I think I must be the most chaotic, scatter-brained person who has ever walked this Earth. I simply don’t notice mess, even if it literally hits me on the head as it’s hanging from the staircase railing. It’s kind of like living in a Febreze commercial.
You see, it’s not that I don’t like having an organized house — I just really loathe cleaning.
But when I had kids, even I became overwhelmed by the mess we created together. Something had to change if I wanted to maintain my sanity and save my house from totally disappearing under a mountain of toys.
But not at the price of spending time with my family. Call it selfish, I just didn’t want to spend hours cleaning. I needed the ordeal to be as painless as possible, but at the same time yield maximum results. Over time, I figured out how to achieve just that. My house isn’t always spotless, but cleaning it has become much less of a dreaded chore since I implemented these steps.
1. When in doubt, throw it out
These days, our house looks pretty bare. In the play area, we only have books and a box with building blocks. That’s about it. Cleaning still isn’t fun, but at least it’s not so frustrating anymore. When we get overwhelmed again, we give or throw away more things. Because the truth is, the less stuff you have, the faster you’ll be done putting it all away.
2. Call in (mini) reinforcements
I really tried cleaning our house by myself once. Spoiler: I failed. I was miserable and realized that help was desperately needed. There’s nothing wrong with admitting this, and even less wrong with asking for help.
My kids are now required to do chores, like setting or cleaning the table and putting their toys away. I’m trying to motivate them to help me, using various techniques such as positive reinforcement and consequences. Often (but not always), they do what they’re told. My husband pitches in as well, just as he should.
3. Land that routine
Having a routine can help you finish your chores faster because you don’t think about them as much. It just becomes second nature. Usually, I do the laundry every day and change the bed sheets once a week. But everyone does things differently. For example, some may prefer devoting one day a week to doing laundry or clean one room every day. Find what works for you and try, try, try to stick to it.
4. Keep your eyes on the prize
Figure out what you absolutely have to do and ignore or delegate the rest. For example, I do the laundry but refuse to fold the clothes (although I do hang up my husband’s shirts to dry) and rarely iron. I’m willing to accept that I have to clean, but it’s never high on my priority list. I do whatever is necessary so I can spend the rest of my time doing more exciting things.
5. Don’t complicate matters (or messes)
Cleaning products and fancy gadgets are often a great help, but they can also be a waste of time, money, and space. Be careful with those! You don’t need a specialized cleaner for every kind of surface. Instead, invest in a few good but simple cleaning products.
For example, I’m sure you have soda and vinegar in your kitchen already. You can use them for cleaning too! I also love multi-cleaners, they’re so convenient! As for technology, choose appliances that are high quality and really make your life easier. I sing praises of our dishwasher, washing machine, and Hoover every day! Also, before we buy anything for the house, we make sure it’s easy to clean itself.
6. Know that you’re not above bribery
I must admit I need plenty of motivation for cleaning. Either I try to think how organized the house is going to look once I’m done, or I reward myself with a piece of chocolate or a good book. And of course we clean like crazy shortly before visitors arrive — a tidy house is just one of the many benefits of having guests! Find out what motivates you and do that. It may not help you love cleaning, but it will make the ordeal more endurable.
7. Get your mind out of the literal gutter
I clean best when I don’t think about it too much. My favorite distraction strategies include playing music (“Jump in the Line” is great for sweeping the floors), writing a blog post in my head, or planning dinner (cooking happens to be the only chore I actually enjoy).
If I can forget I’m cleaning just for a little while, it makes a world of difference.