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I have to admit – I was a bit hesitant about writing a post about managing and cleaning my own house. It is such a normal part of my life now (and for most Americans) that I was not sure if you would even want to read about this part of “Life in the States”. If you are one of the lucky ones who use a cleaning service then you are welcome to scroll on by. For the rest of you, read on about how Managing our Own Home is now part of my daily life.
We spent 8 years of our married life in South Africa and during that time we had two little kids, a lot of pets, full-time jobs and for a period of time, also owned and operated a restaurant on top of it all.
It was a busy time for us and we made the decision early on to employ a full-time housekeeper. This is somewhat normal in the area that we lived in. For those of you who are unfamiliar, there is a whole separate workforce that comes in and cleans your house, cook, do laundry and even watch the little ones on a daily basis. This is done very officially – you are a registered employer and your housekeeper your full-time employee.
We had a lovely lady that worked for us and took care of the house and laundry. She had her own key and came and went on her own. We would leave the house in the mornings without even making our own beds and when we returned in the evenings, the house would be sparkling clean, beds made, dishes done, laundry washed, ironed and packed away. While we worked together to set a cleaning schedule initially, I left most of the planning to her and just went with the flow. Having a full-time housekeeper was definitely a big bonus for us.
Adjusting to Doing it Myself
So naturally, I was a bit apprehensive when we made the move to the United States. Sure, I know how to clean my own house, do laundry and iron, I just didn’t have to do it for the last 8 years. Hiring a full-time housekeeper here was out of the question, especially since we were down to one income initially. Besides, having a full-time housekeeper or even a semi-regular house cleaning service is just really really expensive for us regular folks.
I discovered early on that for me it is more important to have the house organized and everything in its place than to have it squeaky clean. So I focus a lot of my time on putting items away rather than on cleaning things. I’ve put in some hours originally to make sure everything has a “home” in my house and that makes it easier to keep the house neat and also semi-clean.
Establish and Stick to a Routine
Over the years I have created a housekeeping routine that I feel works really well for my house and my family. I do have a full-time job (and this little writing gig) and I do it all from home. That makes a big difference in my opinion. I usually do some of my daily activities before starting my workday, and I use breaks from my desk to transfer laundry, do a quick sweep, or maybe pack away clean clothes.
I have daily tasks, weekly tasks and monthly tasks. For example, every day I make our bed, open curtains and blinds, straighten shower curtains and bathmats, and place random items back in bathroom drawers or cabinets. I do laundry twice a week – usually Mondays and Fridays – and fold clothes right as they come out of the dryer. I make sure to pack them away by the end of laundry day. Carpet washing and bathroom deep cleanings are monthly tasks and I treat myself with a “reorganize the pantry” project to make it interesting.
Here is a PDF of my complete cleaning schedule:
Divide and Conquer
Not only can you split up cleaning tasks by day or week, but you can also divide your house into “sections” and focus on one section at a time. Our main living areas are on the first floor of the house. Our kitchen, breakfast nook and family room are usually where we spend time together in the evenings after work. So instead of cleaning the whole main level, I will focus on just those three rooms. I can skip the dining room and our living room/Pieter’s office without feeling too stressed about it.
Make it Fun & Functional
I can hear you frowning at me right now, but what I mean is not only to make the act of cleaning a fun task but make the areas you are doing your chores in, fun as well. We have to do laundry, but that doesn’t mean the laundry room needs to be ugly and dark. Add a fun rug on the floor, a funky cover for your ironing board or some quirky laundry room art. My latest update to my laundry room was to swap out the old light bulb with an LED bulb. Sounds like a super small update, but the room is so much brighter now!
Confession time: I just took the photo for this post, and had to do a quick wipe down of the surfaces in here after realizing how dusty it was. Guess the laundry room is next up on the “to clean” list!
Realize that some days we are more motivated than others. On those days when you are in the mood to deep clean, pick a bathroom or your kitchen, turn up the music and knock it out. And on those other days, when we just can’t deal with it, postpone.
Proper Tools and Supplies
I almost forgot this one. Get yourself some proper cleaning tools and supplies. My favorite cleaning tool in the house is my Swiffer Wet Jet. To be honest, I own two of them – one for upstairs and one for the main level. Then there are my extendable dusters so I can reach everywhere and the trusty squeegee that I use on our shower glass.
As for cleaning supplies, I’m sticking to the basics in my house. Simple Green, Windex and Lysol Toilet Cleaner can get almost anything in my house clean. I keep a set of these in each of the bathrooms upstairs, in the guest bathroom in the basement and in the kitchen. You won’t see me carrying items up and down the stairs unnecessarily!
I know it sounds like I’m constantly cleaning or doing some type of housekeeping task, and you are probably correct. This is what works best for me and my family. The state of my home affects my state of mind. That is just the way I am. So I keep up with this routine, not only for my sake but also for my family’s 😉 By doing a little bit every day, my weekends stay open for fun DIY projects (like our recent Garage Cleanup Project) or sometimes just for reading a book, blogging, gardening or not doing anything at all!
How are you managing your housekeeping tasks after the “Big Move”?