Melissa of Suburban Bliss has an interesting article up at Work It, Mom! today. She talks about the challenge of keeping a clean home and asks readers if and how they manage. Q and I both work full-time outside of our home and are happiest when our house is clean and neat. Some of the ways we manage this are:
1. Get rid of extraneous stuff. No, you don't need every article of clothing you've purchased in the last fifteen years. No, you don't need to keep every article of clothing you ever bought your child. No, you don't need thirty drinking glasses, four sets of dishes, 32 catalogs, 447 old magazines, 3 vacuum cleaners, or your favorite Mocha Shine lipstick from 1998. Neither do you need: tchotchkes that people have given you but you don't like, toys that don't get played with, shoes that don't get worn, and books that won't be re-read and enjoyed. Keep the stuff you like, need, and most importantly, use. Pitch the rest. Give it to someone who will be blessed by it. The extra space you'll gain and the time you'll save not cleaning, organizing, and trying to house this stuff will be a blessing to you.
2. Don't go out and buy more stuff. Enjoy the space you've created. Use discernment when shopping from now on. Don't just shop for fun, out of boredom, or just 'cause. Your home will be better off, and so will your bank account.
3. Make cleaning a family affair. In this season of our lives, Q and I both work full-time. While there is nothing that I'd love more than to stay at home and take all of the cleaning tasks on myself, that's not our life right now. To his credit, Q is a very neat and helpful person. He participates fully in all cleaning tasks in our home. Well, except the bathroom. But I don't fix stuff, so it evens out. Even Chico, crown prince of the manor, is not exempt. He is expected to pick up his toys, take dirty clothes to the hamper, and help out wherever he is able. When he balks at picking up his toys, I remind him that we can always give them away if they are too much of a burden for him to keep up with. He always decides that maybe that trip to the toy shelf is not too far, after all.
4. Put things away when you are done. Yes, I know you fully intend to re-shelve that book later, to toss your soda can in just a minute, to go through the mail this afternoon. You and I both know you won't and it will grow and grow into a big ClutterMonster. Do it now.
5. Begin every cooking project with a sinkful of hot, soapy water. It's so nice to sit down to dinner with a rack full of air-drying dishes, rather than a sink and counter full of dirty ones. Clean as you go, and what's left when dinner's done won't be so bad to deal with. Then, see #4 and put those shiny dishes away.
6. Use your minutes. Because our bathroom is cleaned every day, it only takes a few minutes to keep up with. I clean it while Chico soaks in his bath or has a shower. Likewise with the rest of our housecleaning. Because it's not cluttered, or dirty, it takes very little time to keep it up.
7. Don't blitz the whole house at once. This is a sure way to end up dog-tired and discouraged. Your house may sparkle at the end of it, but you'll dread the next 'cleaning day' because you'll relate it with overdoing. If you make [almost] every day a cleaning day, you can do a little at a time and keep your house looking great.
8. Tackle deep-cleaning jobs one at a time. See #7. We all have those weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc., deep jobs that must be done. Pick one of those a week and devote and hour or so. The results will make you smile.
9. If you need to, write a schedule. This will keep you focused, and, if you tend to go overboard once you get started, will give you a stopping point each day. Note special supplies needed, etc. if you choose to go this way.
10. Finally, take a day to rest. You and your family won't resent the time you spend cleaning up each day if it's rewarded with a day to just relax and enjoy each other. Try and think of some fun things, like a mountain drive, a board game, or some outdoor fun to do on your "day off." Bonus Points: If you're all in one room together, or outside together, the rest of your house stays neat and tidy.