Why My House is Not Cleaner Than Yours, But Actually Is. Pt2

Spills and messes do not get left alone

This is an obvious thing but I’m surprised how uncommon this is among perfectly able clients (those of us with disabilities do get a pass if they live alone). When you drop something and it spills or splatters or tumbles or scatters, you have just made a mess and some of that mess is unseen. Getting the excess is not good enough. This is especially true of food items. Cleaning baseboards and walls is part of my job so I have had a good education on splatter patterns. I can now estimate which direction that cup of coffee came from and I could probably guess how tall the person was who dropped it too. This is the benefit of getting on your knees to clean things. You not only see how really messy things actually are, but you see how extensive messes can be. As I have explained in a previous post, any mess that happens will diffuse light just a tiny bit and adds to the overall effect of things being dirty. Even if you can’t see it, you will notice a bit of dimness over time. Another side effect of spills being left is that they will soak into the surface and often, as in the case of food, go bad and begin to smell. I once cleaned a coffee table that had years of old milk spilled on it. How did I know? Because it smelled like sour milk. I literally had to sand it down to get the smell out.

How I Make This Work

You can clean from where you stand over and over and still things won’t look as bright as when *I* clean it. Here is why: I get down and clean ALL of the splatter. I find it on the walls, on the boards, on the side of the cabinet – ALL of it.

So when someone spills something in my house, it isn’t going to be left sitting for very long but more importantly, it’s going to be completely cleaned up (so long as I’m around to supervise; I’m sure my boys cut corners when I’m not looking). This helps the future cleaning because getting rid of spilled milk or pudding or steak sauce while its still wet is FAR easier and less time-consuming than having to scrub it later when it’s dried on and has had time to accumulate other layers of ick on top of it.

The only way to make this work, really, is to be vigilant and have no reason to blow it off. I have several bottles of glass cleaner and paper towels stashed in a few places around my house. Nothing is as demotivating as having to trekking around in search of the proper cleaning implements. Most people (Including me!) will just as likely say “I’ll clean it later” rather than do that. So downstairs by the coffee table? There’s glass cleaner and paper towels stashed behind the TV stand. Upstairs in the half-bath? There’s Lysol disinfectant next to the toilet paper stash. Dining room? Fabuloso spray dilution on the shoe shelf. No excuses.


I clean something every day, I deep clean something every week

I am not any more jazzed about cleaning than you are. I do your house because you pay me and I feel some pride in being good at what I do, but when I get home, the last thing I feel like doing is cleaning my own house. Ugh. However, I do clean at least one thing every day. Most days its something innocuous and minimal. I might put away all the dishes and clear the counter of yesterday’s cooking then sweep the kitchen – time invested: 15 minutes. I might mop the half bathroom floor – time invested 10 minutes. I might wipe down the toilets upstairs – time invested 15 minutes. I might re-organize and dust the shelf in the dining room – time invested 25 minutes. The point is, I don’t spend a lot of time on any one project but I make sure I do at least one project per day. Sometimes, quick cleaning one thing gets me into the zone and I end up cleaning other things as well, but most times it doesn’t. But every day I know I did *something*.

Once a week I make sure I “deep clean” something. We might have different definitions of what that means so let me be clear – “deep cleaning” is when you clean something that doesn’t need cleaning very often but is a special job. I might decide the window sills in the kitchen are getting nasty and spend 20 minutes wiping them down. I might decide the floor in the front hallway is looking dull and spend 30 minutes mopping and shining it. Or I might decide I’m sick of seeing pet hair everywhere and vacuum up every speck of floor in the house which can take up to two hours but it generally worth it. Like the example of the splattered spill, I don’t just do a quick surface job of whatever the project is, I get down and look at it closely and make sure that I’ve cleaned every aspect of it. The good part is,. once I’ve done it, I know I don’t have to do it again for some time – maybe another week, maybe a month, maybe a year. Clean baseboards will usually stay clean with an occasional dusting IF you scrub them to perfection once a year and make sure all spills are cleaned up when they happen.

How I Make This Work

Basically, I look around. Sometimes I imagine someone is going to suddenly show up at my door and sometimes I just notice something isn’t looking too good. When I go to the sink to wash my hands, I notice the windowsill above the sink and I check how  I feel about it. A few bits of dust or detritus is fine. When it starts looking like a forest floor has blown by, it’s time to grab a sponge and wipe it down. Most individual projects don’t take that long to do if you do them one at a time.

As with the spills issue, I make sure that cleaning implements are simple and easy to get at. Wiping down anything is as simple as grabbing a sponge, putting a little dish-washing detergent on it and going to town. When I’m in the shower and I notice my tiles are looking a little dark, I can grab a washcloth, pour some basic body wash or shampoo on it and scrub the whole wall in a couple of minutes. Rinse it with my youngest kids bucket and then finish my shower. Time invested: 10 minutes.

You have to understand this habit is one that improves the situation as time goes by. When it is time to clean my whole house, I don’t have to worry about the shower tiles, the window sills, the stair banister, the kitchen cabinets etc. If one of those things needs a good scrub, maybe I’ll do it right now but I won’t have to do ALL of those projects.

I taught my kids how to clean

Of course I occasionally enlist one of my boys to tackle a project. Usually its their bathroom. Which they do not keep terribly clean (at least not as much as I’d like) but they aren’t that bad either. Because being forced to clean their own bathroom since they were 10 means they do respect the space somewhat. They know any mess they make THEY will have to clean up. They also know that when its time to clean the bathroom, they will clean EVERYTHING. Behind the toilet, under the cabinet door, around the spigot etc. It has taken years to teach them to do it right and it was aggravating but I reap the benefits now. I have not cleaned their bathroom for over a decade. Just like I have not done their laundry. Most importantly, the boys know that occasionally project cleaning is a part of life. They don’t like it, but they do it and do it right.

How I Make It Work

While they were growing up, I made it a point to force them to deep clean something once a week. I know they probably will not carry this habit over to their own lives however, they do know how to do it because I made sure they knew. If I had to stand there and explain point-by-point what was expected of them, I did it. If I had to tsk-tsk at them in shame, I did it. If I had to make them do it over and over until bedtime, I did it. It took time and patience but it worked. They are not the cleanest kids, but they know what clean means and they know how it is accomplished.


continue to part 3 (conclusion)