17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Cleaning House

When we first started this blog...the bloggers listed to the right all exchanged emails to each other about what we would like each other to post about. One request that I got over and over again was how to keep a clean house.

Here is why I have not written about it yet: because my house is not AS clean as it used to be.

You see, I have two children now. 'Nuf said.

Seriously though, I do keep a clean house when I am at my best, and here is why:
1. I have allergies. I like to have things clean because I am allergic to everything, especially dust and stuff.

2. I live in NYC. We are pest-prone. I have discovered our pet mouse WAY sooner than I might have, because I actually clean every week...and in this case, I was doing the weekly vaccuuming under the couch cushions when I found the little presents Charlie, the mouse left behind. Now, if I had been in the habit of cleaning behind or underneath my stove weekly, I would have found his hideout MUCH sooner. I have also had an infestion of the confused flour beetle in my kitchen cupboards, during a hiatus from cleaning, when I was hospitalized for viral meningitis--that's another story for another time.

3. I live in NYC. We are cramped. Things need to be put away...if something doesn't have a home then it goes in the trash can.

4. I live in NYC. It's dirty. Our 800 square feet in the sky is the only thing in this giant city that is OURS...I like to keep the dirt out. As a result, we don't wear shoes in the house. This also keeps my area rugs a lot cleaner.

5. Chaos = Crazy mom. I happen to be one of those people that cannot do a task in a mess, unless the task is inherently messy. I cannot relax in a mess, I cannot do much of anything in a mess. So, cleaning allows me to function, pure and simple.

Now that you know WHY I need to be clean, I will tell you HOW I do it. And let me just reiterate, that I haven't been cleaning as well as this as consistently as I used to when I had only 1 child, and I have a difficult time imagining the ease of this routine with any place larger than mine. This is one of the reasons I do not envision myself in a large house one day, unless there is plenty of disposable income for a maid.

1. Straighten up often. If you put away the stuff that needs to be put away, then when you are in the mood to clean, you won't first have to clean UP. Or, when you HAVE to clean, you can just get right to the dirty work, and skip the putting away work. When I had just one child who napped once or twice a day, I would do a quick 5-minute PUT AWAY job right when she went down, before I started ME time.

Now-a-days if the STUFF that needs to be put away has accumulated over a few days, then the night before I am going to CLEAN CLEAN, I put away all the stuff, so that I can start right into the cleaning bright and early.

2. Schedule. Pick a day to do your cleaning...for me it has been Saturday in the past, lately Wednesday has been working.

The first of the month (whatever is your preferred cleaning day) is DEEP CLEAN day. I would take 2-4 hours to do what I call DEEP CLEAN the house. Here are the rules of deep cleaning:
yup, you must stop for that handprint on the wall, that mysterious streak down your kitchen cabinet, the entire grimy stovetop, the WHOLE toilet apparatus--from top to insides, to outside on the bottom, thoroughly dust, lift up the rug and dust under that, clean all the wall hangings, windows,....the list goes on. This also involves the scrubbing (on hands and knees) of the floors, vacuuming, scrubbrushing the bathroom...just everything.

If you can't do this once a month, at least do it twice a year...especially if you don't move very often...the crap will definitely accumulate and your house will scream: "DEEP CLEAN ME! DEEP CLEAN ME!"

2nd Week: Your house is still looking pretty spiffy from the deep clean and the putting away that you have been doing, so you probably just have to make sure you are sweeping/swiffering/lightly dusting, and maybe even just lysol spraying the kitchen and bathroom (instead of the softscrub, latex glove, scrubbrush cleaning).

3rd Week: This is Deep Clean without the rule. Get the soaps and the sponges and the scrubbers out. This week you only have to mop the floor, not hands & knees scrub it. You need to thoroughly clean all sinks and bathrooms-anything with wetness, and depending on the amount of cooking you have done, you need to clean the kitchen pretty well.

4th Week: Same as 2nd week.

3. Occasional Items. Choose one thing a month to clean out that you don't include in deep cleaning: refrigerator, oven, dishwasher (just heard that if you run it with lemon koolaid, it gets rid of stains), garbage cans, closets (mine get really dusty with wood floors), computer (can also get dusty with the chords and crap), bookshelves, cds (they get really dusty), under the bed, under furniture etc. I have NOT been great at this, but this idea just came to me, and it seems like a good one. If I write things in my calender, I do them, so if I were to just take a few minutes and write down one of these items at the beginning of each month, then I would probably do it.

