"Yeah, right!" you scoff. But just hear me out. I am definitely no FlyLady, but I am beginning to see the light as far as cleaning goes. I don't hate cleaning, but like many people, I don't want to do more of it than I have to. That is why I came up with this list, to organize my thoughts, live up to my desire to Live Simply, and perhaps even help someone else in the process. Here are the lessons I have learned so far:
- Remove your shoes. People from cultures all around the world (even Nordic ones) remove their shoes before entering their homes, both out or respect and for hygienic purposes. I agree on both counts. If you're not used to it, just give it a try (and reward yourself and your family with some comfy, feel-good slippers!). A simple idea, but it really makes a difference in keeping a house clean(er).
- Determine the most important tasks. Do you really need to dust your cabinet of knickknacks once a week or vacuum behind the couch? Or even keep the bathroom mirror looking spotless? The answer is no. The truth is, while you might notice if your paperweights are not sparkling, only a few tasks are actually noticed by others. In my experience these are: A vacuumed carpet, a clean bathroom, an uncluttered kitchen/dining room table, and dust-free computers and work surfaces. Choose whatever is important to you, and relevant to your home.
- Do a little every day/week. Once you've chosen the important tasks, do each of them once to twice a week, depending on your needs. There will also be some tasks that will only need to be done once a month or less, so schedule these accordingly (see below).
- Set a time limit. Let's face it, there are already many daily tasks besides the those mentioned above. These may include (depending on your priorities) making the bed, cleaning the kitchen, cleaning up after pets, and just tidying up. That means that adding any other task could eat up more of your free time if you're not careful. Discovering this, I decided to set a time limit. If I am vacuuming the carpet and my timer for 10 minutes goes off, I turn off the vacuum and put it away- whether or not the whole carpet is vacuumed. So what if I missed a spot? I'll take care of it next time. Of course, setting a limit also depends on the size of your home- so see what works for you. Bonus: Working against the clock has helped me clean more efficiently, and tackle areas that need the most attention first. As they say, the rest is gravy.
- Be realistic. Know when when you are least likely to clean. For example, your busiest weekday or when you're trying to relax on the weekend. The world won't fall apart if you declare one day when there shall be no housework. In fact- it might make your world even better!
- Set a schedule. Now that you have chosen what tasks are important, how long it takes to do them, and when you are most likely to get them done, schedule it out. I have used Google calendar with great success, simply by adding tasks to a weekly or monthly calendar. Even if I don't do the task exactly on the day, it gives me a guideline so that I focus just on what needs to be done- and don't waste time on what doesn't.
- Ask for help. Just because your spouse works outside the home or your kids have school doesn't mean they can't pitch in. One regret I have heard from experienced parents is that they were too nervous or impatient to let their little ones help out around the house when they first showed the initiative. I have also read that some families make chores/decluttering a fun game for the whole family. So, try something to give yourself a break- it just might work! And don't be so proud, if someone offers to give you a hand, let them, even if you know they won't do a task as well as you. Give them the privilege of helping you, and use the occasion as yet another reminder that you don't have to do it all.
- Declutter. If nothing else is a magic bullet, decluttering is. After all, you don't have to clean or take care of items that are no longer in your possession. If you don't use something and you are just spending time cleaning around it, then seriously, what good is it? Nowadays there are so many resources out there, such as Goodwill, The Salvation Army, Freecycle, Craigslist, Ebay, even recycling centers for old clothes and electronics that cannot be sold or donated, so that it is possible to get rid of unwanted items without being (or feeling) wasteful. No need to go berserk decluttering all at once, but just a little at a time will make a big difference, especially in the long-run.
- Organize logically. If you have in fact chosen to go the decluttering route, you may find that organizing what is left becomes exponentially easier. But either way, a home's organization is so tied to personal preference, I won't say much about it, except that organization should be as simple, logical, and convenient as possible.
- Be mindful. From a Buddhist perspective, cleaning is an excellent reminder of impermanence. We may wish that a room - or our whole house- will stay the way it is just after we clean it, but we know that it isn't so. In fact, if we consider entropy, or the tendency of everything towards disorder, we may even feel that the universe is against us! But if we put aside our ego we know that cleaning isn't about having the most perfect, spotless home, but simply to provide an environment for comfortable and happy living. If we can do that, we are on our way to cultivating joy in life's most mundane activities.
I hope you enjoyed this post, and that it was helpful to you in some way. As always, I welcome you to share your suggestions and personal experiences in the comments.
May all beings be happy!