Why I Don’t Do Seasonal Cleaning

Did you know that the purpose of spring cleaning was to undo a winter’s worth of heating with coal, wood, and of lighting with kerosene? Apparently, houses would be covered in soot and ash, and when heating was over, it was time to clean. But somehow the tradition has stayed alive.

Now we are made to feel guilty every spring because we do not pull out the fridge and vacuum the coils, or remove the window screens and power wash them.

Yes, deep cleaning is horrible. We all know this. Even people who like keeping a tidy home and perhaps even like laundry, hate to deep clean. So why do we make lists of things like “quarterly tasks” and save them up for some terrible day in March? Or worse, that day never comes…and the list haunts us.

Because there will never be a convenient day, or week, to deep clean the entire house. You have dinner to make, and laundry, and maybe kids, or a full time job, and it is just not realistic. That is something a team of house cleaners comes to do. It takes multiple people and costs hundreds and hundreds of dollars. It’s a ton of work, not fun, and makes you feel like a servant. Yes, that spring cleaning printable checklist is cute but not really helping.

There is a better way.

Stop saving up your list, and do it bit by bit.

So. We all know there are daily tasks like sweeping, counters, whatever. Then there is dusting and vacuuming, which I do once a week. Not talking about that here.

Then there are bathrooms, which need regular cleaning of tubs, floors, and such. The medium clean, because things shouldn’t really be that dirty.

Kitchens, same. The medium clean. Cleaning sinks, trash cans, organizing cabinets.

Then there is everything else. Living rooms, bedrooms. Not as dirty, doesn’t need as much attention, but can get neglected.

Here is what I do:

Every day, do one deep or medium clean item from each category.

One kitchen, one bathroom, one everything else.

For example…

I am brushing my teeth and notice the mirror should be cleaned. I do it.

In the kitchen, I see that the vent hood could use a scrub. Run the baffles through the dishwasher and wipe down the outside.

In the everything else category, sometimes nothing jumps out at me. So I wipe down the hardwood floors in the dining room.

And that’s it. Done for the day. Every day, if you keep it up, there will be no deep cleaning that you have fallen behind on. The house will always be clean enough. Not always neat, but always clean.

Sometimes you will be reacting to a messy cabinet. Sometimes everything will look great and you will proactively do something like clean out the freezer. Sometimes you will be busy and won’t do anything.

No lists, no guilt, no overthinking.

Speaking of lists, guilt and overthinking, here are some ideas for each category:

Bathrooms:

-clean the tub

-clean the shower (do it while you are already in there showering!)

-clean the counters and faucets

-clean the windows and windowsills

-wipe down the floor and baseboards

-organize under bathroom cabinet and wipe it down

Kitchen:

-scrub the sink and soak with water and a splash of bleach

-take out one shelf on the fridge and wash it,

-quickly rearrange the whole fridge

-polish stainless steel appliances

-wipe down floors and baseboards

-clean windows

-wipe outside of kitchen cabinets

-organize pantry, or just a shelf if it is bad

-clean glass door

Everything Else:

-dust and organize one bookshelf, one single shelf if it is bad

-clean windows in one room

-clean out under one bed

-organize a dresser drawer

-clean out a closet shelf or hanging rod

-organize china cabinet

-organize one nightstand

Just one per day from each category and the house will be lovely in a few weeks time.

And what about vacuuming the fridge coils? I think that is the husband’s job.


Creating Your Own Homemaking Routines

Another blog post about homemaking schedules is probably the last thing the world needs. But I love this topic so I am going to write about it.

I have had two approaches to homemaking schedules over the years: not having one, and doing things as needed, and having one, obsessing over it, and letting it rule my life.

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When I first started out as a homemaker (or stay at mom, as it is more commonly called around here), my priority was to “my kids”. I think I imagined them reading at two, being champion soccer players, and generally making me look good everywhere we went. Never mind that I had one baby who slept all the time and was too young to fulfill any of my goals. The housekeeping part was an afterthought. I reacted to what needed to be done: laundry and cleaning as needed. I never organized, decluttered or planned ahead. I at least got dinner made, but I was still learning the tastes of my husband and spent a lot of time making complicated things no one really wanted. (Stupid craft projects, fancy desserts from scratch, sewing projects that were terrible and had to be thrown out.) I went shopping a lot too, even though we had very little extra money. I just wasn’t sure exactly what I should be doing.

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(Our old house.  Probably very messy under the couch.)

Five years, more kids, and different houses later. I read a book that finally convinced me a homemaking routine would be worth it. I liked the vintagey nature of it and it just appealed to my controlling nature. I had a newborn in the house and still hadn’t healed from delivery. But I decided to embark on a deep clean and organization of the house. So I downloaded some weekly printables and set myself on the schedule. Laundry day was Monday, so I would wait until Monday to do all the laundry and turn it into a big production. Cleaning day was Friday so I would vacuum and dust the whole house. I would add on a deep cleaning project like windows. If all the laundry didn’t get done on Monday, I would get panicky. I developed a weird habit of grinding my teeth because I was so worked up over the whole thing. It was very silly. To be fair, the book really emphasized being flexible with yourself, adjusting the schedule, and not letting it rule your life. I just didn’t listen.

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It was just recently that I was contemplating abandoning the whole thing. I still liked many aspects of it, though. My house was clean and company ready. But it was ruling me, not helping me. I started making tweaks: deep cleaning the kitchen a bit every day instead of once a week. I did laundry all throughout the week. I used laundry day as a day to do as many loads as I could and clean the laundry room. Instead of deep cleaning and weekly cleaning on cleaning day, I kept the house clean all week, did a deep cleaning chore 3-5 times a week, and on cleaning day went over the whole house with a vacuum and damp cloth. I found I just prefer to do things bit by bit. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t still follow the schedule…. I just use it to get ahead, instead of catching up.