4. Get the kids involved. My kids are still on the young side for REALLY helping to clean up. I need to be more disciplined about getting them involved, but sometimes I would rather have a clean house then teach my kids the principle of cleaning. In fact, I like to do my cleaning when the kids are at school or asleep.

Confession: I have had a cleaning lady here and there, especially when I am really busy with work. My work ebbs and flows so much though, that it is never consistent. The other day, however, my 4-yr.-old came home frmo school and said: Mom, was helper-Maria here? And I said NO, I CLEANED IT MYSELF!!!

I hope this HOW-TO-GUIDE has helped some of you in your plight to have a clean house. This is just one woman's perspective on the whole chore. I do likes me a clean house, and if you don't, then you just read for a long time for nothing...


  • I am so glad that someone else has o.c.d. as much as I when it comes to cleaning. It's totally true, if there is clutter it takes to long and you loose your focus and drive to get down to the nitty-gritty.
    posted by Anonymous jessiejo at 1/07/2007 04:36:00 PM  

  • I LOVE this post. You do have a clean house Kage, and it is always a pleasure to visit it :) This woman is well qualified to write a post on cleaning.

    I too like a clean house because I too cannot function in a mess. My workroom is a mess...but no one lives in there, just me working so that rooom is always a disaster (Marion can attest to this). But I gotta say, the rest of my house is pretty clean. I'm one of those rare OCD people that kind of enjoys cleaning (not toilets, other stuff - I hate toilets). I LOVE to vacuum and have passed that love to my almost 4 year old, so he now does that task occasionally. He thinks its part of playtime - so great.

    We are preparing our house to put it on the market so I have been doing the DEEP cleaning Kage is referring to: kitchen cupboards, the garage, hall closets - cleaning and organizing. It has been LIBERATING to reclaim spaces, clean them...and then throw open the doors at odd times of the day with a smile on my face and say to myself: "Nice job - very clean in there!"

    I know, I'm a freak...

    Great tips in this post. I think I'm getting a hankering to go clean something...
    posted by Blogger chloe at 1/07/2007 06:33:00 PM  

  • I know exactly what you mean about the clutter distracting you, although I didn't realize it until I read that. Just today I finally picked up around the house. On the weekend, not much gets done because I get to just spend time with my husband (no kids yet), but it was driving me insane. My house is neater, but no cleaner. I still need to wipe off the stove and counters but I think I'll see if DH will do it.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 1/07/2007 08:53:00 PM  

  • "Chaos = Crazy mom. I happen to be one of those people that cannot do a task in a mess, unless the task is inherently messy. I cannot relax in a mess, I cannot do much of anything in a mess."

    This is ME! Oh my gosh. I may not be as disciplined as you as far as the deep cleaning, but I am a clutter freak. I organize and straighten up clutter so that I can function. Having baby T has helped me to let go of the compulsion a little bit, but still... I'm nutso sometimes. I can drive DH a little crazy.

    Thanks for writing this. I really wanted you to. Maybe I'll try to apply your schedule starting next month and see how I do.
    posted by Blogger Beth at 1/07/2007 09:37:00 PM  

  • I am SOOOO glad I am not the only one who CANNOT relax in a mess!

    My husband has the ability to totally tune out crazy clutter and messes, and I just CANNOT do it- there's no way I can sit on the couch and know the kitchen is a disaster- just can't do it.

    Thanks for the tips. I plan on implementing something along the lines of your schedule... The other tip I might add is "Throw things AWAY!" If you don't use it, get rid of it! I keep a few keepsake-y thing, but mostly I'm a tosser. What can I say? I hate clutter!
    posted by Blogger tracy m at 1/08/2007 12:55:00 AM  

  • tracy m. my dh and I are notorious for throwing stuff away...carrie always reminds me of the time when I took one look at my cake pans (around June) and said: I won't be needing these, and threw them out. Then Feb/Mar/Apr came around...our birthdays are all in a row: feb-apr and I realized that birthdays come EVERY year, and I might want to hold on to those cake pans.

    Last night I was straightening up and my husband was just sitting on the couch, surrounded by Barbies, watching Football, and I was like....seriously? you couldn't have just taken two seconds to put these away before you settled in?

    one more tip...and this might be hard for us moms in the middle of having our babies, but good for future...I got this idea from real simple. They suggested turning all your hangers one way in your closet, and every time you wear an item, reverse it. In 6 months, whatever is still facing the original way should be donated.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 1/08/2007 05:18:00 AM  

  • I think EVERYONE enjoys a clean house. The problem is that I so do NOT enjoy the act of cleaning. The 5 minutes of clean house at the end aren't worth it to me. So when it comes to a choice on how I want to spend a free four hour block of time - I will never choose clean. Ever. And that is why my house is never all clean at once. On any given day, you might find a bathroom clean, or the dishes done, or my bedroom spotless, but never at the same time.

