You've Got to Clean Like Company's Coming

by Heather Hemingway Harvey

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My Story: Easy Clean

Housekeeping Helps

Next time you're wiping off the table or sweeping the floor, take note of how quickly (or slowly) you get the job done. Now, imagine how fast you'd do it if your mother-in-law was on her way.

We all complain that we don't have enough time to clean. We whine about how long it takes to finish the housework (but then, can you ever really finish housework?).

Stay Focused on the Task

If I'm not completely focused when I clean, I will slow down and piddle. I'll take out the trash, and on my way back in, I'll sit down to check my e-mail. Later, when I'm unloading the dishwasher, I'll stop to organize the spices or wipe off the toaster.

Stay focused and you'll finish your work in half the time. If you're scrubbing the toilet, then scrub it and scrub it until it's done. Don't think about what else you need to accomplish or what's on TV tonight. Focus on that rust stain until the rust stain disappears. Only when that task is complete, do you move on to the next task.

Quantity Does Not Necessarily Mean Quality

Will the bathtub be any less clean if you can scrub it in half the time? Scrub it harder and faster and you'll get the job done sooner.

Cleaning as Exercise?

Yes, put some muscle into your work. Don't be afraid to increase your heart rate or to work up a sweat. It's a lousy job, but somebody's got to do it. You might as well speed through it. It's housework, not the Sistine Chapel. Get the job done fast and spend your time on better things.

Get Dirty While You Clean

If you have everybody pick up their things the night before (that's another story for another day), you could conceivably get the house clean in a short cleaning burst of one to two hours.

Set aside a block of time for housecleaning. Don your ratty clothes, pin your hair back, pull on the rubber gloves, and immerse yourself in the whole cleaning experience. If you can get the job done faster by getting down on your knees, then do it. Don't stop to talk on the phone or to check your makeup. This is your time to clean. Get in, get the job done, and get out. Pretty soon, you'll notice that your block of time is getting smaller and smaller, but your house is getting cleaner and cleaner.

Let the Cleaners Do the Cleaning

Many cleaners need time to do their work. You're wasting your time and energy by scrubbing too early. For example, spray on your mildew and/or soap scum remover in the bathtub, then scrub the toilet while the cleaner works on the scum. Within a few minutes, many cleaners will get rid of the grime, and all you'll have to do is rinse.

Some Things Take Time

Washing machines and dryers take a certain amount of time, but the time you spend loading and unloading can be decreased. Laundry needs to soak. Dried, baked-on food needs to soak, too.

If you've got a job that you know will take time, start it before the rest of the housework. Load the washing machine or soak the dirty baking dishes. By the time you're done with the vacuuming and dusting, the laundry will be ready to be transferred to the dryer and the baking dish can be washed and set in the drying rack. Get back to the work that you can hurry through. When you're done, the clothes should be done too.

I don't like housework, but I do like a clean house. My goal is to spend as little time as possible on cleaning and as much time as possible on enjoying.

If you're still having trouble getting motivated: hey, isn't that your mother-in-law coming up the driveway?

Heather is the editor of Simplify!, a newsletter devoted to a more organized, less cluttered, and simpler life. To receive a sample of Simplify!, please send $2 to Simplify! Newsletter; PO Box 260017; St. Louis, MO 63122.

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