Deep Cleaning Bit By Bit

Where did spring cleaning come from?

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.

The one day at a time plan

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, dining rooms, hall closets. Not as dirty, doesn’t need as much attention, but can get neglected.

One thing a day from each category

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

One kitchen task

One bathroom task

One everything else task.

Keep in mind this does include sweeping, tidying, or wiping down counters. That’s just just part of being alive. The task has to go beyond that. It has to be something that won’t be undone by the end of the day.

For example…

In the bathroom, maybe the mirror needs to be cleaned.

In the kitchen, maybe the vent hood needs to be cleaned and the baffles need to go through the dishwasher.

In the everything else category, organize a bookshelf or clean under the couch

Fitting it into your day

The best thing about this plan is the tasks can be done whenever. The best time to do one is when you are already in that room. If you notice the toilet could be fresher, clean it right the , inside and out, and wipe the floor around it.

This means you have to have cleaning supplies in every bathroom. It will make life better.

Or you are getting dressed and notice notice your sock drawer is a little messy. Dump everything out, wipe out the inside, and organize it. One drawer does not take more than a few minutes. If you aren’t constantly rushed and running behind, you can do a lot of work as you go about the day, improving the room you are in.

And then you are done! There is no list in the back of your mind, making you feel inadequate. You have done what you are supposed to do for that day. And doing it day after day will add up to a very clean house, without making a big show of it.

There will be no deep cleaning that you have fallen behind on. The house will always be clean enough.

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. It’s not a big deal.

No lists, no guilt, no overthinking.

To get you started

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 sink 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 to look pretty

-polish stainless steel appliances

-wipe down floors and baseboards

-clean windows along the countertops

-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

I hope you try it!

Just one thing 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.

Aimlessly housekeeping

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.

Don’t let the schedule control you

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.

Tweaking the schedule to your needs

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.

Daily tasks maintain the house

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. If you at least do these tasks, things will be okay.

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 5-10 minutes.)

And for an hour or two I focus on the weekly tasks, the things below.

Weekly tasks help you get ahead

Monday. Laundry Day.  All the laundry I can do, combining loads if necessary to get the baskets empty.  I always do linens on this day too. 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. Just wiping it down, not a big production. Now Tuesday through Sunday, I am still 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.

Wednesday: Projects and Presents.  This used to be my sewing day, but now it is more general crafting. I sew, cross stitch, or make soap.  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. I keep a Pinterest board of projects I want to try.  

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.

Friday: Cleaning day. Hopefully the house is pretty clean every day from my general tidying up. 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 and Sunday : Paper and 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. I go through my kids baskets or school papers, throwing out most of it and saving what I need. This is just a few minutes at a time over the course of the weekend.

Some other ideas

Now obviously you can’t add all of these and keep the ones above. But maybe your family is small and you don’t need a dedicated laundry day, or you live in town and do one small errand a day. Here are some other task days that might be helpful. You get the idea.

Garden Day: Work in the garden, tidy up outside, wash the car, organize the garage, prune shrubs.

Office Day: If you homeschool or have a home business, maybe you need a few hours a week to plan ahead and get ahead of your work

Deep Clean and Organize Day: This sounds terrible to me! But if you don’t like the idea of deep cleaning a bit every day, maybe dedicating a day of the week to get those tasks done would work.

Kids Day: A day to organize the kids toys and craft supplies. Pull some out for the upcoming week to keep them interested. Request from the library some new books for them. Research a realistic craft project to do with them over the weekend, and make sure you have the supplies. Make sure their sports equipment, uniforms, and seasonal things are all in good shape, and buy what you need.

The point is, everyone’s schedule will look different, depending on your family, your workload, and personal preference.

Putting it all together

Now that you have picked the five or six focus days you want to do, it’s time to plan when to do them. Think about what days are already busy for you with after school activities and other commitments, and try to put light or flexible days there. My local grocery stores are always crowded on Fridays and weekends, so I avoid them on those days. Cleaning day is good for me on Fridays in case we have weekend guests. Keep things like this in mind.

Write it down.

Keep life flexible

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.

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.

If it makes your life harder, something is wrong

Don’t read this and think you are adding a ton of work to your day. It’s all stuff that is,already getting done, just more organized now. Now instead of those bad days when all of the sudden tons of laundry needs to be done, the house is a mess and there are guests coming, and there’s nothing to eat, things will be done a bit at a time.

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. Just write out your days, get started, and go from there.

I hope this helps you in some way!

 


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!