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Housekeeping 101

I grew up among that generation where, when it came to the house, Mom did it all. My mom was that generation where gals really didn’t have another choice. She then experienced the feminist revolution by proxy through me. Instead of encouraging me to take home economics in school, she enrolled me in welding. Rather than put a mixing bowl in my hand, she dispatched me to feed the cows and mend fences with Dad. I became a woman who can build a barn but can’t make a casserole. I can fix anything around the house, but it never occurs to me to clean my oven. I was helpless as a housekeeper when I first moved out on my own. This is what I learned about how to clean house.

Bumping around the cow pasture in a truck is fun. Vacuuming the carpet is a drag. Housecleaning really needed a motivating factor for me. A mess did not motivate me to clean. I just wanted to head out and have a beer and forget all about it. I learned to clean as I go rather than let it all pile up.

I was also poorly equipped. The only cleaning supplies I had was a broom. After mopping on my hands and knees with a rag, sweeping the carpet, and using a rag and coat hanger contraption to scrub my toilet, I decided it was time to get the right stuff. I came home with various scrub brushes, sponges, pine scented and spray foam cleaners, a vacuum, and, a very fancy mop. After punching in my PIN number on that purchase and seeing what the total was, I knew I truly meant business. I was going to be a housekeeper just like dear ol’ mom.

I decided to start in the bedroom. Every morning, after my contemplative coffee time, I would make my bed. My original philosophy of “why waste the energy to make the bed when it’s going to get all messed up again at the end of the day” was replaced with the pleasure of feeling those crisp, clean sheets against my skin when I crawled under the covers. The desire to repeat that sensation kept me motivated when I would be sorely tempted to backslide the first week I was trying to establish my new habit.

After bed-making, I straighten up the kitchen. There are usually a few dishes in the sink from my customary bedtime snack. After that, my only other must-do daily chore is to feed and clean up after my birds, which involves a quick buzz around the apartment with the vacuum because birdseed has a cunning way of getting everywhere except in the drop pan below the cage.

On official house cleaning day, my kitchen timer has become my ally. I am easily distracted with projects I would prefer to be doing. I discovered that the trick for me is to set the timer for thirty minutes and clean non-stop until the timer goes off. Then I reset the time for thirty minutes and do whatever is distracting me from cleaning until the timer goes off again. I repeat these alternating cycles until all my cleaning is done. It’s amazing how much cleaning can get done in half an hour.

At first I was like an ADD housekeeper, cleaning whatever attracted my attention, like a magpie attracted to shiny objects. The meant the toilet bowl could be sparkly clean every Saturday but the dirt ring in the tub was probably eleven weeks old. I had to develop some organization with this housekeeping business. It made sense then to compartmentalize my housecleaning duties just as I compartmentalize all aspects of my life. My mental checklist goes something like this:

  • I start in the least visible room. My thinking on this is that if I put a lot of effort into cleaning the common area of the apartment, I may be tempted to call it quits there. So, while my energy and motivation is fresh, I start where cleaning could actually be neglected and no one else would be the wiser. The spare bedroom is the first target. I dust and vacuum.
  • Guest bathroom: I first spray everything with that foamy stuff and let it soak. I put those grainy things in the toilet and let it soak. I then wipe down the counter, sink and tub. I rarely have guests that use these rooms so I don’t really have to scrub. I’m usually just removing a layer of dust. I scrub the toilet, then sweep and mop.
  • I repeat the previous process in my own bedroom and bathroom. I also declutter these rooms and take the trash that has collected in the form of receipts I don’t need but thought, “eh, maybe”, snack wrappers that are scattered around my bedside table, and maybe an empty water bottle or two. Every surface in the bathroom gets a thorough scrub. Bed linens are also changed.
  • Next I tackle the kitchen and dining area. I clean it using pretty much the same guidelines as in the bathroom. Scrub, scrub, scrub. I toss out all the old food from the refrigerator and pantry.
  • My last order of business is the den. I dust, straighten up the week’s accumulation of clutter, flip the sofa and chair cushions and then give them a brush up with the vacuum attachment.

After all of that good behavior, I reward myself with a cold beer on my fresh, comfy couch.

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