Monday, August 13, 2012

Housecleaning--my own rules

Who smiles when they clean? Or wears dresses and pumps?
There are sites you can visit if you need help or if you want to develop good systems to clean your house.  I'll put those at the bottom of the article here, with my own caveats about each one.

My thing about housecleaning is that I hate doing it.  I hate it.  I'd rather nap.  I'd rather go outside.  I'd rather watch TV.  I'd rather read. I'd rather be torn apart by zombies.  OK, not so much the last one, but you get the idea.  I hate housecleaning.

I used to wait until the weekend to do it, look around my place, sigh heavily, and nap.  Or I'd attack it with zeal, get it clean, and then be so tired after that I'd leave dishes in the sink or clutter on a table and figure "I'm still so tired, I'll get it later."  Later would come and the clutter and mess got married and had many, many ugly babies.

I found one of the biggest obstacles to me keeping the place clean was all the stuff I had.  Now--I was no hoarder.  Not by a long shot.  But I am not one of those people who can magically organize their things and keep them in perfect order.  I had a lot of stuff that I didn't need and I had a lot of paper. Oh, Judas in gogo boots, did I ever have paper.  Bills.  Statements.  Junk mail.  And I'd mean to shred it, but then I'd get tired even thinking about it and . . .well, you know the drill.

I'm able to keep it in good shape most of the time now.  If it starts getting messy, I'm either really busy and/or out a late a lot that week, or I've gotten sick.  (Colds especially seem to make me really lazy.  I might not be running a fever, but the snottiness and general feeling of malaise just make me sulky and tired.)  I went on a serious cleaning binge several months ago, and while my second bedroom needs a going over, I have been able to maintain without too much trouble.  The tactics I use are the tactics homemaking advisers have been giving for years--in any book or website I've perused, these things are always highlighted.

Basically, I am able to keep it in decent shape by doing a few basic things:

I always make my bed.  Always.  It's not that difficult and the room looks 100 percent better after.  I never used to do it.  Now I feel compelled to do it.

I got rid of stuff I didn't use regularly.  I did not keep it if I thought I might use it one day, or if I felt guilty about not using it, or if I felt like I would use it if only X thing would happen.  I let it go.  Most of the stuff I donated to thrift stores or to my church's yard sale.  (They all sold quick at the Unitarian Universalist church yard sale.)  Yes, you can organize things with cool over the door hanging doohickeys or pretty wicker drawers lined with lavender-scented paper or reuse things as storage.  But it's still stuff you don't use, still stuff taking up room, still stuff that is going to end up getting in your way.  So if you don't use it, don't keep it.

Why is this? Well, it's revolutionary, I know, but when your surfaces are free of extraneous stuff, it's actually easier to wipe them down, dust them, and clean them.  I know, right??? Also, it's easier to keep track of things if you don't have lots to keep track of.

I shredded all of the paper I didn't need.  All of it.  In the U.S. at least, you can drop off things to be shredded at certain Office Max or Staples locations, and they'll shred it for you--you pay for it by the pound.

I was very selective about what I brought into my house.  I don't buy things unless I'm going to use them.  I don't accept used things unless I know I'm going to use them.  I'm totally fine with saying, "No, thank you" now, because I realize I won't be hurting anyone's feelings.  I have a condominium, not a large house, and only so many places to store things.

I do the dishes every day.  I will run them in the dishwasher if I have people over or if I'm doing a lot of cooking/have used a lot of dishes in one day.  But that's rare.  It's just me so I do the dishes, dry them, and put them away.

I clean as I go.  I keep a rag in the bathroom (and I toss it in the hamper every couple of days and replace it with a clean rag).  After I've brushed my teeth, I wipe down the surfaces.  I'll run the toilet brush inside the toilet bowl.  I'll dust my dressers and headboard and foot board in my room--I have a small duster that does the job quickly.  I'll use it in the living room.  I do not use special cleaners or materials for general cleaning, though I do have stuff for granite and for wood.  However, you do not need special products or microfiber anything or stuff like that.  I have been known to use bottles of shampoo that I realized I didn't like using for hairwashing--put a little in the toilet and swish it around.  It smells nice.  I will use baking soda to scrub things like my sinks.  My countertops are sealed, so I don't use vinegar on them because it will wear away at the finish.  If you have rags, some sort of soap, and water, you can get things reasonably clean.

I'll sweep after I cook.  It doesn't matter how careful I am, the floor gets awful after I cook.  It takes all of two minutes to sweep out that area.

If my clothes need to be washed, they go into the hamper.  If they can be worn, they are either hung up or put away in my dressers.  You'd think this would be an obvious thing, but (I hang my head in shame) I was a repeat offender of the crime of dropping clothing and stuff on the floor.

When I do laundry, it gets put away.  ASAP.  Again, for some reason, finishing half of the task would inspire me to do something else, to take a little "break" that would stretch into a long break and then I'd forget about having to finish a task like, say, putting away my clean clothes and linens.  And then I'd get up the next morning and be like, "Hey, why are my towels and stuff all on my couch?"  That doesn't happen anymore because I don't do it anymore.

