I’m feeling nesty. At least, I think I am. I’m not sure that this deep-seated urge to get rid of all my stuff is related to having a baby as soon as the holidays are over, or if I always just want a cleaner, fresher house. I’m always finding myself wishing for something simpler and more organized. The irony is that I am an exceptionally unskilled housekeeper. I will kindly let myself believe that I just haven’t blossomed in that arena yet…I only learned about the necessity of regularly cleaning bathrooms a few years ago. Really. And I have no excuses. I grew up in a clean house with daily and weekly chores. My priorities are just…different. Like right now, for instance. I have a perfect window of opportunity to scrub the bathtub and put in a load of laundry. But please.
This nestyish desire for a clean home also comes from suddenly having a child who is able to get into any room of the house at any time, to whom piles of clutter look like the beginning of an amazing adventure, and who can destroy any evidence of a cleaning task (a basket of folded laundry, a Cheerio-free floor) in two seconds with a huge grin. I know that my house will look like toddlers live here for the next five or so years. But I would really like to get a system going that lets me stay on top of hygiene, if nothing else. It’s looking like we’re going to be in our little cottage with a minimum of two kids and a cat for several years…so we need to get livable up in here.
Here are some habits I’ve noticed in people who seem to have their shit together:
1. Touch it once. Tidy people usually put things where they go right away. Something comes in mail that you need to save? File it. Right then. It’s ten steps to the file cabinet, and then you eliminate the scary pile growing in the antique desk that shouldn’t even be in the living room where your kid plays in the first place. Take off a shirt? Hang it up or throw it in the laundry. I’m shockingly bad at following this advice.
2. Wash it now. If you have just a snack plate or a juice cup to throw in the sink, why not rinse it and put it straight in the dishwasher (or, if you live on the prairie, give it a scrub and put it in the drainer) instead of letting it become the beginning of the horrifying pile that can grow in your sink? This won’t work for every situation, but you can probably cut the horror in half. I hate doing dishes.
3. Keep cleaning supplies in several places. Even in my tiny house, I do keep the stuff to clean the bathroom in the bathroom, instead of a cabinet that literally might only be steps away. Some times those steps are all I need to discourage myself from following through. If you hate the Earth and still use paper towels, like my family does, stash a roll in every room for quick wipe downs.
4. Have a plan. I’m not sure if this is for everyone. I’m really not sure if it’s for me. But I’m totally enamored with the idea of having a loose cleaning schedule that you follow. Pre-children, I would binge on cleaning/laundry/errands on Sunday afternoons, and it brought me enormous joy to do it all at once. Now, however, Sundays are the only day that all three of us are together, and when it’s just Milo and I, there are no long stretches of time to use half-watching The Royal Tennebaums and half-playing housewife. There are plans on Pinterest that look promising, and it should be easy enough to give yourself a chore a day. It’s the follow through that makes me nervous.
5. Have people over. This one seems counterproductive, especially if you’re nervous about how you care for your house. But I’ve read from people who are better at homemaking than I (mostly people who run websites called Apartment Therapy) that the best way to make your home more livable and welcoming is to live and welcome in it. Have people over, invite friends in for coffee (this means you keep coffee on hand, or are totally cool with Dunks runs), make play dates for your kids, order takeout and throw a blanket on the floor for a picnic. This is the hardest tip for me, because I am very Gollum-y with my time and my space. I like to be out of the house with Milo often, and when I am home, I like to unbutton my pants, eat croutons out of the package, and roll Milo around on the floor, crunching Cheerios into the carpet like vacuums were never invented. But I know that the best way to teach Milo how to be social is to be social with him. And I want to have a takeout picnic this winter.
These tips are just things I’ve gleaned from reading obsessively about cleaning on the internet while I should be physically cleaning our space. I have owned the Apartment Therapy Eight Step Home Cure for years without ever completely following the program. but the book is very inspiring and I suggest it to anyone trying to feel homier. I also love the blog Adulting, and there have been several awesome entries about housecleaning and caring for your yard.
Basically, if you pay for your living arrangements at all, you’re shelling out a ton of money for a roof over your head. It should be a place that you love to be, where you can be at peace, and where you can feel safe to let any children/pets/friends roam freely. This might mean museum presentation or a once-a-week Cheerio banishing. For me, it’s going to be a balance of both.
Cleaning tips? Life with children tips? Admonishments for a healthy young woman who has never, ever cleaned her windows in three years of home ownership?