How do I keep my house "clean"?

I often joke about having "OCD" tendencies. Probably not a "politically correct" thing to do since OCD is in fact a very real problem for people who actually suffer from it! I found this description of the disorder on the National Institute for Mental Illness website.

TECHNICALLY I probably don't have OCD...but when my dryer broke down two weeks ago, I found the piles of laundry triggered a very real anxiety!

It stopped working properly on Tuesday. I normally do 2-3 loads of laundry every other day. Wash, dry, fold and put up. 

We had to order a part so it was not repaired for EIGHT WHOLE DAYS....that was about 10 loads of laundry plus all the bedding that I usually do once a week (I know a few young moms who are rolling their eyes!) 

We ran out of bath towels ...

(Ignore the finish on the vanity...I do! Someday I will get around to doing something about it!)

We ran out of dish towels ...


Okay so I still have a stockpile of spare towels in the guest bath and spare dish towels in the laundry room! And Brian assured me he had enough clothes to last a few weeks, but that did nothing for my growing panic over the looming chore of doing a billion loads of laundry all at once.

The bedding was a real issue for me....

I wash my sheets and blankets once a week...without fail. The fact that I had to skip a week and sleep on sheets that had not been laundered that weekend creeped me out. Seriously, just how big can those dust mites that live on your bed get!? 

And I don't even want to share how furry and dirty the blankets get from the big dog and two cats who sleep with us! Ewwwwww!

Eight days...had the repair man not shown up when he did we were seriously going to go buy a new dryer!

I kept walking into the laundry room and staring at the growing piles of dirty laundry....

Bedtime became a nightmare! I had visions of rat-sized dust mites!

I think I was on the verge of a total meltdown.

This entire ordeal really got me thinking about my cleaning HABITS...I say habit verses obsession because truth be told, I am not technically obsessed with cleaning...I have developed chiseled-in-stone habits that keep my house in order. When those habits were disrupted by a broken appliance, it completely threw a wrench in my daily life!

I had a friend ask me one time..."How do you keep such a clean house?"

Simple...I have developed daily habits that keep my home and life in order. (That and I don't have kids at home anymore!) My house may not always be spotlessly clean, but it is almost always in order.

So what are my "habits?" What is my secret to keeping an orderly home?

When I was young my mom gave us until 9 a.m. Saturday morning to watch cartoons. Then we all spent a few hours cleaning...bummer at the time but now I understand the need for a weekly marathon cleaning!

So now Brian and I have a weekly "deep clean" marathon. Once a week we do major cleaning...he vacuums the entire down stairs and helps me with the bedding, I deep clean the bathrooms and kitchen, dust everything and mop the floors. It takes about two hours. It sets the tone. (A clean house is much easier to keep up with throughout the week.)

So how do I keep things in order throughout the week?

1) No clutter. If I don't NEED it or use it, I don't keep it. If a closet, cabinet or drawer gets cluttered, I completely empty it then I toss, donate or sell anything I don't need or use! "But I might need it" might, or it might sit there gathering dust and taking up real estate for 5 years...seriously, get rid of it! The less you have the easier it is to keep it all in order and clean!

I purge regularly and it is SO much easier to keep everything organized!!! Don't think you have to do the entire house in one one drawer, closet or cabinet at a time...cuz you are going to make a mess when you pull everything out! 

If I have to think about something for more than 3 seconds, I don't NEED it!!!

You might notice I don't do a lot of the cutesy storage baskets. If I have something I need corralled in baskets (like cords or loose paper) I use clear storage tubs so I can SEE what is in them...I found that if I just tossed things in baskets (out of sight out of mind) it is a sure fire way to collect stuff you really don't need!

Even your junk drawer should have a little bit of order! 


2) I pick up as I go. Rarely do I walk through a room without picking up something and putting it in it's proper place. Shoes in the den...take them to the closet on your way to the bathroom. Dish on the table... put it in the dishwasher on your way to raid the fridge. Coat on the chair...hang it in the closet. I don't just absentmindedly walk through my house...if something is out of place, I pick it up and put it where it belongs. And every night before bed I walk through the "common areas" (living room/den, kitchen, baths) and make sure everything is in order.

The "habit" of keeping my drawers, closet and cabinets purged and organized makes it a breeze to put items where they belong when I have a space for them

3) I make my bed every day...EVERY day. If it takes more than 60 seconds to make your bed, I would suggest rethinking your bedding. Get rid of froo-froo pillows and throws if those have become a hinderance to making your bed. What is the use of having all those pretty decorative pillows if you don't make your bed! 

4) I load the dishwasher and clean my kitchen after every meal. We never let dishes pile in the sink. If we use a dish or pan, we wash it and put it up or put it in the dishwasher. It takes 10-15 minutes to do the dishes, load the dishwasher, put everything where it belongs and wipe down the kitchen after dinner. Brian and I do this is a great time for us to chit-chat and connect before we sit down and zone out in front of the tv for the evening.

