A clean house is all in your head

I am not a fan of cleaning, and I’m not particularly good at it. I wouldn’t normally remember to wipe down skirting boards or move things to clean behind them. I struggle to find a way of keeping my house in a vaguely respectable state without spending too much of my valuable time on it. When I google for tricks and shortcuts, I mostly find overly ambitious cleaning rotas that make me feel like lying down in a darkened room.

I did try getting a cleaner, but she was never any more thorough than I would be – and sometimes less so – so I didn’t really feel it was worth the money or the loss of privacy.

So I was back to square one in trying to stem the rising tide of chaos in my home. I will never have an immaculate show home, nor do I particularly want one, but I have found that I feel happier if my house is hoovered and my bathroom smells clean. The other annoying things about life are less annoying when your surroundings are pleasant. It can actually have a pretty profound effect on my state of mind.

The problem is I’m kind of busy. I work, I have 2 small children that leave chaos in their wake, I blog, I have a social life, and I even exercise. Where does cleaning fit into this?

I can proudly announce that after years of struggle (and basically inexcusable years of having a much messier house before I had children), I have figured out how to keep vaguely on top of the cleaning. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s working for me. I’ve found by changing the way I think about cleaning, I can be much better at it.

So here are the things that have helped me, in case they might help you too:

You don’t have to do it all at once

I used to plan to “clean the house” as if it were one big job. And because I grouped a large set of tasks together into one, the enormity of the task simply grew in my mind. I would get all stressed thinking about all the cleaning I had to do. I would need to have a cup of tea and a nap to prepare myself for the arduous task. I would end up procrastinating all day and never do any cleaning.

So, I don’t “clean the house” anymore. I do discrete cleaning tasks, as and when I can. If I have a few spare minutes, I run the hoover around just the downstairs, or I’ll pop upstairs and clean the bathroom surfaces. Sometimes I’ll then feel like doing more, and sometimes I won’t. You can prioritise the tasks that need doing, and do just one at a time, when you have time. I’ve actually found this approach saves me from utter boredom sometimes. When I pick up my phone to scroll Facebook for the 27th time in a day, I decide to get out the Mr Sheen instead.

You don’t need to have a set routine

I used to think I needed to hoover the whole house and clean the bathroom every week, and tidy and dust and mop etc etc etc. Now, I clean things when they start to look dirty. I am not a pre-emptive cleaner. If it is dirty, I clean it. If not, then it can wait until later.

You also don’t need to try and work out which cleaning tasks you do on certain days. This helps some people, and I see a lot of these lists around the internet, but for if you’re a cleaning slacker like me, it might just make you feel a bit stressed. Do the task that you dislike the least first. It’s better than doing nothing.

Seize the day

Sometimes you’re not particularly busy and you notice that something is looking a bit mucky. Why not just quickly wipe it down right this minute? It will only take 5 minutes, but if you put off a small task like that or add it to your burgeoning list of tasks to do later, it will just get bigger (in your head at least).

Get a cordless hoover if you can

If you can afford a cordless hoover, it’s a total game changer. Sometimes getting out “the big hoover”, dragging it around and plugging it in is too much for me. I just whip out the cordless and hoover up a few Cheerios when I need to.

It’s totally okay to clean with wet wipes

Sometimes your sink is all full of toothpaste smears but you’re not going downstairs to dig out cif and a sponge, and then moving all your stuff off the edges of the sink. Grab a wet wipe and wipe that baby down. It’s not a thorough clean, but you’ll feel better if your sink looks clean.

Share the load

If you share your home with other adults, they should be pulling their weight with the housework. If you don’t, it’s a bit trickier – but never be ashamed to accept help where it is offered.

My husband and I have specific tasks and areas of the house that are “our responsibility”. These have been agreed based on mutual preferences. It takes a lot of pressure off to know that there are some things I don’t ever have to do! However, if I have a spare moment, then I don’t hesitate to do one of “his” tasks … and he helps me with mine too. That’s teamwork.