    The cleanest is every gets is when dh and I take an hour on a Saturday afternoon and work at it together. It's more enjoyable when there is another person to talk to and share in the work.

    I had a woman in NYC help me clean for a while and that was a dream. I just need to figure out how to work it back into the budget. And for those of you who know me and how much I love clothing and fabric, I would happily cut back on those if it meant someone else would clean my house. That's how much I hate housework.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 1/08/2007 07:55:00 AM  

  • Yeah I never said I like doing it...but I do like when it is all clean all at once...even if that feeling only lasts a few days at most. I could never do one chore a day, but if that works for everyone: M-bathrooms, T-kitchen W-floors Th-dusting etc....then that is probably an effective way to clean as well.

    and carrie-cutting back on your shopping budget IS saying a lot.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 1/08/2007 07:58:00 AM  

  • I think I need the gene that says you can't function unless it's clean..I have it when I worked, my desk was always organized, clutter-free, even sprayed clean at the end of the day. I couldn't work in a mess.

    At home, though, it's a different story. I can happily pick my way through toys, cereal on the floor, and glasses that need to go into the kitchen to get to the computer to do the fun stuff.
    posted by Blogger The Wiz at 1/08/2007 08:17:00 AM  

  • Carrie, I also hate the drudgery of cleaning and it doesn't bother me to have a bit of clutter. (There does come a point where I start to become bothered by it--mostly, when I am kicking things out of the way!) However, I have become a recent fan of listening to audio books and podcasts. I have listened to so much great stuff. My favorite NPR programs and interesting books. A friend of mine has also shared with me some Lost podcasts that he listens to regularly, which I am going to download and start to listen to. It really passes the time so much more easily and peacefully for me. I don't feel resentful about housework, and actually look forward to the time to listen to my IPod while doing the cleaning at the same time. Really, it has revolutionized the way I feel about cleaning and I don't feel like my mind is melting away like I did before.
    posted by Blogger Michelle at 1/08/2007 09:59:00 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    posted by Blogger Michelle at 1/08/2007 09:59:00 AM  

  • That is a really great idea, Michelle! I am going to start doing that. The more I clean, the angrier I tend to get. Maybe that will help.
    posted by Blogger Jen at 1/08/2007 10:03:00 AM  

  • Michelle,

    I love that idea. We have started listening to audiobooks during long car trips and I still have a few that I haven't finished and have been dying to do so. I even already have the armband for my Ipod to make it convienient.

    And just for the record Kage, I have always admired your clean house but I have also come to peace with the fact that my house will never be like it without professional help. Thanks for writing up the tips.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 1/08/2007 10:14:00 AM  

  • Funny Jen. Sometime the impetus for me to start cleaning is anger. In the extreme, it's "I'm so mad that my husband is such a lazy slob and I'm going to stomp around this pigpen cleaning up while he sits on the couch."
    posted by Blogger Michelle at 1/08/2007 12:11:00 PM  

  • oh yes...thanks michelle for bringing up a point I meant to touch on. I just bought the new shuffle..it is so teeny weeny, and really has helped me to enjoy the cleaning more. I think I would like it even more if their were NPR and such on there....great suggestion. You could also turn on some great music for all to enjoy and get the whole family involved cleaning.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 1/08/2007 12:45:00 PM  

  • I do that too, Michelle! By the time I'm half-way done with the work, I've made him out to be the husband who lays around in wife beaters and boxer shorts and sends his wife out every hour to buy him more beer. In reality, he would have asked several times how he could help, but I've bitten his head off each time he asks.

    Not sure why I like to play the "angry housewife role" like that....

    I remember when I first got married, I was working in the corporate world and the women I worked with all advised me to get a housecleaner if I wanted my marriage to last....(sorry for the threadjack, K)
    posted by Blogger Jen at 1/08/2007 03:41:00 PM  

  • Jen, I've thought about the housecleaner thing a bit. Not that we can afford it, but just in a hypothetical sense. I don't like the idea for a number of reasons.

    But, a main one is that I feel like we, as a family, should be able to work out a way to keep our house clean and tidy. We should all have jobs, we should all do our jobs, and we should all be contributors. I don't really want to be the taskmaster for the house. I want it to be more of an joint venture, and that's, of course, where the frustration lies.

    One of my NY goals is to work on getting a household schedule and starting to require more of my kids in an age appropriate way. I also think that although I would just love to have AJ float about the house divining its every need, and then meeting them, that I would like to have some pretty specific assigments so that the expectations are clear.

