I am going to go out on a limb here and assume that most everyone know who Heloise is. She is the nice and very knowledgeable lady who writes the newspaper column, "Hints from Heloise". It's all household tips and hints and occasional recipes. She is a veritable treasure trove of information. She has great ideas for everything like making your whole house smell fresh by placing a few drops of lemon oil on the filter of your heat or AC or instructions on how to make your own household cleaners on the cheap. If you need to get a smelly fish stink out of your fridge or get a red wine stain out of white carpet Heloise is your girl. She really is amazing. I've been reading her column for years.
That said, most of what she writes doesn't actually apply to my life. I am impressed as all get out by her knowledge but I just tuck it away in my memory banks in case I ever lose my mind and buy white carpeting. Or cook a fish.
In my many years on this planet, I have learned a few things about taking care of a house. Mostly through trial and error, you understand, but things that apply more to my life. So I kind of have my own set of housekeeping rules. Here are some of them:
1. Don't be a slave to your house. Yes it's important that it be at least clean enough that your guests do not require a Hazmat suit in order to visit. But it doesn't have to be perfect all of the time. I remember my mom, bless her heart, chiding me about the state of my kitchen floor and proudly saying that we could "eat off her floors". I wondered why anyone would want to eat off her floor when she has a perfectly good table. There is an old saying that nobody ever dies thinking, "If only I had kept my house cleaner". It's true. People and our relationships with them are far more important than our houses. If you have a choice between spending the day with someone you love or cleaning your house, choose your loved one. Every Time.
2. That said, there has to be some level of tidiness and cleanliness in your home. You do not want your house to be condemned by the Board of Health or a breeding ground for another Plague outbreak. There is a spot somewhere in the middle that is just fine. It's probably different for everyone, the acceptable cleanliness level, and it may require some compromise on the parts of everyone in the home. But that level exists. Find it, everyone agree upon it and life will be better :)
3. Tidy as you go. It honestly only takes minutes if you clean right behind yourself. When I'm baking I create one unholy mess. I don't mean for it to happen but every single time I bake, I have to clean big time. BUT, if I wipe up the mess from where I accidentally dribbled egg immediately instead of waiting for hours, it cleans up faster, easier and more thoroughly. If I wipe up where I oopsied the paint while painting the trim around the window, it comes off cleanly and quickly instead of having to scrape the paint off later.
4. Delegate. There is no reason on earth why an 8 year old cannot make his or her own bed, clean their own room, make their own sandwich AND clean up after themselves afterward. True, reminding them (twenty times!) to do it is one more chore for you in the short term, but in the long run, it will become a lifelong habit for them. And that is a good thing. We are supposed to raise our children to become strong, independent and capable. That only happens when it starts very young and is consistent. Making the effort with them now will pay off big time later.
5. Don't be so darned picky. There is more than one way to do everything. Just because another person in your house doesn't do a chore exactly the way you do it, doesn't automatically mean it's wrong. It just means that it's different. Take a breath before you criticize. If you complain about the job they did, they are less likely to do the job in the future. You want to foster the habit, encourage the behavior and that comes with positive reinforcement.
6. When you do a BIG cleaning, start from the top and work your way down. That one is from my Nana. What she meant was to start cleaning up high and do the floor last. All the dust and dirt and whatever else you clean off the ceiling fans falls to the ground. You don't want to have to re-vacuum. That is not a good use of your very valuable time.
7. There actually is a particular and more efficient order to doing a big clean. Dust first, then vacuum then wash (whether it's floors or carpets being washed)
8. Everyone has that one job that they hate. If you can hand it off to someone else, do so. In trade, you do the one thing that they hate. Seems fair enough. In most houses nowadays, all of the adults are at work all day .That mean that all of the housework should be fairly distributed between everyone who lives in that house. Unless you have the means to hire a housekeeper, or have an especially clever dog, the work still has to be done and there is no reason in the world that one person should have to both work full time outside the home and then have a second job taking care of the inside alone. There simply isn't. Period.
9. Try to screw on a good attitude about chores. We all have to do them, we may as well have a good attitude about it. A bad attitude doesn't improve the chore. Some people play music while they work. Some people make phone calls while they clean. Think deep thoughts, problems solve, contemplate the meaning of life. Sing, dance, whatever you need to do to make the chore less, well, chore-like. I don't mean that you need to be excited about what you are doing. "Gosh I'm so happy that I'm scrubbing this filthy toilet! Woohoo!" That's rediculous. I just mean don't be angry about chores. Honestly it won't change a single thing about the chore. If you fake it long enough, the fake good attitude often becomes a real good attitude.
10. Simplify. The less stuff you have, the less stuff you have to clean. Generally speaking, if I have limited time, I concentrate on the kitchen and the bathrooms and then do one quick zoom through the house picking up anything out of place (generally shoes and newspapers) and putting those things away. And then I'm done. I mean seriously, I'm good. Small house, not much stuff, less time cleaning.
11. Prioritize. We all have limited time. Do the things that really matter. Like, cleaning the toilet, doing enough laundry that nobody is wearing yesterday's underwear inside out. For me one thing that I ALWAYS do, every single day is make the bed. There has been a lot of talk lately about making the bed. Apparently the majority of people simply do not have time to make their beds anymore. Seriously, I don't know if you've seen this or not, there was a study done! And there are those who claim that NOT making your bed daily is good for you. Hmmm. Sounds like an excuse to me and a lame one at that. I once timed myself. It took less than 4 minutes to make my bed. Less than 4 minutes. Personally, I like the way the bedroom looks with the bed made. When it's not, it looks cluttered and then I feel messy and unorganized and I don't like that. I'm not saying everyone has to feel the way that I do about it, I'm just saying that I have noticed a direct correlation between a tidy environment and a tidy life. Just sayin'.
12. There are a few things that are completely worth the financial investment. If you live in a dry environment a humidifier is worth the money. When the air is too dry, you may experience more sinus infections, more colds or nose bleeds so it's definitely good for your health. But it's also good for your furniture. When the air is too dry, furniture dries out, there is more of an issue with static electricity and dust clings stubbornly to whatever it touches. If you live in a moist environment, a de-humidifier is a must! It keeps that icky gymsock smell out of the air and prevents mold. Mold is not only bad for your health, but it's a serious PIA to constantly clean it off of everything all of the time.
13. The last bit that I will offer and this one is also from my Nana. I'm sure you've heard it before. "A place for everything and everything in it's place". There should be a dedicated spot for every item in your house. When anyone uses or utilizes any object, that object should e returned to it's 'home'. It literally takes seconds to do. This is where pencils belong. This is where spoons belong. Dirty dishes. Shoes. Keys. Glasses. This way you will never ever lose anything. Ever.
Ok! So there you go, a nice bakers dozen of ideas with many apologies to Heloise. I'm not saying this what anyone else should do, I'm only saying that this is what works for me. Find the thing that works for you! And then spend your time with the people you love, not a cleaning bucket and mop.
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.