Housekeeping – Where to Start?

Maxine’s Housekeeping Ideas – Part #5
SUBMITTED BY: Maxine in Idaho
Friday’s Tip: Where to Start (long)

Today’s tip is about where to start cleaning. You can skip over this if you’re an ace housecleaner, but several have written that their mothers never taught them to clean. Mine didn’t either. She was a rotten housekeeper.

Most home organization books suggest that you start with 4 boxes: PUT AWAY, GIVE AWAY, STOW AWAY and THROW AWAY.

As you move through a room cleaning, items that you find that can’t be put away in that room are put in one of the four boxes. PUT AWAY is for stuff that has accumulated and belongs in another place. GIVE AWAY is for items that are still good, but that you need to give away. STOW AWAY is for items that need to be put in storage in the basement, garage, or wherever. THROW AWAY, of course, is for the garbage.

(This is a method I’ve never really gotten the hang of. I do something similar without all of the boxes. I’d explain it, but since I just wing it, “the method” is subject to constant change!).

OK, start in! Deal with every single item as you come to it. Anything that can’t be put away in the room where you are working goes into one of the 4 boxes. Although some authors suggest that you clean every nook, corner, cranny and closet at once, I make a distinction. Realistically, it takes most of a day to clean a room this way. If you don’t have time to do it all at once, clean the room and come back to the closets. You might feel more like tackling them if the room is already clean.

Except for the daily 5 minutes, I’ve found it is easier for me to clean a room and just keep at it until it’s finished. If you don’t have the time or energy for that, just work for an allotted period, such as 15 or 30 minutes. Stop cleaning early enough that you can put away or throw away the contents of your 4 boxes.

Also, remember that it’s a lot easier to clean a clean room than a dirty one. This won’t be a big problem if you have been giving the room 5 minutes a day–but I know you, you’re only doing the rooms that everybody sees! (at least that’s how I usually do it). In rooms like bedrooms, I’ve found that it helps to strip the sheets off the bed before you start working your way around the room.

Where to start? The experts recommend that you pick a starting place and start cleaning your way around the room. You can start anyplace, but right by the door is usually a good spot. (I tend to begin wherever the mess is so great that it is what I see first when I open the door).

As you go from room to room, train yourself to work in the same direction (it’s easier to see what you’ve done if you have to stop and come back to it). When you’ve finished the perimeter, hit the middle of the room.

When one room is finished, proceed to the next. Sandra Felton, founder of Messies Anonymous, calls this the “Mt. Vernon Method,” after the way George
Washington’s home is maintained for the public. (Sandra also notes that cleaning Mt. Vernon is easy–George isn’t there to mess it up!!).

Most pro housecleaners also clean from top to bottom–knock cobwebs off the ceiling, dust and then vacuum. The idea is that gravity eventually pulls everything to the floor, so that’s the place to finish. If you prefer a different order, do what you like. This is not brain surgery. I don’t think the order is all that important.

When you get to the windows, don’t forget to dust the blinds (close them and dust the surface, then open and re-close so that the other side is exposed, and dust it). Vacuum the headers on drapes–the dust and cobwebs will amaze you. Wash the curtains if they need it and are washable. You can remove a lot of dust from curtains and drapes by taking them down and tumbling them in the dryer for awhile with NO HEAT.

If the pit you are cleaning is the kitchen, I’ve found that it helps to first unload the dishwasher, re-load it and start it running. Then, as you work your way around the room and find other dishes that didn’t make it into the first load, stack them neatly by the sink. If you have a double sink, you can put the nastiest ones to soak in one of the sinks. (You’re probably going to want to have soapy water in the other sink for wiping).

As you are cleaning, keep your eye out for problems and start figuring out how you will solve them. For instance, my best friend has lived in a house for 23 years that has ONE towel rack in each bathroom and NO medicine cabinets. Just fixing those two problems would make a huge improvement! Also, be sure to have wastebaskets in every bedroom, as well as the kitchen and bathrooms.

Now, if you are like me, you have a closetful of cleaning solutions. You just KNOW that when you find the right one, all of your housecleaning woes will be over. Not!!!!!!!! I also bought into the Don Aslett (another cleaning guru) idea that I needed janitorial supplies to clean a home. Except for concentrated spray cleaner that I dilute with water (because it’s cheaper–I get this at Costco), I now stay pretty much away from janitorial supplies for two reasons:

(1) Sometimes they aren’t better–they are formulated for situations that we aren’t dealing with at home. For instance, I just washed my kitchen floor with something that cost $18 a gallon about 8 years ago. It doesn’t actually clean any better or faster than Spic’n’Span, and it doesn’t smell nearly as good.

(2) Sometimes, stronger is not better. Some years ago, I asked a friend “in the business” to get me something to clean soap scum off the shower door. My husband, who believes that if a little is good, a lot is better, slopped it all over the shower and then proceeded to clean the bathroom sink with it. He took all the finish off the faucets in both the shower and the sink. Rookies have no business messing with stuff they don’t know anything about!

You can probably clean just about anything in your home with the following:

  1. Mr. Clean or Spic’n’Span
  2. Powdered cleanser, like Comet. It’s OK to buy a Soft Scrub or gel-type product, too, if you prefer it, but you’ll probably need the powder for some jobs.
  3. Spray window cleaner. Do NOT use all-purpose spray cleaner like 409 on mirrors, because it will remove the silvering. Just another lesson from Max’s School of Hard Knocks.
  4. Any other product that you find you use a lot and like. Or that you currently have around the house. I am in the process of using up all of those products to free up the storage space for other things.
  5. Stuff you keep around the house for other purposes: baking soda, vinegar, chlorine bleach, etc.
  6. Rags. It’s OK to use a sponge if you prefer one. But you’ll still need rags for a lot of things. Old terry cloth towels are to be treasured. After you’ve cleaned the toilet, put the rag in the laundry and get a clean one.

When you finish with a room and are putting things away, don’t feel that you have to find a perfect home for every item in your GIVEAWAY box. We are not giving away puppies, after all! I find it most helpful to get rid of this stuff immediately. Sometimes there are one or two items and you know someone who would just love them. Call her now! Give the rest to Goodwill! (The best person for a particular item is someone who wants it badly enough to pay for it). Do it now!!!! Do not let your GIVEAWAYS clutter up your home while you try to adopt them out. It’s OK to save it for a garage sale if you know you’re going to be having one in the next month.

If you are cleaning your whole house, start with the living room and entry (what people see first) and finish with the kitchen (the hardest room to do). Clean the other rooms in any order you prefer. Don’t try to do more than one room a day, or you’ll poop out before the finish.

Sorry this was so long!  There are still about a week’s worth of topics left in me, including how to organize a closet and an easier way to clean a small bathroom. Sorry this one was so long!!!!!

One final tip: Those of you who have started doing the 5 minute thing are probably finding by now that some rooms don’t take the whole 5 minutes after the first or second day. (Bedrooms are a good example). Use the rest of your 5 minutes to clean out ONE drawer. In a week, you can easily clean your whole dresser.

SUBMITTED BY: Maxine in Idaho

(These tips were originally submitted to an old discussion board I used to run … does anyone know how to contact Maxine these days?)

Here’s Maxine’s next Housekeeping Tip:  How to Clean & Organize Closets 


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