everything in its proper place (and the trash can). Sixty seconds. Imagine what you can do in five whole minutes! :)
Okay, and let me share a little tidbit that has really helped me to survive the day-to-dayness of stay-at-home Motherhood. There are days where I look around and think, "I was busy ALL DAY ... and have nothing to show for it." I look at my to-do list and all I've crossed off is "laundry". But I know I did more than that! So, one thing I've added to my to-do list are things I have already done. If I read a book to the kids, I write it down on the list and immediately cross it off. If I change five diapers, I write it down and cross it off. If I prep breakfast, feed the kids, clean the dishes, clean the kids, and clean the countertops, I write it down and cross it off. I don't do this every day, but sometimes I just need to be reminded that I AM busy all day, even if the house is still a wreck by the time the kids go to bed. Caring for little ones is a task in and of itself--the most important task of all--and it deserves proper recognition! By the end of the day, that to-do list is one huge scribble and I smile at all of the things I accomplished.
And, on that note, let me end by saying, most of us make the decision to be a stay-at-home parent because we want to raise our kids ... not to be housekeepers. Therefore, we shouldn't be hard on ourselves when our homes do not glisten the way we wish they would. If at the end of the day the kids have been loved, fed, taught, and nurtured, then our day was a successful one. The house needs attention and it will get it, just don't feel too bogged down by it.
Have a lovely day.