Guess what? It turns out if you spend all week writing long posts about keeping your house clean, you don’t have as much time to, uh, clean your house. So I hope you won’t mind if today I steal some tips from an old post of mine and skip out on fresh blogging…I’ve got laundry to tackle.
Here they are: 10 of my best tips for keeping the house “clean enough”:
- I am pretty much constantly in motion. If I’m on my feet, I’m tidying. I never leave a room without making it better than I found it (that can be as simple as taking an item that doesn’t belong in that room out and moving it CLOSER to the room it belongs in, LOL) I am on the computer a lot because of my job, but I build lots of little cleaning breaks into my day–five minutes here and five minutes there adds up to a much cleaner house, plus it gives my eyes and body a break from the computer.
- I try not to let let dishes pile up in the sink. The higher the stack gets the less I want to tackle it. I rinse/scrape small loads throughout the day and get them in the dishwasher, and run it as soon as it’s full. Then I make the boys unload, because I hate that job
- Likewise, I do laundry one load at a time, rather than letting it all pile up until “laundry day”. Laundry, in and of itself, is an easy job. It’s when we let it become a monster mountain of dirty clothes–and then clean clothes that need to be folded and put away–that it seems so overwhelming.
- If you’re afraid of laundry, try doing it as soon as you have a full load. Forget about anal-retentive load separation policies. Unless you’re dealing with items that truly need special care or have to be washed separately from everything else because they’ll run, the world will not end if you put socks and jeans in the same load. Who cares if your socks are perfectly white, anyway? Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
- I wipe the toilet/sink down at least once a day. Make this as easy on yourself as possible–if you have to go track down paper towels and special cleaner, you may get distracted or never make it back to the bathroom. I have a vinegar/water/lavender oil mix in a bottle in my bathroom, so when I’m in there already I just give it a quick spritz and wipe-down with a bit of toilet paper and then flush the paper. That way it never gets really nasty, even when I go weeks without doing a “big” clean.
- I am really ruthless about getting rid of “stuff” or not allowing it in the house to begin with. Daily I gather up any papers that are laying about or mail that doesn’t seem to have a home and take care of it. I recycle paperwork right out of the boys’ backpacks. Sure, there are still toys scattered about (and, my personal pet peeve, hats/gloves/mittens/socks the kids take off and then fling) but those aren’t that hard to clean up quickly if company’s coming over.
- I have several areas that I try to keep clean and decluttered pretty much all the time–the dining room table, the kitchen counters, and the bathroom. Everybody has ‘trigger tasks’–those things that will cloud your mood and make your house feel disgusting if they don’t get done. What are yours? Identify them, and make those your first priorities every day. The better your home feels, the more motivated you’ll be to keep it that way.
- If I see something I don’t like, but hadn’t noticed before–like a dusty lampshade, say, or a dirty windowsill–I employ the power of Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project “Do It Now” commandment and just attack it. I don’t think “Oh, this weekend I’ve really got to dust all the lampshades!” because I guarantee you I would never get around to it. When I see something that needs doing, I do it.
- I get rid of things for fun. I gleefully recycle all but the kids’ most precious school papers. I ruthlessly relieve myself of clothing I will never wear again. I refuse to hold on to anything unless it is truly necessary or holds very dear sentimental value. Once a month or so I go through my house with a big black trash bag or two and fill it with things to give to charity. After giving away about 1/3 of our stuff in our last move (soooo satisfying) and doing regular “Goodwill sweeps” for over a year as well as rarely shopping it seems amazing that I would still be able to find things to give away, but I always can.It’s a little cringe-worthy knowing how many things I have bought or otherwise acquired (darn you, Freecycle!) over the years. I have never been rich enough to afford this kind of consumption, and yet my house stuffed with stuff is proof of how much I contributed to my own messy house (and struggling bank account) by not being mindful of what I purchased. But the purging effort is starting to slow down. Every time I do a sweep, I find fewer and fewer things to give away. So now the focus becomes not getting back to where I was before by reckless shopping. Which brings me to my last tip of the day:
- I make a big effort to shop consciously. This does not always mean choosing what seems, on the face, to be the “cheapest” option. I do my grocery shopping at the regular grocery in town, with supplementation from the farmer’s market and farm stands, rather than the big-box stores. Yes, I miss some of the deep discounts, but I’m not tempted by all the non-food stuff. And I don’t buy vast quantities of stuff as a general rule (more about that in another post) so the missed savings aren’t that great. I also find that just staying out of those stores keeps me from developing a “need” for things I didn’t “need” before.Now that I’m trying to decorate a new house that’s quite a big bigger than our old one, I’m relaxing the strict “no shopping for sport” rule I’ve been following for the last year or so, and have been hitting thrift and antique stores for fun. But I’ve made a rule for myself–if I don’t either LOVE something or have an immediate need and use for it, I don’t buy it. Period. End of story. And “loving” something has to mean that I can put it down, walk away, and even leave the store and still be thinking about it later. Next time you’re thinking of buying something you aren’t sure about, try a 48-hour waiting period. Chances are good that by the time those two days have passed, you’ll have forgotten all about the item you couldn’t live without.
Now, to the laundry! Check back tomorrow for a Q&A with my friend, master de-clutter-er and frugal-living guru Leah Ingram, author of Toss, Keep, Sell! The Suddenly Frugal Guide To Cleaning Out The Clutter and Cashing In and author of the Suddenly Frugal blog.
Photo: Boa Franc, via Flickr Creative Commons