Apr 4, 2011

The "right" way to clean house?

Is housecleaning like algebra?  One right answer, and only one way to get there?

Setting aside Flylady's methodology (do a little every day, focus on one room each week to gradually get it clean through and through), I am curious:  how do we decide the "best" way to clean a house? And why do we think that's the best way?

I am not convinced there's only one "right" way to clean a house or a room.  But I agree with the principle that some ways are more effective and/or efficient.

Personally, I am a room-by-room cleaner.  I guess I could dust the entire house, then vacuum the entire house, then mop the kitchen and bathroom floors, then deliver lightbulbs and extra toilet paper where needed, but why make all those passes over the same terrain?  Is it efficient?  Probably.  Is it effective? That depends on how you define effective.

I confess I am a transformation junkie:  I like seeing a room (or closet or drawer or cabinet or refrigerator) totally cleaned and organized before I move to the next target zone.  Getting one area clean motivates me to tackle the next one. So my method has effectiveness going for it, but I'm not sure how it ranks on the efficiency scale: I find myself carrying an arsenal of supplies with me as I make my way through the house.  My typical entourage includes:
  • the vacuum and the microfiber duster with the telescoping handle to get under the beds and couches;
  • a plastic tote full of bathroom cleansers and scrub brushes, disinfecting air sanitizers, furniture polish (allergen-reducing and multisurface) and LOTS of clean rags and microfiber cloths (yes, it's a big tote);
  • paper towels and Windex and a magic eraser for smudges;
  • extra trashcan liners, lightbulbs and spare rolls of toilet paper
That's a lot of stuff to haul around, but I do because I'd rather not scurry back-and-forth to the laundry room every time I need one of these items.  Efficient?  Or effective?  All I know is it works for me.

In our single-story house, I start at one end - usually our bathroom and work my way to the other.  If i get sidetracked, a same-day re-start is highly unlikely, so I block out enough time to knock it all out in one fell swoop. I've also learned from FlyLady some tips on not getting sidetracked.  Major closet cleanouts or desk organizing are tactical missions and I don't attempt them on a whole-house cleaning campaign. I don't want to get bogged down in one room and not have the time or energy to finish the rest of the house.

In each room, I start to the left or right of the door and work my way around the room.  I know I probably should clean top-to-bottom:  dust first, vacuum last - but I don't always do that.  Sometimes I vacuum, dust, then vacuum a final time.  With two long-haired pets and a family with allergies, my Dyson, microfiber cloths and dusters, and allergen-reducing furniture polish are my cleaning day BFFs.

The wet areas (kitchen and baths) are handled differently.  I spray the toilet to start it soaking, then start with the least-dirty area and move to the most-dirty areas:  sinks, shower, then toilet, buff them down and clean the mirrors, change lightbulbs, replenish the toilet paper, remove trash, sanitize the trashcan, add a liner, then finish with a hand-mopping of the floor.

The kitchen starts with a sink full of hot, soapy, bleachy water in which I soak the sink mats, strainers, and dog bowls.  When they're clean, I run a fresh sink of hot soapy water and wipe down everything, clean the oven, straighten drawers, remove smudge prints, and otherwise clean.  Mopping sometimes coincides with the rest of the cleaning, other times it is an independent operation that occurs randomly on quiet afternoons.

All the while I'm cleaning, I'm also running the washer and dryer.  It's nice to have a break every hour or so to stop and fold a load, and start another one going.  By the time the house is done, the laundry is usually close to being finished.  Final step is to clean the Dyson so it can air dry until the next use.

When we had our first few apartments, cleaning and laundry took a couple hours.  With each larger home, more time has been required.  Now it takes pretty much my entire Saturday to thoroughly clean this house from one end to the other (not counting the kids' rooms since they are old enough to clean - or not - their own space.)  And we're buying a larger house?  Hmmmm.  Do they come in self-cleaning models these days?

So how do you clean your house? Tips? Advice? Ideas?  Share, please!  'Cuz I'm going to need them soon!

Happy cleaning,