The other day I was blog hopping and stumbled upon 31 Days to Clean: Having a Martha House the Mary Way. Curious, I clicked a few links and found out the premise: Following a detailed plan to do some REALLY detailed cleaning in your house, a little every day.
I must admit, I felt a little enthusiastic at first. I’m picturing my house at the end of the 31 days, gleaming all over, and no trace of cobwebs under the dining room table or pawprints on the living room windows. I’m hosting a party in late October, and the “new and improved” version of my house would be a pleasure to show off in such a state.
I looked a little closer. At first thought, this sounded like a really great idea. I peeked at the calendar like it was the Holy Grail.
Day 3: Dust the top of the refrigerator, cabinets and shelves. Clean and shine outside of cabinets. OK, I can do that.
Day 9: Sweep, vacuum, and mop kitchen floors. Add some fresh flowers to brighten your day. Sounds great.
Day 15: Wash bedroom mirrors, walls, and insides of windows. Wash window treatments. Dust ceilings. Huh? Dust ceilings??
Day 24: Clean out desk. Clean out and update files. Organize office supplies and drawers. Clean out files? Can’t I just get another file cabinet??
But it all sounded reasonable, so I started thinking about when I could kick off my house cleaning binge effort. It was about that time that I realized this plan was a couple-hour-a-day plan. When was I supposed to do all the stuff I already do every day? Between buying fresh flowers and dusting ceilings, when was I supposed to do laundry, clean toilets, make beds, cook meals, feed the dog, water the plants, and all the other stuff I try to get to every day but manage to fall short?? The last thing I need is another plan to make me feel even less adequate than I already do.
These steps amounted to about 2 hours a day. Now, if I cleaned my house for 62 hours – with or without a plan – it would be spotless. So this idea was a total scam.
As I pondered the mission over a glass of wine for a few minutes, I came up with an alternate plan: 31 Minutes to Clean: How a Real Woman Gets It All Done.
Supplies needed: a couple of garbage bags, scented all-purpose cleaner, toilet brush, vacuum cleaner, Swiffer cloths, cleaning wipes, and a scented candle.
Step 1 (5 minutes) – Collect garbage. Nothing screams neglect like garbage cans that are spilling over. Empty all the trash cans, and roam through the house checking for garbage. Pay extra attention to the space behind teenagers’ beds. This is where they like to hide the trash from the snacks they’re not supposed to be eating in their rooms.
While you’re at it, pick up all the dirty clothes they left on the floor and toss them in a hamper.
Step 2 (5-7 minutes, depending on how many bathrooms you have and the gender of your children) – Splash some scented cleaner in the toilets. Swish it around and flush. If you have male children, wipe the areas around the toilet, because they can’t aim.
Step 3 (6 minutes) – Pull the covers up on all beds. You have about 2 minutes per room for this step, so make ‘em count. Smooth the covers and place the pillows at the top of the bed. If you have decorative pillows, toss them on, too.
Step 4 (3 minutes) – Pick up the clutter in the living and dining room. Keep a few decorative baskets around so you can toss things in and make it look like it’s supposed to be there. Grab a Swiffer and give the horizontal surfaces a quick wipe.
Step 5 (5 minutes) – Run the vacuum cleaner through the traffic paths. Make sure you go in one direction so the carpet will stand up in a pattern, and visitors will know you vacuumed.
Step 6 (3 minutes) – Throw dirty dishes in the dishwasher. Rinse the coffee pot.
Step 7 (3 minutes) – Wipe the counters with a scented wipe. Don’t buy the cheap ones, they leave streaks and cause more work. I like Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Wipes. They’re pricey, but they smell good. And a house that smells good must be clean, right??
Step 8 (5 minutes) – Run a vacuum over tile and wood floors. Spritz tile with a little scented all-purpose cleaner to make it smell clean.
Step 9 (1 minute) – Light a scented candle. (Using the same scent will help you pull off the illusion.) A good scented candle can make up for a lot of neglect.
For those of you inclined to check my math, that’s about 36 minutes. But you get my point.
Real women don’t have time to do dust ceilings or update files. We’ve got kids to raise, parents to tend to, meals to cook, and some of us even have jobs. And helping with homework. Don’t get me started on the homework.
So take my advice. Forget about having a perfect house while your kids are little. If there’s no dust under your refrigerator, then you probably missed out on something.