I want to have my cake and eat it*. I want a clean and tidy(ish) house, but I don't want to spend all of my time trying to achieve this. Despite the title, I am not entirely lazy, I just want to have a good balance in my life and not have to choose between spending all my free time doing chores or living in a pigsty. I want the happy medium.
I first left home when I was about 24, and was shocked to realise that the flat that I lived in with my boyfriend was not in fact a self cleaning one. My mum had prepared me gently by making me do my own laundry, clean my own room, occasionally wash dishes and learn how to cook basic things. However, nothing could quite prepare me for maintaining a home whilst studying or working. Contrary to my previous understanding whilst living with my mum, there was not in fact a fairy who cleaned your loo, took the bins out, stocked the cupboards and fridge with food and tidied up the general debris and clutter.
|Photo - 'Noelle & Hetty'|
Credit Nina J. G via Flicker
At first, it was all a bit of a novelty. When you first have your own place you feel like a 'proper grown up' and you feel a sense of achievement when you successfully clean the bath, do a 'big shop' at the supermarket or wash your clothes without turning everything pink. Roll forward six months however and you realise how much your parents did for you and suddenly realise what you didn't when you lived with them, that they are bloody superhuman.
So now I sit here at the mature** age of 31 having tried a whole range of approaches to housework. I have gone through phases where nothing short of perfection will do and found myself in marigolds, cleaning tile grouting with a toothbrush and bleach solution. I have gone through (short) phases when I have thought 'life's too short, forget this housework nonsense' and then shortly after tripped over a rogue shoe while frantically looking for my keys. I have tried chore charts and apps and a whole host of intricate (and quite frankly impossible) regimes.
In this quest I have had both success and failures and I think I have finally found a good balance. I am by no means perfect (and neither is my home) but I have found some things that work really well for me, and may be useful for other guys and gals who are also trying to get that balance.
1. Stop expecting perfection
Nobody is perfect, so stop beating yourself up if your house is not perfect. If you expect perfection, you are defeating yourself before you begin and you will make yourself feel rubbish. Your home is the place you live, so there will signs that someone lives there! Nobody is judging you and your home as harshly as you are judging yourself.
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If there is more than just you at home, then there is more than one person making a mess and therefore more than one person is responsible for undoing said mess. Whether this is a house-mate, partner, or the kids, everyone should chip in. Me and my fiancé both do our share, which means everything gets done quicker. Don't be a martyr to the cause, ask for help, especially if you are feeling overwhelmed.
3. Play to your strengths
There are certain household jobs that I am pretty rubbish at, and I have to admit (as painful as it is) that Mr is better at them than I am. I am a competent cook, but Mr is magic in the kitchen. I cannot put a duvet cover on a duvet, it is my Achilles heal, so that's another job that he does. This is all fine because I am a weirdo who enjoys hoovering so I tend to do that more than him. We both chip in with most things but if one of us is better at something (or doesn't hate it with a passion), that person tends to do it more. This is just good sense.
4. Cleaning schedules don't always work
I have found some great cleaning schedules on-line, but I have learned that cleaning schedules don't work for me personally. I spend too much time faffing about and making them look nice and then when I actually start using them, I end up changing them all the time. If I fall behind with them I end up feeling like a total failure which just kills my motivation.
5. Use a timer
It may seem pretty basic but using a timer can be a great motivator. I often set a timer on my phone or iPod for 15 minutes, put some music on and get cracking. It's amazing how much you can get done in a motivated 15 minutes and these little pockets of housework keep everything ticking over nicely without feeling like all I do is clean and tidy.
|Image Credit - R. Nial Bradshaw via Flickr|
6. Little habits make things easier
Whilst I know I don't get any benefit from a laborious cleaning chart, I do find routine and habit forming can be a big help. Along with my 15 minute 'bursts' of housework I also sneak in little bits of housework throughout my day. For example, I do some quick tidying in the kitchen while the kettle boils, I give the bath a quick clean after my bath/shower, I pop the bin-bag in the wheelie bin on my way out with the dog.
7. Technology is your friend
Before I go on with this one I would like to state that I appreciate money can be really tight. Me and Mr do not have a great of money (he was a student for the last five years and I work a secretary and am not on the best salary). Having said that I do believe in investing in the best you can afford when it comes to your household devices such as your hoover, washing machine, iron etc. We saved up and bought a dishwasher recently and it is one of the best things I have ever spent money on. It makes the kitchen look tidier and it saves us time. We also finally got a brand new hoover (all our previous ones were family hand me downs) and it has made a big difference.
8. Give things a 'home'
If everything in your home has somewhere that it 'lives' then this will make tidying up much easier. Grouping things together also makes life much easier. Could you find a pen if you needed one right now? If a bulb went in one of your rooms would you know where to check to see if you had a replacement?
9. Dedicate some time to the greater good
Once you get to a point where the day to day stuff is ticking over and you feel like you have a bit of control, you can start to dedicate some time to tackling the bigger jobs that need doing. It is well worth spending the odd day or half day here and there getting things under control. Do your kitchen cupboards need sorting? Does the spare room look like a bomb site? When was the last time you sorted your wardrobe out? These big jobs pay off in the long run because once you tackle them, maintaining is easier and they become part of your daily smaller tasks.
The more you have, the more there is to clean and tidy. I am not a minimalist in the slightest and have inherited some of my granny's hoarding tendencies. However, I have learned that practising de-cluttering can be good for the home and good for the mind. It's not always easy but it is well worth it. If you find it difficult, set yourself small tasks, for example 'this week I am going to get rid of 10 things'. This could involve recycling those old magazines that you never look at, donating clothes to your local charity shop, giving away a DVD that you never watch but someone else could get use out of.
* As I am currently trying to lose weight for my wedding, I am now thinking of lovely cake and weeping gently.