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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How to Be Awesome at Cleaning

That title makes me laugh out loud. 

I hate cleaning.  I abhor cleaning.  Cleaning and I are not friends.  We are enemies.  And there's, like, this cold war between us, where we're both sabotaging each other behind our backs, but neither one of us will full-on declare war.

Until recently.

I did declare war on my house when summer started.  Things had gotten even worse than normal because the end of school meant even less time spent at home doing anything that seemed like cleaning, and we had to bring boxes of stuff home from my classroom that just sat in the living room for a long time.  But slowly, very slowly, I have triumphed over my house.  I am the last one standing.

Now, I understand that most normal adults clean their houses and keep them clean on a regular basis, and those people are probably thinking that this is the dumbest post ever.  But for me, this is an accomplishment very close to climbing Mount Everest (which reminds me of my laundry pile), and nearly as difficult.  It has just never come naturally to me, but I did it.  I got my house in a somewhat decent condition.

Here's how I did it. 

I've told you before about Flylady, this amazing website where I found my sanity.  I used her methods a couple of years ago, and it was great, so I thought I would try again.  I'm not quite as zealous as I was a few summers ago, so I haven't quite attacked it with the passion I had before, but still, it works well.  She has several basic principles that are really useful in cleaning and keeping your house clean, and none of them involve napalm, which was my only solution, so that's good.

Here are the ones I find most helpful.

1)  Change your attitude.  She would be horrified if she heard me say that cleaning is a war.  She refers to it as "blessing your family" and she insists that it doesn't have to be done perfectly.  Do something, anything, even if you don't do it right.  You're still helping everyone who lives in your house when you do the dishes, even if you don't load the dishwasher the correct way.  That was very helpful to me because I'm a perfectionist, and if I can't do it perfectly, I usually just don't do it. 

2)  Make routines.  I should know this as a school teacher.  Humans thrive on routines.  Even people who say they don't like routines get into routines.  I love routines, and I do well with them.  Even with just little things like getting ready for bed, I have to brush my teeth, take out my contacts, etc. in a certain order and God help whoever interrupts that routine, (as Brian has discovered).  So Flylady has us make routines for what we do in the morning, what we do in the evening, and then plans for how to clean the house throughout the month, so you don't feel like you have to do it all in one day.

3)  Maintenance is better than repair.  She has lots of little tricks for keeping the house maintained so it always looks nice.  Like, wiping down the counter and sink every morning when you leave the bathroom, or making sure your kitchen sink is nice and shiny every night before you go to bed, doing a little dusting with a feather duster, and just vacuuming high traffic areas once a week to keep things looking good until it's time to really clean that area.  Good ideas.

4)  Your timer is your friend.  Most people don't know this, but I'm pretty competitive by nature.  (Ok, everyone knows this.)  Racing the timer is a great motivation for me, plus, it keeps me from feeling overwhelmed.  Instead of, "this pile of laundry is going to take me five hours,"  I just set my timer for 15 minutes, fold, and then when the timer goes off I get to stop and do something else for a while.  She even has us do 5 minute cleaning blitzes, and it's amazing how much you can get done in five minutes when you're focused.

5)  Take your time.  Flylady says that your house didn't get messy in a day and it's not going to get clean in a day.  This is true.  I figure my house got messy over 7 years, so it will take about 10 years to get it clean again.  But the point is, do a little every day, and then don't worry about it.  It was like, a week before I could even tell by looking that I had been cleaning, but slowly it started to look better.  Now, it's not bad!  Not perfect, but not bad! 

Here, I'll show you some before and after photos.  Here is my living room on the first day of summer:

And here is my living room today:

Here is my bedroom on the first day of summer:

And here is my bedroom today:

See?  I did stuff!  Yay me!  I cleaned my kitchen too, but I didn't want to take pictures of that on the first day of summer because I was afraid someone might call in a hazmat team.  But it's clean now, too.

The guest room?  Not so much.  It's become our staging room for packing and storing boxes, so although it is more organized than before, it looks like a strange, square forest.


  1. Thanks for being brave enough to post pictures! They make me feel much better about the fact that about half the rooms in my house only have a "path" to walk through (like your pre-cleaning bedroom pic). :) I've started to clean out my kitchen cabinets this week to get rid of stuff/pack stuff we don't use away...your box-a-day has inspired me! :)

  2. Hah! Yeah, I was a little nervous about posting pics, but I just decided whatever. It looks way better now and that's what matters. And yeah, the "path" was a regular feature in our home until recently. :o)

    Good for you doing a box a day! Yay, being productive in small, manageable amounts!

  3. The timer suggestion is actually something I've found to be a good motivator for me as well.

    If I don't have a lot of time to clean up before someone comes over, that's when I'm MOST motivated to clean and I GET IT DONE.

    This entry has inspired me to tackle my master closet. That are is a big mess.

    - Bacca