When the kids are old enough, I hope to get them to share the load as well. Their future housemates or partners will thank me!

Life is more important

Don’t mentally beat yourself up if you don’t manage to do any cleaning when you’d hoped to. Time with friends and family, and even with yourself, is more important.

If you have any children under 2, pat yourself on the back if you manage to do any cleaning at all. If you don’t, still pat yourself on the back, because you’re doing a great job ignoring those dastardly cobwebs.

On your deathbed, you are not going to look back and wish you’d had a cleaner house. You’ll be glad you cuddled your kids, your partner and/or your pets, and drank wine (or tea) with your friends.

What is your approach to fitting house cleaning into your busy lifestyle? Did you let it grow into a monster job in your head like me? Do you think the bitesize approach will work?

 

Mission Mindfulness
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Mum Hacks – a book to boost your confidence

I remember being pregnant with my first son and stocking up on parenting books. I was going to crack this parenting thing. I read up on all manner of baby and child care, and had plans in place to totally smash any parenting challenge I might possibly face.

I was such an idiot.

There wasn’t a book in the world that could have prepared me for the onslaught of new information, overwhelming responsibility and lack of sleep that came with my first son’s arrival. I was a quivering mess before he was even finished being born, and it got a lot worse before it got better.

I read books on parenting theories. I read books with pictures and diagrams on how to change a nappy or give your baby a bath. I read books on how to schedule every minute of my baby’s day (you know the ones). Seriously, it might make you feel good to read them, but you don’t need them. You will be too tired to care whether you’re doing the nappy right. You will learn by doing. All the diagrams in the world are not going to prepare you for reality.

But one book I wish I had read before I had my children was Mum Hacks by Tanith Carey. When I agreed to review this book, I thought I might find some new tricks of the trade for me to add to my repertoire. And I have found a few (examples to follow in a bit). But where this book really excels is in laying out a blueprint for the sorts of things you actually need to worry about as a mum.

  • How to cater for your kids’ needs in the kitchen while avoiding it looking like a bombsite.
  • How to entertain your kids without getting buried by a toy tsunami.
  • How to get ready in the morning without shouting like a banshee.
  • How to get your kids to do anything without shouting like a banshee.
  • How to vaguely enjoy a holiday with young children.
  • How to keep your house sort of clean with minimum effort.
  • How to keep yourself sane by looking after yourself.

Now, I have to be honest. Some of the tips, to me, felt sort of obvious. For example, buy a good bib and a massive wipeable plastic highchair. Yep, weaning is a messy business – it’s not a secret. But upon reflection, I realise that tips like that are only obvious to me because I’m on my second toddler now. I’ve figured out a lot of stuff already, and often only by trial and error or blind luck. It actually would have been cool to have known some of these tricks beforehand, instead of googling them at 3am while I fed the baby.

So that’s why I’m recommending that this book is best suited to someone new to the entire business of parenting. It offers that sense of control that I was desperately looking for when I was pregnant with my first. It would have helped me think about what things were practical to buy. It would have helped me organise things in my home while I still had time to organise them, making it easier for me to cope with my little whirlwinds when they arrived. It would have given me a clearer sense of what to prioritise in family life and what is less important.

However, there were a few gems in this book even for the seasoned mum. There’s a bunch of really quick ideas for lunchbox contents that I never would have thought about. I now know how to make pretty pinwheel wrap sandwich thingys (although I clearly still don’t know what to call them).

And every mum should know that you can cut up an apple and then hold it together with a rubber band to stop it getting brown! I also liked the quick makeup tips. I’d never even heard of primer, the use of which apparently makes your makeup stay on better and longer.

So if you’re already a seasoned parent, this book might not change your life. But it is a well-written, amusing read that might add a few more tricks to your repertoire. Even better, buy it as a gift for a first time mum-to-be, and save her a bit of early morning googling.

Mum Hacks: Time-saving tips to calm the chaos of family life by Tanith Carey is available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle versions. I received a gratis copy of the book for review purposes.