Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Keeping a Clean House - the simple way, part 2

"If I had to pick one thing, which you as a homeowner has control over, that makes the biggest difference in how a house "feels"? Having a clean and clutter-free home wins the prize, every time."
Earlier in the month I wrote about a couple simple habits that people with clean homes do everyday. They're the kinds of things that take 5 minutes in the morning, yet they can make a profound difference in how your home looks, functions, and feels. (And I'm not talking about Martha Stewart style deep cleaning or crafting your own furniture - these are just simple routines, doing things you would have done anyway but just a little bit differently.)

Well, since this is Part 2 (you can read Part 1 here), let's get down to it. Here are a few more habits of people whose homes tend to always be clean:

3.) Do a load of Laundry every day (for families - not as important if there's only two of you.)

Laundry is a bad deal. At best it's a pain in the butt chore; at worst it's a Sisyphean task that can never be accomplished! Let's see if I can sum up how laundry usually works:

  • During the week everybody's clothes pile up into hampers, until they eventually overflow (and make the bedrooms look cluttered.)
  • At some point during the week, somebody is going to want or need to wear something they can't find. "Check the dirty clothes" will be your reply - and then you'll have to determine what to do with this request.
  • In addition, you may find some dingy smells lingering around - especially if your teenagers play sports.
  • Eventually, probably on Sunday, you'll have to get psyched up for "Laundry Day", where you'll hole up in the house and crank out load after load of wash.
  • You can't really get out and do things, because you need to be there to empty the dryer and change out the next load. So you basically lose a weekend-day.
    • Forget about it on the weekends when you also need to do sheets and towels!
    • And who's going to fold that mountain of clean clothes - yikes.

Yeah, that's how our laundry system ran for years, until my wife eventually figured out a better solution. Now we do a load of laundry everyday, and it looks more like this:

  • Each morning, as the boys wake up and before breakfast gets started, round up the few items from everybody's hamper and throw them in the washing machine.
  • Depending on the day (and your energy plan), they either go into the dryer that morning on the way out the door, or they go into the dryer when we get home from work.
  • Later in the evening it takes a couple-few minutes to fold the clothes while a tv show is on.

The payoff for Laundry Everyday: No lost weekends, no clutter or overflowing smelly clothes, and no problems with not having something available to wear when you want or need to wear it.

4.) Don't Procrastinate

You got the mail? Good. Bills go in the office, greeting cards go on the shelf, and junk-mail gets shredded. And you're done - no clutter.

Your package arrived from Awesome! Your new doohickey gets the attention, but the receipt gets filed, the air bubble bags get popped and thrown away, and the box gets broken down and placed in the recycle bin. And you're done - no clutter.

The kid out-grew some t-shirts which are now sitting in a pile next to his dresser? Get 'em outta there - put them in a bin of "to be donated" in the garage. And you're done - no clutter.

Are you sensing the trend here? You're going to have to address these things at some point - opening and sorting mail, throwing away packaging and boxes, etc. Why let them sit around and clutter your house for a few days, or weeks? Better to just do it, and be done with it.

The payoff for Not Procrastinating: This one's a no-brainer: You're not spending a single second extra - these are the exact same tasks you'll have to do later anyway, but now your house stays clutter-free.

5.) Use Baskets to Eliminate Clutter

This one almost falls into the home design and function category, but because we're talking about people's habits, I'm going to include it in our list.

Every room has those few extra things - too small to permanently mount but too big or too many to leave laying around. Get a good basket (that matches your decor), and put all these little miscellaneous things into it. Yes, put them away. Every time.

  • In the living room you've got multiple remote controls, some coasters, and a pair of reading glasses. When you're finished using them, put them away. Every time.
  • The kitchen is the worst offender, with extra keys, scissors, some coupons, pens and pencils (only half of which actually write), a screw that goes with heaven knows what, and a couple things you aren't even sure what they are. The first thing to do is to get rid of (or find a more permanent home for) the things you never use. Then, keep everything else handy and yet out of sight in a basket or drawer. Get something out when you need it, and then put it away again. Every time.
  • The bedroom is another place with lots of small items which get used frequently: watches, jewelry, wallet, car keys, loose change, a pen, etc. Have a place available to put these things where they won't be clutter and where they won't get lost, and then put them away - Every time.

The payoff for Using Baskets to Eliminate Clutter: You can get baskets (or boxes, or containers) in any size, color, or style to match your needs and your decor, so they'll help make your home look great. They'll reduce clutter because all those little pieces will be hidden from view. And they'll help you keep your stuff from getting lost - be honest, who hasn't wasted time digging through the couch or wandering from room to room looking for a tv remote or their car keys?!

When you take a step back and look at the big picture, these people whose houses are always clean don't do any more cleaning - they have simply developed the habit of spending a few extra seconds "now" to finish a task, rather than waiting until later to do the same task (or in some cases an even larger task.)

2 or 3 minutes to start a small load of laundry in the morning - frees up time for the weekend. Three seconds to put the tv remote in a basket when they're done watching tv - saves the next person 90 seconds trying to find the remote. Another 3 seconds dropping their car keys into a container when they get undressed - saves 5 minutes of stressful chaos trying to find keys when you're late for work the next morning!

Small amounts of time, small amounts of energy. Simple habits. Big Results!

Hopefully you can develop some of these habits too, and turn your home into an always clean and always ready for guests home!

- Chris Butterworth

This was part 2 of a series; read Part 1 here.