First of all, as Stef says in her post, the keeping of a house is going to be different for every woman. I can guarantee that my floors will stay cleaner than the floors of my friend who is homeschooling 7 children. But home will never be as neat as the home of another friend of mine who is--and has been since childhood--uber-organized. I need to keep our home neat because my family always--and I mean always--functions better when the house is tidy. Matt works from home, and when there is mess in the home, he has a difficult time focusing on work. He is distracted by dishes in the sink, by paperwork on the table, by piles of laundry on the couch. Snapper is naturally a messy person...drives me crazy, in fact. She is very messy. Very messy! When the house is tidy, she is less tempted to leave her messes around the house. Because responsibility is a character area we are working on with her, having her messes stand out against the tidy house makes it easier for me to work on this with her. Pepper is like me--he likes order, and he is more peaceful and less prone to meltdowns when the house is tidy. We're talking general tidiness here, not necessarily neat-as-a-pin tidy. As the wife and mom, this never-ending task falls mainly on me. God has called me to be the keeper of my home and family. This should probably be first on my list. Even moms who work outside the home share this calling. I have been in that boat before, and I know how difficult it is. However, an outside job does not excuse us from keeping our homes. In fact, my home was even tidier when I was working because I had less time to procrastinate--and less time at home to be making messes. I believe keeping a tidy home really comes down to time management. I'll let you fill in the rest here. Over the years, I have developed a pretty good routine for keeping my home. Some of my tips I gained from Good Housekeeping and Real Simple magazines. Other ideas came from my mom and aunties. Still others come from my friends. Very few of these things are original, but they all work well for me.
1. Have a place for everything. This one takes some time to establish, and is hard if you have a difficult time throwing or giving things away. If you can't find a place for everything you own, you have too much stuff. It is time to take a look at your possessions and make some hard decisions. Do you really want to live a cluttered life? Having in your home only what you regularly use and enjoy simplifies life for your whole family and makes keeping house so much easier for you.
2. Clean as you go. Don't waste your steps! When you make lunch, put away each ingredient right after you use it. If you have to run upstairs to get something, take a few upstairs items with you and put them away. When you use the bathroom, take a minute to wipe down the counter after you wash your hands. This is using your time wisely.
3. Take advantage of the many products that are made specifically to make housework easy. Because we operate on a fairly tight budget, I pick up only one new tool at a time, and only then if I really need it.
-A few weeks ago I bought at $15 handheld vacuum at Target. I use it at least twice a day, usually to
pick up crumbs on the table and floors after meals, and to spot-clean throughout the downstairs. Who
says I have to vacuum my entire downstairs every day?
-Magic Eraser has saved me much time and energy. When I notice grime accumulating around
doorknobs and on the stair rails, I take a few minutes and scrub with Magic Eraser. The grime comes
right off. I use Magic Eraser to remove tough stains on my countertops, too.
-And then there is my newest favorite. We have two cats who delight us each day with their playfulness,
purring, and soft fur...soft fur that gets all over the place. I recently discovered Scotch Fur Fight and
decided to give it a try. This simple plastic form with disposable pads pulls the fur right off our furniture
with almost not effort at all! I'm in love!
4. Keep a bucket of cleaning supplies in every bathroom. In my arsenal, I keep a roll of paper towels, a spray bottle of cleaning spray, a dust cloth and a bottle of dusting spray, a toilet cleaning wand, a container of Ajax, a bottle of Windex, a container of Clorox wipes, and a Magic Eraser. How much easier is it to give the bathroom a once-over if the supplies are already there? At the very least, wipe down the counter with a Clorox wipe each morning after you get ready for the day. It will seriously only take you 20 seconds to do.
5. Put a stash of empty plastic grocery sacks in every room that has a trash can. They make awesome trash can liners!
6. If you have stairs, keep a basket for each family member on the stairs. As you come across items belonging to another family member, put it in the appropriate basket. Each person is responsible for putting away the items in his or her basket.
7. Don't leave dirty dishes in the sink. I have to enforce this rule in our house because of the thriving local ant community. Make kitchen clean-up a family affair. In our house, Pepper clears the non-glass items off the table. Snapper clears everything else and puts away the leftover food. She also wipes down the table. Matt and I work together to do the dishes and wipe down the counters. I usually go through with the handheld vacuum at the end and get the crumbs off the floor.
8. If you know the kids have lots of homework, or if you have a busy evening planned, use paper dishes and plastic utensils. There is nothing wrong with doing this on occasion!
9. When you cook, do your dishes and wipe up spills as you go.
10. Get the kids involved. As members of the family, they are responsible to help keep the home tidy. Even a very small child can be taught to set the table, put away the silverware, and wipe down the bathroom counter. Elementary school kids can make beds, clean their rooms (which is made easier by having a place for everything in their rooms), cycle and fold laundry, clean bathrooms, and vacuum. Older kids can do even more! They don't need to be paid...do you get paid for taking care of them? No, they should be contributing members of the family. Their future spouses will thank you for it, too.
My house is not perfect. I don't have the time or emotional energy to keep a perfect home...besides, a perfect home is not being lived in. Home is where our lives happen. I strive to keep peace, order, and general cleanliness, for the sake of my family and the comfort of those who come into our home. I hope my little tips will be a help to you, too. Happy housekeeping!