It’s been more than a decade since I’ve struggled to keep my house clean. I find that if my house is messy, I can’t concentrate on anything that requires brain power, so I have to keep it clean. Over the years, especially during particularly busy times, I’ll lower my standards a bit, but for the most part, my house is usually neat and clean.
I have some great friends though who really struggle in this area. The other day we got into a conversation on this very subject, and we all learned some really valuable lessons that I thought I’d share:
- People who keep their homes clean often work on a cleaning schedule.
They may not realize it but they’re probably working via a routine. For instance, I always do our weekly laundry and most large cleaning jobs on Saturdays. I work during the week and struggle just to get a wholesome dinner on the table each night, so I put these large tasks off until the weekend. Every now and then I deviate, but I’d say at least 90% of the time I follow this pattern.
- The folks who struggle to keep it all clean complain often about their lack of organizational skills.
I think this is a self-defeating prophecy, and should be avoided. My friends told me that they often put themselves down when they talk to themselves. The ‘organized’ folks I know also struggle with self-defeating talk, but not in the pervasive way that my messy friends do. Give yourselves a break already! :)
- Clean freaks can’t concentrate in a dirty house.
When they look around their house, the out of place things really stand out. Because they have a mental picture of their clean haven, and they see it in real life often, they notice (and are affected) when everything is not ‘just so’. Instead of letting the clutter just sit there, they immediately pick it up and put it away because they just can’t function without doing so.
- They don’t ‘half-way’ do a job.
Rather than picking up an out of place toy, and sitting it somewhere else that it doesn’t belong, they walk the extra dozen steps to put it away correctly.
- They deal with a job immediately, if possible.
For instance, when they unload groceries, they put everything where it goes immediately, rather than doing it wrong or leaving it partially undone. Why put off tomorrow what you can get done completely today?
- They get up early, almost every day.
Clean freaks are often early risers, and they do at least one ‘cleaning’ activity each morning. For me, it’s either emptying the kitchen trash can, or walking through the house and doing a quick straighten (take toys, dirty clothes, etc. back to kids rooms). These folks get more done before 9am than many people do all day, because there are so few interruptions at that time.
- They prepare for the coming day most evenings.
They’ll load the dishwasher or make a quick to do list before heading to bed.
- They’re creatures of habit and observe a solid routine in their life.
Most of their days look the same, and they follow their routine fairly strictly. Before I go to bed each night, I brush my teeth, wash and moisturize my face, hang up any clothes that I’m not going to wash before my next wearing (cardigans, jeans, etc.), check on the kids, double check the outside door locks, load the dishwasher, do a quick straightening up of any toys or misc objects in the living room, den, and hall, and make sure that the paths to the kids beds are completely free of clutter (in case of fire), and go to bed by 10pm so I can read for about an hour. In the morning I brush my teeth, floss, shower, moisturize, etc. Same thing every day at 6am.
- They maximize their movements for efficiency.
This one’s hard to explain, but I’ve noticed that I do this and that my other clean friends do this constantly (and my messy friends don’t). For example, I was writing a few minutes ago and had a hankering for some popcorn. Rather than set the timer and hang out in the kitchen while it popped, I put on a load of clothes, made a quick batch of instant lemonade since we were running low, and loaded the dishwasher in the five minutes it took to get my popcorn.
- They keep moving, always staying step ahead of the messy kids (and hubby, if applicable).
If they’re up, they’re doing something that will get the house a bit cleaner. When they shower, they wipe down the shower afterwards. When the kids take a bath, they hang up the towels, rinse out the tub, hang the bathtup liner in the shower to drip dry, and put the toys in a plastic basket to dry. Notice, this 5 minutes of effort prevents several large jobs like scrubbing the tub and shower, and cleaning mildew or mold from the towels and toys.
- They don’t put it off.
When they notice the trashcan is full or the toilet needs a quick scrub, they do it right then, so the tasks don’t stack up and overwhelm them later. They clean up spills when they happen, because it’s easier than when the spills dry and stain. They put pots on to soak right after supper, and if possible, they wash dishes as they cook.
- They throw things away.
They routinely get rid of broken items, excess toys, childrens’ crafts (you only need so many ‘special’ projects to save for later years), and things that are no longer being used by the family. When there are less things to straighten up, cleaning is much faster.
- They use the proper tools to clean.
Clean folks are more likely to have high-quality time-saving aids for cleaning. They’ll buy disposable cleaning wipes, like these (disposable cleaning wipes) for easy cleaning, and buy nice, expensive brooms, mats, etc, that will last for years. I’m still using the Swiffer type mop I bought in 2005, though it’s not the newest model, because it works for me. I still have the mats we bought in 2002, and I still use the $40 mop I bought from Don Aslett back in the 90s, when I was first married.
For quick cleaning though, they take advantage of quick and easy helps. I keep a pack of those disposable cleaning wipes and a Clorox ToiletWand and refills in each bathroom. I don’t have to walk downstairs to give my bathroom a quick cleaning. The basket I mentioned earlier hangs up in our bathtub. After a bath, all wet items go in there to dry. I keep the professional dust mats (see Don Aslett’s site, below) at each entry to the house. I keep a trashcan in each room, etc.
- They know the most efficient methods to get their cleaning tasks done.
They dust first, then vacuum. They wipe off the table before they sweep, to prevent crumbs from falling on the clean floor. When doing bathrooms, they clean the counter, then the toilet, then mop. They clean their way around the house, starting in one room and moving in one direction through the house. In short, they clean top to bottom, left to right. Check out Don Aslett‘s site for pro cleaning products and the best cleaning methods. This book turned me into a clean freak (Messies Manual, The: A Complete Guide to Bringing Order & Beauty to Your Home – that’s the Kindle edition) and this one turned me into an efficient one: Is There Life After Housework?: A Revolutionary Approach to Cutting Your Cleaning Time 75%
I’m not sure if this is helpful, but anytime I want to improve myself, it helps me to observe others who have what I want to improve about myself so I can copy their techniques (which is how I trained myself to become an early riser, by the way). If you’re not a cleanie, don’t beat yourself up. You can change, and I know this because I’m not a natural cleaner, but a reformed messy person.
Plus, I’m sure you’re much better at many things that we neat freaks stink at, and if not, perhaps you’re less stressed and you’ll live much longer than we will. Good luck!
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