Everything was tinted with the iridescent gold of a setting sun. I watched a large, gauzy cloud drift by overhead as the sound of cheerful revelry provided ambiance. It was one of those rare occasions on which I actually relaxed and chatted with some neighbors while our children relished a few more minutes of summertime. One of these women caught me a bit off guard by asking, rather presumptively, “What is your cleaning schedule?”
She seemed proud to tell me about how she spends four or five hours cleaning her house every Saturday morning. At first, I felt ashamed. Was I supposed to have a schedule for cleaning the house? Am I a bad wife or mother for not having one? In spite of the self-doubt, I tried to play it off by telling her that we clean on an “as-needed basis.”
The truth is that we don’t spend that much time cleaning our house. We certainly don’t devote an entire morning, every week, to making our home “presentable” (whatever that means). We pick up as we go. We vacuum regularly, because with a German Shepherd you really have no choice. The day-to-day chores, like dishes and laundry, are completed. And every month or so, we tend to do a family “blitz clean.” Working as a team, we clean for an hour or two (that’s really all that I can expect from a three and five year olds). While our house is not dirty, most would probably describe it as unorganized, or even messy. There are toys all over the place. There is dust on my wine rack. A basket of clean laundry has been sitting in my bedroom for several days, waiting to be put away.
The amount of time that you spend cleaning shows your true priorities to an extent. Sure, I could spend my Saturday mornings scrubbing grout or wiping down baseboards. But I’m a full-time working mom, with side hustles, and big goals. I don’t feel the need to have a meticulously clean house. First of all, we don’t have that many visitors. More importantly, who cares? I would rather visitors have to move a stuffed animal off of the couch than spend my time ensuring that we have a spotless house. I choose to use my time for enjoying my family, making some extra money to pay off our debt sooner, and, every so often, relaxing for a moment. Once again, we can fall in line with what we perceive to be normal or we can choose to make our own decisions about how to live.
Of course, there is a big difference between a dirty house and a messy one. Here are some tips for keeping your home in order without losing too much of your valuable time.
Tips For Cleaning “In Moderation”
1. Maximize Your Use of “Time Confetti”
Laura Vanderkam has been a true inspiration and guide for me since I started on my journey to a better future. She taught me not to get caught up in this idea of so much to do, so little time. Instead, the key is to be strategic and conscientious about how you spend your time. Laura often mentions time confetti, or “the nooks and crannies of time.” These otherwise-empty few minutes here and there are perfect for quick cleaning tasks. One of my tricks is to clean in the bathroom during bath time. I can supervise and interact with the kids while scrubbing the toilet and sink.
2. Be A Team Player
Work together with your partner and play to each other’s individual strengths. We each have chores that we hate and others that we don’t mind as much. Communication is so important. We discuss and agree on who is responsible for which chore and try to make the arrangements as fair as possible. One silly example is baking bread. I always get the ingredients together and turn it on. He likes to take the paddle out and
play with knead the dough a last time. Divide and conquer!
3. Adopt Minimalism
I’m still trying to implement this tip myself, but it’s axiomatic that too much stuff contributes to clutter and mess. We are trying to get rid of things we no longer need by selling them on eBay and donating other items. We’re not shopping for new things, instead trying to use what we have. And we are trying to discourage the kids from bringing new toys into the house. For their most-recent birthday, we asked for gifts like passes to the zoo.
4. Encourage Things To Stay In Their Own “Department”
My kids love to play a “game” where they take a bag or bin and wander around collecting miscellaneous items from all over. We end up with an assortment of things that need to returned to every corner of the house. I don’t like forcing the kids to play with one toy at a time (like that would ever work), because mixing things up seems to encourage their creativity. We do try to keep things in their respective areas of the house. For example, Goofball’s new loft bed makes a perfect reading nook right next to the bookcases. If the books stay in their own area, it’s a lot easier to clean them up.
5. Do One More Thing
I know, you’re exhausted. It’s finally time for bed. But find the energy to do one more thing. It can be small; just pick something up or put something away. If you do this every night, you will be surprised at how quickly you will get ahead. One more thing isn’t that bad when you think about waking up on Saturday morning to clean for four or five hours, right?
We live in a culture that glorifies being busy and obsesses over appearances. My final tip is to channel Elsa and just “Let it go.” There may be some Cheerios on the floor from breakfast, but they can wait. No one is coming to photograph my home to be featured in a magazine. My children need a mother, not a maid. They need me to play with them, read to them, and snuggle. Although, maybe I should go and put away that laundry already.
Do you have a cleaning schedule? Do you really need, or want to have one?