I worked as a housekeeper to get myself through college. For an entire year of my life I spent 20 – 40 hours a week elbow deep in soap suds and bed sheets at the local hospital. I got pretty good at it. By the time I quit to take a marketing position elsewhere I could clean small rooms in 30 minutes or less and large rooms in the space of an hour. I was effective and efficient.
Then, not long after my stint in marketing, I had a baby and decided to stay home and be a full-time homemaker. I was pretty sure I could handle it. Baby care? Got it. Decorating? Easy. Budgeting? I am the queen of budgeting. Keeping the house clean? Well, I did spend a year cleaning professionally so it shouldn’t be a problem, right? WRONG WRONG WRONG.
Sorry, didn’t mean to yell at you there. *ahem* Yeah, so keeping my house clean was a big issue. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. If I could handle two floors at the hospital, why couldn’t I handle my two bedroom apartment? What was going on? After months of floundering I finally decided to sit down and do an old-fashioned compare and contrast worksheet to fix my problem. Why was my home so different from my old job? The following is what I came up with. And let me tell you, it made all the difference. My home isn’t perfect, but because of what you are about to read A) I no longer feel like I’m drowning in housework and B) I can do an emergency clean of my entire house in 1 – 2 hours. Interested yet? K, here are my housekeeping tips. How to keep your home clean from an ex-pro.
1) Routine: At the hospital I had a solid routine I followed. I could practically clean with my eyes closed. I knew the order of everything. Not just I’ll start with this room and go to this room, no it was I’ll start with the counters in the bathroom, go to the sink, then the mirror, then the lights above the mirror kind of specific. In order to keep my home clean I made several layers of routine. First, there’s the weekly routine (when I do my laundry etc.) then the daily routine (I have short cleaning sessions in the morning, afternoon, and evening) and finally the specifics routine (during morning cleaning session I start with the dishes, go to the counters, then the floors etc.) If I get enough interest I’ll post my exact routines for you.
2) Be decisive about stuff: At the hospital, the contents of the rooms rarely changed, if ever. I knew where away was all the time because, as the old adage goes everything had a place and everything was in its place. Obviously, this only works to a certain extent in a home where you have multiple people coming and going with their junk. My solution was to start being more decisive about stuff. When I did my general cleaning (clearing stuff off of floors and counters) I had to stop throwing anonymous items in random corners and closets and instead find them a permanent home. Now, If I can’t think of a good place for an item to live, I just toss it. So what about stuff I really need but really can’t find a home for? Well, I had this problem with my mail. I needed a place for bills etc. so I gave myself a deadline and crafted a cute mail organizer. Problem solved.
3) Have the proper tools: Housekeepers get possessive of their carts, no joke, I learned that the hard way, you do not want to mess with someone else’s cart! You get the same cart every shift and you get it all set up so that you have the tools you need stocked and at your fingertips. This same concept can be used in the home. Make sure your cleaning supplies are organized and arranged for convenience. For example, I like to do a quick daily swipe of my bathroom counters. To make it easy I keep a canister of antibacterial wipes in each bathroom. I also keep one in my kitchen. It makes everything quick and easy. I try to use tools that require the least amount of work possible so that the job is faster and easier (like the wipes I can just throw away). If I have a big job to do (like the oven) I prepare first by purchasing the special tools I will need (foam oven cleaner). It’s hard to keep your home clean if your cleaning tools are a mess, such a simple concept but one I had to learn the hard way :)
4) Get Help: I didn’t clean the hospital by myself, and since I’m not the only one living at my house I shouldn’t clean it by myself either. Without sounding accusatory, I had some good long talks with hubby about how neither of us were very good at picking up after ourselves and we BOTH needed to pitch in around the house. Here’s a sample of how those talks went:
“Honey?” approaching sheepishly
“What?” eyeing me warily
“The house is a mess” maybe a tear or two
“I can tell” sarcasm runs in his family
“I need help!” Plus long exposition on my part
“OK, what can I do?”
Ahh, shout out to my hubby! He’s amazing :) We discussed how we would divide responsibilities and started doing “clean days” once a week where we would work together to get the house really clean. Clean days kind of fell off the map at the end of hubby’s bachelor’s (he was also working full-time) but they’ve already started back up again and it makes a world of difference to have help.
5) Give it time: Housekeepers dread new hires. Not because they see housekeeping as an exclusive clique or anything, just because new hires are so slow! When I started, those thirty minute rooms took me over an hour! It was nuts. Keeping your house clean is the same way, it takes time to get the hang of it. It may start out slow, but if you keep working on it and getting used to your routines you will eventually get the hang of it.
Try to remember that no one has a perfect house, and this isn’t a competition. When you’re the primary homemaker you can’t just call in sick or take maternity leave. Life happens, things get busy. Just stay calm and do the best you can right? I know to some this will all seem insanely easy and simple, but to those of us who aren’t born neat freaks, it takes practice.
What are your housekeeping tips? Do you ever feel like you’re underwater?
This is part of a series called Keepin’ it Clean in 2014. Up next: 26 Ways to motivate yourself to clean.