Housework. The word sounds like something out of the fifties, when all the women wore dresses and pearls and heels to clean their house. At least that's what we all think.
As I was getting ready to write this post, I asked a question on Facebook: "I need to write something about cleaning, organizing, or decluttering. What do you want to know?"
My neighbor across the street answered, "A maid." (By the way, the woman works a full-time job and her house is always spotless.)
My house is never spotless. I don't know how she does it, but she should probably be writing this instead of me. Don't forget - this blog is The Overwhelmed Home. I've figured out ways to make housework easier and quicker, but I still hate it. Which means I don't do it enough to keep it spotless, I guess.
What is There to Hate?
Kind of a stupid question, right? Although I do know women who say that while they don't like housework, they like a clean house, and so they do it.
We can all agree with that, I guess.
Just for fun, let's list a few of the things we hate about cleaning house:
But You Have to Do It
Rewards, certificates of achievement, a nice tiara. We don't get those things for cleaning the house. It's like what Chris Rock says about people who are proud that they pay their bills: "You're supposed to pay your bills!".
And we are supposed to clean the house.
If you're lucky, you get some help. But in general, we as women are the ones responsible for keeping the house clean and tidy, well organized and running smoothly.
So here we are back to square one: we have to do the housework, but we hate it.
What are we going to do about it?
Well, we have two plans of attack: one short-term, and one long-term.
Our short-term solutions are the ones you probably use on a regular basis: daily and weekly routines. Please tell me you're using these, or at least some form of them.
Before we get started on the routines themselves, let me stress two points:
I've got a lot more to say on those two subjects, but that's for another time.
Making Your Routines Easier
After you have a schedule and some routines set up - dailies are the most important - then it's time to get your tools together and your workspace in order.
Your tools are the things you use to do housework: cleaners, brooms, vacuums, etc. And your workspaces are the various areas in your home.
Let's start with tools. In order to get your home as clean as can be, and to do it without a lot of time and effort, you need to start with good tools. Would a chef use a dull knife? Never! And neither should you - when it comes to knives and really, any other tools.
Microfiber cloths are wonders. I'm going to do a post on those soon, because they are not all created equally. And they shouldn't cost a fortune, either.
Rags are good too, especially if you have a job to do and it's really dirty. For instance, my husband cleaned our grill the other day and those rags went in the trash! Isn't it funny? That's one thing we had to "save up" when we got married. We didn't have any rags, or anything old enough to be made into one!
I have mixed feelings about wipes of any kind. And I do use them. I have several packs here at home, mostly for removing makeup and for the dog. They're not environmentally friendly, and mine always seem to be too wet at the beginning and too dry at the end. But if you use them and like them, make sure you have them where they are used. So in the bathroom and the kitchen.
You need cleaners, of course. You can make your own (I have some recipes in the library - sign up below for access), or you can use store bought. I use both. I actually get a lot of my cleansers from Grove. The prices are comparable to Target and Wal-Mart and I get free delivery. Plus they have some cool things I haven't seen elsewhere.
In general, your tools should be close to where they will be used. Each of my bathrooms (I have three) has a roll of paper towels, some plastic bags for the wastebasket, a disinfecting cleaner, and bleach for the toilet. And a toilet brush.
Since I dust the entire house at once, the cleaner I use to dust with is stored downstairs near my other cleaning supplies, like microfiber cloths and rags.
The big vacuum has two storage areas: one downstairs and one upstairs. So if I start downstairs, when I finish upstairs I have a place to put it, and then the next time, I reverse it. We have one of those little stick vacuums, too, that my husband hung on the wall in the kitchen. (I hate it. Here! Look at our decorative, somewhat dirty vacuum cleaner! We love it so much we hung it on the wall!)
You might be able to put some of these long-term ideas for housework into place right away, but keep the rest in mind whenever you make any changes around the house.
My husband grew up with two sisters and three brothers. I am an only child. I was shocked when I walked into his parents home when we were dating and his dad and two of the younger brothers (in their teens) were wrestling in the living room. Objects were flying about, furniture was being tipped over, and there was his mom - not a care in the world.
