Housekeeping for the lazy
Housekeeping tips for the reluctant housewife
Whether your house is an absolute mess or you are an organizational wiz (kudos!), sometimes we all need to make the house work go by a little quicker, or just a little smoother. Because I am currently without a job, the lot of housekeeping largely falls to me. This makes sense, as my fiancé brings in the money and I need to do my share to contribute to the household.
Sadly, housekeeping cuts into my writing time and Pinterest time (pinning interesting photos and helpful articles onto an online pinning board - annoyingly addictive), and therefore I have developed certain ways to make the have-to's go by much quicker, so that I can get back to my want-to-do's sooner.
In this article I will share my experiences with being a reluctant housewife, and some tips on how to make everyday housekeeping a little bit easier. Stay with me, we can do this. Together.
Photo: This housewife seems happy to do laundry! The misleading poster is available on Allposters .
The obvious solution: hire a maid
Meanwhile, back in the real world...
The hard truth is, it does not matter how lazy you are or how much spare time you wish you had, the house work needs to be done. We all want a clean, tidy and organized house, and it's not going to clean itself.
By the way, and I am speaking from experience here, pinning cleaning-related articles on Pinterest might help you feel like you are on your way to becoming a professional cleaner - but unless you put them to good use by trying them out it seems not to help one bit. Who would have thought?
OK, let's put on our French maid uniform and get started.
This motivating poster is available at Allposters.
Write a to-do list of all your housekeeping chores - And make it realistic
If you write your list at night you will know already when you wake up the next morning what it is that you have to do. Need to change your sheets? Rip them off the bed as you get up - that way it is done, and you will be much less tempted to fall back into bed. Two birds and all that.
Make sure you don't make the list too long and end up disheartened just by looking at it. If you realize you have started out too optimistically, prioritize. What are the three most important things you need to do today? Start with them. Anything you can't do you can transfer to tomorrow's list. Just don't make this another way to procrastinate...
This list makes it easy to prioritize. The short list could be for things that need to be done, the big list for things to do if you have the time (and/ or motivation).
Eat that frog!
No, not literally. That would be gross!
Let me explain. Mark Twain apparently said "Eat a live frog every morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day." Translated to your housework to-do list, this means as follows: Check your list and locate that one thing you don't really want to do. Start with that. For me personally, that means changing the sheets (that last corner of a fitted sheet is always too short, not to mention that between our king size duvet and me being not-so-tall I have to practically climb into the duvet cover to put it on).
I am also not a big fan of unloading the dishwasher. Or vacuuming the stairs. Or... okay, enough now.
For more on this subject (which is really about time management, and not so much about frogs), I recommend this book.
It is a surprisingly quick and easy read, and offers common sense advice that you just don't think about until you read them in a book. Author Brian Tracy offers 21 techniques to help you stop procrastinating and get things done. Isn't that just what we all need to do?
Make the cleaning products do the work
In the toilet: When I pour bleach into the toilet I always pour around the edges at the top so that it runs down the sides into the bowl. I leave it there until the rest of the bathroom is finished, before just running the toilet brush quickly around the inside of the toilet, and flush. At this point, the bleach has really done the whole job for me and the toilet bowl is white and sparkly clean.
In the laundry: My partner wears shirts to work and they need to be clean and crisp. Rather than spending a lot of time soaking the shirts if they have a stain, I just spray them with Vanish Napisan Oxiaction and put them straight into the machine. This means I get the things done more quickly and don't have to leave it lying around and most probably forget about them. With extra dirty clothes, or when I do whites, I also put half a lid of Napisan powder in with the laundry powder.
On the stove top: The best thing is to clean the stove top while it's still warm, yet not hot. It is much easier when the dirt hasn't had time to "set". But if it is already too late, I usually spray our gas stove top with all-purpose spray and leave for a little while before I wipe it off with a wet cloth. This leaves it sparkly clean with minimal work. This is one of those things you can do during commercial breaks. Spray it, sit down, wipe off, sit down. Done!
When dusting: Using a dry microfiber cloth will help you pick up all the dust, rather than just sweeping it up into the air like a feather duster will. And unless the surface is sticky, you don't need soapy water either. Just peel the dust off when the cloth is full, throw it in the bin and use it again.
When cleaning the microwave: Place a microwave safe bowl about half full of water, add a splash of vinegar, and microwave on full for about five minutes. Then leave the bowl there with the door closed for another minute or two, letting the steam and vinegar work on the grime. It should now get off easily with just a quick wipe with a damp cloth. Brilliant! While waiting for the water/ vinegar to work its magic you can wipe the outside of the microwave with a cloth dipped in soapy water, as it can get sticky and greasy.
