Have you fallen into some bad house cleaning habits?
If you have, you may not even realize it – you just know that somehow, cleaning is so much harder than it used to be.
Cleaning the house day in and day out is nobody’s idea of a good time (well, nobody I’ve ever met!) Unfortunately, it does have to be done, and done repeatedly. Despite what my Hubs seems to think (!) house cleaning is not a do-it-once-and-it-lasts-forever activity.
But it is possible to make house cleaning harder than it has to be. We definitely do NOT want to do that!
Let’s look at five ways you may be creating more work for yourself, and how to fix each.
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Why Make House Cleaning More Work Than It Already Is?
You may be wondering who the heck would ever make their house harder to clean. It’s not something that anyone does on purpose!
I’ve been cleaning my house for more than a quarter of a century. That’s a looooong time.
One of the lessons I’ve learned along the way is that it’s very easy to unintentionally fall into bad habits over time. Fortunately, there are simple fixes to break these habits once you become aware of them.
Here are the five most common bad house cleaning habits, and ways to correct each.
Bad House Cleaning Habit #1: Not FINISHING the Job.
Doing something halfway is like…doing something halfway.
It doesn’t get your house clean – in fact, it can make it look worse. I’m talking about you, piles of clean laundry on the couch that never get folded and put away in drawers! This is probably the most common of all bad house cleaning habits.
Doing something halfway doesn’t give you any sense of accomplishment or resolution. There is still work to be done.
True Story: I once worked with a woman I’ll call “Sue” who could not understand why her kitchen was always a mess. She insisted she washed her dishes by hand as needed and ran the dishwasher whenever it was full. And yet, her counters were covered with dishes, glassware, utensils…you name it.
She claimed it was too hard to cook for her hungry family because there was no space on the counters for meal preparation.
Sue was frustrated.
Turns out, Sue’s problem was that she wasn’t finishing the job.
Sue was being totally honest in that she had no issues with loading her dishwasher, running it, and unloading it. The problem was that she unloaded everything onto the counter, and immediately refilled the dishwasher with newly dirtied dishes.
The dishes on the counter were clean. But they never made it into the cabinets.
They were on permanent rotation between the dishwasher and the counter. And for the time that they were on the counter, they took up some valuable real estate.
Sue had missed a step – an important step.
She needed to put those clean dishes away in her cabinets. By leaving them on the counter, she didn’t finish the job.
With less than an extra minute of work, her counters could be cleared of clean dishes and available to use for meal prep, and she wouldn’t have to worry about mixing clean and dirty dishes because they would no longer share counter space.
By creating a habit of putting the dishes in the cabinet as they came out of the dishwasher before reloading it, Sue made this one area of her life so much simpler and less stressful. She finished the job.
Bad Habit #2: Creating Obstacles.
Another common way of sabotaging the housework is by creating obstacles that make the job harder than it needs to be. This is an easy bad house cleaning habit to fall into without realizing it.
Creating obstacles makes cleaning harder since you tend to avoid those tasks that require extra effort.
True Story #2: Brenda had an issue with her laundry.
It seems she and her family had gone on a camping trip, and now she had several sleeping bags to wash. She added them to her laundry – on top of several loads of dirty clothing.
When laundry day rolled around, she would wash all of the clothes on top of the sleeping bags. The effort of washing the sleeping bags felt like too much for her at the time, so she stopped there.
The clothes that were underneath the bags never made it into the wash, as they remained buried under the sleeping bags.
Weeks went by, and Brenda never got around to cleaning the sleeping bags or the clothes under them, several items of which her family members were looking for and complaining about not having.
Brenda felt overwhelmed.
The solution, again, was a simple one.
Brenda needed to remove the sleeping bags from the everyday laundry and set them aside.
Then she needed to wash all of the clothes and get them put away.
Only after the clothes were done, did she need to concern herself with the extra job of washing the sleeping bags.
By eliminating the obstacle (the sleeping bags), she was able to focus on washing the clothing her family needed.
Are you unwittingly creating obstacles to make your work more complicated than it should be?
Bad Habit #3: Lack of Focus.
