So, if the work must be done and we are responsible for it (whether we do it or delegate it), then there are still cleaning tips and tricks we can learn to make it faster and easier.
I think it’s great to look into methods and practice these skills for several reasons:
- It keeps us interested in our work. Being interested and engaged is a great tactic for maintaining a good attitude, and researching and thinking about what we’re doing and how we can improve is one way to show interest. In turn, engagement prevents us from feeling like we’re wasting our life doing mundane, stupid work.
- We become better and what we practice. Do pianists love playing scales? Do athletes love drills? Then why do they do them? Because practice is necessary in order to become skilled. And the more skill we have, the quicker and more efficient our work becomes. I know I am much faster at cleaning a bathroom now than I was 10 years ago. I know how to do it well and I know what needs to be done to make it look better and what can be skipped. It used to take me 30-40 minutes to thoroughly clean a bathroom, and now it takes me less than 10. One way to spend less time cleaning is to improve your speed through practice!
So, here are the tactics and tools that are serving me the best right now.
My Favorite Cleaning Tactics
Dividing your house up into zones is a Flylady concept that is really helpful. Instead of thinking of cleaning the whole house, divide your home into smaller, more manageable chunks to tackle. I apply this concept of zones in all my routines: each kid gets a different zone to tidy up in the afternoon, I pick a zone to focus on each day or week, and I even think of my kitchen in zones for maintenance purposes. There are zones that require more attention and zones that require less. Within each zone, there are different sorts of tasks: decluttering, tidying, light cleaning, and deep cleaning.
You can use zones in many different ways, with many variations of plans, but simply the concept of giving yourself a set space and boundary makes it feel more doable.
Lots of people are put off by schedules, and it usually is more manageable for a mom with several children to think it turns of routines than strict clock-bound schedules, but still giving housework set times in your day helps on many levels. First, it helps make it more routine and habitual, which means it takes less brain-power and decision-making energy. Second, it means you do regularly address the key areas of your home instead of doing it on whim. Third, it keeps housework in its place rather than encroaching on every other time throughout your day, tempting you to multitask and give less of your attention and energy where your real priorities are. Personally, I like giving four small chunks in my day to housework: morning, lunch, afternoon, and after dinner. I’d rather take a break from a more mind-taxing occupation like teaching, reading, or writing and do a quick burst of “real”, physical work than save it all up and spend an entire hour or two “slaving away.”
Tying certain tasks to certain times is a great way to simplify, reduce decision-fatigue, and make sure the essentials get regularly tackled.
One of my new cleaning mottos is something is better than nothing. Housework can seem like this huge daunting chore, but it doesn’t have to be. Breaking up the house into a smaller zone and then tackling it for only 10 or 15 minutes helps. But another thing that helps is realizing what standards are dragging you down and telling you your accomplishment doesn’t “count.” Stop letting your head tell you what you can get done in the time you have isn’t enough and doesn’t count. Do what you can. If you made improvement, you have made improvement and you should totally count it and rejoice and come back next time for more. You do not need to do it and do it and do it until it is perfect. In a house full of living, it’s just not going to happen; and if you do manage it, it won’t last long.
I also now do not think about “cleaning the kitchen” as my task unless we’re having company over. As I clean up after dinner, my definition of my job is “clearing to neutral.” That is, what I want is not a spotless kitchen, but a kitchen with today’s business tied and tidied up, ready to go for a new day tomorrow. It’s a perspective shift more than anything else, but one that keeps discouragement and frustration at bay.
My Favorite Tools
I don’t like to vacuum, but the Oreck does eliminate some mental blocks to getting it done:
- It’s straightforward and simple. There are no options, no attachments, you just turn it on and vacuum.
- It’s very lightweight. It’s not bulky. It’s quick to take it up or down the stairs. Even my 8-year-old can.
- It’s easy to store. Because it’s slim and light, it’s easy to find an out-of-the-way corner for it to live.
- It automatically adjusts to vacuum carpet or solid floors. Again, no settings to faff around with or worry about. Just vacuum.
- Its simple design makes it easy to take apart if something like socks are vacuumed up. Yes, it will suck up socks and no, it won’t hurt it and yes, even I can take care of it when it happens. It all comes apart and goes back together so easily that even I managed it, and I am generally no good with tools. This means that kids can use it and I don’t worry too much. They probably can’t ruin it.
I also have the Oreck handheld canister vac for when I need attachments, and for vacuuming the stairs, vehicles, and inside my kitchen drawers and cabinets.
I love this style of mop. I am too thrifty (and my house is too dirty) to conscience disposable products like Swiffer. The dry dust mop head acts like a swiffer, but you can wash and reuse it. One principle of cleaning is to always clean with clean things, and so using washable mop heads instead of sponges or string mops means your mop is always clean. Plus, there are no buckets or mixing of cleaner to mess with, so a reduction of steps and tools streamline the process of cleaning the floor.
I’ve had several Home Depot or WalMart versions of this style of mop, but they always break within a year or two. So far, this one is more sturdy and I like how the mop head velcros onto the mop. It’s a much more simple design than the elastic heads that wrap around (and I always had the elastic wear out after many washings).
Like the vacuum, the mop is simple enough to operate that the kids can use it. Even the four-year-old pushes around the dry dust mop sometimes (he considers it a great privilege – for now). They might not do the best or most thorough job, but something is better than nothing.
We live in a dry, dusty, windy part of the country. So we don’t have to deal with mold, but we do have to deal with a lot of dirt. On top of our climate, I also have boys and young children, so I sometimes even see the dust billowing in through the door as the kids come in. So, dealing with dirt and dust is an important maintenance task for our house. Our main level is all hard flooring, so in addition to an end-of-the-day quick go with a damp mop to pick up the layer of dirt on the floor that is always there, my kids love a “dirt contest.” I hand them each a damp microfiber cloth, set the timer for 3 minutes, and we see who can get the dirtiest rag in that amount of time. They think it’s a game, and though nothing is cleaned well, still there is less dirt in my home than there was, so I count it as a win.
For that sort of application, I actually use microfiber clothes I bought in a huge pack at Costco in the automobile section. Microfiber cloths marketed for car cleaning are cheaper than those marketed for home cleaning. Half the pack – which I purchased over two years ago – is in storage for when the ones in current use need to be tossed. But so far that stack is still going strong. They absorb a lot of liquid for liquid spills and they do a good job of picking up dust (better than regular rags).
A friend of mine starting selling Norwex cleaning cloths last year, and I bought a set from her. The microfiber is a much tighter and smaller one than the ones I bought at Costco, and they shine my granite island and stainless steel appliances as they clean. They have all sorts of claims about being antibacterial and are marketed to people scared of chemical cleaners, but even though I do use commercial cleaners sometimes, I find having a quick, simple solution like this that only requires water helps me overcome that hurdle of starting. All I need is the cloth, and I’d need one anyway. I can get it damp and clean my kitchen really well quite quickly, because I only have one thing in my hand and I can use it on everything.
I also have two microfiber dusting gloves, which are handy particularly for kids, who tend to wad up rags when using them. I figure any dust that gets wiped is helpful, and these make dusting quick and easy, even for a four-year-old, and even for myself.
Only having to get out a cloth and maybe get it wet and not having to concern myself with what cleaner to use on what surface and juggling multiple tools while cleaning makes basic, daily cleaning so much more streamlined and easier to just get to doing.