The Good Enough Housekeeper
God knows I've tried to be an excellent housekeeper over the years, but it just never sticks. I get distracted very, very easily because the world is full of such marvellous things. So I have decided to cease striving for excellence in housekeeping (actually, the people who live with me would deny that 'striving' is ever what I do in relation to housework) and accept that a C average is all I am ever going to achieve, and learn to happily live with that.
Practical Tips for the Average Housekeeper:
Simplify, simplify, simplify: Less stuff, less mess, less cleaning, more time to follow delightful distractions wherever they lead..
If it isn't broke, don't fix it: Some people adore interior decorating and faffing about with table decorations and moving furniture about. One of my friends rearranges her furniture and accessories every season. My grandmother, on the other hand, never moved anything in her house throughout my whole childhood. Even when she moved house she arranged everything in the new house exactly the same as the old. I am with her. (Almost) everything in my house has a place, and it can just stay there now for the next decade or two. It means I don't lose things (well, except my glasses and keys, and even they have a place now. If only I could put them there on a more regular basis) and can clean and tidy on autopilot.
Important note: buying useless decorative crap always creates more mess, clutter and cleaning. Just don't do it. It won't make your house look better unless you are an excellent housekeeper who likes to dust. Having less stuff and less mess will make your house look better.
If your living areas are tidy, your house will look clean: Five minutes tidying in every room after dinner. Kitchen, dining room, living room, hallway. Shoes, papers, toys, clothes, all go away. The jury is out on books. Are they mess or vital life support? I have a lamp table with a lamp and all our current reads. No knick-knacks, just pure, unadulterated books. This is useful as we can always find our current book there. I also have a shelf on the bookcase in my bedroom dedicated to library books, so I can always find them when it is library day.
If the kitchen is tidy you will feel calm and happy (well, maybe calmer and happier than if it isn't): Do the dishes after dinner every night. Straight after dinner. Every night. I manage this about six nights out of seven. It is not always me doing the dishes, but I have to be foreman. Doing the dishes also implicitly includes wiping down the benches and the stovetop and sweeping the floor. Cleaning the kitchen every night is boring and tedious, but joy comes in the morning..
Strategy: Clean and tidy smarter, not harder. What are your areas of greatest mess and annoyance? How can you make this area much easier to keep clean and tidy? For instance, my girls do endless craft. I used to have an art and craft room which was always a hideous eyesore. Now the craft 'room' is the dining room table and the craft drawers right next to it so that it all has to be tidied up by the next meal, back into the drawers right next to the table. It may as well be as easy as possible. Maybe if you sew you could have a sewing cupboard next to the dining room table to store your sewing things. Anyone who regularly does any kind of project could benefit from keeping an empty cupboard space right next to the dining table so that there is a quick tidying solution that doesn't involve traipsing all over the house to put things away.
Other strategic triumphs: My girls never used to put their shoes in their wardrobes, but kind of threw them near the wardrobe. Now they have big plastic shoe tubs, and can throw their shoes at them to their hearts' content. Rosy's dirty clothes basket was across the room, while all her dirty clothes piled up next to her bed. So I moved the clothes basket next to the bed.
I always pile up papers and mail on the bench right inside the kitchen door. Now I have a basket right there so at least it looks intentional, and when the basket overflows I know I have to sort out the paperwork.
It's all about zen. Don't fight the mess, understand the mess, and work with it..
Mess containers: There is always annoying detritus in a house, no matter how much you declutter. Give in, and just find something to put the mess in. I have a small basket in the kitchen for all the tiny things that don't have a home. It stops them cluttering up the windowsill. The mess in the bathroom is always bobby pins and hair bands belonging to the girls. I now have a tub in the vanity that I throw all stray pins and bands into.
Cleaning the bathroom: There is something about cleaning the bathroom that is more annoying than almost all other cleaning tasks. I haven't cleaned the bathroom for two weeks now, but I have cleaned the toilet and the basin, so it mostly looks and smells clean. In my new house I have discovered the great secret that is the shower curtain. If you pull it fully across you can't see that the tub hasn't been cleaned for two weeks..
Close the doors: No matter what I do, my children have appallingly untidy rooms. I expect yours do too. Just close the door.
Move to a smaller house: Best thing I ever did from a housekeeping point of view. At our old house we renovated to make our house almost twice as big. What were we thinking? Cleaning two bathrooms is definitely more than twice as awful as cleaning one. If you have a lot of children they can effortlessly mess up a large house in about the same amount of time as they can mess up a small one..
Are you also an average housekeeper? Are you resigned, or still fighting the good fight? Do you have strategies to stay sane and prevent chaos while pursuing other interests? Please share:)