True Story #3: Kate told me, “I added a glass to the dishwasher, then I wiped up a spill on the floor, which led me to dust the coffee table, then I stripped my son’s bed and put the sheets in the wash, ran to the grocery store (but forgot my list), put the refrigerated groceries away, and watered that one dying plant in the hall. Why don’t I feel like I got anything done?”
Kate was distracted.
It’s easy to jump from one activity to another helter-skelter (after all, the problems have a way of popping up right in front of you!) This is NOT the most efficient way to clean!
It’s time to make an effort to FOCUS your efforts and CLUSTER each activity you do.
What do I mean by this?
If you are going to the trouble of getting out the vacuum for one soiled spot on the carpet, don’t stop there. You’ve already gone to the effort of pulling out that appliance. Go ahead and vacuum throughout the house, then put the vacuum away knowing that job is done.
Clean all of the bathrooms in your home in one day. Bathrooms are a lot of work, and they get dirty fast. And I get it, cleaning them is not fun. In fact, they can be pretty disgusting, especially if you have a large family and multiple people are using them day and night.
So knock each chore off all in one day.
You’ll be amazed how in control you feel when you can say that all the bathrooms in the house are clean, even if other messes are piling up!
Think of other activities you can cluster to save time. Laundry can be clustered if you have a small household, and clothes, sheets, and towels can be done in a day. If you have several children (and thus MORE of everything) try all the clothes in one day, all the towels in another, and all the sheets in another.
Clustering gets more done in a smaller amount of time because you already have the tools in hand.
Bad Habit #4: Cleaning the Wrong Things.
If you have small children, it’s a given that they spend a lot of time playing on the floor.
If you entertain often, you constantly have guests in the main rooms of your house.
Do you spend a lot of time in the kitchen preparing meals?
In any of the above scenarios, there is really nothing that screams “cleaning the master bedroom closet is a top priority!”
It’s not that you should never clean your master bedroom closet. But if you make that a priority over other cleaning activities, it will only lead to frustration and feeling anxious that the parts of the house you really use are still a mess.
Focus on the chores that move your cleaning process forward.
Bad House Cleaning Habit #5: Not Enlisting Help.
In an ideal world, every (human) household member would contribute to the care and cleaning of that home.
Relying on one person to do all of the house cleaning tasks in a multi-person household is a bad cleaning habit!
We all know couples who work together for a couple hours every Saturday morning and knock out the cleaning together. But they are the exception.
True Story #4: My hubs just doesn’t do much of the housework. Oh, occasionally he will pull out the vacuum or start the dishwasher, but by and large, he just doesn’t do it. Even if he says he will.
But, to give him fair credit, he is VERY good at cleaning bathrooms. Like, he will scrub every surface until it sparkles even if it takes two hours good. He’s much, much better at this than I am!
So I do most of the maintenance cleaning, but when those toidies (my grandmother’s word!) need a super scrub-down, it’s his turn. That’s what works for us.
Your job is to find a way to divide the work between you and your partner, or roommate, or whoever you share your domicile with.
If you have small people in your household, bring them into the fold.
Even from a young age (like 2 or 3!), kids can strip beds, gather towels, sort laundry into dark and light piles, and pick up toys. By the older elementary years, they can clean their own rooms, do laundry, and help with meal preparation and clean-up. Teenagers (ah, those teen years…) should be cleaning their own bathrooms and helping with all household chores.
You will have to teach them how to do these things, but there is no reason that they can’t do them with a bit of support and supervision and lots and lots of encouragement.
If you live alone, well, you will have to do all of the cleaning yourself, so this habit doesn’t really apply to you. However, if you are the only one living in the space, then it only gets as dirty as you make it, so there is an up side (unless you have a dog, but that’s for another post…)
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Final Thoughts on House Cleaning Habits You Need to Break
Complete all the steps in any cleaning activity. It’s not finished until ALL of the steps are finished.
Remove obstacles. Don’t make the work harder than it has to be!
Cluster your cleaning activities to be more efficient.
Prioritize cleaning the things that make the most difference to you and your life.
Find ways for everyone in your household to contribute in ways that they are able.