    Part of the problem for me personally with housework is a feels like a personal betrayal to my ideals to be the house manager, the one in charge of everything, doling out every domestic job, when I just want it to be more shared. Housework turns into political territory and takes on a lot of extra meaning for me about gender and gender roles.
    posted by Blogger Michelle at 1/08/2007 04:13:00 PM  

  • I had an epiphany about 4 months ago. I could either A)Mope about and freak out at everyone because the house was always dirty or B)I could just do a better job cleaning it and set the example.

    I chose the latter and I have to say, after 4 months of doing it without complaint (okay, without CONSTANT complaint), the house is cleaner, I am happier, and everyone in my family is helping out without whining about it. DH is starting to do dishes, clean up, build shelves (where did that come from?!?), fold laundry, etc. WITHOUT BEING ASKED!! I never thought that would happen.

    It's amazing how a small shift in attitude can change the world. :)

    Granted, I still find all-day and extreme cleaning somewhat of a drudgery, and so I do what Kage suggested (all great suggestions BTW, kage!) --I keep the surface clean daily, and so the deep stuff isn't so hard. Dishes, clutter, clothes, etc. don't take a lot of time, and it sure feels good to see my kids starting to pitch in as well.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 1/08/2007 06:02:00 PM  

  • Michelle, I see the housekeeper issue differently. I see it as a way to free ourselves up so we have more quality family time together. Definitely, kids need daily chores and responsibilities. But there is enough day-to-day housework for that. I hope I am not going to totally kill my kids' work ethic, but I'd rather we spend our Saturday together hiking or biking or at a museum, rather than cleaning the house.

    We have never had outside help, but if we get to the point where we can comfortably afford it, I will totally do it.
    posted by Blogger Jen at 1/08/2007 08:01:00 PM  

  • "Part of the problem for me personally with housework is a feels like a personal betrayal to my ideals to be the house manager, the one in charge of everything, doling out every domestic job, when I just want it to be more shared. Housework turns into political territory and takes on a lot of extra meaning for me about gender and gender roles."

    Michelle - I totally relate to this comment. Good to know I'm not alone. Sometimes I get all bitter about dishwashing or vaccuuming or laundry b/c of these issues. Most of the time it seems a little irrational. But there is a part of me that just rebels against housework when I feel like I'm the one deligating and asking and doing. UGH.
    posted by Blogger Beth at 1/08/2007 09:30:00 PM  

  • michelle, I am glad you are bringing up these issues...really thought-provoking. jen, I totally agree with you...
    Especially when I am really busy working, that means I am bringing in more income, so I would rather hire some help on the weeks I am working so that I can make up for time lost with the children.

    There have been times when I am working for a week and my DH is home with the kids, and does all the "chores" that I would have done if he had been working and I had been home. When we are both particularly busy, we help each other.

    There was a time when DH would "ask questions" about messes and I would say: If you don't like it, take care of it. And after a few times of saying that he just did it on his own.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 1/09/2007 04:33:00 AM  

  • My feelings are the exact same as Carries. My husband and I took down all the Christmas stuff last weekend and did a deep cleaning session together. When we were finished we both felt so good and talked about how nice it is to have a clean house. Then Sunday morning it was a disaster again. He looked at me and said "how did this happen? the house was SO clean?" I told him that is exactly why I hate cleaning. I don't mind vacuuming or even cleaning the toilets, it's the CONSTANT need to pick up that kills me. I don't want to spend my life "straightening" the house - so am I doomed to live in a mess?
    posted by Blogger Melissa at 1/09/2007 01:21:00 PM  

  • Also, I have just started doing a bit of a routine and it suggests to go to bed with a shiny kitchen sink. It makes a great difference to wake up every morning to at least a clean sink. Now I am in the habit and never have to deal with a sink load of dirty dishes.
    posted by Blogger Melissa at 1/09/2007 01:24:00 PM  

