How many times have you read articles or books on cleaning and housekeeping that seem to assume that the reader has enough time to spend two or three hours a day cleaning but does not have pets or children? Some books seem to set the standards impossibly high ñ even the books on natural cleaning, which often then go on to say that stress is a major source of illness that depletes your immune system, so we should avoid stress. Today is reality is that being a full-time housewife is something of a luxury (as opposed to being a full-time stay-at-home mother of preschoolers ñ that’s a different story and should be more of a necessity. This should never be a luxury) and most women have jobs outside the home. So do the men. Even work-from-home folk don’t have the luxury of hours and hours to spend cleaning.
For most of us, most of the heavy-duty cleaning is kept for a big weekly bash that gets fitted around kids sport and socialising. Alternatively, you could hire a cleaner to come in and do it all for you, but not all professional house cleaners use natural cleaning methods, so if this is important to you (and it is for many, many people), finding a suitable cleaner can be tricky. So you will have to do the cleaning yourself.
The golden rule for a weekly cleaner (a weekly DIY cleaner, not the sort who comes in once a week as a job) is not to try to do everything every week. Some cleaning jobs will have to be done weekly, but others can be done less frequently. Also, having good daily habits helps. If you have the habit of wiping down the bench top and oven top every day when you’re cooking, or if you insist that the kids tidy their rooms before using the computer, the big weekend cleaning session will be less of a nightmare. Cleaning the house on the weekend is also made much easier if everyone pitches in and does their bit ñ it shouldn’t just be Mum’s job any more.
Also ñ use your eyes. If it isn’t visibly dirty, don’t bother cleaning it this week.
So what do you do? Here is how the plan looks in my house. This takes a couple of hours with everyone helping out:
* General pick-up of all rooms (this is a daily task, really, but the debris seems to accumulate). Books into shelves, clothes into drawers or the wash, toys into boxes, papers into files.
* Empty rubbish and recycling bins ready to be put out on collection day.
* Vacuum every room in the house.
* Clean the toilet. Also clean the sink and the bath, if they need it.
* One bigger cleaning job (two if you have time). Last week in my house, this was the dusting. Another week, it could be a deep clean of one of the bedrooms or a de-junking session in the garage. Or it could be cleaning out the fridge. It depends on which job needs it most. If you’re not sure where to start, make a list of big household cleaning jobs and put them in order of priority. Cross them off as you go and put the job you’ve just done down the bottom of the list again.