With a new year comes the whole “new year, new you” theme that drives everyone a little crazy. We do all of this stuff in January, and then by February, it kind of falls apart. So, what I’d like to do is give you 10 rules for a cleaner home that you can actually implement over time. Things that I’ve used over the years—and some that I’m still working on—that you can start working on gradually so that eventually you can really and truly live in a cleaner home.
1. Stop Apologizing
When someone comes over, one of the first things that I do after I greet them is apologize for the state of cleanliness (or lack thereof) in my home. Now, this isn’t to say that I live in a pigsty, but I also don’t live in a magazine-ready home. We all sometimes feel this pressure that our homes need to be perfectly clean when someone comes over, and if it’s not, we get stressed out and end up apologizing before anyone even steps into our home. We need to collectively stop this. Rather than apologizing, take a deep breath, and own where you’re at. This is what my place looks like. I’m not going to make a big deal out of it, and if I want to change it, I know that I can.
2. Products, Tools & Techniques
Since building my cleaning business, and subsequently training a ton of cleaning specialists, I have instilled this idea of PTTs—figuring out the products, tools, and techniques that you need for any cleaning job before you actually get there. You don’t want to be wasting time figuring everything out while you’re in the thick of cleaning things. So, the rule here is to know the products, tools, and techniques in your cleaning arsenal so that you can approach any cleaning task confidently and efficiently.
3. Be Present & Mindful
One of the big trends that’s going on right now is living a more minimal lifestyle. This doesn’t mean (at least for me) having three or four items in every room in your home. It just means being mindful and present about the items that you have or bring into your home. This also extends out to sentimental items that you’re hanging onto or those once a year items that only get used during specific holidays. This whole concept tends to put people into a bit of a tailspin when it comes to decluttering and thinking through the things that they have at home. So if this is you and you’re stuck, here’s what I would suggest: be present and be mindful. Think about what you have, what you need, and what makes you happy in your space. If you have something you don’t really need or use anymore, you can safely move on from it. Anytime you pick something up with the intent of bringing it into your home, ask yourself, “Do I need this? Do I want it? Do I love it? Do I already have one?” If any of these things make you rethink bringing that item home, you should probably leave it where it is.
One of my favorite things to do (and one of the first things that I learned about cleaning) is this concept of doing multiple things at one time—having things happen passively in the background while you’re actively cleaning. This is something that I call layering. Think about all of the tasks that you have at hand when you’re approaching a cleaning job, and then think about how you can use layering to reduce the actual amount of work that you have to do for a given chore. A great example would be cleaning your bedroom. The first thing I know I need to do is wash the sheets. So I will just quickly strip off the sheets and throw them in the wash. That’s a passive thing that’s happening while I’m cleaning the rest of the room. That way I know by the time I put the sheets in the dryer, my room is going to be clean and I can move on to another cleaning task. Another favorite of mine is pre-treating; Products are designed to work well if given the opportunity—what that means is applying the product to a surface and letting it work while you get all your other work done. By the time you come back to that pre-treated surface, all you have to do is wipe—you don’t have to scrub or break a sweat. The product has done a lot of the work for you. The power of layering will save you a tone of time.
5. Have a Schedule
One of the more popular cleaning topics on Pinterest is cleaning routines. When I started my cleaning business, one of the first things I did was create a checklist that I could use to show my clients the exact work that would be done. They could visualize the cleaning routine that I would be using in their homes, and this provided real piece-of-mind for them. When you go into a messy room, the first thing that often hits you is a sense of overwhelm. You don’t know where to start and you don’t know how frequently you should be doing a certain task. This is a cause for anxiety and uncertainty. So, a great way to combat this is to have a weekly and/or monthly cleaning routine. This way you know exactly what it is that you need to check off on your cleaning list to ensure that you’re getting everything done. Now, the second part of this is actually scheduling these tasks in. I’m a firm believer of what gets scheduled gets done. If you need proof, you should see what my weekly calendar looks like. It’s a bit scary, but I have to tell you that I just follow it to the letter and I get everything done (generally speaking), and if I don’t get something done I immediately re-schedule it for another day. So remember, have a routine and scheduled it.
6. Stay Ahead of Your Cleaning
There are two things that you can do to stay ahead of your cleaning. The first one is to clean as you go and the second one is to stay on top of little messes. Let’s say you’re in the kitchen and you’re cooking. As you’re doing the cooking, think about all the little cleaning tasks you can accomplish as you go. That way you have less to clean up at the end of the meal. In terms of messes, just clean them immediately. If you spill a little juice on the floor, or some toothpaste in the sink, rather than just leaving it, get to it right away. Small things build up—mess attracts more mess. Rather than letting that happen, stay on top of your messes and clean as you go.
7. Get Others Involved
Cleaning is a group responsibility. Whether you live with family members or you live with roommates, everybody has to pitch in. It’s a matter of taking ownership, taking responsibility, and taking pride in the space that you live in. What this looks like is calling a group meeting and saying, “This is where I’m at. This is my capacity. This is what I need help with”, and saying, “What are all of you good at and what is everyone willing to take on?” Then it has to come down to everyone in your family/group getting on board. I can tell you that going after this from a negative standpoint is not going to get you where you want to be. For some ideas and answers to common issues, we have a video on How To Get Your Spouse To Clean that talks through a lot of the challenges that come up when having this conversation with your spouse, your roommate, or your kids. Bottom line, make sure that everyone is participating in your cleaning routines because it’s really important for your mental, emotional, and physical well being.
8. Be Ruthless
Be ruthless with the stuff in your house—do not let your possessions control you. We often ascribe an emotional value to the things that we have in our home. This value doesn’t actually exist. It’s not real. It’s just what we’ve given to them because maybe there’s guilt or shame or fear or a history with these items. If it doesn’t serve you, then why hang onto it? Which is why I say: be ruthless. Put aside emotion when you’re looking at your stuff. If you need it, great. If you don’t need it, move on. If you love it, then yes you should keep it. But if it’s a lonesome sweater that you constantly pass over, or a knick-knack that your Mom bought you for your birthday last year, maybe it’s time to move on. Look at your stuff with fresh eyes; if it doesn’t serve you, be ruthless with it and say goodbye.
9. Full Hands
I worked at a steakhouse many years ago and they had this rule of having your hands full at all times. What this looked was you always had to have your hands full running food, watering tables, clearing dishes, etc. This mentality came with me as I started cleaning professionally, and it’s something I’ve shared with the CMS community for some time now. Having your hands full anytime you leave a room means that the flow of items is constantly moving—hopefully in the right direction! As you leave a room, make sure that you take clutter, dishes, misplaced items, clothes, books, your iPad, or whatever else you have with you back to the place where it belongs. It’s just a really good habit to have because it means that so much less stuff builds up, and things get to where they need to go.
10. Adjust Your Expectations
This may be the most important rule. Adjust your expectations because you’re probably doing your very best right now, and it’s just a matter of you making some small changes so that you can improve further. If you start beating yourself up for not being perfect, you’re going to stop before you even get halfway there. I want you to keep that in mind and just manage and adjust your expectations. Remember—you’re going to be in a better place in a few weeks or a few months from now. Give yourself time for new habits and skills to sink in. This is a marathon, not a sprint.