In these days of rush and hurry, of commutes and deadlines, of overwhelming stress, making and keeping a comfortable, warm and welcoming home is often just a little more than we can bear, so it takes a backseat to more pressing pursuits. Cleaning the kitchen counters and vacuuming and laundry and dusting – sometimes, these things just don’t get done.
Do you find that you enjoy cleaning from time to time but not as often as it takes to actually keep the living room sparkling? Me, too!
So, how can you learn to enjoy homemaking tasks every day? Check out these 10 cleaning tips.
1. Inspire yourself.
Now, I don’t mean rush out and buy copies of Architectural Digest or Home and Design, or even Better Homes and Gardens willy-nilly. The houses between their covers are strangely perfect, as if no one lives there (certainly no one with children or pets!), and they’re usually designed by people with boatloads of money and extremely good decorators. No, don’t be fooled by visions of perfect houses. You’re making a home – not simply a house. That’s something entirely different.
Instead, let yourself be inspired by everything. The park down the street, the library, the homes of friends and family, your second-grade classroom, your childhood home – as well as television, Internet, books and, yes, even magazines.
Don’t focus only on the perfectly sparkling spaces and clean lines. Instead, look for the things that speak most to you. What do you want your home to exude? Peace and tranquility? Safety and comfort? Warmth and nurturing? Liveliness? Beauty? Brainstorm to come up with five to ten adjectives, and then be on the lookout for homes that resonate with your sensibilities.
Create a special place in your home for inspirational homemaking media, such as beautiful books on cleaning or decorating (Victoria Moran’s Shelter for the Spirit or Cheryl Mendelson’s Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House, for instance) and magazines that speak to your soul. Consider reading a bit each morning or afternoon.
2. Invite friends or family.
If you’re the sort of person who cleans in expectation of guests (like I am), then invite some! Likely, they won’t even notice your effort, but you will.
3. Work small and expand.
Don’t start with too much. Transform a small area – a tabletop or shelf – and then work your way outward, possibly over days or weeks or months. If a beautiful place sits next to an ugly one, we tend to want to take that beauty and smear it all over the ugly, so we do.
One way to do this is to revamp a closet. Closets are generally small, poorly used spaces in our homes, and they’re wonderful places to get our decorating feet wet. A closet is just for you. Visitors aren’t usually allowed into your closet (unless you like to show it off, like I do). Because of this, you can use a closet to find a decorating style that’s uniquely you.
A closet – especially a walk-in closet – can be a lot of things. Sure, it should be functional, but it can also be so much more. A closet can be an escape from the rush of everyday life, a place to gather yourself, a refuge. It can become a child’s study or play area. You can turn it into a small home office, or a tiny library, or a media room for children (with lots of comfy pillows). You can transform it into a quiet or meditation room. And, of course, it can be a beautiful dressing area filled with clothing you absolutely adore, all in your size.
4. Rearrange furniture or add a new piece.
Sometimes, a home gets a little stale, and you need to mix things up a bit. Rearranging or adding a new (or new-to-you) piece can change everything. And, rearranging and moving things around has a momentum all its own. Just try not keeping the living room clean to show off that awesome vintage couch you just found!
5. Plan a reward.
Set a goal and a reward, and work toward both! A bubble bath complete with candles and a good book, a cup of chamomile tea and cookies, a square of dark chocolate, a beloved movie, a trip to the bookstore, a night out…. Whatever your heart’s desire, make it a reward for a job well done (or done well enough). Which brings us to…
6. Recognize good enough.
A lot of us have perfectionist tendencies. I certainly do. Train yourself to recognize good enough. Sure, the stove top can glisten if you scrub it long and hard, as can the sink, the floors, the furniture… but it won’t stay that way long. 25% of the work of homemaking is getting to good enough. The other 75% is just extra. Wouldn’t it be more enjoyable to spend that 75% enjoying your home in its good enough state?
7. Make a game of cleaning.
If you have kids – or a significant other – challenge each other to a cleaning face-off! Who can put away the most items? Who can finish their job the fastest? Whose area looks the nicest after fifteen minutes? Whoever wins gets to choose what’s for dinner!
8. Set a timer.
You can do anything for fifteen minutes, right? Set that timer and get scrubbing! Or, consider brewing coffee or steeping tea while you work. Then, when it’s ready, call your work done and enjoy.
9. If it’s not important to you, skip it.
Do you really need to make the bed? Maybe you do for your sanity, and maybe you don’t. Perhaps, making up the bed in the morning is more stressful for you than not. If that’s the case, skip it. Our homes don’t have to live up to anyone’s standard but our own, and if you’re comfortable with a messy bed, then great! What about dust? Maybe dusting a few times a month is enough for you. If that’s the case, why dust every day, or even every week? If you and your family are happy, everyone wins.
10. Learn to delegate.
If you live with others, everyone should clean her or his own individual messes, and the more general household messes can be delegated.
Now, we all have those cleaning tasks we simply can’t stand, whether it’s mopping, scrubbing toilets, folding laundry or emptying the dishwasher (for me, it’s scrubbing down the shower). See if there’s someone in your family for whom those chores aren’t nightmares and switch with them. Perhaps they hate vacuuming, and you get a little thrill watching the vacuum suck up bits of this and that. Trade!
And, if you don’t live with anyone? Consider hiring a housekeeper to come in even once every couple of weeks. Or, trade housecleaning tasks with a friend – you clean for her, she cleans for you.
11. (Bonus!) If you find yourself in the mood, drop everything and get cleaning!
Sometimes, the urge to clean hits at midnight or 2 am. Sometimes, it hits when you’re in the middle of watching a movie. That’s okay. Go with it! Never pass up cleaning when you’re in the mood!