  • I agree with Jen on the housekeeper issue--but it took me a while to come to it. My husband was actually the one that suggested/mandated it. I am a terrible housekeeper myself...I actually like a little bit of mess--feels like a family lives here. (But I am sanitary--I don't like dirty toilets, dishes left in the sink, garbage built up.) My husband on the otherhand needs it to be clean and clutter-free to relax and unwind from his day. I used the tactic "if you don't like it fix it yourself" for a little while but it got to the point that he was spending his evenings "working" too...long story short he asked that if I couldn't keep it up would I please have someone in to do it. Saved my marriage! It wasn't as dreamy as it sounded at first. I spent the WHOLE day before she came cleaning and organzing myself. But now that I'm in the groove it is pretty easy to keep it up as we go along. Now, twice a month I have the whole house clean from top to bottom and that lasts at least a couple of hours--and I'm not so exhausted that I can't enjoy it. The thing of it is, for me it forced me to do some serious organizing and keep it up. I'm a procrastinator so I have my cleaners set on a schedule to just come every other Wednesday--now it is easier to take care of little things when they are little than it is to call and cancel the appointment. As for the kids--the same thing has happened. They have to be neat and organized and have their things put away or the cleaners move them or throw them away or whatever--and I'm not the one to be blamed when they can't find their own stuff. It has made my family a lot happier and I don't think we have suffered a lack of work ethic--though I understand that time may only tell on this one.

    I do love the suggestion of listening books on ipod. I think I'll try that. That is one thing I hate, to work "alone". And I agree with the polished sink. It makes for a happier morning--and the kids are more likely to put their dishes in the dishwasher...
    Great post, great ideas!
    posted by Anonymous messy-no-more at 1/09/2007 06:39:00 PM  

  • So yesterday and today, I took a chunk of time, strapped on my ipod, cleaned and listened to an audiobook. Wow! What a difference. I think this idea might have revolutionized cleaning for me. I will never be good at real deep cleaning, but at least this will help me to willingly take a little more time out of every day to clean, organize and tackle the piles of stuff around the house.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 1/09/2007 07:14:00 PM  

  • Thanks for the great ideas about organization, Kage! I also loved the post about attitude- that is my problem. I have four kids under age 6 (including a newborn baby) and toys are constantly strewn all over the house. I feel like I am so busy just functioning and taking care of the kids that I have no time to clean (let alone deep clean!) I get frustrated and then NOTHING gets done. But perhaps if I change my attitude, just deal with it and be tough and take care of it once and for all, then my life will be a little easier. I love the ideas of maintaining a monthly schedule. There is real meaning to the phrase that my mom used to say, "A stitch in time saves nine."

    I also have one of those husbands that can watch sports in the middle of clutter and messes and be oblivious to it all. Drives me nuts sometimes! But I've found that if I throw laundry that needs to be folded at him while he's watching sports or offer him a reward for doing or fixing something (like a back massage), then he's much happier to get things done. Honey-do lists are great in these cases. A

    lso, I reward my kids with sticker charts and that helps them get motivated to help out around the house. Growing up, we would lose privileges if we didn't do our daily jobs on our job chart. We learned that the work comes before the fun. I also try to reward myself for things. For example, I don't allow myself to have "me time" after the kids are in bed until the house is straightened up enough to the point where I wouldn't be embarrassed if someone just stopped by unexpectedly. I love waking up to a clean and organized home (which hardly ever happens) and it makes my day run much smoother.

    Anyway, happy cleaning to all of you! Thanks for the tips.
    posted by Anonymous LJ at 1/10/2007 01:28:00 PM  

  • I think that the idea of listening to a book on ipod has great merit and I think that I'm going to invest in an ipod shuffle specifically for this purpose.

    Actually, I do clean all week and still make use of a teenager on saturdays to come and do all of my floors and bathrooms while I take the kids somewhere else. This is worth the $30 dollar investment.

    My children are old enough to do many jobs on their own (10, 8, 6, 4) but just managing them doing their jobs is more time than it would take me to do everything myself...and yet cleaning must be taught and followed up on and rewarded. For me the whole organization and delegating part of cleaning is tough.

    One of the sweetest 3 seconds of my week is on Saturdays when I walk in my house after all of the floors have been cleaned and it smells clean and all the floors are clean at the same time. Then the kids come in behind me and mud, snow, sand and all of the stuff in their hands get dumped on the floors and its over. My three second deep breath of clean waits to happen again a week later. Please don't get me wrong my house is pretty good for 6 kids, but "less is more" and "clutter causes confusion" are the 2 sayings I remember my mom always chanting to her nine kids. I have 3 big brown garbage cans and I fill them up on a weekly basis...and if I don't then I know that the clutter is staying in the house instead of leaving.
    posted by Blogger Shaleen at 1/10/2007 02:29:00 PM  

  • I have the hardest time finding time to clean my house because of my 4 month old. He is so eager for attention so often, that I rarely get a moment of quiet time. He fights sleep during the day, so although I get a wonderful sleep schedule at night, I cant get anything done all day while he is awake and fussing about. I feel so helpless when it comes to getting my house clean, so now it is messier than ever!
    posted by Anonymous Brittany in California at 9/07/2007 11:54:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home