A Different Cleaning Strategy

Spice RackIt was important to my mother that everything in the house be clean–all at once–in order for her to say it was clean. When I was a kid my family would spend what I remember as the entire Saturday cleaning the whole house.
This was not some romantic suburban ideal. I wasn’t having a Coke and writing names in the dust with dad. This was yell and scream and bust-you-ass work. At least that’s what it felt like to five year-old me! By the time we got through Sunday dinner and homework the weekend was over.

As an adult, I followed that model for awhile. But, I wanted my children to have more autonomy than I ever did. I taught them to close the door so I didn’t see their messes instead of yelling at them over it. I wanted to take them to the beach or a million other places. They wanted to GO–not stay home and clean.

I could relate! I certainly don’t remember marvelling at how clean my childhood home was!

I don’t remember deciding to do it, but I started to clean things more intermittently. A spritz of window cleaner on the faucet on one bathroom trip, a swish of the toilet brush on another. Of course there were times when I cleaned the whole bathroom; but the top to bottom, “lets clean everything at once” concept has withered away over the years.

Just now, I dusted the spice rack. Yes, I could have written my name in the dust. That’s how I knew it was time to do it! Then I did the tops of my two cabinets and dusted a little table in my kitchen. That’s it. I might clean the stove top tomorrow. A little at a time is working for me now.

My routines are, in many ways, built around maintaining and not cleaning, too. I squeegee my shower tiles after my shower. I almost never have to use cleanser on my tile! The best bonus? I have vintage tile. Cleaning it less maintains the luster. Shaking then draping the shower curtains over the radiator (in winter especially) helps them dry quickly so the mold doesn’t grow.

I have an occasional fantasy of being a Food Network star. My niche would cooking meals with as few utensils as possible, yet still maintaining kitchen and food safety.

There are times of course when you want everything perfectly clean of course. I’m all in for doing a big job every season for spiritual reasons at least.

But consider letting go of the “get it all clean at once” idea as an everyday thing. We are in a constant state of growth and change. Our homes are living things, too. Growth and change needs a little dust to thrive. If only so they have something to shake off.