The objective for practicing an organized approach to cleaning is to unburden you of practically all your remedial cleaning tasks. Planning for a clean life involves making cleaning a regular part of your day. When incorporated well, cleaning becomes more effective, less bothersome, and sometimes, even fun. Here are six of the easiest ways to start getting spick-and-span:
1. Always focus on the benefits of cleaning. Bruce Van Horn, who writes and teaches about living more simply, advises that if you hate cleaning and organizing, changing your attitude can work wonders. Rather than looking at tasks as just chores, look for the beauty and value in cleaning activities. Cleaning offers many benefits, including:
- A feeling of being in control instead of out of control
- Renewed pride in your environment
- A healthier, safer home
- More and better time with your family
- A more active social life
- Reduced stress
Yogis have long taught the value of doing simple chores such as cleaning, Van Horn says. Yogis describe the benefits of “karma yoga,” or being in a meditative state of awareness as you clean or garden: It is calming, focusing, and centering. The idea is to let go of your mental clutter — the bills that need paying, your dispute with your boss — and focus on the job at hand. Be in the moment.
Barry Izsak, owner of Arranging It All, a consulting firm in Austin, Texas, finds similar results without the yoga. Izsak says cleaning helps him be more serene. “When I’m under a lot of stress, doing something mundane and methodical is therapeutic and calming,” he explains. “It’s a back-to-basics kind of feeling.”
2. Make cleanliness a value. Transforming cleanliness into a value is an act which will benefit your whole household. If you are always the sole cleaner of the home, then what are you teaching everyone else? That they can be messy, and someone else will take care of it. Instead, make it a familywide job to keep your home clean. And make them proud of it.
Part of this means giving children cleaning chores beginning at an early age. When they’re very young, they’ll enjoy it because they’re working with you. Later they may come to see the chores as onerous, but if they’ve been properly trained, they’ll do them anyway. Explaining how to train children to do chores is simple; the actual training process is less so. But it comes down to this: Insist that the children do what you’ve asked them to do: no excuses from them, no idle threats from you. One day they’ll thank you for the training and discipline.
3. Give cleaning a starring role. Incorporate cleaning routines and procedures into your everyday life. This may be the single most important thing for achieving the spick-and-span home of your dreams. It means making your bed every morning (and teaching your kids to do it too). It’s always wiping your feet at the door; putting dishes directly into the dishwasher; having a mail-sorting routine that puts bills, catalogs, coupons, and correspondence immediately into their right place. With routines like this, you can keep the time spent housecleaning to a minimum.
4. Be strategic. Have plans to keep your home clean and neat. Neat means counters are clear, coats are hung up, clutter is under control. Clean means the floors aren’t muddy, the corners aren’t cobwebby, the doors aren’t smudgy. While the two often go hand in hand, it is possible to have a messy home that’s clean, or a neat home that’s dirty. Neatening and cleaning need not happen together. But it’s certainly easier and faster to clean a room that is neat.
5. Understand the special requirements. When it comes to cleaning the things you own, be mindful of the details. What materials are your carpets, furniture, appliances, curtains, and clothes made of? The more you know about materials, the better you’ll be able to clean them. When you make purchasing decisions, take into consideration how the items should be cleaned.
6. Don’t despair at messes. Rather than fret over a spill or stain, see the order and cleanliness that can emerge from them. Visualizing the result in advance is one powerful tool for clean thinking. “Before-and-after pictures are very motivating,” says organizing pioneer Harriet Schechter, owner of MiracleOrganizing.com and author of Let Go of Clutter. But when you’re still in the “before” stage, you have no “after” picture to inspire you. By visualizing, you can make one.
Pick a spot in the house that bothers you because it’s dirty or disorganized. Conjure up an image of order or cleanliness. You might even draw a picture, Schechter suggests, or write a description.
Take visualization a step further and create a small clutter-free area, just to see how it feels. Pick a desk or table that bothers you and put all the stuff on it into a box. For the moment, don’t worry about sorting it. After the table or desk is clear, dust it, wash it if it needs it, and just savor the feeling: clean and orderly!