Monday, June 21, 2010

Clean Sweep

***Warning. Reader discretion is advised. If you are a very tidy housekeeper and cannot stand the thought of a messy house, do not read this post. You will gag. Proceed with caution.***

My house is a mess. My house is such a mess that I refuse to let anyone come over and see how much of a mess it is. If I allowed anyone to see it, I'm afraid they'd stage an intervention. There are many reasons my house was allowed to progress to this level of disaster: 1) laziness and lack of energy on my part; 2) long working hours; 3) the fact that I have to clean the office at work makes me unwilling to clean once I get home; 4) Have I mentioned I have three dogs?; 5) I have a kid with ADD who can mess up a room just by breathing; 6) I've always hated cleaning; 7) Every time I mop the kitchen floor, it rains. Then the boy and the dogs track mud in all over my kitchen floors; 8) Did I mention I have three dogs?

Also, I have been trying to teach Jamie a lesson about cleaning up after himself. Unfortunately, I let the lesson get too far out of hand. The result is the house is a disaster, I can't find anything, and Jamie just plain doesn't care. I haven't tackled it before now because my house was such a mess that I felt overwhelmed by the amount of mess, and didn't know where to start, or even HOW to start cleaning. Every time I even thought about trying to clean it, I'd whimper, climb into bed, huddle under the covers and suck my thumb. Okay, not really, but I wanted to.

On Saturday, I had had enough. I couldn't stand it one more day. So I tried a new strategy - I went to the smallest room in the house (the bathroom) and started with one simple task. I sorted dirty laundry. I unearthed the three laundry hampers from the garage where they were hiding. A long time ago, with good intentions, I bought three separate hampers - a white one for white clothes, a light green one for light clothes, and a dark brown one for dark/red clothes. But I never really implemented them for their intended purpose. Saturday, I lined them all up in the doorway (so the dogs couldn't come in and I couldn't escape) and got sorting. I also had a trash bag with me. Clothes got sorted, trash got thrown away, and clothes on the bottom that had gotten wet and too mildewed/molded to save got thrown away. This resulted in more than 6 loads of laundry and three trash bags full of trash/ruined clothes. I set the garbage bags by the front door, went and got the broom and a dust pan, then swept up the dirt and such from the floor. Then I got out a spray bottle with bleach water and sprayed the areas of the floor where molded/mildewed clothes had lain. All this took me about an hour and a half to accomplish. (If you're wondering where Jamie was during all this, he was out watching Toy Story 3 with his big brother. Lucky kid. But better that he was out of my way for the initial volley of cleaning.)

I then went and threw the trash out in the trash bin and started a load of laundry (hot water, color safe bleach and 1/2 cup of vinegar on the "soak" cycle to help get out any remaining mold/mildew smells). Then I went to my room and watched an hour or so of "Dead Like Me" on Netflix. After two episodes, I went and checked on the laundry. By this time, my back was starting to hurt, so I decided enough was enough for the bathroom that day, and just concentrated on doing laundry. All told, I got three of the loads of laundry from the bathroom done that day (a "soak" cycle takes about two hours in the washer, plus an hour in the dryer).

On Sunday, the bathroom and laundry were tackled again, but this time I made Jamie stay home and help me. (He wanted to go do something with Bill, but I put my foot down and told him that I really needed him home to help me.) Around 1 p.m., I went in the bathroom and sorted/threw away/organized/put away all the junk littering the bathroom counter. Then I cleaned off the top of the toilet tank. I put Jamie to work folding and putting away laundry from the day before. Then I went and checked on the laundry, got more going, brought Jamie more clothes, and we sat together and watched TV on my bed while we folded/hung and put away the clean clothes.

Fast forward an hour, and then I went back in the bathroom and scrubbed the bathroom counters, sink and inside/outside of the toilet. This involved me sending Jamie to find out what the heck happened to the toilet brush (it had wound up in the garage, somehow). After this was done, I left the bathroom and went to the kitchen to load the dishwasher I had made Jamie unload earlier. Meanwhile, Jamie was still folding laundry as I brought him fresh loads.

