I grew up in a very un-kept house. If relatives were coming for the holidays, it was a total freak-out to get the house cleaned up. I even remember a few times when friends popped by unannounced (like people in the south do), and we literally hid until they left because of the condition of the house, which my grandmother would dubiously brag was decorated in the style of “Early Salvation Army”.
When I grew up I made a vow – “As Bob is my witless, I will never clean for company again!”
How’s that French? I know, I’m sort of like the family in My Big Fat Greek Wedding – everything that’s good traces back to being French. But I will tell you how it connects – the French lifestyle is about confidence and appreciating the beauty of things around you. And you just can’t do that while living in a big hot mess.
If one of your goals is to live in an orderly, kept house, here are some suggestions.
Make a schedule
Work out a plan of the tasks that need to be done daily, weekly and monthly, and then execute. I have a simple outline that I follow, not rigidly, but it keeps me focused on what needs to be done. The monthly tasks are usually rotated throughout the weekends.
Spot clean floor if needed
Put in a load of laundry if needed
Handle email and desk papers
Load dishwasher, wipe counters, stove and sink
Fold laundry if needed
Pick up and put away
Wipe down bathroom sinks
Clean fridge, stove and hood
Tidy closets and cabinets
Clean patios and yard
Wipe down baseboards and light switches, sweep cobwebs
Clean one area at a time
I love the satisfaction of finishing things, even if it’s scraping the last bit of mustard out of the jar, and that applies to my home keeping as well. It’s easy to get into a sort of “Cat in the Hat” scenario where you find something that goes in another area of the house and go to put it away, only to find that work is needed there too, which you jump in to, so nothing really gets completed.
When I am cleaning one area and come across things that belong in other rooms, I stack them up or pile them into a laundry basket and refuse to put them away until I’m finished with the task at hand. It keeps me focused and when I’m done, I’m done.
Give yourself a timeframe to complete tasks
Here’s a little game I play with myself that makes the work fly by. When I start a task, for example cleaning the bathroom, I set a target of how long it will take me to finish. I make the target stiff but doable. Then the game is to beat my target. It’s surprising to find what can be done in such a short time, and besides it’s always better to have a game.
Use extra minutes wisely
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could take all of the extra 2 or 3 spare minutes of the day waiting for time to leave for somewhere or being on hold, etc. and squoosh them up into an extra hour or two? Well I don’t have an answer for that (I’m not a unicorn, you know), but I can tell you what to do with an extra 2 or 3 or 5 minutes –
Clean a mirror
Wipe down a sink
Sort the mail
Put away anything accumulated on the dining room table
File a few things on your desk
Fluff the sofa pillows
Take out the trash
Stick cups and glasses in the dishwasher
Clean out your purse
Empty the waste baskets
Water the plants
I once had a houseguest comment, “your house is always so clean but I never see you cleaning!” Yep, minute here, minute there.
Clutter by Design
If the same clutter keeps appearing in the same place over and over, it just means it doesn’t have a good home.
A great way to take control of clutter is through the cunning use of baskets, hooks and decorative containers. Install hooks by the door you typically enter through, to drop off handbags and coats. Use a decorative bowl to catch keys and shed sunglasses. Place an attractive basket next to the sofa for magazines and catalogs you want to look through later.
Plan a spot for the items that invariably keep showing up and prevent them from accumulating in places you don’t want them.
Earlier this year I had a little fit of Konmari (well, sort of bastardized Konmari – rather than tackling things by category, I attacked by rooms.)
I assigned 3 criteria for keeping things – do I use it, do I need or want it and do I love it. Anything that didn’t fit into one of those 3 criteria had to go. We took 3 carloads of books, CD’s, clothing and house crap to Goodwill and endless bags to the garbage can (including 2 full bags just out of my desk!)
Everything that remained was put in the “logical” place to find it – office supplies in the office, guest linens in the closet near the guest room, etc. That way I don’t have to “remember” where anything is, I can just look where it ought to be.
Not only was it liberating to shed unwanted/unneeded things, I now know where everything in my house is, I love and use everything in my house, and it’s easy to return things to where they belong.
I believe you have to find balance in all things. I will never be so clean and fussy that you wouldn’t feel comfortable putting your feet up, nor so messy as to feel uncomfortable. And I will certainly never hide when someone comes knocking unexpectedly – well, not because of the house anyway.