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Welcome to week two of my January series of four posts designed to help you stick to your new year’s resolutions and accomplish personal goals in 2016! In this post, I’ll be sharing my best tips for one of the trickiest resolutions: Keeping a Cleaner Home, Simply.
Though there are a few people who pride themselves in being naturally neat and tidy, I think for the majority of us, in order to keep a clean and clutter-free home, there’s a learning curve. I first started trying to drill down on an effective housecleaning routine around the time my husband and I bought our first home. We both worked full-time outside the home and we had a toddler, too. Life was busy and though the added space our new home provided (vs. our apartment) was great – it meant there was quite a bit more that needed regular cleaning in order to stay nice. Now, keep in mind – this period was B.P. (Before Pinterest! ;-)) so it was a little trickier (though certainly not hard) to find ideas online for creating a cleaning routine that worked. Thankfully, I found some great inspiration and ideas toward creating an effective housekeeping routine online through one particular site, then furthered my understanding on what was necessary to permanently reduce clutter through a favorite blog, a great book and of course, good ol’ trial and error. Since then, I’ve been able to implement a routine that works well for my family’s home, and I hope in sharing what worked for me, you’ll find hopefully several tips that allow you to overcome any clutter or messes currently frustrating you, so you can enjoy a more relaxing and company-friendly home.
FlyLady.net is a really great website and online community that I discovered early on in my attempts to create a workable housecleaning routine. Though I didn’t end up following her exact suggested routines to a ‘t’, I did end up picking up some concepts that I still utilize on a daily basis from her site. Some of my favorites include:
The CHAOS acronym – CHAOS in Fly Lady language is “Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome,” something my home definitely suffered from a few years back. Working all week and not having a doable cleaning routine in place left me to slave away my entire Saturday cleaning the house, and basically accepting messes during the week, creating a complete state of weekday CHAOS. This is something we want to try to stay away from – and it’s a good way to check yourself in regards to whether your routines are working. Ask yourself, “is my home typically just a quick 5-10 minute tidy away from being able to invite unexpected guests inside?” if not, your routines might need some help.
Start with a Shiny Sink – everyday, Fly Lady starts and ends with a shiny, cleared out kitchen sink. There are no dishes left in it at the end of the night, and nothing to have to deal with in the morning because of that. She loads the dishwasher or hand washes as she goes throughout the day to avoid having a mountain of dishes to overcome at the end of the day (or the following day). By having just this one place in check, you gain a place to start, and you’ll likely find it’s a simple way to start building an effective home care routine. It sounds silly, but since I started doing it, it’s become much easier to keep my kitchen up because all other kitchen tasks tend to get done when you’re goal is to keep the sink empty and clean!
27 Thing Shuffle – Each night, before bed, Fly Lady sets a timer or puts on music for a specified amount of time and sets out to pick up and put away 27 things in her home. They can be any 27 things. Arranging the couch throw pillows, picking up a pair of socks left in the living room, going through the 3 pieces of mail and shredding or filing the important ones, tossing the rest. Loading the last 2 dishes, wiping down the bathroom counter top, etc. Fast, little, simple tasks that take less than a minute a piece – but these 27 things add up. By cleaning up a bit for just ten minutes before bed each night, you’ll quickly begin to find that the clutter decreases and you’ll find yourself looking for new things to count toward your 27, essentially cleaning more and more area of your home without even really feeling it. Try it this week. Trust me.
Decluttering & Giving Everything a Home
If you’re living in a home filled with “stuff” and only some of it is useful or special to you, it’s likely you have closets, cabinets and drawers that are shoved tight with items, many not having a true place that they belong. When you’re straightening up your home, without defined spaces to put items away, it takes twice as long to do the job. When everything you have in your home has its own home, cleaning speeds up significantly. If you have a number of items in the home that you’re not using or no longer like and you’ve not yet read “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo, I strongly encourage you to do so. Kondo’s techniques will help you to quickly and methodically simplify your entire home and collection of belongings, so that all of the items you own will be either useful or bring you joy. By reducing the number of things that you own, you enable yourself to find space to keep the items you deem worthy of making space for. Be sure to remember to help your children to know where the “homes” of their belongings are as well. Make it easy for young ones to clean by utilizing colorful bins, drawers, and organizers.
Keep Surfaces Clear
Kitchen and bathroom counter tops, desks and dressers tend to become hot spots for knick knacks and décor, appliances, toiletries and paper piles. If you can shift toward making cleared surfaces the norm in your home, storing all frequently used items in a cabinet or drawer as close to their area of use as possible, you will find you are less tempted to pile other items on the surface. When surfaces are clear, it becomes much easier to do a quick straighten up and shine of your home in 5-10 minutes, so if you’re expecting company, rather than cleaning all day, you’ll just wipe off surfaces and check the bathrooms and floors for any obvious issues, put away any random items like shoes or socks on the floor, light a candle and you’re good to go. Clear surfaces create a visually organized home landscape for anyone who enters your space.
Store Cleaning Products Conveniently
Previously, when I mentioned the importance of giving everything a proper home within your home and how much this cuts down on time when you’re straightening up, storing cleaning tools and products in a home near the space they are used can also reduce the total time necessary to clean your home. Though it costs a little more to start, keeping a small caddy under the sink in each bathroom in your home, as well as under the kitchen sink (you can find great plastic caddies with a handle inexpensively at the dollar store or Wal-Mart) with the items you use to clean that room makes it super simple to do a quick touch up or efficient deeper clean in that space. So while this may mean you initially buy 2 bottles of glass cleaner and two squeeze bottles of Soft Scrub, you will find that it’s so much simpler to begin the process of cleaning when you don’t have to hunt for the tools – that you’re more likely to just get it done when you’re in that room because the task feels like less of a production. In the kitchen, consider keeping a broom and dustpan for the floor as well as a little hand brush and separate dustpan for quickly sweeping crumbs from the counters and kitchen table. Whatever items you’ll need for each room, place them in the caddies and be ready to clean at a moment’s notice when you find yourself with the time, vs. after a twenty minute hunt for supplies throughout the house.
Bring in the Experts
If you find that you just can’t seem to declutter and organize on your own, or struggle with completing the task – consider bringing in a home organization expert. Two local companies that are great with this are Organized by Choice, owned by Brenda McElroy and Structured Aesthetics, owned by Melanie Lown. Both women are members of NAPO, the National Association for Professional Organizers. If getting your home clean to a solid starting point that allows you to keep it up is overwhelming, consider hiring cleaners to do an initial deep clean of your home (this ranges in price from $150-$250 depending on the size of your home, and the cleaners you work with). I’ve done this personally, and felt it was well worth the cost. A local cleaning company I have personally used and trust (whether I am home or not) is Stephie’s Cleaning Service (559)904-2640, and she offers a free quote to new clients.
Establishing a home cleaning routine that works for you and allows you to maximize your enjoyment of your home, rather than feel enslaved by it is a huge victory, and one that you CAN accomplish in 2016. You deserve to live in a home that feels like your haven! Take the time now to implement a few simple systems, so you can enjoy the results throughout the year (and years!) to come. Have any great tips for me? Please, leave me a comment! I’d love to learn what’s helped others in this area!