Thursday, November 11, 2010


Wasn't really sure how to go about this post - lots of info? Just a little? I mean, does anybody reeeally want to hear about how I clean my house? But then I figured it's taken me this long (seven years) to figure out what on earth I'm doing to keep things in order and in their place, and I thought I'd go ahead and share the specifics, as I wish I'd read from someone else YEARS ago.

First, I'll talk about the things that have NOT worked for me over the past seven years:

1) Doing one main section of the house each week (master, living room, dining/kitchen, etc).
This didn't work because a) the plan was to do EVERYthing, including blinds, vacuuming, dusting, washing, blah blah blah, and I found that I was ALWAYS overwhelmed looking at that one room because there were too many different things to do, b) I almost always ended up scrimping and avoiding certain tasks in each room (I LOATHE doing the floors and dusting) and c) the rest of the house went to pot well before I made my way around again, so even while I worked hard, I always felt behind and defeated by my house. Yuck.

2) Cleaning whenever I got disgusted enough. Because by that point, you're already disgusted and frustrated, and when you wait that long to clean one thing you're grossed out about, chances are you're also grossed out about a lot of other areas in your house as well and you've started playing a ridiculous game of trying to keep up.

3) Forgetting about the deep cleaning entirely and focusing only on surface cleaning. When I say "surface cleaning," I mean dishes, laundry (with folded-waiting-to-be-hung-up clothing almost always hanging around), kitchen counters, along with the occasional vacuuming of the area rug and toilet scrubbing...gross that this list is so short, I know, but I'm just keeping it real here. This also tended to find its way back to the "clean it when it's disgusting" method.

4) Doing all laundry in one day. Never worked because a) I never did rugs, didn't do linens often enough, and had to get three loads run through, folded and put away in different rooms by the end of the day. b) what ended up happening is I would have all our baskets overflowing with clean, wrinkled laundry that might actually get folded, but wouldn't get hung up for days.

None of these methods worked, no matter how I split things up, and I was tired of having to run around like a chicken with my head cut off every time someone came over to play or visit. Depending on who it was, I'd do different levels of intense cleaning to make up for neglected, dirty areas of my house. Blah.

But a few months ago I started reading different blogs about cleaning, organizing and crafting, and the sites really inspired me. I really wanted my home to feel homey and clean and welcoming, like theirs did. I wanted an organized, common sense way to clean my house. And for me, I feel like I've found it.

I will say here that I've also had to completely change my mindset about cleaning and keeping house. Before it was something that was on the back burner, more or less. But I've come to accept it as a literal job for me. I used to teach full-time before I had kids, and I spent 8-9 hours a day prepping, teaching, reviewing, evaluating, reflecting, etc. Back then keeping a clean house was a lesser, secondary job, and I didn't feel bad about that at all, because I was "doing my part" outside the home. But now, my part is solely inside the home, with my husband, my boys and our home, and I've picked up some tools and inspiration that make the house part of my job exciting and even fun for me.

First, I'll tell you how much time I spend cleaning every day, but you have to promise not to run away scared!! On average, I spend 1-2 hours cleaning, straightening, etc. Yes. Every day. Call me a crazy woman, but that's what it takes me to keep my home truly clean, and after doing it for a couple of months now, I've gotten used to it and it makes sense in our home and daily schedule. Usually it's on the side of 1 1/2 to 2 hours. I have 1-2 lighter days built in where it's more like an hour, and I don't work at all on Sundays. When you really think about it, I'm still just putting in the hours I used to put in teaching school - I'm just clocking in those hours in different places: playing with my boys, feeding and dressing them, cleaning the house, fixing dinner, running errands, taking them on play dates that will encourage/teach/stretch and grow them, etc. I see cleaning house as part of my job and responsibility now, instead of an extra, on the side option. And I don't mind. I like having that purpose, because it's organized and straightened out in my head now, and it works well for me.

My daily cleaning includes all straightening/picking up (usually 2 times a day - toys, clothing, random stuff), a spotless kitchen (unloading and loading the dishwasher, wiping off the table, high chair and counters after meals, rinsing out the sink), wiping down all counters including the bathrooms/sweeping all hard floors (I alternate these two tasks, every other day), one load of laundry that makes it ALL the way through - washing, drying, folded and put away, and one big task each day like vacuuming all carpets, dusting all furniture, bathrooms (I alternate between sinks/toilets, tubs/showers every other week), etc. I also have monthly tasks, which change each month of the year - bigger things like washing the windows, cleaning window treatments, cleaning the oven, deep cleaning the fridge/freezer, changing the filters, spot cleaning furniture, wiping down phones and switch plates, etc.

Before you become horrifyingly (real word? doubt it.) overwhelmed, I'll point you in a couple of different directions that can make all of this a little more clear:

1) The basic structure of my cleaning (basic daily chores, weekly chores, and monthly chores) comes from a blog I have on my sidebar, called Clean Mama. Take a look around, click on her different posts about cleaning, go to her etsy store and look at her organized printables. I bought the cleaning house printables from her and made a binder just for my housekeeping stuff because I'm just that kinda gal; I ADORE check-lists, to-do lists, and generally feeling like I'm accomplishing something of importance. The printables help me do that, and it's a digital file, so it's a one time purchase. Nice. This has made all the difference in my cleaning schedule and sticking with it. I don't know this lady, and I'm not getting anything by promoting her - just trying to help by suggesting what helped me. (I'll also say that Michael has FABULOUS editing software on his computer that I used to alter her printables a little to fit me once I figured out what worked best for me personally, but Clean Mama can also customize the printables up front, too, if you already know what you want).