After the dishes were done, I went back to the bedroom and helped Jamie fold while we watched some more TV. After another hour, we went back in the bathroom and used good old fashioned elbow grease and Borax to scrub the tile surround and the bathtub. I made Jamie do half of it, as well. Then we rinsed the bathtub and I sprayed any stubborn mildew/mold areas with bleach water. After that, I had Jamie go get me the scrub brush and a bucket, and we scrubbed the bathroom floor by hand with Borax and water (again, Jamie had to do half). Then I rinsed with a mop and plain hot water.

By approaching the project as a series of specific, set tasks, rather than the vague "clean up the bathroom", we accomplished our goal of getting the bathroom cleaned (dude, it sparkles!) and didn't feel overwhelmed in the process. We are going to use this focus and mindset to clean the rest of the house - one room each weekend, one set task after another, until the whole house is clean. If I start feeling overwhelmed, I'll take a moment to look at my clean and shiny bathroom to remind myself how good it feels to have a clean room.

During the week, we will continue to focus on laundry and dishes, whittling down those daily tasks that can be such time suckers if we put them off until the weekend. This will give us more time on the weekends to focus on one room. This coming weekend we are focusing on my room, with the understanding that during this week Jamie is to use the clothes hampers to pick up and sort laundry from the floor of my bedroom. This is something he can do while watching TV, so it's a job he doesn't mind very much.

The following weekend is my five day weekend thanks to vacation days and the holiday. We will wind up using just about every day of it to tackle Jamie's monstrosity of a room. I think doing it in short increments will allow us to still have time to do some fun things over the course of the weekend, though, and not feel overwhelmed by the task. If we can keep up the pace and do one room a weekend, though, we should be done with the whole house (including organizing the garage) by the end of July. Once it is all clean, we can paint the rooms that never got painted last summer. This will accomplish my goal of getting the house completely cleaned, organized and painted before I start grad school and Jamie begins 7th grade. Once we get it all done, it should be easier to maintain. I'll keep you all informed how it goes.


Suze said...

Good luck!
I don't know how people keep their houses clean at all with kids around, especially parents who have outside jobs. (Oh right, the rich ones have hired help!) I think your strategy of one task at a time is a good one, and keeps you from overwhelm.

Tooz said...

I really am glad to hear your plan. You are inspiring me to go and do likewise!Don't forget about Jamie's camp--you can probably get a whole bunch of stuff done then!

Steph said...

I've been trying to do something similar since my semester ended. I do have the advantage of having neither a child nor three dogs, but I still managed to accumulate a pile of about 20 bags of dirty cat litter in the basement over the past semester. On the slovenly scale, that might even beat your mildewy hampers of clothes. (I also had to rewash a load of clothes from last weekend because they didn't get fully dry and never made it out of the dryer, hence stinkiness).

Jessi said...

The theory in our house is full house cleaning on weekends and then straighten one room a day through the week. It doesn't really work because we just don't always get it done, but if we did, oh, how lovely it would be.

Brynna has a few favorite jobs (including cleaning the toilet) and I think that in the next year or so, I'm gonna start teaching her to do her own laundry. She could right now except for getting stuff out of the washer.

Suze said...

Jessi, I love that your daughter likes to clean the toilet.
Daniel likes to take out the compost, which is sometimes a pretty disgusting job!

AnnaMarie said...

I am always a little disturbed when I visit spotlessly clean houses. I mean seriously... where do they PUT everything? It doesn't matter how long I spend cleaning my house. By that evening, toys litter the floor, there's a tent in the parlor, the dishwasher needs to be reloaded, more laundry has accumulated, and I have half a dozen piles of dog hair littered about.

I love your approach. Manageable. Satisfying. Inspiring. Awesome!!