Sunday, June 14, 2009


Home Keeping. Housework. Cleaning.

Cleanse. Tidy. Scrub. Sanitize. Sweep. Vacuum. Deodorize. Disinfect. Launder. Mop. Neaten. Pick Up. Rinse. Soak. Spruce Up. Wipe. Sterilize.

What do those words make you feel?
Guilt? feeling like your work can never measure up to some arbitrary standard set by your mother, mother-in-law, spouse, or yourself.
Dread? gotta do it. hate it but gotta do it.
Excited? only the rare few I'm guessing

We all want a clean home. Really, we do. And many of us have aspirations of keeping this model-home clean and tidy at all times. But we live in reality. If you have the cash, you have a cleaning person or team that comes in once every week or two and does some of the big stuff. If you really have the cash, you have a live-in maid who makes sure everything is just so. If that's the case, you probably aren't really interested in what I have to say about organizing because your home is already in great shape.

But for the rest of us cleaning - both surface cleaning and deep cleaning - falls squarely on our shoulders. I want to talk about how you can develop a system that works for you and your family.

First, understand that there is no one right way. That bears repeating. There is no one right way to clean your house.

Next, know that your cleaning needs to measure up to the standards of you, your spouse and your children - the people who live in your home. Your mother-in-law, mom, friends, siblings, and the moms from your playgroup don't live in your home and don't get a vote. Each person and each family has a different tolerance level for clutter and clean. That's the level you need to meet - not the level of your Bestie who happens to be a little obsessed with scrubbing the back of the refrigerator.

The key to a clean and tidy home is having a routine. And the routine that works for you may not be the same as that of anyone else. That is okay.

So... how can you set up a routine that works for you?

1. Keep track for a week of everything you do to clean & tidy and when you do it. This isn't the time to "step up your game" so it looks good on paper. No one is going to see this but you. Be honest and realistic about what you are currently doing to keep up your home.

2. Keep doing what you are doing. Don't try to reinvent the wheel by instituting a completely new plan. If you're already doing something to maintain your home - keep doing it!

3. Make a list of all the other things you feel like you should be doing and how often (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly). This can be things like making your bed daily, vacuuming the rug weekly and cleaning the baseboards quarterly (yes, quarterly. Maybe you "should" be doing it monthly or weekly based on some standard set in some book but listen, if you have NEVER done it before, saying that you need to do it weekly is just ridiculous. If you make that your goal you are setting yourself up for failure. Set a goal that's slightly higher than what you are already doing and once you achieve it you can always add in more.)

4. Add one of the daily things off your list to your routine for the next month. That's it. Just one. Try it when you think you'll be able to fit it into your schedule. If after 7 days you find you only did it the first day and then never again then that wasn't the right place in your schedule. Try it during a different time of the day. Or ask your spouse or a child if they might work it into their routine.

5. Once you've conquered one item, add another. Do this ad nauseam until you have a routine that leaves you with a home that is clean & tidy enough for you and your family.

It may take you a year or more to get your routine down to one that feels good. And of course, once you get into a groove, something in life will change. You'll move, have a baby, adopt a dog, or send a child off to college. Something will upset the balance. And you'll have to revamp your routine. That's okay. This is life we are talking about. It changes constantly and we need to change with it. Just continue to make small adjustments to make your life and your home organized in such a way that it brings you delight and calmness enough to actually live.

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