I have not done a housekeeping post for a long time. It is time to return to the topic of homemaking and for a talk about cleaning. Certainly, home cleaning takes different forms during different seasons of my life, but after all these years, there are some principles that I find apply universally across seasons and personality types. Regardless of whether you have babies or toddlers to take care of, or if you are the stick-to-a-routine sort of person vs an anything-goes sort of person, these principles can help you keep a reasonably clean and tidy house.
First of all, with few exceptions, most people don’t like to do cleaning. That includes me. So if you don’t like to do cleaning, you are among the majority. What makes some of us different from others is how determined we are to live in a clean and tidy environment, and whether we believe we can achieve a reasonable standard of cleanliness. As I said, I am among the majority of the population who do not like to do cleaning. Yet, I really do like to live in a neat and clean house. Therefore, in order to achieve this goal, I find ways to do it with minimal efforts.
The universal rules to neatness and cleanliness are :
- You cannot organise clutter. No amount of new space or organisation tools and containers will solve the problem of clutter. You need to get rid of clutter.
- The less thing you have, the easier it is for you to maintain your house. It is common sense. The less furnitures you have, the less surfaces you have to dust. The less ornaments you have, the less things you have to clean.
- A well maintained house maintains itself. It is a human psychology thing. Think of a public property, maybe a wall somewhere. If it is properly maintained, nicely painted, it will likely remain so for a while. The moment someone spray paint part of it, before long, more graffiti will appear. Or consider a public park. If it is well maintained, people are less likely to want to litter or damage the hedges. But let the trash cans overflow for a week and you will start seeing people caring less about the place and start littering.
Based on the above universal principles, what you should aim towards is to :
Have Less Things, Declutter Regularly.
There are seasons in your life that you may have to keep some things for prolonged period of time, such as keeping baby stuff for the next baby. Or clothes from older children for younger ones. But not everything needs to be kept. Try to avoid the ‘just in case’ mentality. Even with things that are useful, such as toys that the children are playing with right now, you can reduce the number of toys because our children most certainly do not need so much toys! When it comes to toys, less is really more.
Over time, we tend to add to the things that we own and we seldom give a thought to things that we no longer need. Hence, it is necessary to schedule regular decluttering time to get rid of things we no longer need in order to make space for new things that we need. I try to aim for empty spaces or empty shelves. Decluttering is not reorganisation of how we keep things although both tend to take place at the same time. To make sure that I am not wasting time just moving things around, I aim for empty shelves or spaces as an indication of actual decluttering happening.
There are many methods of decluttering. Some people suggest getting rid of things you did not use for the past 12 months. This principle may not apply to some things that are necessary but seldom used. Like my sewing machine. I hardly use it. But when I need to use it, it is really a necessary tool. Others suggest you get rid of everything from the start, like starting from a clean slate. I am not dogmatic about methods. Do whatever makes sense to you. Just keep the ultimate objective in mind and get there.
Determine to devote time to house cleaning regularly & consistently.
Keep your house well-maintained and maintenance will become easy. The most dreaded thing to do is to do a big clean. It is much easier to clean a relatively well maintained house regularly than to do a big clean when it has reached a biohazard condition. Don’t make cleaning harder than it should be for yourself.
Here’s the thing : you don’t have to do things perfectly. No matter how imperfectly you clean, the most important thing is that you actually clean. You may only get the house 10% cleaner. As long as you are doing it regularly and not leaving it off for too long, you will eventually get to 90% clean (or whatever level you are comfortable with).
How I tackle my cleaning
Personally, a weekly clean is the minimum I can live with. I divide my house into 3 zones and deal with one each day. That way I do not spend too much time every day on cleaning. Then there are task that I have to do every day and there are major tasks I do twice a week. Here is how it goes :
Monday – I clean the furnitures in my living room. I don’t have a lot of open shelves and decorative items so this only takes no more than an hour. Tuesday – I do the same for all the bedrooms. Friday is when I clean my kitchen surfaces.
Every day, I run my robot cleaner throughout the house to vacuum the floor. And I normally do a load of laundry every day. I will also clean the countertop and stove top after cooking.
I keep my daily tasks and my non-Wednesdays tasks easy and simple so that I will not feel the stress of housekeeping, and more importantly, so that I can easily move things around and reschedule if I have other things to do, such as meet a friend for breakfast. Let’s say I have to meet a friend on Tuesday morning, I will just do Tuesday’s chores on Monday together with Monday’s chores. This way I will not feel like I am a slave to the house.
My major task day is Wednesday and one of the weekend days, usually Saturday. By major task, I mean vacuuming and mopping my entire house. When I do it manually, I mop the floor twice each time. These days, I use a steam cleaner so I only go through it once. I also scrub the bathrooms. This means my entire apartment gets cleaned on Wednesday. All these will take me about 2 hours or more, depending on how focused I am and how fast I work. On weekend, this task is usually done by the guys in the family, ie my husband and the boys, so it is much faster. We are intentional in assigning this task to the boys once a week because we want them to be involved in this aspect of living. Regardless of whether they have their own families next time, or they live on their own in the dorm or somewhere else, they need to know that keeping their living quarters clean and tidy is part of life, like do your laundry so you have clean clothes to wear, and maintaining your personal hygiene. So now they are living with us in this home, part and parcel of being part of the family is that we all take a share of the upkeep of the place.
I try to keep Thursdays and Sundays free. You can see by now I intentionally leave a lot of space and margin in my life and not fill them all up with cooking and cleaning. But it also shows that it really does not take a lot of effort and time to maintain a reasonably clean house, as long as you do it regularly and consistently. Sometimes I use the “free time” (when I am not doing anything else) to work on some cleaning that I don’t do weekly, such as cleaning the windows, or decluttering. When Chinese New Year comes around, I do not even need to bother with spring cleaning anymore, unless I feel like I want to take everything out of the cupboards and clean the inside of the cupboards. But I don’t see why I have to do that right before Chinese New Year and not any time else during the year.
So, Declutter, Have Less Things, and Clean Regularly and Consistently. These are the principles I follow to have a reasonably clean and well-maintained house.