I tell you this to emphasize that some homes get more "use" than others. There was never a piece of furniture tipped over in my childhood home unless it was being moved or cleaned under.
I raised three children and there was always at least a large dog in residence. I've had my share of tipped over furniture. My point here is that we learned early on that the pretty fabric covered furniture that I loved in my country style house wasn't going to work. It couldn't stand up to our family life.
We went for sturdier (uglier) upholstered pieces, and eventually to fake leather. We got a great deal once on a burgundy leather sofa. It was extremely well made, not so attractive, and lasted forever.
Point number one: choose surfaces - whether it's upholstered pieces or floors - that are going to hold up to your family life.
During my country style phase, I also chose some runners for the stairs made out of 100% dark green wool. Very sturdy, but also prone to attracting and showing dust, dirt, and dog hair.
We have granite or stone countertops in most of our home. Even our hearth is granite. It holds up well and doesn't take any special upkeep. Something like marble, on the other hand, would not be such a good choice. And if your style (and wallet) are more of a laminate variety, choose a color (maybe a pattern), and brand that will hold up.
Flooring is another consideration. We have all hardwood downstairs and laminate upstairs. We have allergies and the dog, so it makes sense. It's easier to keep clean than carpet.
Also, if you're remodeling a bathroom, keep surfaces in mind there, too. Fiberglass tubs and shower surrounds are cheaper, but how easy are they to clean?
Also consider things like window treatments, upholstery, accessories like throw pillows, and even bedding and rugs.
In my "country home", I had these fussy curtains called Priscillas. They were made out of cotton, ruffled (everything seemed to be ruffled then), and draped back and forth over the windows. There was hardly any window to see out of. And it took all day to take them down, wash them, touch them up with an iron, and hang them again.
Now I have blinds and curtains in three rooms that are easy to clean.
Pillows should have removable covers so you can take them off and wash them. And a duvet cover is much easier to wash than a comforter. And be aware that if you love the look of bedrooms with bedskirts and decorative throws and 4,000 pillows on them, you're going to be the one dealing with all of that.
Antique Persian rugs might look beautiful on someone's floor on Pinterest, but how are you going to clean it? We don't have area rugs for that reason. And most of our throw rugs come from places like Home Depot, because sturdy and washable are our main goals. Even our dog's beds (she has two) are washable.
Keep Maintenance in Mind, Always
A few years ago, we spruced up the kitchen. New countertops and a backsplash. We chose some kind of small stone tiles - slate maybe - and added some glass tiles as a border. It was beautiful. For about six months.
My husband didn't know that the stone was soft and prone to water damage. The tile behind the sink started sort of crumbling and melting away. Then it started puffing up and out and then falling out. It was awful. This year (finally) he found an extra box we had, replaced the bad tiles, and sealed them!
So remember to do your homework when you're doing something like a remodel or refresh. I hate to say it, and your husband or partner may not like it - but you're probably the one who should check on the durability of the surfaces you're considering. You'll be the one caring for them, after all.
You're Still Going to Hate It
Housework is never going to be fun. I try to make it quick and easy, and I buy cleaning products that are more natural than chemical when I can, and I always make sure that they smell good. Smell is important to me, so if something smells good, I'm more likely to use it.
Mrs. Meyers makes a scent around Christmas time called Iowa Pine (or maybe it's Idaho). Anyway, the countertop cleaner makes my kitchen smell like Christmas trees and I love it. It's an incentive to get my housework done, and I'll take it!
Take the tips I've given you here and put them to work for you. So many of us read an article, think "that's a good idea", and then never follow through.
Get your planner out, set up a daily and weekly schedule, and give it a try. It may not work. That's OK. Make some changes and try again. Remember my rule about routines: tie them to habits to make them stick.
Declutter what needs to be cleared out. You can't clean around clutter. You have to deal with it. And you know - the state of your house is reflecting your state of mind. What's yours saying about you?
I know. You're stressed, overworked, tired, unappreciated. And right now, we're all a little freaked out.
The real point of housework is to make your home a refuge. A calm place to go while the storm rages outside.
Do what you can. And don't forget to do for yourself too. That's the only way you will have anything to give to those you love.