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Here is what I do:

Every day, I keep the house clean and picked up, dust and vacuum as needed, do a load of laundry as I can, add things to the grocery list, etc. These are things that don’t need to be put on a list. Just everyday housework.

Every day I also do one thing to deep clean the kitchen, one thing to clean each of our frequently used bathrooms, and one deep cleaning or organizing project. (Each of these things takes about 10 minutes.)

And then I do my weekly tasks, things on the homemaking schedule that I do to get ahead.

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Monday. Laundry Day.  All the laundry I can do, combining loads if necessary to get the baskets empty. This way if I have a busy week ahead and can’t get laundry done, I am not behind. I also clean the laundry room. It is also our mudroom, but it doesn’t take long. But every other day of the week I am doing laundry if I have time and tidying up the mudroom bit by bit. I am not intentionally leaving it for Monday.

Tuesday. Baking Day. Preparing things ahead of time to stock in the fridge or freezer. Sandwich rolls almost every week, as they are a staple. Cookie dough to freeze, salad dressing, meatballs to freeze, occasionally chili or a lasagna. In hot weather I will marinate a few things to grill later in the week, make ice cream or popsicles, or can something. We usually have pizza on Thursdays, so I get the dough made and put it in the fridge. Getting ahead.

Wednesday: Project Day. I spend an hour sewing or doing some other project. It doesn’t sound like much…but an hour per week adds up over a few years. If there is painting or decorating I want to get done, like hanging pictures or something, I will do it on this day. If we have a party coming up that needs decorations, I work on them. If there are gifts that need to be wrapped for that weekend or letters written, I get it done. This is a physically easy day, so I usually spend a little extra time in the garden, and I have to wheel down the trash cans.

Thursday: Errand day. Now that I am no longer driving into town for preschool, it makes sense to combine errands. I do the grocery store and library every week, and sometimes the bank or post office. I try to stock up as much as makes sense. That way, if for some reason I can’t get to the store the world will not end. But this is the least flexible of the days.

Friday: Cleaning day. Hopefully the house is pretty clean every day. But on Fridays I vacuum and dust everywhere, including bedrooms, steps, halls, etc. It doesn’t take long. Sometimes I move furniture and all that, but mostly not.

Saturday: Planning Day. I make a meal plan for the next week and write down any important dates for that week, like appointments, visits, etc. I also straighten the bookshelves.

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And here is the important part:

Some days I don’t do any of the weekly tasks. Someone is sick, or we are visiting friends, or the weather is terrible and we want to to go the craft store, or the weather is beautiful and we want to be outside all day. Or a shipment of berry bushes has arrived and we need to plant them, or an out of town guest is here. Or maybe we just don’t feel like it.

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When this happens, there is no need to cry, or lose sleep. That was the point of all it…to get ahead of the housekeeping. Now when life happens nothing goes awry. I just get right back into it next week, and eat one of those meals tucked away in the freezer. No catching up later in the week allowed. Cleaning day will come along again.  As long as days off are the exception rather than the rule, things flow just fine.

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I can promise you, from experience, that doing the overworked martyr act will get you no sympathy and is not attractive.  So I hope you are able to find a system that works for you…without grinding your teeth.

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It will take a lot of tweaking to find your routine, and it will change a lot. But it definitely helps you feel on top things, and allows you to take breaks without sliding into disaster.


How I am Keeping My Kitchen Clean Every Day

Last summer I started following a homemaking schedule where certain things were done on certain days: “Laundry day”, “Town Day”, etc.  I loved the fact that it gave each day a focus and kept me ahead of the game instead of constantly playing catch up.  I also loved that it had a slightly retro feel.  I felt like a real housewife!  But one day, Kitchen Day, was torturing me.

It was a day for canning, baking, cooking ahead, making freezer meals, and cleaning the kitchen.  This meant organizing the fridge and cleaning the shelves, washing the trash cans, cleaning the sink, organizing the pantry and the cabinets, and all those little tasks that kitchens need.  It was just too much, and it was stressing me out.

I realized I was acting a bit silly, as if federal law had decreed that I must cook ahead and clean the kitchen in one day.  So I decided to change things up and it has been a huge improvement.

Two or three times a day, I go in to the kitchen to make a cup of tea.  It steeps for seven minutes.  During those seven minutes, I do one small task to clean the kitchen.  Just one!

It has been amazing!  The kitchen is always clean, and it feels effortless!  Setting a timer has been so important for this working for me.  

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Here are some of of the chores I tackle during those seven minutes.

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-cleaning the sink with barkeepers friend and filling it with water and a splash of bleach

-organizing and wiping down ONE shelf or drawer in the fridge

-cleaning the fronts of the cabinets

-getting down on the floor with a damp microfiber cloth and mopping by hand (surprisingly quick and effective)

-organizing and wiping out one drawer

-polishing the stainless steel appliances

-filling the coffee maker with vinegar and to clean it

-cleaning the cooktop

-organizing the pantry cabinets

-cleaning the kitchen windows or sliding glass door

-polishing two pans with bar keepers friend, drying them, and putting them back

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I am so happy I changed up this aspect of my homemaking routine.  And it has freed up my Tuesdays so that they are now “baking day”, and I am free to do things like this:

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So if I skip a day, no big deal.  And after the chore is completed, I get to relax with a cup of tea!