I sometimes feel like a fraud when people say my house is always clean. For one thing, they haven’t seen my closet. Oh, my! That is definitely on my winter project list. But the truth is I have simply mastered the art of illusion and I’m going to share my secrets with you. Well, some of them, anyway.
The number one key to a house that at least looks presentable is to master the habit of tidying as you go. This is where I have an advantage, as I’m admittedly one of those “born neat” types. My family likes to joke about the way I neatly stacked my Christmas gifts and threw away the wrappings after I opened each one at our large family celebrations. While my brothers and cousins sat amidst an untidy pile of gifts and wrapping paper, I was in the corner with my newly acquired possessions all carefully arranged. Apparently I even did this as a 3 year old. But even if tidiness isn’t your natural bent, I think it is worth trying to acquire the habit of picking up and putting away. One thing that makes this easier is to have designated places for everything. If you have a coat rack in the entry it’s not hard to hang up your coat when you come in instead of tossing it on a chair.
Now, let’s get to that 30 minute thing, shall we? During the course of my 34+ years of homemaking, I have read enough books on the subject to qualify me as a Master Homemaker, if there were such a thing. One of the most helpful was Totally Organized the Bonnie McCullough Way. Bonnie shares something she calls “Minimum Maintenance” or “MM” and the concept revolutionized the way I keep house. The idea is that you go through your house room by room and spend 5 minutes in each restoring order. Yes, she recommended a timer and this was years before FlyLady. Five minutes is enough time to make the bed and put away clothes in a bedroom. It’s just long enough to wipe the toothpaste splatters off the bathroom mirror, hang fresh towels and take a swipe at the sink and toilet in the bathroom. In the family room, 5 minutes allows you to fluff the sofa pillows, put away the shoes someone left there, take cups to the kitchen and toss the newspaper. Minimum Maintenance is something you do every day just to stay on top of things. It is also a good thing to do when the house is a disaster and you’re planning to spend several hours cleaning. Do MM first and you’ll be amazed how much better you’ll feel about your house.
I mentioned FlyLady above. I started getting her emails before she even had her own website. Not everyone appreciates her methods and she can come across as rather bossy at times. But you can’t deny that she has some good ideas. I’ve incorporated a few into my housekeeping, one of which is the daily “swish and swipe” in the bathrooms. Instead of a major cleaning once a week (or month, or…) you spend a couple of minutes each day maintaining them at a reasonable level.
For me, this means:
• spray window cleaner on the mirrors (just where there are splatters)
• squirt cleaner in the toilet
• spray sink and surrounding counter top
• quickly swish the inside of the toilet with brush
• wipe mirror, counter, sink, top of toilet and seat in that order
This doesn’t eliminate the need for more thorough cleaning, of course. And there’s still the tub/shower to consider, not to mention, floors. But 2 minutes daily will keep your bathroom from being an embarrassment if you have unexpected guests. Now that I’ve explained “swish and swipe” and the idea of “Minimum Maintenance”, here is how I combine them in my own home.
• Make bed (I pull back covers and let it air first.)
• “Swish and Swipe” master bathroom
• Take down laundry and wastebasket
• Start laundry (I generally do a load a day and extra on Mondays.)
• Put away clean dishes and do breakfast dishes
• Wipe counters
• Sweep kitchen floor
• Empty all wastebaskets
• “Swish and swipe” guest bathroom
• Go through each room, tidy and feather dust
• Sweep entry hall
I can usually complete this list in about 30 minutes if I move quickly. I figure that also counts as part of my daily exercise. Now, I’m sure you’ve noticed that this list doesn’t include everything it takes to keep a clean house. However, if you’ll do this 30-minute routine faithfully every day and clean the kitchen after dinner every night you’ll find that your house stays at a tolerable level. Spend a couple of hours on the weekend vacuuming, mopping and one or two other cleaning tasks and your house will be in pretty good shape. Not perfect, but comfortably clean and tidy. And most of the time that’s good enough.