Last week, I was coping with illness, and trying to prepare for the girls’ birthday party, and I neglected pretty much everything else. As a result, my house is disgraceful. It’s actually so overwhelmingly messy that I’m not even sure how to begin cleaning it.
The problem is that I neglected basic home maintenance because I was busy and not feeling well. It seemed like a reasonable coping method at the time, but I know from past experience that it’s a strategy doomed to fail. Unfortunately, it seems to be the preferred crisis management technique of the busy and stressed out (myself included, sometimes) – let everything go until the house is unlivable, and then when life calms down, attempt to dig out.
Though I don’t always stick to it (obviously), I prefer a system of organized, scheduled home “keeping.” This involves a basic maintenance plan, which insures that even during the busiest, most hectic times, there are still nutritious meals, clean clothes, sanitary bathrooms, and a reasonably tidy living space.
My basic maintenance plan is based on my daily task list:
□ Defrost food for supper/crockpot
□ Straighten up
□ Unload/Reload dishwasher (after meals)
□ Wipe down sink, stove, counters (after meals)
□ Sort/Recycle mail
□ Food/water for Pumpkin
□ Sweep/vacuum kitchen floor
□ One load of laundry (wash/dry/fold/put away)
□ Wipe down bathroom sinks and counters
□ Refill cold drinking water
□ Take out compost
I know that if I accomplish nothing else but these things, I can maintain reasonable order in my home. To achieve this basic level of maintenance, here are some tips:
1) Move quickly, and focus on the biggest items first. For example, if straightening a bedroom, tackle the bed first; in the kitchen, clear the kitchen table or counters first. Work your way down to the smallest objects, which can be collected in a basket and put away during a more intensive cleaning session. This gives an immediate feeling of neatness and accomplishment.
2) Don’t get sidetracked. Now isn’t the time to scrub floors or clean out the fridge. Remember, this is just basic maintenance, so you want to work from the outside in. Deal with the clutter scattered around the room first, and save more detailed cleaning tasks, such as organizing drawers and closets, for when you have more time.
3) Watch for time suckers. This can be anything from blogging, to Facebook, to talking on the phone, or watching TV. I know that when I waste a lot of time on unnecessary things, I usually feel horrible at the end of the day when my husband comes home to a messy house.
4) Decide on dinner early. You don’t want to wait until 5:00 P.M., and then discover that you forgot to take something out of the freezer, or you need an essential ingredient from the store.
5) Make picking up and putting away a habit. In the beginning it will take great effort and discipline, but stick with it. It takes about a month to develop a new habit, and this is one that’s worth sticking with, because it will make your life so much easier.
Now I must take my own advice and clean up this dump! If I don’t do it soon, my house is going to look like an episode of “Hoarders” (minus dead cat skeletons and fossilized poop. At least I hope so, anyway).