As we have discussed, cleaning is not my strong suit. Given that my house is literally never guest-ready unless we’ve *just* had a professional plus four novices clean it for upwards of 7 hours, you’re probably asking why you would accept any cleaning advice from me. Well, I’ll tell you. Just in the same way that people with horrible parents learn by doing the complete opposite of what their parents did, I’ll share all my secrets for being a complete disaster and you can do the opposite. Think of it like a What Not To Wear but for house cleaning.
DO: buy yourself flowers once a week
I learned this from the Apartment Therapy Spring Cleaning Cure, which is a 10-day program for cleaning your home. The idea is that when you have a vase of fresh flowers on your table, you are inspired to have a clean kitchen to go with it. Do you like that the main thing I took away from a 10-day cleaning program was to buy myself flowers? I guess I could’ve just learned that from Cher.
Additional pro tip: if you do online grocery (like Instacart, shudder), order yourself a value bouquet for $5 and throw in some wine, too. This way, you have a man (or woman) bringing you wine and flowers!
DON’T: think a “cleaning strike” will result in the rest of your family realizing the errors of their ways and suddenly picking up the slack
Did you ever try that in college with your roommate(s)? You’d be all, she’s not doing the dishes? Either am I! We’ll see how she feels when Mount Everest of dishes is in the sink and there’s what appears to be a grey pet cat made of mold in the rice cooker. (Yes, this hypothetical roommate and you had a rice cooker because hypothetically you were both half-Asian and were raised eating a lot of rice, okay? Also, no offense, Beth.)
Anyway, it didn’t work then and it won’t work now. Here’s what will happen: everyone will continue to walk around the socks on the floor, pile mail on the mail pile, and stack precarious dish upon dish in the Jenga pile in the sink until one night you’re up at 11:30 pm, listening to “Beach Read” on Audible while you scrub dishes and silently curse your family.
DO: Teach your kids to do their own laundry, or at a bare minimum, put away their own clothes.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a ninja at sorting, washing, drying, and folding laundry. I just don’t like putting it away. So, it ends up sitting, all folded Kon Mari style* in one of our four laundry baskets (yes, we’re rich in laundry baskets) somewhere in the house. But recently, I had a revelation. And then another. The first was, four laundry baskets, four family members, hmm…So I started just putting everyone’s folded clothes in their own baskets and making them put them away. The second revelation was not even folding the laundry or even turning it right side out and removing the underwear from inside the pants (take that, George!) and just putting it in each person’s basket for them to fold and put away. So far, this isn’t working great, because everyone just keeps their laundry basket in their room and pulls clean clothes out of it as needed. George is going on two+ weeks of doing that.
*BTW, it’s a complete joke that I love KonMari‘ing things and folding KonMari style because I’m like the polar opposite of this whole philosophy in that I’m a borderline hoarder and I have a really hard time deciding what sparks joy. *Could* these Real Simples from 2017 potentially spark joy someday if I get around to reading them and tearing out all the pages with things that speak to me? I think so.
DON’T: think you can listen to a few podcasts and sign up for the Apartment Therapy Spring Cleaning Cure and all of a sudden you’ll become a clean person.
Guys, I’ve learned the hard way that listening to A Slob Comes Clean does not a non-slob make. Much like my love of cheese and karaoke, slobbiness (Slobdom? Slobocity? So many red lines, spellcheck) is a habit I’ve carefully cultivated for decades. And just as listening to a podcast about how to suck at karaoke is not gonna dim my award-winning, stool-kicking, Cher-impersonating karaoke prowess, listening to one about how overcoming slob-like habits won’t just infuse my body with clean energy like some kind of anti-Venom (the Marvel guy, not the snake bite antidote).
DO: still listen to those podcasts because you learn some baby steps type things that are in fact life-changing
I’ve probably listened to about 40 hours of A Slob Comes Clean. If I’d spent those hours cleaning my house, it would be really clean. BUT, they were not totally wasted hours. I have learned these essential tips which I will share with you.
- Run your dishwasher every night. Do this even if it’s only halfway full. I learned from ASCC that modern dishwashers are very efficient and use a lot less water than hand-washing does. This is a life-changing habit for me.
- Clean the kitchen sink and counters every night. I know normal people do this. I just never internalized it until the podcast. Ever read the Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell? There was a section about how when Giuliani was mayor of NYC (before he was crazy Hair Dye Face/sexual predator) he cleaned up all the graffiti and broken turnstiles in the city and as a result of it not looking like a completely lawless place, the crime rate actually went down. So, the theory here is that you and your family will see those spotless counters and be like, “I guess I *shouldn’t* leave my empty yogurt container/water bottle/prize bag from the dentist here. That is the theory anyway. This particular theory has not been proven in our house, but I do enjoy the sense of satisfaction I get having a clean counter from the hours of 9 pm until 7 am.
- Do a 5-minute clean up every day with the whole family. You literally set a timer for 5 minutes and have everyone put their shit away. Every time I do this, it works, and yet, I still forget to do it. But remember, I’m the How Not To Clean posterchild.
DON’T: compare your home’s cleanliness and organization to that of people on social media.
Those are not real people. No one in real life pre-cuts all their produce and puts them in clear, rainbow-ordered bins in the fridge. This is because 1) that’s idiotic and 90% of that produce would go bad, and 2) if you did this, you’d have no room for normal people fridge stuff like wine, whipped cream, and the three cans of Annie’s Organic Cinnamon Rolls that you bought on impulse at Costco and threw in the freezer, only to realize they definitely say, “DO NOT FREEZE” all over them.
DO: threaten to shank your husband with a homemade shiv if he says something along the lines of “We need to clean this refrigerator,” especially knowing the “we” is meant to imply you. Perhaps you could fashion a shiv out of some frozen Annie’s cinnamon bun dough; it’s probably not gonna work for cinnamon buns at this point.
DO: Delegate. I have a hard time doing this because I’m what you might call a control freak, but I do it where I can. For example, the kids empty the dishwasher every morning and Matty is in charge of trash. And we’ve already talked about the failing laundry experiment.
DON’T: Be so peculiar about how your dishwasher is loaded that you become irreplaceable (at least in your mind’s eye) at your job as Head Dishwasher Loader. (Although I don’t get how hard it is to not act like an unfrozen caveman when it comes to putting dishes into a dishwasher.) Now you’re the only one ever putting dishes in the dishwasher because of your reign of terror and your only reward is your sense of grim satisfaction and an efficiently loaded dishwasher. Is it worth it?
DON’T: Think it’s cute how your dog is so in love with you that the mere thought of you possibly leaving the house leads her to anxiety-pee on any soft surface in your home. I’ll tell you from experience that even a washable Ruggable rug is a pain in the ass to clean.
DO: Swiffer every day. (I don’t, but I should, and so should you.) True story: I worked on the launch campaign for Swiffer. I can’t believe there was ever a time when we had to live without it.
DON’T: put too much pressure on yourself to have a clean house. Honestly, it’s my secret to getting a lot of other shit done.
Sure, could I have put that rice cooker away, hung up my Art Club hat, and washed that vase that held my dying budget bouquet from my Instacart boyfriend? Sure, but then I would have had 3 minutes less time to watch a video of a ball boy running into the wall at Wimbledon with my children, and you can’t put a price on that kind of quality time.
In summary, learn from my very few successes and abundance of mistakes and enjoy a cleaner home. Alternatively, don’t and enjoy doing other things. God, I’d make a great motivational speaker.