The sun is out, school holidays are under way and we’ve all got much better things to do than clean. Here are five sure-fire ways to speed up those necessary chores, so you can have more fun and less toil…
1. Get a hand-held hoover. Sadly this has proved to be one of my best ever Christmas presents. I must use it at least five times a day. It saves me hauling our large upright hoover out of the cupboard and makes light work of meal-time mess, snack crumbs, spillages. (I’m also finding al fresco dining great for keeping crumbs to a minimum!)
2. Keep microfibre cloths all over the house, and bathroom cleaners in every loo. It is so much easier to quickly clean a room if you’ve got a cloth squirrelled away in a nearby drawer. Our bedroom always gets so dusty (yuck!), and now I am so much more likely to give it quick once over every couple of days when the cloth is so handy. Same with bathroom cleaners, it’s much easier to multi-task and clean the sink whilst you’re brushing your teeth if everything is to hand. Microfibre cloths rock – if you’re not using them already, you must!
3. Quick 15 minute blasts. I’ve started setting an alarm and only giving myself 15 minutes to clean a room/do a particular job and it really works. You race through the job super-focussed, and it gives you a bit of a work out too.
4. Keep a “Donate it” and a “Sell it” box somewhere in the house. I started doing this couple of weeks ago and it is really helping with decluttering. When the boxes are full or you have more time (like when the weather turns rubbish again) you can tackle them. In the meantime it is somewhere for your clutter to go whenever you notice it. Clutter = crap you have to clean around = it takes longer to clean.
5. Never leave a room empty-handed. This is a tip I’ve picked up on one of those “habits of effective people” sites, and it works. Before you leave a room make sure you take a quick glance round and pick up the bits that don’t belong in that room and deposit it in the right room. Ideally everything in your house should have a home, but this is the real world, so I reckon even if it’s in the right room it’s a start, right?
Hope this list helps. Would love to hear more cleaning short-cuts….
…Or at least the five ways that I am!
You may have read in a previous post that my car has been a source of some embarrassment. I am not very good at keeping it free of paperwork, toys and empty sweet packets, and it was actually starting to pong! When I started this blog I decided that sorting my car out would be my first project. Let’s face it, it’s an easy win. I only have to keep an area of about 1m² tidy for goodness sake!
Firstly, I “assessed the problem areas”. (I’m cringing posting these pictures, please don’t judge me too harshly!)
As you can see – the boot was full of all manner of junk, the footwell below my son’s car seat was filled with toys and I had been stuffing receipts and rubbish anywhere and everywhere in arms reach of the driver’s seat.
Next came the solutions….
- Get a rubbish bin
I knew I needed a proper bin in the car. It would be no good just planning to take rubbish out of the car every day, because I would stuff it in my handbag and leave it in there for weeks. I had an old (never even used!) plastic cereal box knocking round that I’ve repurposed, but you can buy car bins on eBay and Amazon for £5-10. I’ve been using this for about a week already and it is really helping and much better than my husband’s ridiculous solution of just stopping eating sweets!
- Get a receipt envelope
I collect a lot of petrol and post office receipts in my car and again was reluctant to just stuff them in my handbag knowing that wasn’t going to solve the problem. I bought a clear plastic A5 envelope from Asda (about £1 for 4) that now sits in my door. Easy.
- Get a car seat organiser
I’ve been meaning to get one of these to hold my son’s toys, a book and a drink for ages. I bought one (Lindam) for about £8 from Amazon, but you can get even cheaper ones on eBay. The rule is – if it can’t fit in one of the pockets then it can’t stay in the car. (When clearing the car out I found the source of the whiff coming from underneath the massive pile of toys – a bottle of water had spilt and a sodden CBeebies comic was rotting. Nice!)
- Get an emergency kit
Well, technically I’ve now got two. I gathered all the bits than rattle round the boot of my car that I need and have popped them in a large plastic box. It’s got a couple of bottles of water, a rug and a woolly hat in case of a breakdown. It’s got a road atlas and a winter car kit, as well as my son’s portable potty, wet wipes, tissues and car window sun screens for use if the sun ever comes out again. I’ve also now got a smaller spotty tin (set of three for £5 from Asda) that I keep under my seat with some more wet wipes, tissues, pens, hair band, plasters, insect bite cream, hand sanitiser and a spare pair of pants (for my son, not me!). We live in a small village and have to drive to get anywhere so I always have my car near. Having all these emergency bits is saving me from carting them round in my massive handbag. (The big cardboard box you can see in the picture is also very useful. It is my charity box. I read ages ago about putting things you want to donate to charity straight in your car. It immediately gets them out of your way when you are decluttering and then you can drop them off at the charity shop when you’re next passing.)
- Keep a stash of change
This is pretty straightforward and most people do this, but I have not always replenished the stash once I’ve spent all the pennies on parking tickets (or sweets!). This time I plan to make sure it’s topped up regularly.
