A few weeks ago, I talked about making a home that was “stupid-easy” to maintain.
Minimalism for me has made things that easy.
So easy that it seems silly to procrastinate or avoid doing the tasks.
Aside from decluttering all the excess, a major part of keeping a clean house is our everyday habits.
If we’re not in the habit of keeping a clean house, how do we get there?
Make it Stupid-Easy
A few years ago I read Mini-Habits by Stephen Guise. In that book, he talked about how he failed at keeping an exercise routine for YEARS. Each year he would start with a resolution to exercise 30 minutes a day and then he would never follow through.
Finally, one year he decided to require only one pushup each day.
One single pushup.
It was such a small thing, it seemed silly to not do it.
He knew that he could manage ONE no matter what else was going on in life. No matter how rushed, tired, or overwhelmed, one pushup was doable.
And after he did one, he thought “I’m already here, I’ll just do 5.”
But even if he quit after one, he still accomplished his goal.
Because his goal was just one pushup.
I had to approach my housekeeping in the same way.
I was desperate for a clean home. I had been embarrassed far too many times by people stopping by or a plumber having to be called and traipsing through the house as I hoped they didn’t look around.
But when I would search for help, I would find huge lists of at least 10 tasks in each room –
- Make the bed
- Swish the toilet
- Clean the sink
- Pick up toys
- Do the dishes
- Wipe the counters
- Clean up the surfaces
- Dust the pictures
- Wipe the door knobs
- Clean the baseboards
- Vacuum each room
- Sweep under the table
- Wash the laundry
- Dry the laundry
- Fold the laundry
- Iron the laundry
- Make the kids beds
- Put away the shoes
- Vacuum the couch
- Dust the cobwebs
- Clean the windows
- Scrub the bathtub
- Use a toothbrush to clean the sink
- Wipe down the toilet
Many of the lists and apps broke things down into daily tasks, which is probably quite doable for a typical tidy person.
But in the state of overwhelm that I was in, with so much clutter surrounding me and no tidying habits whatsoever, (if procrastination could be an occupation, I would rock it) the idea of having to do 10 things a day made me want to quit.
I had to dumb everything down for myself.
I had to make it so easy that I would actually DO the thing.
So I required 3 things:
- Quick kitchen tidy
- Wash the dishes
- Wipe of the counter/stove
Only these 3?
You can add more later if you want to, but when you have zero habits, don’t require everything from yourself. Make it so easy it seems doable. So easy it seems silly not to do it.
1. Quick kitchen tidy
This is simply putting things away when we’re done using them.
How many times have you walked into the kitchen to cook only to turn around and leave again, because the idea of cleaning up before you could start cooking was overwhelming?
Putting things away, that’s all we need to do.
Close the cereal box and put it back into the pantry.
Put the lid back on the peanut butter and put the jar away.
Put the used knife in the sink.
Throw away the box from the pasta.
Put the eggshells in the trash.
Doing a quick kitchen tidy DOES NOT include sorting the pile of mail on the counter or decluttering the coffee cups. And when we first start, doing a quick kitchen tidy might only mean tidying a small counter by the stove and leaving the rest of the kitchen.
Having a small workspace that is ready to use is a total win.
2. Wash the dishes
Just one load.
We don’t have to start with a clean slate! We can just wash one small load of dishes. Too overwhelming still? Then wash ONE dish.
You are still getting ahead by washing ONE thing.
When you’re at the sink, you may just decide to wash a couple more – but that doesn’t matter, the only thing that matters is that you wash something.
If you have 3 days of dishes to wash, and you wash one load in the morning and one load in the evening, in a couple of days you will have tackled ALL the dishes.
And you won’t have spent 3 hours doing them.
It can help to fill up the sink with hot soapy water before you start cooking. That way you can toss dishes in the water and they soak until you’re done, making it very easy to wash and rinse them.
If you want more tips on making handwashing easier, you can check out my article here.
A dishwasher does make it a little easier, but even if you don’t have that luxury, getting these 3 stupid-easy tasks done after our meals takes me on average 10-15 minutes. And we have 5 people living at home right now.
15 minutes twice a day is not a lot to give for a clean home.
3. Wipe the counters and stove
Just to have a clear workstation when you have to do something in the kitchen.
How annoying is it when you decide to eat a piece of toast and all the counters have crumbs on them? Or there is spaghetti sauce from the night before.
Or if you decide to cook something and an old dried noodle starts burning on the stove.
If you briefly go over the stove and counters with a washcloth, you don’t have to deal with those little annoyances anymore.
And the best part?
You never have to hear those thoughts run through your mind of:
“You’re such a messy person.”
“How hard can it be to keep the stove clean??”
“Normal people don’t have crumbs on their counters.”
Stop beating yourself up
I was my worst critic.
I still am!
So I’m always reminding myself how far I’ve come and that I’m capable of change.
It certainly doesn’t do us any good to mope around the house thinking “I hate my life, this is ridiculous that I have to pick up after myself.”
But who else would do it?
Take ownership of your situation
I’m sure somewhere in the world there are still insanely rich people that have cooks and housekeepers so they don’t have to pick up after themselves.
But for the rest of us?
Well, if we want something we have to do it ourselves.
Do we want change? Then we have to take ownership of it.
It doesn’t help us to give in to pity parties.
But it DOES help us to do ONE thing to move forward.
And we’re all capable of doing ONE thing.
I used to bemoan the fact that everything was up to me. No one else ever cared about the state of the home – they just contributed to the mess.
My husband never noticed the dishes needed to be done.
The kids left their crap all over, and when I told them to clean it I would hear “I’m just your slave!”
As if! I was their slave – all I did was cook, clean, and wash their clothes. My life SUCKED.
A very kind lady told me:
You can’t expect other people to make YOUR wishes a priority. If the dishes annoy you, wash them. Do it for yourself. Your husband doesn’t care, your kids don’t care, but you care. So do it so YOU like the house you live in.
So I did.
I owned it. I was the one that wanted a tidy home, so I can be the one that made the changes.
Now I will say that it doesn’t always stay that way. But sometimes it does. It may be that you will take on the task of doing the dishes and your spouse will never notice and never learn to help you keep the home the way you want it.
But sometimes they do notice and they do learn. I have young kids still at home, so after I learned to be content in doing the dishes, I started teaching them to help out. And after all these years, my husband now notices when the dishes and dirty and he does them.
But it did take years.
I like to think of it as a person running a marathon. If I chose to run a marathon, I can’t expect anyone else to do it with me. It was my idea, and I have to have the discipline to do it for myself. I can’t be mad at them for not doing it with me, it’s something I’m doing solely for my own benefit.
After a year or two, people who live with me may be inspired to join me, but even if they don’t, I can still exercise, eat right and do what I need to do for myself.
Keeping a clean house is the same.
They didn’t decide they wanted a clean house – you did. So do it for yourself, teach yourself the habits to keep it the way YOU want it first. And after you have a handle on things, you can guide the rest of the family through the process.
If you already do your dishes and pick up after yourself in the kitchen, then the next step to have a clean house is to get rid of as much stuff as you possibly can.
Because if your home is HARD to keep clean, then it’s important to consider how much STUFF you are managing with your time, and how much of that is stuff you don’t actually use.