These are some of the basic, minimum things I do to keep my place from looking like a horror show.  Sometimes, though it still looks like a horror show.  I'm far from perfect.  One of the shelves in my linen closet is out of control and needs to have stuff culled and organized, and I have a few junk drawers that need a going over.  I still fall prey to clean counter, stuffed drawer syndrome, but I can get home, look at a reasonably clean place, and relax.

OK, so there are a couple of sites you may like that can help you or give you guidance if you are like me or have issues around keeping things in order.

There's FlyLady.  I'd heard about her twelve years ago from all of my friends with kids. She has a book, Sink Reflections, that I got out of the library years ago.  I found the book very useful (that's where I got the shampoo as cleaning soap idea).  She basically urges you to break your cleaning down into 15-minute tasks.  It works.  She also is not a fan of perfectionism and is very encouraging.  She has a website and I have found that she's been pushing products these days, which okay, I get it, everyone has to make a dollar, but it flies in the face of her early days when she said you really only needed rags, water, and soap to clean.  Please keep that in mind if you go on her site and sign up for her emails.

FlyLady isn't for everyone, though.  She's very sweet and very chirpy and some people don't respond well to that.  Another site, which has similar tactics, is Unf**k Your Habitat.  (Yes, the blogger uses many, many naughty words, so if you're not a fan of cussing, this site is not for you.)  She has apps for iPhones (called Unfilth Your Habitat) and will eventually come out with one for Android phones.  Like FlyLady, she advises people to time cleaning tasks and take breaks (though she advises 20 minutes of cleaning and 10 minute breaks).  She's just as encouraging but a little more tart than sweet, uses many gifs to give encouragement, and starts off every day with sparkly gif telling you all to MAKE YOUR BED, ALREADY.  She also loves Magic Erasers.  Loves them.  (I've used them and I'm more meh, but your mileage may vary.)

I like both--their advice is very similar, they are encouraging, and don't make you feel bad for not having a Stepford-level clean place.  (If your place is Stepford-level clean, then you should feel bad because you do nothing with your life other than clean things.)  All of the things I do are things FlyLady and UFYH advise people to do.  It really is more a matter of style for which site you prefer.

And if you prefer no site (I don't use them so much, though I'll drop in for inspiration or ideas), just remember this: do a little every day, and do the little jobs that don't seem like a big deal.  They are the easiest to neglect and will snowball into big messes.


  1. I remember when my Mum first discovered FlyLady. There was a serious bout of decluttering, and whenever I'm cleaning I can hear her (the Flylady's) South Carolina accent in my head, telling me to swish and swipe, lol.

    I agree that the Flylady site/company has become very commercialised of late though, but her book is good and there are a lot of good tools available on the website, like what cleaning to do each day so that you get round the whole house - the bits you wouldn't normally think of!

    I will check out the other site, as it sounds more fun! :)

    Sounds like you have got your housekeeping down and well organised though! :)

  2. Sound, sane, and reasonable advice.

    I find I can't do the making of the bed everyday thing, 'tho. Living alone, and maybe being a guy, it just seems like so much wasted time. I have my own trick: I have "oversheets" (for lack of better term) which are sheets *over* a made bed. When guests come, at the last minute, I whip off the "oversheets" and with a tuck here and there, and TA-DA! A made bed.

    Great article, Pam. A good start to my day!

  3. for me, if I keep the cleaning supplies and tools near the spots that I need them, I'm much more likely to use them. So it make mean I have an extra dustpan and whisk broom or two in the house (bathroom, kitchen, potting area in garage), but I use then regularly. Same with spray for cleaning out sinks. I keep several bottles of homemade cleaning spray and stacks of rags in every work area of the house, so that I'm more inclined to clean up my messes as I go.

    But the worst of everything is the paper junk. I continue to cancel catalogs and other junk mail, and try to keep as little paper stuff from coming into the house.

    I find that if everything has a spot where it's supposed to go, at least if that item gets left out, I can quickly put it away, without wasting time thinking of where to put it.

    Good thoughts to get the week started.

  4. "Clean as you go" is excellent advice. I try to do that whenenver possible. Unfortunately, my one year old likes to go through the house moving toys, remote controls, and whatever she can get her hands on into different places. The result is that there is stuff everywhere. house may be clean but random things are not where they should be =)

  5. Holly,
    When mine was two and his sister was newborn, I figured he would grow up and there would be no more toy dings on doorways and no more little handprints a foot from the floor. It did happen but not as I thought. When the third child was putting dings and handprints down low, the older one tried to jump and hit doorways as he went through them. Eventually, I had handprints to the door tops and two ceiling--one room with extremely low ceilings and the other over part of the stairway. Soon they could all three reach everything in the house to clutter the house. You have it good in the cleaning/decluttering dept right now.

    I actually love to clean, but my physical health leaves me with no bending or reaching and pain.

  6. So ... the kid clutter will never end ... how is THAT supposed to cheer me up?????

    I think paper clutter is the worst. A lot of it is beyond my control--during the school year the amount of paper the kids bring home is crazy. The messiness is different at different ages, but it's still there. I tell myself it's a sign of a happy household. I am probably living in a delusionary world but I'm happy here so please don't break my bubble.