I admit it; I am ridiculously fortunate and, until my state went into strict lockdown, I had a cleaning service. Lockdown held challenges both anticipated and unforeseen, but my family was blindsided by things we hadn’t thought of in years. We had to parcel out chores like emptying wastepaper baskets, scrubbing the stovetop and polishing the stainless appliances. I had to figure out how, exactly, one cleans the walls of a stall shower. Fortunately, I haven’t always been so fortunate, and cleaning is like riding a bicycle.
But a different layer of keeping the house clean (enough) and tidy (enough) was a bigger hurdle. Frankly, our home got dirtier and messier because we were in lockdown, and home all the time. The dog went on more walks and came home with muddy paws. My husband finally took the plunge on re-shaping a particular flower bed and tromped dirt through the house for two full days. My daughter leapt from one craft to the next with speed of a Flying Fanelli Brother. And I, to be perfectly honest, was just as bad as everyone else, using every dish we own trying new recipes, hauling out my watercolors for the first time in three years, and trailing snipped bits of needlepoint yarn everywhere I went.
Though strict lockdowns have largely ended, and milder weather is coaxing people out of doors more often, we as a society are still spending more time in our homes than ever before, and it’s hard to welcome a cleaning service into your space every week after a full year of not letting anyone cross your threshold. How can you keep your house clean, on your own, when you’re home all the time? How do you deal with the daily ebb and flow of dirt and “stuff” that can make home unpleasant? Luckily for you, the owner of the cleaning service I patronized for years—and will again—gave me five great tips to share with you on how to keep your home cleaner and tidier even when you’re home a lot!
Every day, after dinner time being ideal, clear the floors. Pick up stray shoes, abandoned crayons, dog toys, the pile of papers that fell off the counter and someone “forgot” to pick up. Looking around and not seeing random misplaced items strewn around will flat-out help you feel less stressed out about the state of your home.
Run the vacuum every day, maybe even right after you clear the floors. You might save mopping or polishing wood floors for once a week or so, but don’t wait until you have to fight dust bunnies with a chair and a whip like a lion tamer to run the vacuum. (No one will judge you if you get a robot vacuum, either!) But the dust, hair, shreds of paper, stray bits of pet kibble, literal dirt tracked in from the garden. . . all of that detritus is best gotten up off your hard floors or out of your carpet as soon as possible. That is as much for the appearance of your home as hygiene, and if you just do the main areas of your home it should only take a few minutes.
A clean bathroom makes the whole house feel “okay.” You can do this very quickly if you follow a routine for maximum efficiency: Spray down the tub or shower with a foaming no-scrub cleaner, squirt toilet bowl cleaner into the commode bowl, and grab your disinfectant wipes, glass cleaner and paper towels from your cleaning supplies. The cleaners work better if you let them sit for a minute! Rinse the tub with very hot water, and pull your pretty shower curtain closed. Clean the mirror with glass cleaner and paper towels. Scrub the toilet bowl. Go back to the sink and clean the bowl and faucet with your wipes. Then, using the same handful of wipes, clean the exterior of the commode—handle, seat and tank, saving the rim of the bowl for last. Use the paper towels you cleaned the mirror with to wipe first the sink and then the exterior of the commode, so that they are shiny and dust free. Fluff your bathmat and lay it down neatly. Set out some fresh monogrammed towels, and you’re good to go.
I can do all of this in our main bathroom in a little more than five minutes. If my daughter has been particularly messy with her bath toys and dirty clothes, or I have not put away my vast skincare collection, cleaning the bathroom might take 10 minutes. Feeling good about my family having a truly clean, hygienic bathroom is so worth that 10 minutes, and it’s a simple enough process that now my six-year-old can offer meaningful assistance with the parts that don’t involve caustic chemicals.
Yes, load and unload the dishwasher as much as possible, wipe down the counters, and try to beat back the clutter with a stick. But, a quick tip to help you feel good about your kitchen’s cleanliness is this: Get that sink empty, clean, and shiny! I have been known to scrub out and shine up the sink just to set the few dirty dishes I have left into one side of the double bowls. Why? Because then it looks like a person with a nice clean kitchen had a couple of dirty dishes left over after loading the dishwasher, not that I have been letting dishes pile up out of pure sloth. The shiny part of this is very important to me, stress-wise. I have learned that the secret is using a soft rag or microfiber cloth to thoroughly dry and buff the just-scrubbed stainless or porcelain sink.
Try to air out your house any time the weather is remotely cooperative. If it’s chilly, maybe just open the windows for a few minutes in the morning and afternoon. Launder rugs, slipcovers, throw pillows and pet beds whenever necessary. Find a lightly fragrant fabric refresher, room spray or deodorizing candle that your family likes. The key is to never make the house smell as though you are hiding a bad smell; you want your house to smell fresh. My cleaning professional taught me that rather than use an essential oils infuser which might overwhelm the senses, she puts a few drops of lavender oil inside the bathroom tissue roll, and on a cotton pad concealed near the front door. I always wondered, before, how she got the lovely and delicate lavender fragrance just right in the house!
Above all, make sure no one person in your household is the one doing all of these things, or nagging everyone else to pitch in. Make these small, simple chores part of the rhythm of how you run your house, with each person doing their bit, so that the overall day-to-day air of your home is clean (enough) and tidy (enough) and peaceful. There will still be one day every weekend or two where you will have to haul the furniture away from the walls for a vacuuming, dust all the knickknacks and scrub the kitchen floor. That’s life. However, if you follow these few easy and quick tips for keeping your house clean even when you’re home all the time, if will be a pleasanter place for everyone, and when the time comes, it will be easy to welcome people into your home at a moment’s notice!