You have doubtless figured out that I’m no domestic goddess. In these nouveau-crunchy, domestic-renaissance times in which we are living, I get points deducted on all fronts: cooking, crafting, child-rearing, husband-accommodating…but no area more so than house cleaning.
Yes. Yes, we’ll go with that.
I hate messes and disorganization as much as anyone. It’s just that I’m not equipped to actually deal with them. I am missing whatever brain cells/chemicals are present in those people who say things like “I just can’t stand losing things, which is why I have a P-touch label maker in every room of the house” and “Well, I have dogs, so I vacuum three times a day” and “cleaning up the boys’ playroom is easy because we practice simplicity.” I also have pets and hate [losing] things, but much to my chagrin, it doesn’t seem to make a difference.
Fortunately (unfortunately?) my husband is as messy and disorganized as I, if not more so. We both have what I suspect are undiagnosed cases of Adult ADD (or if not the disorder itself, we most certainly have the cleaning habits). Combined with our incredibly busy work-school-rehearsal schedules and our overabundance of junk, things can unravel pretty quickly (but hey! at least we don’t have epic fights about cleanliness!). Eventually I will reach a breaking point at which I begin to clean furiously– in every sense of the word.
This spring, that point came right before Easter. Not only was the house terribly neglected because of my being in a show, but we had guests coming over for brunch (not to mention a toddler poking around in the corners for hard-boiled eggs). I also had Good Friday off, with absolutely no plans. It was time for a good old-fashioned spring cleaning.
Many people picture spring cleaning as a scrub-the-baseboards, dust-the-blinds, vacuum-the-fridge-coils kind of event. If you want to do that sort of thing, you’re in the wrong place, my friend (for an awesome tutorial in that vein, check out this blog. I mean, damn. Her speed cleaning is my deep cleaning). But just in case any one out there is as hopelessly
buried behind as I am, I will share with you my tips from the School of Hard Knocks. Just in time for Mother’s Day! So go ahead, take your Adderol, learn from my mistakes, and dig right in.
The Don’ts of Spring Cleaning
Much of my inspiration comes from this little jewel of a book, written by a professional organizer with and ADHD child. I failed to follow all or even most of her advice, but honestly, even just feeling like my habits
are normal have an explanation was worth the cover price.
DON’T expect to get it all done in one day. If your house is like mine, you will have to do a good bit of organizing and tidying before you even get to the soap and water part. Even with a plan in place (see below), it’s just a huge job for one person with a limited amount of time. Time that you will, by the way, want to actually schedule out in a large, uninterrupted chunk.
DON’T jump in without a plan. I know, once you get the itch to clean it’s very hard to hold back, especially if that itch is rare (hey, you gotta get while the gettin’s good!). But it will make for inefficient and ineffective cleaning. Lucky for you, I wrote out this handy-dandy plan.
I feel the need to point out the obvious: this is a guide based my one-story, single family home. If you, say, have an upstairs, or live in an apartment, your list will look different. I will offer this blanket advice: work in a circle, starting with the room that needs the most work (it will need your freshest energy). I put the rooms in this order because that’s how my house is laid out. Feel free to shuffle the order to fit the layout of your own home.
Another thing you’ll want to do, as the plan above hints at, is gather all your cleaning supplies in something portable: a bucket, a caddy, or like me, a cardboard box. It really doesn’t matter. As long as you can carry (or let’s be real, shove) it from room to room.
DON’T put things away as you go. It will result in a harried handful of hours in which you are crazily cleaning but no single room actually looks neater. Just put it all in a big “find a home for this” box or bag.
DON’T go crazy at the Container Store. If you’re like me, shopping seems like the solution to everything. If I just buy out the organization aisle at Target, I’ll be all good! It’s a sad, sad, pipe dream my friends. I did my spring cleaning with nothing new of any kind, not even a bottle of bleach. Thinking you need new stuff in order clean just enables procrastination. It’s easier to see what you actually need after you’ve sorted through your things anyway.
The kitchen pantry. It took me an hour just to do this, which is probably why I didn’t finish my whole house (sorry for the blurry pics. File it under camera, sad and old.).
DON’T bounce all over the room like a pinball as you tidy. Start at one corner of the room and work your way either out towards the opposite end, or around in a clockwise spiral (your call, depending on the room and its own particular mess).
When going through your things, DON’T make 15 piles. This was a hugely useful tip from the book referred to above. When tidying up your belongings, don’t make Give Back to my Sister, Sell on Ebay, Donate to the Theatre, Give to Goodwill, Ask Mom if She Wants It, etc etc etc piles. You only need three bags: Donate, Trash, Put Away. I recommend you use the lawn-sized ones.
DON’T get too caught up in the details. This is not the time to sort through old photos and files, alphabetize your books, or refold all your sweaters. Save all that for another day. ADD folks have a tendency to hyper-focus which, while it has its uses, is the enemy of housecleaning. We are here for speedy, effective, visible results. If you have to constantly remind yourself of that, do it (I did).
A related note regarding donations: DON’T get too caught up waffling over whether you want something or not (or ahem, whether your spouse may still want it). P is one of those people, and you might be too, that assigns heavy emotional significance to inanimate objects (and I wonder why we have so much stuff). Just put it in the bag. If you’re really feeling squirmy about it, hang on to the bag for a while–from a couple of weeks to half a year, whatever you feel comfortable with. If you don’t miss anything in the bag in that time, drive it straight to Goodwill (for the love of God, without looking inside).
When it comes to the actual cleansing part, DON’T forget to clean from top to bottom. I don’t know why I tend to do this, but it’s not a good thing: picture sweeping and mopping the floor before you wipe down the counters. Or maybe leaving the roof of the microwave until last and having to wipe down the bottom twice. That’s the kind of thing I tend to do when I clean without forethought.
Too bad I didn’t take any close-ups, you should have seen my sparkling sink!
But DON’T disregard quick shortcuts. Me and everyone else is on board with the pillowcase trick to clean ceiling fans. I’m also a big fan of cleaning wipes and spray disinfectant. It’s a beautiful thing.
DON’T underestimate a little extrinsic motivation. For some people, a clean house is enough of a reward. I am not those people. At the end of my marathon cleaning session (seriously, five hours with no break! I think it counts as a workout), I rewarded my hard-working fingers with an express manicure at the local salon. Even though I didn’t finish my whole house, I worked really hard all by myself on a rare day off. Sometimes you need a little something to keep yourself from getting bitter.
And most importantly, DON’T beat yourself up if it’s not perfect or finished. A tidy, organized, squeaky-clean home instills pride and peace of mind. But only to a certain extent.
Homemaker renaissance or no, your worth as a person (and/or parent) isn’t measured by how clean your house is. And it’s all going to get messy again anyway. We made dinner together later that night and our house was full of chatter and our tummies were full of food. And that sparkling sink? Full of dirty dishes.