I’m not naturally a tidy person, I wouldn’t describe myself as a neat freak or say that housework is a skill or something I enjoy doing. But some things have to be done. I feel that qualifies me more to talk about how to get through the week without the house falling into total chaos than someone who’s house straight from better homes and gardens all the time. So, here’s my quick cleaning tips. These might contradict common advice, and most likely contradict common sense.
Lower your expectations
You might be able to get the whole house clean in a week, but not expect that the whole house will be clean at any one time. Also aim not for “show home” clean, aim for “sanitary” and not hospital grade sanitary either, more in a “sanitary living conditions” kind of way.
Don’t clean as you go
If you are like me – unfocused and easily discouraged – cleaning as you go is kind of like sweeping leaves in a hurricane. Rather than cleaning continually all day and achieving absolutely nothing I try to clean in a few bursts through the day. Also if you let things build up a bit people notice when you actually do get up and clean.
Do the easy stuff first
One thing I hate is getting stuck into a physically tiring or time consuming cleaning task and then realising the rest of the house looks crappy. I like to start a “clean up” in the bedrooms, which in our house are reasonably tidy anyway. It takes a few minutes to put away a couple of things, make the beds, open up the windows so at least one task is satisfactorily completed before I take on the rest of the house. If I can’t get the rest of the house in order at least ONE room looks neat and orderly.
Or these days for myself it’s “toddler wearing”, means I can get things done without her whining to be picking up or undoing my hard work. Tasks that work with wearing are – dishes, vacuuming, hanging out/bringing down washing. Tasks that work less well while toddler wearing is picking up toys, crawling around on the floor collecting blocks with 16kgs of toddler strapped to your back is not advisable.
Get kids involved
If babywearing doesn’t work then the next best thing is getting them to “help” – or at the very least feel like they’re helping. Chores young children can do without doing too much damage include:
- Give them a damp cloth to wipe walls, windows, fronts of cupboards, table tops or even wipe down their own toys and bedroom furniture.
- (Cheap) Hand Vacuum cleaners make excellent “toy” vacuum cleaners, if you’re lucky they may actually manage to suck something up and if not it’ll at least keep them occupied.
- Ask them to put their own clothes in their drawers – hand them little piles of sorted washing that don’t matter if they become unfolded. (socks, undies etc)
- On warm days send them outside to “wash” windows/walls/the fence/the ground with a bucket of water and rags or sponges.
- You could probably ask them to pack away their own toys too but that rarely works for me.
For tasks that need to be done on a regular basis have a day for that task. Example: Monday – Change bedsheets. Tuesday – Clean bathrooms. Wednesday – Mop floors. Thursday – Dust the house. Friday – Clean the fridge. (Who am I kidding I don’t do those things every week, but you get the picture!)
20 minute blitz
This is something I’ll do if it’s all just too hard, usually if I’ve been “cleaning as I go” and made a giant exhausting mess, I set an alarm, 20 minutes isn’t too long, but long enough to get a fair bit done. I clean one room, usually a main living room, I can’t leave that room except to put things in rooms they belong in. It’s much more satisfying starting and completing one room than wandering aimlessly around the house.
Everything has a place
Okay this is a bit of good classic advice. If something doesn’t have somewhere to “live” either make a place for it or chuck it out. If you absolutely cannot part with the item, go to Ikea and buy more storage.
Write a to-do list
I like to start a to do list half way through a cleaning day, so I can tick off a few things straight away and feel good about myself. Also really micro-manage your to-do list so you can tick off even more things. Don’t write “Do laundry” write – Hang up washing. Take down washing. Fold washing. Put washing away. Tick tick tick tick! So much more satisfying. Now leave the list laying around for someone else to see.
Promise yourself at the end of the task you can have a treat. Dangle a carrot. Or chocolate. Or coffee. Or wine. Pump inspirational music – I play “I will survive” to make it through the dishes. Invite over friends – not to help clean, but to give you a good reason to clean, every time I clean the downstairs toilet our 4 year old asks who’s coming over. Enough said.
What are you cleaning tips (or cheats)?