I never thought I'd be part of one of 'those' families, with a butler or a cook or a maid. But a while back, when I was having one of my weekly existential crises (ie: when I was in grad school full time), I decided that the thing that would make the biggest difference in making my life less miserable...was to hire someone to clean the house. The dust bunnies were rapidly reproducing under the dressers, the laundry pile threatened to take over the bedroom, the microwave...well...maybe you don't need all the gory details. So I called a company and had them do a top to bottom cleaning of our house. They didn't do the laundry, but they did get it all down to the basement, which was half the battle.
It was like sugar to a toddler. The house was clean and I didn't have to do any of it. I was addicted. They started coming every other week to maintain our newfound cleanliness. We had them come on Fridays so that the house would be nice and clean over the weekend, when we would be home the most, and I looked forward to those days a ridiculous amount.
Well, when I turned to Vinny and said, "Hey, what do you think about me leaving grad school to stay home with Bella," he had 2 comments: whatever makes you happy and we'll have to stop the maid service. *gasp* I never thought that one of the biggest reasons for staying in grad school would be so that I could keep my maid. I'm still technically in grad school, though I get to spend most of the week home with Bella, so we cancelled the maid service anyway. I was going to have tons of time to keep the house clean now, right?
Well, anyone who has ever stayed home with their child knows that's a big joke. And I had this nice idea of how I was going to clean 1 area of the house each day so it wasn't overwhelming and the house would stay spotless...uh huh.
The game changer was when we put the house on the market. Selling our house has made me an almost full time maid. When we show our house, my goal is to always have it looking as perfect as it can. (Read more about how I staged our house to show off its best features here) I can't just have 1 area looking good while the rest is a mess, so the plan went out the window. While I have the house in a position where I can
1. The biggest help that I've found in keeping the house clean is probably the one that everyone would say "DUH, of course!" to, I try to put things where they belong whenever they get out of place. That means that dirty dishes don't just get put in the sink or set next to the sink...they get put in the dishwasher or washed. Clothes don't get dropped on the floor, they go in the laundry basket. OK, so maybe I should have learned that tip as a kid, but it hasn't been the case around our house until just recently.
2. Bins and Drawers. The playroom was a constant disaster zone. Mail would pile up on the kitchen counter. I suspect you know what I'm talking about. Find convenient places to hide the mess of everyday living. That could be in the form of drawers in your coffee table, or a basket in the kitchen that can easily be tucked away into a cabinet, or storage ottomans. For the playroom, we got a wall unit from target that held cubed fabric bins. Pottery Barn carries them, Land of Nod carries them, they're everywhere. In a pinch, you can grab things off the floor and throw it into the nearest bin with space. The bins hide the mess inside. But ideally, you pick a theme for each bin. For instance, we have a bin for dress up items, a bin for baby dolls, a bin for balls, a bin for transportation toys like cars and trains...you get the idea. If you have themes to the bins, you can label them with a picture of what goes inside, and it makes it easier for the kids to help you clean up.
3. Let the kids help! But don't expect to tell them to 'go clean up your room' and expect it to be done right (unless you have older teenagers). Give your kids specific goals and directions, and you'll be less likely to find a huge stash of random stuff under the bed a few months from now. For example, last night our playroom was a disaster zone. I considered calling in FEMA. You can imagine to a kid, the concept to cleaning up something that intimidates an adult would be very daunting. Of course, in an ideal world our kids would play with their cars, then put them all away before getting out the next item. Yeah, when you stop laughing, read on. I decided to break the task down into a sorting exercise. I set up the bins that had been dumped out and asked her to start by finding all of the toys with wheels and putting them in the green bin (transportation). And I didn't make her do it alone. I grabbed the ones that were hiding under other things, or that she might have trouble thinking of as being transportation (like the sailboat, since it didn't have wheels). Then we moved on to the dress up bin, and kept going til the room was clean. What looked like a totally daunting task took less than 5 minutes to clean up. And in the process, she learned about sorting, teamwork, and hopefully something about how much easier it would be if she put things away once she was done with them. I think this works as well for a 10 year old as it does for a 3 year old, but I'd love to hear input from parents with older children.
4. Try to be efficient. We have 2 spots for things that need to go to another floor. If it's on the stairs, it should go up with whoever is going upstairs next. If it's on the corner of the dining room table, it should go down to the basement whenever someone heads down. It saves a lot of needless up and down and makes the process much more efficient.
So I guess that's it for now. Advice from a new maid. I still hate doing laundry, especially sheets, but Bella really enjoys loading the washing machine, so her enthusiasm helps ease the pain.
What is your least favorite chore to do around the house? Do you have tricks you use to help keep your house looking good?