When cleaning the frying pan: I hate scrubbing, and especially really greasy things. If you "forgot" to clean your frying pan after dinner last night, and the grease has turned hard, here's what you do: Turn the kettle on and boil some water. While you are waiting, use a spatula to remove the worst of the fat and throw into the bin (you don't want to send all that down the drain). Next, pour the boiling water into the pan (be very careful when you do this) and as soon as it is cool enough so you don't risk burning yourself, you pour it into the sink. You will see the grease just running off it, minimizing the time you will need to scrub it.
When cleaning the blender: Green smoothies seem to have become the Next Big Thing at the moment, but can make a terrible mess. To make the cleaning of the blender easier, try this little trick I just recently learned: As soon as the blender is empty, pour about a cup of warm water into it, with a drop of dish soap. Blend on high for just a few seconds, rinse - clean! It's magic!
When it comes to housework the one thing no book of household management can ever tell you is how to begin. Or maybe I mean why.
~Katharine Whitehorn (in "Nought for Homework")
Do something about your "hot spots"
Do you have a spot where everything seems to gather up and make a mess? Or possibly a whole room? This is called a hot spot, and the kitchen bench is usually the biggest culprit. Mail and junk mail, keys, phones and chargers, coins and receipts tend to pile up. As soon as that happens it is easy to go blind and not "see" it anymore, until the pile has grown so big that you suddenly can't not see it, and you wonder how it could get that bad. Sounds familiar?
Our kitchen bench used to drive me crazy until we did three very little things:
First, we bought a valet tray in which to collect all the small things, like keys and coins.
Then, we bought a cheap napkin holder (!) for the mail.
Lastly, we placed a box underneath the bench where we now put all junk mail as soon as we have looked through it. We also put a "no junk mail" sticker on our mail box, so now we only get the absolute minimum. If you think you will miss out on sales and specials at the local shops, remember that these will also be visible on their websites. Or check if they have an e-mail list you can sign up to.
Find out where your hot spots are and what makes them cluttered. When you know what causes it, it is easier to find the appropriate solution. Is it a lack of storage space? Does the items cluttering the hot spot not have a home? Would it help to add another bookcase, a magazine holder, a valet tray or something similar? Make sure everything has a home and make it a habit to return things to their home once you are finished with them - even things you will need to take out again tomorrow.
I love valet trays. You can keep the same things in the same place as you used to, but it all takes up less space when it doesn't spread beyond the tray. It has room for all the little things we carry around in our pockets, which tends to end up on the kitchen bench when we come home.
It does not take long before you get used to a new routine, so try to add something to your everyday habits. Start slow, if you try to add too many things at once they may overwhelm you. I know from experience. Here are some ideas on what you can do.
- Make your bed first thing in the morning. It is a good idea to pull the covers back and air the matrass for a little while first, for example while you are in the shower. And then make the bed right after you get dressed. Job done!
- We live in an apartment with three floors, and with the laundry downstairs and the wardrobes upstairs this means we have to run up and down the stairs a lot while doing housework. So I have a system. Whenever go upstairs I have a quick look around to see if there is anything that needs to go downstairs. I then place that item by the staircase until I am ready to go down. If the thing really belongs on the ground floor I leave it by the next staircase until I need to go down there. This way I often collect a few things before going to a different floor and don't have to run around unnecessarily.
- Make it a habit to always put dirty dishes right into the dishwasher, rather than let them pile up on the kitchen bench. If you don't have a dishwasher, at least try to pile them neatly in the sink. I usually put the dishwasher on at night and unload it in the morning before I sit down for breakfast. You can do this while waiting for the kettle to boil.
- Put garbage straight into the bin. You would think that was obvious, but I am surprised at how many times I cut tags off new clothes and leave them on the bedside table. Or I leave torn envelops where I opened them, wrapping paper on the living room table and the plastic encasing a new DVD beside the television. It's such an easy thing to do, to walk a few steps to put it in the bin.
- Before you start making dinner, fill the sink with hot soapy water. As you are preparing your food you can now throw your knife, chopping board and other kitchen tools directly into the water once you finish with them. This saves both time and space. While your roast is in the oven or your soup is simmering, give the tools a scrub and they are done! Yes, I do this even though we have a dishwasher.
Two great tools to make housekeeping a bit more fun
Clean the floor while dancing to your favourite music, wearing these pink microfiber slippers. What could be more fun (and easy) than that? The cleaning patches can be detached and washed separately (in the washing machine - how great is that?).
Click on the link and scroll down the page for different colours and sizes. As you will find out, they are even made for kids, so you can put your little ones to work. Hey, they're running around anyway, aren't they?
And one more thing: only use these when dry, as skating around the house on soapy floors can be just as dangerous as it sounds.
Do a few minutes of housework whenever you can - A little housework is better than no housework
Did you just put on the kettle for a cup of tea? It won't take long to be ready, but still: look around you. Is there something that needs to be done? In the time it takes for the kettle to boil you can unload a few items from the dishwasher, reclaim at least a small corner of the cluttered kitchen bench, or wipe the sink and faucet clean and sparkly.
