Because to say I am actually keeping it clean would an overstatement.
I am not naturally inclined to be clean or organized (and while I’m at it I’m not much for home decor either) but we love to host and I recently realized that one of the ways I could make our guests feel comfortable was to give them a clean place to sit down.
Before I go into the gory details, I’ll add an interesting piece of Liturgical calendar history. Did you know that lent is traditionally a time for house cleaning?
I’m not sure if it is reflective of a deeper spiritual reality or if the timing just happened to coincide with spring cleaning or it may be because on the Thursday night before Easter the alters across the world are stripped and cleaned before everything is replaced for the celebration on Easter Sunday. In any case it is the time of year for cleaning so here are my tips:
Seven Tips for Keeping the House a Little Bit Cleaner:
1. Clean up as you go.
Sounds simple, feels impossible. I mainly apply this one to the kitchen. I have no dishwasher and detest the clean up of a messy kitchen after a relaxing meal. My goal is to have every pan washed and the counters wiped before we sit down to eat. Then after dinner there are just a few plates and a serving piece or two. I often utilize the low setting on my oven to keep dinner warm while I finish washing up, sometimes the food is a little cold but with practice I’ve gotten to where I can usually serve a warm meal in a clean kitchen and it feels great.
I have tried and failed so far at getting my daughter to clean up as she goes. Her daily games are one unending activity that really does involve all of her stuff at the same time. When I have the energy, spending five or ten minutes at night helping her (lets face it, it is easier to have her dad distract her with a story so I can clean up her stuff and don’t have to argue with her about how she is still using that and that there is no way that those paper scraps can go in the trash) get her toys put away, it really does pay off.
2. Clean up after meals.
Unoriginal I know. In the past I would get the dinner dishes washed and stop there. Now after a meal (or at least after the last meal of the day) I wash the dishes and wipe the counters (this is easy if you have gotten the hang of step #1) but I also wipe the stove, and table, sweep the floor and on a good night run around with a rag and wipe up any splatters off the floor (I haven’t actually mopped in years).
We all have some point that we have decided is an adequate stopping point, for some it is just getting the dishes off the table, for others it is into the sink, for some it is washed, dried and put away. Adjusting my “stopping point” to include all of these other tasks pushed me to get the kitchen truly cleaned up for the evening. I find the space much more enjoyable than ever before.
3. Clean for company and have company often.
I have tried a million different routines and schedules with plans of cleaning bathrooms on Monday, dusting on Tuesday blah blah blah, none of them ever stuck.
The only time I’m motivated to clean is when we have company coming. I know that most of my company doesn’t care if my toilets are scrubbed or my silver is polished (that’s a joke, I don’t have silver and if I did I doubt I’d polish it). And in theory I want to keep the house clean for my family even if we don’t have guests. But for me knowing that guests will be arriving soon tips the scales and I stop finding excuses not to clean. Plus I’ve usually cleared some time in the afternoon when we are expecting company so I seize the opportunity. We have diner guests nearly every week, in those extra minutes before they arrive I dust and vacuum and even scrub toilets and honestly this is the cleanest my house has ever been.
4. Everything needs a place.
I am not good at organization. When we moved into this house I stood around stuffing things into my kitchen cabinets and then taking them out again for a day before I finally asked my husband to help me. He had it done in a few hours.
I have learned that whatever doesn’t have a place will end up making a pile of junk on my counter. I started paying attention to what was causing my clutter, old receipts, mail that needed to be dealt with, mementos I didn’t want to part with and then I painstakingly found a designated place for this stuff, now I have no excuse.
5. Aim for empty surfaces.
It is easy for me to let clutter accumulate and I it still happens when I’m in the middle of a project. But my goal is to have our tables, and counters cleared off. Sure I still have the microwave and the fruit basket but it’s not okay to let other odds and ends accumulate there. When my standard is an empty counter I deal with clutter early on rather than let piles accumulate.
6. Invest in storage systems.
I have only recently been okay with spending $14 for a silly metal rack to hold my pans. It still pains me to spend the money but I have found that it is worth it. I have a rack to hold my baking sheets and other small shelves to divide up my cabinet space as well as lots of baskets and bins for things in the closet. The upfront cost of these always feels too much but the enjoyment of not having to dig through a pile of baking sheets makes it totally worth it, helps me to stay organized and gives me more functional space.
7. Keep cleaning supplies handy.
I have hanging baskets on the inside of my sink cabinet doors in the kitchen and bathroom here I keep a roll of paper towels (and cloth rags, I try to minimize my use of paper towels but for glass and occasional nastiness I do use one) and a cleaning spray (usually homemade but at least something non-toxic). This means in two minutes while my daughter is in the bath I can wipe down the bathroom sink and even the toilet. It’s no deep clean but it does keep the space looking tidy.
This is totally an area where I am still learning and trying to develop good habits. What works for you?
This post is part of a series from the Liturgy of Life Reading Group we are currently reading, Let us Keep the Feast.
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