Desperately seeking a new house cleaner.

06Sep2013

The CRUNCH:
Desperately seeking a new house cleaner.

CRUNCH deets:
Having your house put back in order by someone else is such a treat. But with your dismal bank account and your baby growing up, it’s getting harder to justify the splurge. You know it’s time to cut the cleaning service cord, but there’s just one problem: who’s gonna do it?

The Fix:
Team DIY. Systematically.

Fix deets:
I’ve been asked to elaborate on our chore chart, and I love taking requests! So here’s me walking you through how we keep our house relatively clean without an army of maids à la Downton Abbey. Anyone else psyched for the new season?!

We tackle our cleaning tasks on a two week cycle, hence the A vs. B in the Mommy/Daddy section of the chart. We try to green clean (healthier AND cheaper… win-win), so we rely on trusty old baking soda and vinegar A LOT. We also involve our kiddos as much as possible, teaching them that the entire fam has to contribute if we want mama to be happy. Seriously guys, everyone makes the mess so everyone should help clean up, even if we have to take care of the real nasties. I’ll typically set us up early in the day – not only is it more likely the task will get done sometime before bedtime, but it’s also more likely my munchkins will help without grumbling. So after we’ve safely delivered their big bro to school, the younger two and I get to work. Let’s start with Tuesday of week A, because between weekend nuttiness and back-to-the-grind Mondays, Tuesday always feels like the start of a new cleaning cycle to me. So showers and sinks it is. I sprinkle baking soda in the shower and bathroom sinks, my superstar helpers spray our vinegar/water 06Sep2013combo (about a quarter vinegar mixed with water in a dollar-store spray bottle) and then we head to the boys’ room to play while the chemicals soak in. When the four-year-old’s LEGOing and the baby’s busy with her brother’s contraband, I disappear for a quick scrub-down and spray-down using our handy handheld showerhead. Tuesday of week A donezo.

I sometimes manage to clean the toilets on Wednesdays while my kids entertain each other, but more often than not I leave it for nap/bedtime. The baby has a knack for crawling into the bathroom when I’m in full-germ mode, and I also use bleach (after many, many failed green attempts), so I save it for when they’re not around. I have a bin full of holey socks (between the five of us, we generate PLENTY) and use one with that same vinegar/water spray bottle to wipe down each toilet after pouring the bleach in to soak. Have you picked up on how key chemical-soaking is to save on elbow grease? Critical. By the time I’ve wiped our three toilets, the bowls are ready for their once-over. Exciting times!

By Thursday I’m a little chored out, so I might spot-clean the mirrors if they really need it, but I very rarely clean the tub. I’m the only one who actually likes to take a bath, and I almost never do. Instead, I save my energy for Fridays, where every week we dust the entire house. It’s not as bad as it sounds – my Jedis/pirates/wizards love using the Swiffer wands/swords/light sabres. We start upstairs and work our way top to bottom and clockwise. If we’re really efficient, which means if I remember to charge the Roomba Thursday night, we vacuum each room after dusting. But only after swapping sheets for whatever lucky person is due for fresh ones (no point whipping all that dust into the air post-vac). Full disclosure here guys, we only change our sheets every two weeks. I know, I know – should be weekly, right? But one queen, a set of bunk beds, and a crib… too. much. laundry. This is what you call battle-picking. I do change pillowcases weekly. Well, at least I change mine. And Ernie’s, but only so they match. Yup – nerd.

We all hustle on the weekend with whatever’s been overlooked through the week, so that by Sunday night the house is generally clean, the towels are fresh (I’m proud to report that those are switched out weekly; hand towels are even swapped out TWICE a week peeps. Luxe, no?), and with any luck the plants have been watered. If I have a little extra time (and really, why wouldn’t I?), I Swiffer-sweep baseboards, under rads, and down the stairs. Faster than pulling out the central vac and picks up any dust bunnies the Roomba couldn’t reach. Another fave timesaver of mine is sticking a baby wipe onto our Swiffer sweeper and pretending it’s a mop. Pulling out the mop bucket, filling it, squeezing that mop head… ugh. Happens maybe four times a year. Okay, maybe three. But the sweeper-wipe combo is superfast and the floor stays clean for the same amount of time… about five minutes.

I feel like I’m losing you, so I’ll skip week B. But here are the key things that make our system work:
1. Minimizing clutter. Which means the boys HAVE TO put their stuff away before they go up for bed/every other night/pre-dust.
2. Ongoing maintenance. Taking an extra minute to wipe the sink after loading the dishwasher means it can go longer between deep-cleans without getting grungy. Same goes for wiping the stove, countertops, bathroom sinks, baby’s tub, shower door… you get it.
3. Recognizing an opportunity. When the baby’s entertained for more than a minute, it’s a perfect time to start a chore. Even if there’s not enough time to finish, that first step really is the biggest hurdle.

Remember this:
Setting up a system that’s easy to stick to means everyone can pitch in and no one feels overwhelmed. Settling for less than perfect also helps. A slightly dirty house breeds kids with better immune systems anyway… at least, that’s what I like to believe.

Leave a comment or email us if you need tips to motivate your fam or really want the week B deets… kitchen cleanup can be just as exciting!

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