How I Learned to Clean My Home

I used to be terrible at cleaning.  I pretty much just muddled around with a soapy sponge and put random stuff away until things looked kinda clean and neat-ish.  I thought I did pretty well.  That’s how I cleaned as a kid, then my apartment as a young adult then eventually, my own house as a wife and mom.  Never mind knowing how to dust properly or clean in any particular order.

During my maternity leave I suddenly realized how un-homemaker-like I really was.  Other stay-at-home moms had routines and schedules with sensibly laid out homes and kitchens.  What the heck was I doing hiring a cleaning lady every other week?  People actually did all of their homemaker responsibilities well without help - and they liked it! 

I tried mimicking what the other stay-at-home moms appeared to be doing.  Scheduling play dates, going to mommy groups, cooking dinner in time for my husband’s arrival home, then cleaning up afterward and frankly I never got the hang of it.  So like a good failing homemaker I escaped back to the office once my maternity leave ended and I hired a nanny. 

This blessed nanny did it all!  She cooked for the kids, did the laundry and without asking, did mine and my husband’s laundry as well because, as she would say “she was doing the laundry anyway”.  I loved her!…And of course, she kept the house clean.  Talk about initiative!

It was this dear woman that I learned how to clean.  She taught me an important lesson in household skills: Establish a routine!

A routine!  With cleaning?…Genius!  Why didn’t I think of that?

From that point on I observed how she cleaned.  Other than cooking (where I’m still in the muddle stage) this was the cornerstone of me being able to manage my home.

Here’s are some simple tips:

Start From the Top

For example, if you are in the kitchen, start by dusting above things like bulkheads, the stove exhaust hood, over the oven, the microwave and fridge.  Wipe down the cupboards, then wipe down the things you keep on your counter ie. toaster, spice rack, coffee machine or decorative jars.  Then wipe down the counters, oven and fridge working your way towards the sink.  Leave the sink for last because you will always be putting things you need to wash while you are wiping things down and putting them into the sink to be washed or be loaded into the dishwasher.  While you are tidying up the counters and tables, put things that don’t belong into an empty laundry basket so once you are done in the kitchen you can bring the basket with you to the other parts of the house and put the odds and ends away.

As you can tell, the top down approach is so that dirt and crumbs that falls, eventually makes it to the floor to be vacuumed or swept up.  This top-down approach works for any room.  For example if you are cleaning the living room, start with using a duster on a stick to dust the bunnies and cobwebs from the corners of the ceiling.  Then dust the top of curtain rods, vacuum or wash curtains, wipe the windows, then sills…you get the top-down idea.

Work From One End to the Other

While working top down, at each level of the room, work from left to right or right to left, whatever works for you and the flow of the room.  This just helps you keep track of where you left off so you don’t miss anything.  For example, in my kitchen I start at the kitchen table and bring all the dishes to the sink, then wipe the table.  Then I work my way around the kitchen putting away all the pots, pans and stuff I used to cook until I reach the sink.  That’s where I load it all into the dishwasher.

Pick Good Sponges and Towels

I discovered that the absorbent chamois towels that my husband uses to wax his car are amazing for cleaning the kitchens and bathrooms!  Really amazing!  I scrub with a sponge, rinse, then wipe with the chamois.  Wiping with a chamois reduces streaks, it dries faster and and surfaces look nice and even when they dry.  Chamois also are awesome for polishing wood staircases.  Just spray the wood oil or spray on the cloth and wipe. 

Sanitary Tip: use different sponges and towels for different things.  I never use anything on the toilet except the toilet brush in the bowl and paper towels and disinfectant to clean the outside of the toilet because the chamois and sponges are reserved tubs, counters and cupboards only.  Floor rags also stay separate.  (One time, because I was pressed for time, I hired a lady my mother-in-law referred to help me clean before a big party I was throwing and I walked in on her cleaning the toilet seat of my children’s bathroom with the same sponge she used to clean the bathroom counter.  Well, that ended quickly.)

Choose Cleaning Products that Others Recommend

My sister-in-law hates cleaning so she gets the best cleaning products that require the least amount of scrubbing.  And she spends a lot of money experimenting with different cleaners.  So she is my first go-to person for product advice.   Our nanny also had great product recommendations (I knew that she used to moonlight picking up odd cleaning jobs at mansions and beauty salons.  Her friend was a nanny in a very affluent area) and she would get to test out other people’s cleaning products then make recommendations.  My other great resource is my work mate who hires cleaning and maintenance staff for over a hundred buildings in the organization we work for.  She sits in interview after interview listening to cleaners talk about cleaning.  One day she told me all the skills and routines she looks for in cleaners and I gained a lot of insight on how to clean effectively.  So, definitely ask people who know about cleaning, what works for them.

When All Else Fails, Check YouTube

We only had our nanny for three years until my youngest went into kindergarten and our nanny got her permanent residence card.  So once she left, I was on my own trying to figure out how she kept things so spotless.  One of the things I couldn’t figure out was how she got stains out of grout.  When all else fails, check YouTube.  I even learned how to de-scale my Keurig machine using YouTube. 

Live In a Home That You Know You Can Effectively Manage

My house is small by todays standards.  We are four people living in a 1400 square foot house.  I am a big believer that you shouldn’t get a home that’s bigger than you can effectively take care of yourself or afford to pay someone to take care of.  There’s nothing worse than seeing a beautiful house, nice furnishings and fixtures and yet you can’t make out the true colour of the base board through the film of of dirt collecting at the top of the board, there are stains on the carpets, rugs and fabrics and you’d rather use the restroom at the gas station.  If you live in it, love your space and keep it clean.

After establishing a routine, I eventually began to enjoy - and do I dare say, look forward to - cleaning.  Well…let’s not go overboard.  (I’ve heard about people who really love cleaning.  I’m not sure I’m entirely at that level yet.)

However, I do enjoy the satisfaction and of being in a clean room.  It makes me feel relaxed, burden free and happy, like my life is in order.  The fact that I don’t have to pay someone else to do it (most of the time), makes it a little bit more sweet.  That’s more resources for other fine things. 

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