2) I also read up on suggestions on a website by a woman known as Fly Lady. Kristen C. introduced me to her, and I love almost everything she says on her site. She gives great, practical tips on keeping a clean house and how to start your day off right. She's at The website itself is hodge-podge and unorganized looking (which is rather ironic), but just click on stuff and take the time to read and explore. Read her 10 rules (can't remember what exactly she calls them - commandments? laws? Anyway, you should read them).

Now for my own personal rules of cleaning that I've adopted as I've begun this whole new cleaning regimen:

1) Do not leave a dirty house at night to be picked up after and panicked over the next morning.

2) Start the laundry early in the morning, move it through, and fold it during nap time. Put it away while having the boys play in whatever room the laundry goes in. (how I do my laundry: Monday is Linens day - ALL towels, wash rags, sheets, pillow cases, etc. from all hampers go in this load; Tuesday is Mama day; Wednesday is either a break from laundry, or depending on the week in the month, I'll do rugs (by the doors, in the bathrooms, in the kitchen) once a month, and also whites with bleach once a month; Thursday is Bennett day; Friday is Jasper day; Saturday is "catch up" day, if I fudged one load and didn't put it away like I was supposed to. And Michael is one awesome dude - he does his own laundry, usually on Saturday. We both like it better this way. We have four hampers for dirty laundry (yes, one for each person) and four baskets for clean laundry in our house, and I LOVE it. Target has an AWESOME dark brown one with a cream sturdy liner for $16. Totally worth the investment since laundry is a huge, necessary task.

3) I unload the clean dishes (that should have been loaded and run before I went to bed the night before) while the boys eat breakfast.

4) I use cleaning products and cleaning tools that I really LIKE - colorful, easy to use, fun designs. I invested some money in this at the beginning of re-vamping my cleaning, and I'm so glad I did. I got dusting cloths, microfiber cloths, eco-friendly cleaning products that work GREAT (also from Clean Mama), a good broom and dust pan, Mr.Clean magic erasers (always have these on hand because they're miracle workers), a good dusting kit with extenders, etc.

5) I keep the cleaning products and tools in an easy to access (for me, not the kiddos), convenient place, because otherwise I'll procrastinate and won't use them! All of mine are stored in my laundry room because it's the hub of cleaning for me - my hand vac hangs on the wall next to the washer, I have a clip board/to-do list hanging up as well, along with a calendar to write down appts./play dates, and also three baskets on the wire shelves above the washer/dryer that contain my rags, scrub brush, magic erasers, rubber gloves, and ALL cleaning products that I use around the house. The broom, swiffer wet vac (about to switch over to a new eco-friendly refillable mop by rubbermaid that I'm really excited about!), and dusting extenders are in the closet in our laundry room. So I grab what I need, go clean, and put it right back where it goes (or throw the dusty rags in the hamper for Monday's Linens day).

6) Whenever possible, I get dressed, including shoes, to keep me motivated. I turn on some really good music, and I involve the boys in the process, or at least get them tied up playing something that they enjoy so I'll have minimal distractions and we're all feeling happy. :)

So that's it. My novel about cleaning house. More than you ever really wanted to know, as seems to be my way of doing things. :) Regardless of what you read or hear about from others, I think the most important thing is to find what works for you. What works for me may not work for you at all, but it might (depends on whether or not you have an anal, dominant Type-A personality like yours truly, eh?)! :)

Later I'll try to come back and post pictures of my laundry room hub, for those of you who care, and also of my mini "kitchen hub" that also has cleaning supplies, pens, paperwork, etc.


Clean Mama said...

Thank you so much - I am blushing :)

Rachel said...

I totally agree with you about cleaning just being a daily part of the job. People have always made a big deal about how clean my house is, but they usually don't understand that it is very easy to keep things clean if you accept that it takes 1-2 hours a day and then rotate all the necessary tasks in an organized way. I went through all those things on your list that don't work during that first year I stayed home, and I've been very happy with my cleaning rotation for about three years now. I totally agree with you about the laundry all in one day! I do laundry 3 days a week (which is MUCH more manageable), and I take both Sat& Sun off for family time. Other than that, our schedules are very similar. Thanks for sharing!

Emily said...

Hey, thanks for that. My totally type z peronality has a really hard time with this, but obviously it is something that has to be done. I've been trying hard to get Angela F. to share her schedule with me but she won't because she's worried I'll catch her OCD :) However, I really have been needing some help in this area, but have had NO idea what to do, so I really appreciate it! P.s. Michael's has scrubbies for your sink that look like princesses. Silly, I know, but they make me like doing the dishes just a hair more :)

Brad and Lauren Holmes said...

I really enjoyed reading your post Jennifer about cleaning and found some of the advice really helpful! Laundry is my most dreaded chore; we have our washer and dryer in the basement and then its two floors up to our bedrooms! Yuck! But I like the idea of doing one person's laundry per day, because that saves the sorting (which is also time consuming). I was excited to find your blog. Hope you are doing well.

Lauren from FWC :-)