Begin with the introduction to the Reasonably Clean series to get the foundation and the linked table of contents for the series!
Leila’s Housecleaning Blitz Tips
- The Reasonably Clean, Fairly Neat, and Comfortably Tidy House.
- A Pep Talk for Organization.
- In which I give you a secret to get you started on The Reasonably Clean House.
- The Moderate Clean. Two secrets to keeping your house on track.
- Basic Cleaning Tools
What is the Blitz?
Your aim is not so much to clean…
…as to give the appearance of clean.
“The blitz enables you to live a real life with the sure knowledge that you can whip things into shape in fifteen minutes.”
The blitz is a lightening strike on a room that has been reasonably maintained (in other words, not a room in need of a deep clean but simply one that has endured three nano-seconds of kid-exposure).
When is the Blitz?
Choose one of these two optimum times:
- After breakfast but before starting school.
- “Second, [just before] the hours between 4 and 6 pm, or whenever meltdown coincides with Dad’s return from work.”
Isn’t nice to know other people experience that, too?
Steps to the Blitz (known as EHAP at our house)
We’ve been doing something like Leila’s blitz for almost a year now, calling it EHAP (Everything Has a Place). For some reason, often when I say EHAP I think hazmat, which usually doesn’t seem too far off-base. However, Auntie Leila here has some tips that address problems we’ve had with EHAP, all the good its been notwithstanding.
- Always, always start at one end of the room and move around; always, always start at the edges and finish with the center.
- Assign picker-uppers for categories of stuff: books, blocks, garbage, toys, socks (what?! socks?!). Assign a little one the job of gathering junk from corners and under furniture and cushions and putting it in the center of the room. Or, just assign “finders” and “put-awayer,” where the finders pile stuff on a table or in the center and the put-awayers, well, put the stuff away.
- Put throw pillows in place, neaten horizontal surfaces, and have a child do a quick sweep or vacuum of the traffic area.
Give the children 15 minutes to do this in one room, whether it be through the imposed deadline of a timer or a hard deadline like a television show (is this still considered a hard deadline these days?). With enough children, and when they get old enough, you could have two teams each doing a room while you do another. Until then, we’ll have to settle for 30 minutes of EHAP/Blitz. Still not unreasonable for mom or kids, though; a small price for a mostly, reasonably, consistently clean house.
But, remember, first they have to be trained in the process, and then they still have to be inspected. Emphasize that “the room can’t even pretend to be clean until the edges are at least clutter-free.”
Tips for the Blitz: Atmosphere
Here we have one of my favorite Leila quotes:
So you want an atmosphere of light-heartedness — gaiety even — not uncharged with peril.
You achieve the light-heartedness by your attitude and demeanor, and by turning up some “rollicking” music.
The peril comes in by the timer and knowing “that if they aren’t going to pitch in, bad things will happen to them.”
At the same time, “they have to believe that this is all great fun. They have to understand that we’re all in this together and our environment matters.”
- Timer — this is as much for the children as for you. For you, it charges the atmosphere and gets people moving. For them, they know this job will end and you won’t keep adding to it at your whim.
- Music — loud, upbeat, fun music.
- Teamwork — this is not adversarial or competitive, this is everyone working together toward a common end.
- Consequences — add some real danger to not participating fully and cheerfully. Ensure that you participate fully and cheerfully, also.
And, finally, don’t let things fall into “cleaning fail”:
Now, the well trained household can accomplish the blitz without you (note, not the deep clean, or even sparkle and shine — they might be able to do it once, but not twice in a row), IF and only IF you’ve drilled them in starting with making sure corners are cleared.
Otherwise, they will quickly catch on to the Pseudo-Blitz, which involves shoving everything away from the center of the room into the corners — a bona fide housekeeping disaster. Everyone needs to learn that the room can’t even pretend to be clean until the edges are at least clutter-free.
“Nothing says ‘cleaning fail’ like a vacuum left out.”
I’ve been doing a week or week and a half now of Leila’s version of afternoon tidying. It has been a smashing success! We do the main level and then alternate doing the downstairs (school/playroom) and upstairs (bedrooms). With only one day’s mess accumulated and with the teamwork and upbeat attitude, we’ve had all our blitz done in 15 minutes!
One of my ways of adding “peril” is by doling out the consequence of doing the job all by oneself if you
- Boss, or tell someone else to pick up if you aren’t.
- Complain about the job.
It seems to have sunk in to the child who needed it the least, and not to the primary offender. But, then I remind the offender that if they complain about the consequence, then what they need is practice working cheerfully, and I will gladly give them the opportunity for practice, by adding on another job for each complaint. Oh, and the policy is that you can’t eat until you’ve finished your work (it’s biblical), so one wants to be careful how many jobs are added on at 4:30pm.
But that situation hasn’t come up in the new regime yet, but happened every now and again when they were simply sent to clean up a room, and an hour later had made little to no progress. With me in the room doing the training and supervising and lending a hand here or there (or at least an eye that can see toys in the middle of the floor), we’ve made record time. I assign my 3yo girl to “find toys that are trying to hide” (she has amazing vision when it comes to picking up, especially when she doesn’t have to put them away, but only toss them in a bucket for the boys to put away), and the boys have to put the toys gathered in their right places. Any object I find not put in the right spot I toss back in the bucket or add to my stash of hostage toys.
The real magic, I think, is focusing on the corners and edges. It makes a huge difference in the appearance of the room.