And here is my favourite: If you are watching television and the program is something you don't want to miss, get up during the commercial breaks! Wipe the bench or dining table, move laundry from the washing machine to the dryer. Sweep the floor, soak dirty pots and pans, or rearrange the cushions in the sofa.
Things you can do while watching television includes folding laundry, ironing, looking through your mail and sorting it, decluttering the lounge table, fluffing up sofa cushions or sorting through old magazines before (not) putting them in the recycling bin.
How often do you do housework?
Vanish Napisan is your friend - And not just for laundry!
Vanish Napisan is available in a powder, spray or paste. I feature the powder here as it is the one I use the most, and it is the one I have found the most versatile.
Note! I have been told that the American equivalent to Vanish Napisan Oxyaction is Oxiclean. Good to know for my American readers.
I use Vanish Napisan both in powder form and spray. I hate soaking clothes, so I just spray straight on the stain and put the clothes into the washing machine. I also add some of the powder with the laundry powder with really bad stains, just to be sure. When I do whites I always use about half a lid of the powder even if there are no stains, just because this seems to keep the whites stay white longer. According to their website Vanish Napisan will take any stain out of your clothes, but so far I have only tried it with sweat stains, blueberry, wine, oil, and coffee. And they disappeared completely.
I have also found a variety of other uses for this product. I have removed difficult stains on a casserole dish, I have soaked the shelves in the oven in it (the grime just came right off with no effort), as well as the grids on top of our gas stove.
I have also read somewhere that it will make cutlery look good as new, and the paste is said to remove soap scum from shower glass.
The only negative thing about the Vanish Napisan is the price, so I usually buy it when it is on sale at the local supermarket or at Costco.
It's all in the attitude - housework is exercise. Slim your way to a clean home!
Doing house work burns calories!
There, I caught your attention!
Did you know that by vacuuming for one hour, you burn almost 200 kcal?
When you think about it, you do a lot of walking, squatting, stretching and lifting of heavy(ish) objects while doing housework. And if you live in a two-story house you can also include walking up and down the stairs.
Rather than paying big bucks to join a gym, you can get a good work-out in your own home, at no cost, and you get a clean house as a big bonus! However, if you are making a work-out session out of it, feel free to ignore my lazy habit of leaving things by the stairs. Instead, run up and down the stairs each time you need to get something or put something away. It's great for your legs and bum!
Also, exercise releases endorphins - your body's own happy pills - so when you think about it, housework makes you happy! Remember that next time you are scrubbing away at something.
Organization is key! - Give all your housekeeping products a home
Knowing where everything is means you don't have to spend time looking for anything. In a cupboard in the laundry I keep my housekeeping caddy with a handle, so that I can carry it around with me wherever I go in the house. It is easy to carry, and contains everything I need for cleaning.
In my housekeeping caddy I keep an all-purpose spray, bleach, a cloth, an old toothbrush (for those hard-to-reach places), window cleaning spray and wipes, a squeegee (I love that word - squeegee!), a scrub brush, single-use disinfectant wipes, and a plastic bag for the used wipes.
While you are at it you might want to organize the rest of your home as well. Not only does it take care of some or most of the clutter, it also makes it a lot easier to clean when you don't have to shuffle things around as you go. Make sure every item has a home, and make it a habit to always return everything to its rightful place.
We started getting really tired of mops falling out of the broom cupboard every time we opened it, so we got one of these. No more getting hit on the nose by mops when trying to get the bucket out.
This wall organiser fits five handles of practically any size, and has received great reviews!
Use a timer
It is easier to do a little cleaning each day, than to do a big clean on the weekend. If you have limited time, set the kitchen timer on twenty minutes, or thirty, or just fifteen. You get the idea. Then do as much housework as you can in that time. Without stopping. Follow your to-do list for guidance and start with the most important thing. It's almost like a fun game! How much housework can you do in twenty minutes?
I often use the timer to manage my time better throughout the day. When I need to get some writing done, I often set the timer for thirty minutes of productive computer time, twenty minutes of housework, and then a ten minute break (or "Pinterest time"). This makes sure I get through everything I need to do that day, minimizes procrastination, and works wonders to prevent writer's block.
Sometimes I even stick to it!
Reward yourself - Because housekeeping is hard work!
Cleaning the floors is one of my least favourite chores. So when I reach that point when I no longer have a choice, I make preparations. I put a thermos of hot water, your favourite mug, a tea bag, and a good book on the lounge table, and then clean my way in that direction. Once I am done I have no choice but to sit down and wait for the floors to dry. I mean, who wants footprints on their clean floors?
Believe it or not...
This photo shows me in my very early years, enjoying helping out with the dishes. Apparently I was always hanging around when Mom was doing housework, asking to help. I can now imagine myself being more of a nuisance than actually helping, but as people say - it's the thought that counts.
Boy, how naïve I was. Things have certainly changed since then. Now that I have to do housework chores I find them much less enjoyable...