“I don’t want to brag, but I’m pretty mediocre at housekeeping.”
My house is finally quiet after an hour of convincing my kids to go down for a nap (Seriously, though. Can you remember there ever being a time in your life when someone had to persuade you to have a nap? Me neither). Now I’m sitting on my couch, sipping a cup of coffee, staring at my domain, and searching deep within myself for the motivation to keep chipping away at the chaos that is my living room and kitchen. Housekeeping: it’s not rocket science but it is hard work.
I find myself in this scenario pretty often. Not the quiet house, but the “trying to get motivated to do the hard work” part and over time I have developed a few tricks to get my butt off the couch, some of which occasionally work. Today, instead of putting my tricks into action I have decided to put them into a nice little guide. Maybe then one of us can have a clean house.
So without any further ado, I give you…
Housekeeping 101: Lesson 1
5 ways to get your butt in gear when you just don’t wanna.
1. Imagine Bugs
I’m naming this one first because it really is VERY motivating. You can feel free to imagine whatever kind of insect, rodent, or pest that is the most relevant to you. Our last apartment in Victoria had a bit of a silverfish problem so I found that picturing in my mind’s eye a family of silverfish feasting on my breadcrumbs and dust at night could usually motivate me to sweep and vacuum. In the summertime, thinking about a trail of ants when I’m tempted to leave a sticky spill on the floor for another day seems to do the trick.
When it comes to deep cleaning, you could try getting a full on infestation. I’ve tried this technique as well and I have to say that having sand fleas was was quite effective in getting me to steam clean my carpets and wash my curtains (Side note: I don’t recommend bringing large amounts of driftwood into your house- no matter how cute the Thanksgiving centerpiece turned out). Closet decluttering and mouse-nest-hunting can be one and the same, it’s all a matter of perspective.
Once your infestation is under control, you might try my next tip:
2. Host a regular gathering
As anyone who’s been to my house can testify, I am a firm believer that your house does not have to be perfectly clean in order to have people over. In fact, I think we should all just throw that myth out the window right now. Loneliness and isolation are a major issue in our city and, according to this article in the Georgia Strait, “those aged 24 to 34 and people living in suites in houses (such as basement apartments) reported higher rates of loneliness.” I wonder if all my fellow basement suite dwellers are sitting alone in their caves thinking that their suite isn’t clean enough/bright enough/open concept enough/ big enough/minimalist enough to have their friends over; I say enough of that! In fact, I challenge you all to invite someone over this week and not clean up at all AND (this is the tough one) not apologize for the mess. It is both a humbling and liberating experience.
And now that I have released you from the feeling that your house HAS to be clean to have friends over, we can get back to our original topic. Consider, for example, you want your house to be clean for sanitary reasons (not just for the sake of appearances) but have trouble getting down to it- oh, the monotony of it all. Company is very good for this as they can be used as leverage to motivate yourself to clean the house. I tend to procrastinate cleaning my bathroom and am always amazed at how fast I can clean it in the 10 minutes before guests arrive (or in a 5 minute trip to the bathroom when I realize that I forgot to clean it after they arrive). Seriously, it makes me wonder why I was putting off all week. Which brings me to my 3rd motivational technique.
3. Do it as fast as possible
Set a timer for 5 minutes (0r 10 minutes, or 15 minutes, or 10 seconds if that’s all you can handle) and clean as much as you can as fast as possible. Make a game of it, see if you can beat your record from last time. Alternately, put on a peppy song and speed clean for the duration of the song. I recommend this song:
About 7 minutes of peppy speed-cleaning candy right there.
However, if you’re really having one of those days, and find you just don’t have the pep for 10 minutes, or even 10 seconds of speed cleaning, please refer to my next tip.
4. Do it as slowly as possible
When you’re tired and sluggish, your body is weary from pushing 100 pounds of toddlers and stroller to the library and back, and you’re overwhelmed by the sheer volume of chaos and don’t know where to start, I recommend that you work as slowly as possible.
Pick any spot. A shelf or a corner perhaps. The smaller the area the better. If you need to sit down to access it, that’s ideal. For example, you might try detailing the armrest of your couch. Or maybe take a minute to research recipes on Pinterest.
Or you could take the global approach. Instead of focusing on one area or one task, focus on one item at a time. Some days I find myself slowly orbiting my planet like a robotic space probe looking for signs of life, sending data to my brain as I handle and identify each misplaced item, one at a time. Beep boop beep…garbage…beep boop boop…toy…beep boop beep…dirty laundry. The key here is to keep up any sort of forward momentum no matter how slow because, as we all know, if you’re not working against the toddler tornado it WILL consume you.
And my final tip…
5. Use one housekeeping task to get out of another housekeeping task
This is my final tip and a favored technique in our household. There’s nothing like a well-timed trip to the washing machine the minute a child declares he/she a has a poopy diaper. “Can you do it, honey? I’m just putting a load in.” Sometimes Addison and I even fight over who gets to do the dishes and clean up from dinner while the other one gets the kids ready for bed. I just love to pop on some headphones around 8 pm and get down to wiping table and chairs and sweeping the post-dinner debris, or propping up my laptop on the window sill and washing the dishes to an episode of my current Netflix interest, productively tuning out the toddler wrangling in the background.
Alternately, it can be difficult to do the dishes, if the act isn’t helping me get out of some other responsibility. In which case, I put them off until there is some other task that I need to do but want to do less than the dishes. You could try this technique as well. Or just wait until it becomes absolutely necessary due to lack of counter space. Whatever happens first 🙂