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If you know me, you know I like to keep a clean home. Well at least mostly clean. One of the neighborhood kids that likes to come by in the afternoons (Thanks to our new puppy!) said “Wow! Your house is so much cleaner than mine!” and it totally caught me off guard. Because my house WASN’T clean that day. At least not according to my standards. Which is what brought me to write this article.
What on earth does a clean house have to do with being healthy? Lemme tell you. My view of health is all-encompassing. It goes beyond just your body, it includes your mental health, your home, and your family. You are not healthy if you live in a dump, everyone hates you, and you hate yourself. Sorry fitness models, I think you’re unhealthy if you have no friends and live in filth. I don’t care how much you can lift or how far you can run. I digress.
So, a clean house. What does that even mean? Everyone will have a different opinion. To me, it means mostly clean surfaces, limited clutter, some sort of organization, laundry in a hamper, dishes in the dishwasher or washed and put away, toys mostly cleaned up, etc. Am I currently staring at Han Solo’s gun and some sort of train made out of coasters and nerf darts on my kitchen table? Yes. Yes, I am. I said MOSTLY clean. We’re not savages around here people. But I would argue that on most days my house would be considered clean. And here’s how I keep it that way.
Clean Home tip 1: Deal with the Clutter as it comes in
I throw away stuff that we don’t need as soon as it comes through the door. Junk mail, stuff from school, my kids’ weird artwork (don’t judge me, Glenda!), junk toys, etc. If I’m not sure I’ll need it, it goes into a pile that I purge once it gets on my nerves enough. If you aren’t like me, and a pile won’t bother you, set a schedule to purge it. Like once a week.
As for the clutter that’s already built up… THROW. IT. OUT. Check the papers to make sure they’re not important, but literally bulldoze the rest into a trashbag and be done with it. If it’s sitting in a pile somewhere and you haven’t needed it in more than a month you don’t need it. Why a month? One word: tampons. Tampons are your indicator. If you don’t touch something for longer than you can go without a menstrual product you DO NOT need it. Plain and simple. Take that for logic Marie Kondo!
Clean Home tip 2: Never let Reusables make a pile
Some people may call me inhuman, but one of the easiest things I do to give my home a sense of cleanliness is I never let laundry, dishes, or trash pile up. Ever. Trash isn’t technically reusable, but the can is, so I lump it in here. Trash goes in the trash can. Immediately. A full trash can gets emptied. Immediately. These are nonnegotiables and my children get it. Once they can successfully manipulate the bag out of the can themselves, they will be doing it.
It took me making-toaster-waffles-minutes long to empty the dishwasher this morning. I don’t know the exact time, but it wasn’t long. That included putting the dirty breakfast dishes from the kids in thus leaving no dishes in the sink. Am I always 100% perfect at this? No. But most of the time this is how it goes. I also wash any dishes that require handwashing IMMEDIATELY after using them (or once they are cool enough). I know this makes me sound crazy, but I’m already up on my feet in the kitchen and then it is DONE. Plus it takes what? Like 30 seconds? Just do it. Then it’s done. Couch sitting you 30 minutes in the future with thank you for it.
As for laundry, it’s a work in progress, but everyone in the house is LEARNING that dirty clothes go in the ONE hamper we have. I put laundry on my to-do list on the days I wash clothes not only as a reminder but also because I deserve the damn satisfaction of crossing it off the list! But here’s the kicker. I can only cross it off when it is 100% DONE. like folded and put away done.
I know, I know. I’ve seen the memes too. About how no one puts away their laundry and yada yada yada. But here’s the thing. I have timed myself. With no interruptions (meaning my kids are at school, so best case scenario) it takes me approximately 11 minutes to fold and put away a load of laundry for my family of 4. ELEVEN MINUTES. I spend more time scrolling facebook reading memes about laundry actually DOING it!
Clean Home tip 3: Who says cleaning has to be boring?
I mean you can have a good old fashioned rage cleaning session if something is pissing you off, but you can also use it as a time of great entertainment. Podcasts, Audiobooks, new music, old music… the world is your oyster! Sometimes I love cleaning on the weekend because I can be like ‘Hey husband! I’m going to go clean the toilets. I need you to make sure our kids don’t fight to the death.’ then I run away with my toilet brush and my true-crime podcast. It’s not exactly a spa day but it’s the only ‘me-time‘ bullshit some of us moms get!
The trick here is making sure your entertainment of choice is something that doesn’t involve your hands or eyes. Meaning it has to be audio only. Otherwise, you get sucked in and stop cleaning. Call a friend on your Bluetooth or headphones even. Cleaning is not one of those tasks that requires your 100% attention like driving, so live it up! I usually give myself one chapter of an audiobook or one podcast episode and challenge myself to see how much I can get done.
I do this about 3 days a week and my house typically stays pretty clean. So not only am I getting some entertainment in, but I’m competing with myself. Boom. Clean bathrooms motherfucker. It really doesn’t take that long and I’m doing something I’d like to be doing anyway such as ‘reading’ a book.
Clean Home tip 4: Delegate
Chances are if you’re reading this you have created small humans. And they are probably greatly contributing to the state of your
mental home’s disarray. If your child is capable enough to manipulate any sort of electronic game, congratulations! They can help you keep your home clean! This is still very much a work in progress with my own kids, so I am by no means an expert, but kids CAN put their toys away. They CAN throw their own trash away, and they can totally clean up their own dishes. My kids both went to Montessori school for early childhood education. One is still there! So I know they have a firm grasp on practical life skills. I DO NOT have to do it all. They can pull their own little weight too.
It may not be perfect but we have to take some of the pressure off of ourselves and put it where it belongs. The newest rule in our house: If you make the mess, you clean it up.
Clean Home tip 5: Lower your bar
This one HURTS. It will always hurt. My house is never, ever as clean as I want it to be. I really like clean. I like made beds and empty counters, and empty CLEAN floors. I have very limited belongings of my own. If I could live anywhere I’d probably live in a tiny house with a big deck with a nice view. I’d own essentially nothing but the basics and #allthedogs. But I live in a relatively big house with lots of stuff, lots of animals, and lots of messes. So I do the best I can without going crazy. I’ve grown to accept the fact that the messes are a part of this crazy life, and that I can, indeed, handle them. I do my rage cleaning, my entertainment cleaning, and the rest… well the rest can just BE. I’ll be fine.
At least I know my house is clean enough for the neighbor kid on a day when I think it’s a total disaster!
If absolutely NONE of this appeals to you, that’s totally cool. You can hire a maid. Cheers!