Monday, April 20, 2009

8 Everyday Habits for a Habitable Household

Back when I was a single working girl (not that kind of working girl, gutter-mind!), I had a sort of "binge and purge" attitude toward house cleaning (and life-maintenance in general, if I'm being honest). I would go all week without lifting a finger to tidy up my surroundings and then spend hours upon hours cleaning up my apartment (and my act) over the weekend. On the weekdays, I would rush out the door late in the morning, and plop on the couch like a lump when I got home, leaving one big mess of used dishes, dirty clothes and unopened junk mail in my wake. By Friday, I would be eating my cereal out of a mug with my last clean fork, and tripping over the accumulation by the front door that my then-fiance dubbed "the shoe graveyard." Then, instead of relaxing or enjoying time with my friends, I would waste Saturday and Sunday combing through the rubble and fighting off the army of cockroaches and rats who were clamoring to be my new roommates (just kidding) (sort of).

When I married a former military man (and lifelong neat freak), it quickly became clear that my "lifestyle" was untenable. While he found my multiple outfit changes charming, he didn't buy my explanation that leaving clothes piled on the floor was okay, as long as they were all "clean." And while I could appreciate his perfectly rolled rows of ties,
when I saw the way he lined up all his personal effects at right angles on his nightstand I found myself wondering if I'd married the guy from American Psycho. Fortunately, like all married couples, our peculiarities rubbed off on one another- he's loosened up a bit (I recently spotted a 85-degree angle), while I now have several good daily habits that keep our apartment passably clean and tidy all week. They only take a few minutes, but they make all the difference.

In the A.M.:
1. Make your bed. Seriously. Every morning. A made bed makes the whole bedroom look tidier and pulled together, and will keep your sheets and blankets from becoming a big jumbled mess. For years, I would use the excuse that I was already late, and didn't have time for bed-making, until one day my Drill Sargent husband suggested I time myself. From beginning to end, making my bed took me less than a minute, and I have a particularly complicated bed. Now I make the bed while I wait for the shower water to heat up. For crying out loud, just shut up and make the dang thing.

2. Rinse and squeegee the shower.
Before you hop out and towel off, use the shower head to rinse any residual soap suds or hair (ew) down the drain. If you have a glass shower door, use a shower squeegee to quickly remove excess water from the glass before you get out. This practice will seriously slow the accumulation of soap scum and lime deposits on your shower.

Wipe up the bathroom sink area. After you brush your teeth and tease and gel your hair, and whatever else it takes to make you look so smokin' hot, rinse any leftover "product" out of the sink, and wipe off the sink bowl, counter top and faucet.

4. Put away your clothes.
Before you run out the door, take a minute to hang up rejected outfits and throw dirty laundry in the hamper. You'll end up doing way less laundry, and your clothes will thank you by staying new-looking longer. Plus, having all your things roughly where they belong will end up saving you time when you're getting dressed tomorrow.

In the P.M.:
5. Sort and throw away mail. Every day when you bring the mail in, walk directly to the recycling bin (do not pass GO, do not collect $200). Dump any unwanted catalogs and junk mail (just make sure you rip up anything that might tempt an identity theft). Then sort the remainder into neat piles for each member of your household.

Do the dishes as you go. Instead of allowing dishes to collect on the coffee table and by your bed, take them all to the kitchen and wash them in the sink as you use them. If that seems like too much, at the very least, rinse them- you'll save major time and elbow grease if you get to them before the food remnants can get dried and caked-on.

Tackle a five-minute project. Every night, take five minutes to tackle a little project that needs doing, like sewing on a loose button, dusting your lampshades, or cleaning out your fridge. You only have to do one thing, and you can get it done during a commercial break of American Idol. (No, having TiVo is not an excuse to get out of this one.)

8. Wipe kitchen counters and sweep the floor.
Just before you go to bed, take a damp rag and wipe down your kitchen counter top. Then, give the floor in your cooking area a quick sweep. The whole process should take you no more than sixty seconds, but will keep your kitchen sparkly and sanitary without too much fuss. Unless you like the feeling of stepping on something squishy with bare feet when you go in for your midnight snack, in which case, definitely skip this step.

Altogether, I spend less than 20 minutes a day on my little rituals, which save me untold hours of strenuous and stressful cleaning on the weekends, thereby adding years onto my life...and, indubitably, my marriage.

photo credit: lady at sink from Real Simple, closet from Flecto on Flickr, junk mail from hubspot, bed from stylehive


Christine said...

GREAT post! I especially like the 5 minute project - I can put those off for decades! But one a night, seems so doable.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Look at YOU!! I'm starting to feel a lot better about my mothering skills!

Anonymous said...

You know, I'm so glad to see this advice that I'm printing it out and putting it on my icebox so my wife will maybe get her act together and clean up her act... and our place.


Anonymous said...

Hi Lily,
Great post - another thing (that is in line with the 5 minute project) is to have what I call "Active ad-breaks".

If you're watching a TV show, you jump up during the ads and do a super speedy clean of something, like a bathroom/ or bedroom. - you can get a heap done in the duration of 1 program... and the added benefit is that you must burn some calories jumping up off the couch all the time.


Anonymous said...

Forgive me here but my Mom told me I should have asked for permission to print out your list of advice for my wife and not assume it was simply a ok. Do I have it?

Gianni again (also with a military background)