I understand many folks think this is something that takes tons of time, effort, and attention, but I can honestly say, it doesn't have to be that way! One day of focused attention, followed by daily "sweeps" to maintain your home, will keep a house in order, clean, and pleasant for all who enter.
Step 1: The Elbow Grease
Bear with me - you will have to find the time to dedicate a few hours to creating your oasis. Typically, as an 8-5er, this means Saturday for me, but pick any day you have to spare. Write it on your calendar, put it in your phone, heck, turn off your phone (perish the thought), and make time for this. You'll thank me later. Start with the easiest room (kind of like the snowball theory of debt pay-down) and build steam as you go.
A) Clear out all your clutter - if it's not used everyday, it does not belong in your sight. End of discussion. Don't try to argue with me. Find that sucker a new home! Most people vastly underuse the space in their cabinets, drawers, and closets. These are your friends, people! Make a dedicated space for every item in the room, label it if that helps you, and make sure that item is always there. If you cannot remember the last time you used something and your great-great grandma didn't bring it over on the boat from the mother country, it is time to say goodbye. Editing your possessions is KEY to clutter-free life. You really don't want to end up on Hoarders. (Side note: if you think you might be a hoarder, you are. Please seek help. Or call me. I'll happily throw away 90% of your useless junk.)
B) Once you've found places for everything in the room, SCRUB, SCRUB, SCRUB. Clean like the queen is coming with her Royal Magnifying Glass, or your mother is coming with an extra dose of judgment, or your friend with that nasty girlfriend you hate is stopping by for dinner. Dress your home to impress. Baseboards, air vents, behind the fridge, EVERYWHERE. A deep cleaning is easy to maintain, but a skimpy cleaning goes bad quite quickly. Detailed cleaning advice for another blog post.
C) Light some candles. SERIOUSLY. Cleaning stirs up all kinds of junk in your house, and a burning candle (or 10, you know, whatever) will help clear out some of this airborne dust and stankiness.
D) Pour a glass of wine (shot of liquor, pop a beer, pick your poison - just don't smoke a cigarette - that's nasty) and take a few deep breaths. Turn your phone back on, answer the 30 text messages that, SHOCKER, actually COULD wait, and enjoy your clean house.
But we're not done.
Step 2: Keep On Keepin' On
Now your house is clean - isn't that nice? Don't you like it this way? Want it to be this way every day? It's easy, I PROMISE. If you give me 15 or 20 minutes a day, you can keep a neat and tidy house. I know you spend at least that much time re-reading Facebook for the 30th time. Let's be honest here.
A) Coming Home
This is SO SO important. If, like me, you are exhausted at the end of your workday and all you want to do is crash out and chillax, STOP IT. The sofa will be more comfortable when you have nothing hanging over your head. First, those shoes you just kicked off your feet have a home. It is not the 3 foot radius of the door. Pick those puppies up and put them in their home. They like it there, for serious.
Secondly, gentlemen, your tie/sportcoat/work shirt does not live on the back of a chair or on a doorknob. Hang that sucker up. Same for you, ladies. I like to change into lounging/sleepy clothes after work if I don't have plans, so go ahead and hang up what's not dirty, and to the hamper with what is dirty. Make your Momma proud!
Lastly, your keys/purse/dayplanner/laptop should all have homes, too, and they would love so very much to go home. One keyhook and you will never lose your keys at home again. Put it out of sight so as not to add to the clutter.
If you are making dinner at home, have a grand time. I'll teach y'all how to make dinner love out of nothing at all later! Make a mess, experiment, go nuts! But but but, in almost every meal you can prepare, you will have downtime. This is not "check my phone for the fiftieth time" time, this is clean-up time! Make sure all your prep dishes get rinsed and into the dishwasher (or handwashed) while you wait for your casserole to bubble, or your meat to rest, or your water to boil. Dinner will taste better. Also, if you are having dinner guests, they will marvel at how tidy your kitchen is and wonder how you made such a yummy dinner so cleanly. Facts.
C) After Dinner
Clean up your final dishes and tupperware the leftovers. Now you are fed and have a quick boost of energy, so you are in perfect shape to do some laundry, vacuum, scoop the litterbox, etc. None of these tasks take more than 10 minutes to accomplish, and done in a rotation, they will keep up your hard work from your elbow grease day. Now is also a great time to light a candle, although there's rarely a bad time, folks.
Bask, my lovelies, bask in the glow of a clean house, full tummy, and a yummy smelling candle. Have another drink, play with your pet, cuddle, whatever. You have a kept house. Treat yo self!
Step 3: Maintenance
The real key to this whole shebang is making sure you never let any one room or situation get out of control. I know how busy we all are, but life is less stressful when you don't stress in a mess. Always make sure to clean up mini-messes before you have a disaster on your hands. Trash can in the bathroom overflowing? Take it out. Dishwasher is full? Empty it, friend. Laundry needs folding? Suck it up. Don't be that guy or girl who has to rewash his/her load of laundry 3 times because you won't empty the dryer and your wash keeps souring (check back soon for a cheap and effective laundry soap recipe). Also, don't let your toilet get grungy - this is nasty and if I visit your home, I will judge you. I once cleaned a friend's toilet before use, it was that gross. No names, kids.
Hopefully, this will get you started. Check back often for more tips you would have learned if schools still taught effective home economics. Tomorrow, we'll discuss how to get this reaction from your guests:
"You have pets? But your house smells so clean!"
It can happen.