5) I don't do "laundry hampers" in the bedrooms or baths. After we shower, dirty clothes and towels go staight to the laundry room...there are never piles of dirty clothes laying around! I would ask the kids to AT LEAST throw their dirty clothes over the upstairs bannister so I would have it! And I take time to do all the laundry every other day...wash, dry, fold and put up...I don't let it pile up...dirty or clean.

6) I dust with dirty clothes. I know it sounds gross, but I will often wipe down a side table, dresser top or the tv with a dirty shirt or towel as I carry it to the laundry room. Works for me!

7) I open my mail by the trash can...daily! Junk mail and envelops immediately get tossed, necessary things are distributed where they belong...bills to the desk, kid's mail on the table by the door so they can pick it up, magazines in the magazine rack so I can read them when I have time...then when I do read them, I toss them (yes I know I have a Christmas magazine...haven't read it yet!) No piles of unopened envelops or junk mail!

8) I keep a set schedule for the "once or twice a year" chores. Washing windows, changing smoke detector batteries, cleaning behind big appliances, deep cleaning the inside and tops of my kitchen cabinets, etc. Usually in the spring and fall. And of course now I will add "cleaning the dry vent" to that list since that was evidently the dryer vent got clogged and burned up a part that is somewhat important! 

9) This little guy...

We only use the "heavy duty vacuum" once a week but several times a week I pull out my cordless vacuum and run it over the floors. A necessity if you have animals or kids! And since it is cordless and easy to empty, I don't think twice about grabbing it and giving the floors a once over! (This is something you NEED!)

10) White towels and dish cloths. Everything! It makes it super simple to wash loads of whites...bleach in hot you know everything is sanitized. Musty more! Suspect dish more. And when you need additional towels or wash cloths, it is super simple to find white, even if they aren't the exact same style or brand. I do the same with dishes...white! 

11)Wipe down bath vanities! After I wash my face at night, I use the wash cloth to wipe down the vanity...sometimes I will even use it to give the floor a quick wipe. 

I know kids throw a wrench into this process...I get it...I raised four. The amount of laundry they generate and the crap they leave laying around the house can drive you mad! And don't even get me started on their crazy schedules...homework, ball games, dance recitals, school functions, Boy/Girl Scouts, etc. Crazy but necessary!

I can only give a few pieces of advice on that matter.

1) Assign SIMPLE chores. Of course I did this but it seemed they were always too busy to do their chores. Assign them anyway. Put up dishes daily, take out the trash, clean a bathroom, run the little cordless sweeper...whatever needs to be done daily. There is no reason even the youngest kid can't spend 15 minutes a day doing a chore.  "Clean up, clean up, everybody do their share!"

2) No toys in "common areas" of the house. They have a bedroom (and if you are lucky, a play room)...that is where their toys and personal items should be. Not in the living room, not in your room, not in the dining room. THEIR ROOM! If they want to play with their toys, they do it in their rooms are for family time. The only exception to this rule is any "toy" that requires a computer...computers should be used where parents can supervise...but you know what...I NEVER bought my kids video games...and they all survived to adulthood. 

3) The parent's room should be off limits. Period. I would NEVER have dreamed of going into my parents room without an invitation...and I certainly wouldn't have left my toys, clothes or dishes in their room. Set some boundaries parents!

4) Kids do NOT have the ability to "organize" so stop expecting them to keep a spotless bedroom. Yes, I would have to go into their bedrooms once a week to grab their bedding and gather moldy dishes and mildewed clothing. But if I wanted their rooms spotlessly cleaned and organized I would have to do that task myself when I had time...and I did. This is one of those "pick your battles" issues...expecting your kid to keep a clean room is not a battle you want to fight! Again, expect them to keep their stuff in THEIR room...not the common areas. On more than one occasion I picked up their crap and tossed it in their nasty rooms and slammed the door shut! 

5) Keep kid's bedding simple. Basically my kids had a pillow, fitted sheet and a washable blanket. Again, pick your battles and make your lives easier. Keep bedding simple!

6) Certain chores should be "family chores" the kitchen after meals, yard work, folding and putting up laundry. All things parents and kids can and should do together! 

My daughter, Sarah, has a neat idea for her two boys..."discipline chores"...a list of chores the boys have to do if they get in trouble. Wash down baseboards, scrub a bathroom floor, clean all the mirrors, clean the interior/exterior doors, sweep the porch, etc. Anything that needs to be done but maybe doesn't get done as much as needed. If they break a rule, talk back, get in MINOR trouble at school...they get assigned a chore. Then when they are done, they get praise for doing a job! The kid learns there are consequences to bad behavior...if they complete an assigned task, they get praise...and you get your baseboards cleaned! Sweet.

But one of the most important things ANY parent can do to motivate their kiddos is set a good example by their own behavior. Don't expect your kid to keep a clean bedroom and pick up their dishes if you don't do it as well. This is no guarantee your kids will become mini-Martha Stewarts but they do learn by set a good one!


Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.  Proverbs 22:6

Note it does not say "when he is a teenager" or "at this very minute" says when he is old.