My car is tip top and it’s amazing how motivating it is now I’ve cracked one of my chaos zones. If you’ve got any tips on keeping your car clean and tidy, I’d love to hear them…
Cookware and cleaning gadget specialist Lakeland have a 60% sale running at the moment. Although they sell a lot of fancy gizmos that might as well have “kitchen cupboard clutter” written all over them, they also sell some real gems that are great time-savers. Anything that makes it quicker for me to keep the house tidy and clean and is in the sale is a winner with me!
Here are few items that I’ve popped in my virtual shopping basket…
Magic Mitt – was £6.99, now £2.79. I love e-cloths, they make dusting super-easy and mean that I don’t use as many cleaning chemicals and sprays. Just a bit of water, and you’re away. This one has three cloths on the one mitt – dusting, polishing and glass. I’m going to get a few and have one upstairs and one downstairs.
Ostrich Feather Duster – was £13.99, now £9.99. People in the know (the Fly Lady included) claim that ostrich feather dusters are the best for trapping dust and cobwebs, much better than their synthetic cousins. We live in quite an old cottage with many an eight-legged lodger, so I’m forever spotting cobwebs all over the place. I’m hoping this is going to be much better at getting rid of them.
Wardrobe Buddy – was £9.99, now £4.99. My wardrobe is a mess and I’ve got handbags all over the shop, I think this will really help introduce a bit more order. It’s got eight pockets and will be perfect to store handbags, belts and scarves.
Small Collapsible Strainer – was £9.99, now £3.99. Inspired by a post this week on the great foodie blog Crumbs, I’m thinking I could do with another much smaller colander for all the little handfulls of fruit I seem to wash through the day rather than using my big one all the time. This one also doubles as a seive and is collapsible to boot.
Mason Cash Large Mixing Bowl – was £16.99, now £9.99. Now I know this isn’t going to help me clean or tidy the house quicker, but I just love Mason Cash bowls. Good old proper mixing bowls, like the ones my grandmother has. Love it in cream too!
Cable Snap – was £8.99 now £3.49. What a bargain! You get a pack of five for that price too. These should be really handy in our home office stuck on the back of our desk (wouldn’t want them stuck on the table top) to hold all the various cables and chargers, saving us digging round the back to find the right one.
Phew! With all that lot I’ll also qualify for free delivery (free for any order over £30.00)!
The Fly Lady and her cleaning schedules are often a hot topic on various parenting and lifestyle forums, and if you’re looking for a way to get to grips with the dust and dirt in your house (which I am) her book or website are good places to start. For those uninitiated in the ways of Mrs Fly (that’s not actually her name, it stands for Finally Loving Yourself by the way), essentially she sets down a detailed housekeeping system for her followers (who she calls Flybabies).
She’s got that love/hate quality like Marmite, Gina Ford or Fearne Cotton. There are plenty of people online who rave about her, although I wonder how many of those would freely admit that they consume her saccharine-sweet phraseology to their real-life friends. I have tried her approach a few times in the past and there are some really useful parts that I am definitely going to follow from now on.
- “Shine your Sink”. The Fly Lady encourages new members to start with Babysteps, one for each day of their first month following her schedule. It makes sense that you need to start small and slowly build a routine and learn new habits rather than get overwhelmed and give up. The Shine your Sink philosophy makes sense too – even if your kitchen is a health hazard, if your kitchen sink is left clean, empty and sparkly every night, it motivates you to keep the surrounding area clean too.
- “Declutter”. It is easier to keep a room tidy and clean when there is less stuff to tidy and clean. Simple.
- “You can do anything for 15 minutes”. Another sensible approach and one that suits my gnat-like attention span. The Fly Lady advocates setting a kitchen timer and tackling a job for only 15 minutes. It means that you do that job with a bit of motivation, speed and avoid getting overwhelmed. It also fits well with having children about, you don’t feel too guilty leaving them to entertain themselves for such a short amount of time.
So if it’s so flipping great, why have I started and stopped following the Fly Lady approach many times before? Because for all the really sensible routines and suggestions, there are as many elements of the programme which are downright unbearable.
If you sign up to receiving email reminders, you get millions of them. I kid you not, you get about 10 a day. It makes no sense to me that someone would preach the benefits of decluttering by cluttering up someone’s inbox. Most of them are utter self-promoting nonsense too, flogging all manner of crap that will CLUTTER UP MY HOUSE!!!!
It’s one thing to be prescriptive when encouraging reluctant slatterns like me to pick up a duster, but she takes it to a whole other level. The Fly Lady sees fit to tell you to drink more water, when to go to bed and (as someone who’s child regularly wakes at around 5.30am this last one really takes the biscuit) to get up 15 minutes earlier than the rest of the family so that you can get dressed and greet your loved ones with a smile. Uh no, no and NO!
But then there are 550,000 people on her mailing list who must think that Fly Lady holds the key to that tidy home that I want, so maybe it is me who is the unreasonable one.
I like the approach of some Mumsnet members that use their Good Housekeeping chat room. They have monthly posts so that they share the good parts of the Fly Lady system without subjecting themselves to all the bad bits. Very wise.
My next (baby)step is to take all those sensible elements and adapt them to form a system that suits me and my family, because in the end that is the only way new habits will stick.