I was cleaning our bathrooms earlier and got to thinking about cleaning and housekeeping. I was thinking about my relationship with housekeeping and that of people in general.
It seems to me that some people enjoy cleaning, maybe those are the people that clean houses for a living. Some people view it as a necessary evil. It’s not fun, but if you keep up with it it’s not so bad. Then there is the group of people that avoid cleaning and housekeeping like the plague. Those who clean the bathroom once a month if they’re lucky.
Over the years I have spent a lot of time cleaning and have come up with some tips, tricks and techniques to help speed up the process, so it doesn’t always seem so daunting.
What is Cleaning?
First things first! There is a difference between cleaning and organizing. I think often times we use the word clean when we really mean organize. Maybe we are being lazy and don’t want to say a three syllable word when a one syllable word will suffice. I’m not sure, but somewhere along the way the word clean became interchangeable with organize.
verb: make (someone or something) free of dirt, marks or mess, especially by washing, wiping or brushing
synonyms: wash, cleanse, wipe, sponge, scrub, mop, rinse, scour, swab, disinfect
verb: arrange into a structured whole; order
synonyms: arrange, assemble, marshal, group, classify, categorize, systematize, systemize
As you can see from the definitions, the two words do not really mean the same thing at all. In this post I am talking about the true meaning of clean. Anyone who knows me knows that I am clean, but I’m not exactly organized. My house usually looks like a bomb went off with all the toys strewn about, un-filed papers and un-folded laundry. What people do notice is that our bathrooms are almost always in presentable condition and there are no lingering spills inside the refrigerator.
Some people are clean, some people are organized, and some people are clean and organized. I hope when I grow up I will be clean and organized, but until then I will continue to work on my organizational skills. It is a daily struggle, but for me it is more important for things to be clean than totally clutter free and completely organized.
For those of you struggling with actual cleaning, my advice is for you. For those of you who have mastered the whole housekeeping thing, leave some tips in the comments. I appreciate any and all advice.
Clean Up Your Act
Here is the biggest way to make cleaning easier and less time consuming, wait for it… don’t be a slob!
Seriously, think about the areas of your house that you hate to clean. The two rooms that come to mind are probably kitchen and bathroom, because they have the most potential to become disgusting. Now think about your own habits. Do you clean up after yourself when you use these rooms? Don’t blame it on your kids or spouse, think about your behaviors first.
Do you rinse the tooth paste out of the sink when you are done brushing your teeth? Or is it left to become dried on cement only removed with a chisel? When cooking do you clean as you go or let everything pile up and then feel so overwhelmed at the mountain of pots, pans and dishes that you assume the fetal position and then leave the problem for later?
Maybe you don’t do this yourself, but one or more of your family members does. These unattended messes grow from minor nuisances to back breaking day labor. This is avoided with slightly more effort by all family members up front. It takes about five seconds to rinse the toothpaste out of the sink as soon as you are done brushing. It can take several minutes of scrubbing when a weeks worth of has to hardened in the sink. That’s also assuming you clean your bathroom every week. If you don’t clean every week the toothpaste scrubbing will take even longer.
Start being mindful of your behavior in the bathroom and kitchen. Address spills and messes as soon as they happen. Wet spills are much easier to clean up than dried on spills. Clean as you go when you are cooking and then you won’t have as much clean up when meal prep is done. The little bit of effort up front, which doesn’t really feel like effort at all, makes a huge difference when cleaning day rolls around.
Think about the last time you had unexpected guests at your house. No, I’m not talking about the neighbor kid, actual adults. Were you horrified at the possibility of them using your bathroom or walking through your kitchen? If so, that pit in your stomach is avoidable by always taking a few extra seconds to clean up after yourself. The best part of always cleaning up after yourself is that when cleaning day rolls around the cleaning takes much less time. There will be no major messes to deal with, so you can be in and out of each room in 10 minutes or less.
The next thing you can do is pare down your cleaning products. Multi-purpose cleaner is your friend. The less products you keep on hand the faster things will go. If you have one product that can clean every surface in a room, that product is gold. Spray every surface in the room in order of dirtiest to cleanest and then wipe everything down in order of cleanest to dirtiest. Spraying everything with the same cleaner is faster than switching out cleaners for every surface. Spraying and wiping in that specific order makes cleaning easier too. The cleaner will sit for the longest time on the dirtiest surfaces, so by the time you get to any extra messy areas they will be easier to wipe clean. Let your products work for you so that you don’t need so much elbow grease.
Create a Schedule
The last tip is to clean on a regular basis. Whatever schedule works for you, but ideally every one to two weeks if not more frequently. If you are cleaning on a regular basis, each surface will be cleaner in general so cleaning time will be quick. If you clean your toilet on a weekly basis you’ll avoid lots of scrubbing and that annoying ring that forms at the water line when you go too long in between cleaning.
Pick a schedule that works for you. Some people do all their cleaning in one day. This works for them, because they prefer to block one day off every week as cleaning day and then just worry about the daily clean up after yourself method. Other people prefer to tackle a chore a day. Those people who work full time and don’t want spend an entire Saturday cleaning may prefer this method. Spend 10-20 minutes each day doing a specific chore and by the end of the week everything is done.
What to Do to Get it DONE
Make a schedule. Whichever schedule you chose, you need to keep yourself motivated to follow through. Having a cleaning schedule and routine is no good if you don’t follow through.
Turn on music. It’s much more enjoyable to clean when you are rocking out to your favorite Mozart concerto.
Set a timer. When you have a set amount of time to clean you know the end is in sight and if you are the competitive type you can make it a race against the clock.
Treat yo’ self! Give yourself a reward after you complete your cleaning task. Watch your favorite TV show or have a glass of wine after you are done cleaning as your reward. Tell yourself that you can’t have your reward until you have completed your task.
Get a boss. You could tell your spouse that you are going to clean xyz, most likely they will keep you accountable. Either by asking if you got to your cleaning or noticing out loud when you haven’t completed your task. Only use this motivator if your relationship can handle it. No need to fight with your spouse about the fact that you didn’t get around to scrubbing the toilet. Sometimes I will purposely tell Mike that I am going to clean something just so that he will see the fruits of my labor and so that I will be able to show him that I did what I said I was going to do.
Get a crew. Get your family involved. Many hands make light work, or however the saying goes. Kids can do lots of cleaning tasks. If you are using a cleaner that you are comfortable with them using, let them go for it. You may need to show them how to do it the first time or two, but let go of the idea that it needs to be perfect. Be happy about the fact that you didn’t have to do it all yourself. If you don’t want them using cleaners, have them sweep, vacuum, or dry dust. They will still be helping but no cleaners are involved. Whatever they are happy to help with, let them do it because there will be less complaining. You can tackle the less glamorous tasks knowing that the other cleaning task are being done.
Combining these ideas will help you get your housekeeping under control. You won’t feel so overwhelmed at the idea of cleaning and when you see your reflection in your spot free mirror you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment. You can pat yourself on the back for a job well done, or at least a job done. You’ll have more time for whatever else you need or want to do.
Maybe, just maybe, there will be time to organize too!