Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Holiday Cleaning 101
There's only about two days in the year when I actually, kinda sorta, enjoy cleaning. Those days would be the day before Thanksgiving, and the day before Christmas Eve. So, Thanksgiving Eve and Christmas Eve Eve.
I don't know why, but in my mind it's a rule that a house should be spotless for a holiday - regardless if there is going to be company here or not. This past weekend, I found out I wasn't hosting Thanksgiving for my family - like I have for the past five years. So, for a brief few moments I thought that meant I didn't have to run around like a crazy person cleaning every nook and cranny in preparation for company. But, then I realized that just because I wasn't having guests didn't interfere with my desire or protocol to have a perfectly clean house for the family that would be here eating and celebrating.
I could have done all of the cleaning this past weekend... but then I knew I'd be closely back to square one today. Why go to all of that trouble twice? No thanks. It's much easier to scrub and wipe and sweep and clean the day before a holiday if I actually want it to stay that way for the 24 hours after.
So, this morning, before I get knee deep in mop buckets and clutter, I decided to make up a list of holiday cleaning tips. I'll warn you right now, I'm not Martha Stewart or any other form of clean house guru. In fact, these tips probably aren't great tips at all - but I just figured it would help motivate me to get started on the work that has to be done. My life is based on lists... so why not come up with one today?
1. Pick an end of the house and start there and work your way to the other end. I have officially self diagnosed myself as having cleaning ADD. I will start working in one room, find something that belongs in another room, take it to that room, and then start cleaning in there, then take something to another room, and rinse and repeat. I can spend an entire day flittering back and forth between rooms which ends up in a day of work but not much progress. I've now discovered that if I make a pile of stuff that belongs in another room while I'm cleaning - I'm a lot more likely to stay focused on that room.
2. Start at the top and work your way down. Just as I think it's important to start at one end of the house and work in the direction of the other end, I also think it's important to start at the top of a room and work my way down. That means, I start with the ceilings. Yes, look up at your ceiling. If you're anything like me - you often forget to vacuum up there. And what collects up there? Dust. Cobwebs. Nasty stuff. I then slowly work my way down to the next surfaces. The last place I touch is the floor. I know so many people that will start with clearing things away and then vacuuming or moping before cleaning surfaces. Do you know how much dirt you're going to knock on the floor? A bunch. Trust me, starting at the top is the way to go.
3. If you want something done properly, do it yourself. My oldest offspring are 12 and 11. For half of those years, I've tried to convince myself that they should be a part of holiday clean-up. I'll designate an area of the house for them to clean or I'll give them specific jobs to take care of. Then, you know what happens? I'll inspect the area and decide that they didn't do a good enough job...and then make them do it over... and over...and over. All I end up with are cranky kids and cranky me. It doesn't matter how well my kids do a job (when it comes to holiday cleaning), I will find something to complain about. It's a bad trait, I know that, but I've realized that there's a lot more peace and harmony in my home if I just suck it up and do it myself. I'll assign them their rooms to clean - and their bathroom - and leave it at that. Common areas just have to be done by my hand.
4. Limit the breaks. After cleaning for a few hours, a break is most definitely in order. But, I sometimes get in to the bad habit of taking breaks every 15-20 minutes... which ends up making a 4 hour job in to an 8 hour job. And yes, it can take 4 hours to clean my house for holiday cleaning. There's no surface cleaning - it's the deep variety. I now try and focus on how much I have done, and how much happier I'll be when it's over with to help limit the amounts of time I want to sit down with a cup of coffee.
5. Sorting is a break in disguise. For some reason, my house tends to collect a lot of clutter. Not hoarders club clutter, just boxes and stuff that's gathered here and there over time. The boxes that are piled in my kitchen right now are filled with stuff that I boxed up for my classroom that hasn't made it there yet. There are a few tubs of miscellaneous items that I've boxed up because I couldn't find a better home for them. Jelly's toys are in drawers and tubs in her playroom - and each tub and drawer are supposed to hold specific items, but usually end up becoming a stuff-all that she's put toys in when she's been asked to pick up her toys. One of my worst habits during holiday cleaning is deciding to resort all of those boxes and tubs. Rather than just getting rid of them, or stacking them neatly, I decide to start digging around in them and wondering if I could now find better places for it. Big mistake! I'll end up packing all of the stuff neatly back in to the boxes, and realizing that I spent two hours sorting stuff that was already sorted. No, I don't like having clutter in my home - but until I get a new house that has better storage areas, I got to suck it up. No point wasting time resorting... I just got to make sure it looks as nice as I can make clutter look and move on.
6. Put holiday music on or something with a beat while you clean. One of the biggest mistakes I've made in the past is leaving the TV on while I clean. For a while it will just be noise, but then I'll start to pay attention to the noise, and then I realize that I'm getting sucked in to a movie or show. Then, break time happens...that lasts the entire time the movie/show is on. I've realized that if I put on music while I'm cleaning, I end up dancing around and singing while I'm cleaning. And I continue to clean. And I stay in a better mood. See? Two birds, one stone. I keep cleaning. I don't get cranky. And, thanks to DirecTV music channels, I can pick whatever type of music I'm in the mood for - and don't have to worry about pesky commercials.
7. Stock up on cleaning supplies before cleaning. There's nothing worse than being knee deep in grime than realizing that you're out of something and having to get ready to go to the store to buy more. Then you know what happens? You end up staying out for 2 hours and not feeling like cleaning when you get home. If it's already too late, and you're on the day of cleaning... check before you start and see if there's stuff that you can make do with. If not, go to the closest dollar store - and go in your cleaning clothes - to pick a few things up. I say go in your cleaning clothes, because you are much more likely to make the trip as short as possible so as not to be seen by someone you know.
8. Clean while you're dirty. I know that sounds kinda gross, but think about it. Don't bother getting in the shower and putting on clean clothes right before you're about to deep clean your house. Find some old clothes, throw your hair in a pony tail, and get to cleaning. If you're not clean when you start, you're much less likely to care about how much more dirtier you get when cleaning. And for some reason, my shower after I'm finished cleaning feels like a reward after what I've been through.
9. Don't be afraid to get dirty. I consider surface cleaning to be the act of cleaning only the surfaces seen by the naked eye. Deep cleaning is going in to the places that can't be seen - but is still collecting plenty of dirt and grime. For holiday cleaning, I move everything - furniture, electronics, tables, etc. It doesn't bother me a bit to be elbow deep in dust bunnies just as long as I know they won't be there when I'm finished. Have you moved your refrigerator in a while? You'd be amazed at how gross it is under and behind that thing. I feel a lot better about preparing my holiday foods in a house that isn't hiding any little dark secrets. I may come out looking like a chimney sweep by the time I'm all said and done, but my house will be clean enough to eat off of - I can guarantee that.
10. Lastly, DON'T LET YOUR CHILDREN OUT OF YOUR SIGHT UNTIL THE DAY AFTER THE HOLIDAY! I can't stress this one enough. The minute you let them out of your sight, you'll start noticing toys appear. And then dishes. And maybe some trash here and there. Those little dust buckets are like slugs. They leave a trail of slime wherever they go. The only way to ensure that all of your hard work stays in full tact until after the holiday is over with is to keep them on a very short leash. Metaphorically, of course. Although.... No, just kidding... or am I? Limit what they can get out and where they can get it out. Make them pick up every morsel of whatever they touch or eat. In fact, the best way to handle it is to just lock them in their rooms... with food and water, of course. It really is the only way to keep your house clean for longer than 24 hours.
And there you go... my holiday cleaning tips. The tips that I'm going to follow in 3....2.....1.... GO!