Do you like living in a clean home, but hate having to do the chores to get it that way? Do you ever feel like the moment you’ve finished cleaning your home from top to bottom, you’ve got to start all over again? As a homemaker, it can be challenging to juggle the repetition of chores with parenthood and taking care of you. It can take years of practice and planning to keep your home life even somewhat manageable. With how hectic everyday life is, what’s a parent to do to keep their sanity? With the slow economy and costs rising, how can a homemaker cut back and save time, which both save money, helping to keep Americans in the green? With just a little planning, preparing, a schedule, check lists, and a few handy household products, your home and time can be much more pleasant.
You see, I’m what you might call a lazy cleaner. I try to get the maximum amount of cleanliness with the minimum amount of effort as possible. It all starts with a little planning; getting the most for your money with cleaning and organizational products and I enlist help any chance I get. I even try to make a little extra pocket money and tax deductions via donations by getting rid of items I don’t use anymore.
The first thing is to find home maintenance and chore charts (in particular a Home Maintenance Checklist, Chore Schedule Checklist and a Kid’s Chore List). Microsoft has some excellent ones for free and those will have you set for keeping “to do lists” for housekeeping. I highly suggest either laminating or using sheet protectors and dry erase markers to reuse them; this will save you money, and trees, in the long run. These schedules give you a guide as to what or where you should clean in your house when. You may need to adjust the Kid’s Chore Chart template to add to or subtract from the list to customize the chores to what your child is able to do based on their age. For example, my son is able to weekly wipe the fronts of lower kitchen cabinets, so that’s on his chore chart, along with helping mommy sort laundry and dusting things he can reach, with regulars like making his bed and cleaning his room. Once old enough to just about reach the tops of the counters, you could get a step stool and start the child on a bit of dish washing (not knives or other sharp objects).
As the saying goes, “A place for everything, and everything in its place!” Part of having a tidy home is making sure everything has a place. So, start with some organizational tools at Bed, Bath & Beyond and The Container Store. You can even find some organizing items at The Dollar Tree. I find tools, like bins for drawers, extra shelving and closet systems that I might be able to utilize closet space more effectively. A trick for minimal space is to find creative storage that puts items in their places, preferably hidden, so “stuff” is not just lying around.
If there isn’t a specific “utility room” in your home, I find the laundry room or area is a good place to set up your home cleaning supplies area. I put cleaners organized by the rooms they clean in cabinets and have a broomstick hanger where I hang brooms, mops, Swiffers, dusters, etc. I have a handled tray I put all of the things I need to clean in to carry around with me where ever I go. Buckets are convenient to carry gloves, brushes and floor cleaning goods. If your laundry area happens to be in the garage, hang a broomstick system behind the door and hang the items cleaning-ends up. I also leave the vacuum near this area, preferably in a closet. I keep an ironing holder (holds iron, board and starch) and a hanging bar to hang clothes that come out of the dryer.
I try to go for cleaners that are eco-friendly first, works well second and cost effective third. I like multi-purpose, eco-friendly cleaning sprays, preferably concentrated because they help the environment through less waste since you buy concentrated tiny bottle formulas you pour into the original, reusable bottle and mix with water. In fact, I prefer using multi-purpose cleaners anywhere I can so to save on money and space. A good streak-free window cleaner is a must. Sanitizing wipes are used regularly in my home for quick and easy clean up then toss those germs and bacteria away. CLR for stubborn porcelain stains and cleaning mildew and water depositing. Bleach is a MUST for regular cleaning as well as laundry. Using dust spray, like Endust for electronics, and Pledge (again, I like the multi-purpose kind) save time and allergies in the long run. Soft scrub is great for sensitive porcelain and floors. Goo Gone is great for sticky situations, like cooking grease that may linger on the wall above the stove and under the cooking vent. Urine Be Gone is necessary for animal and potty training child age homes. Keep metal polish, not just for fine silverware, but to clean faucets and metal knobs monthly. Good old fashioned scouring powder like Comet still works great for stubborn sink, floor and bathroom stains. You simply have to be sure you rinse or wipe up well after using as scouring powder can leave residue if you don’t. Lysol Nuetra Air and Febreze are great for freshening air and fabrics, though I prefer using sparingly, especially if you have kids with asthma. I try to limit their use to after there’s been an air born virus, like the flu, that has been in the house. Another handy item for after illnesses having been in the house is a germ killing black light to get rid of germs on electronics. Carpet Freshening products are a nice monthly addition when vacuuming.
For the kitchen, I prefer using Dawn Hand Renewal when dish washing as it helps my hands keep moisture while I’m washing. Also, Dawn is more concentrated and thus you use less cleaning product compared to cheaper brands, so you actually spend less than more in the long run. For those whom have gluten intolerants, this product does contain Laurel Sulfate, but I’ve yet to find a dish detergent that doesn’t have glutens, so you may want to consider gloves from a dollar store. SOS Pads are a must for cleaning cast iron, metal pots and inside the oven. There are oven cleaners but all have toxic, flammable properties. Again, Lysol wipes for sanitizing counters and the sink. As far as sponge items, I prefer buying the sponges that are separate from scrubbers because the scrubbers have metal properties in them. I like to buy the sponges in multi-packs from the grocery store and the scrubber pads from dollar stores. To save money, I cut the sponges and scrubber pads into thirds for dishes and halves for counters. I got this idea from an Extended Stay Hotel. They have trial size sponges, about 1/3rd the size of regular sponges, by their sinks for their customers to wash dishes.
Double duty cleaners (multi-purpose, Lysol Wipes, Comet, Windex, and Soft Scrub) can be used in many parts of the house, like the bathroom. However, there are a few bathroom must haves. A daily shower cleaner, like the Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner System, helps with keeping a shower and tub cleaner longer, especially if you are someone who doesn’t clean it as often as you should. Hannah’s Scouring Scrubber or Pumice can get hard water and other ring stains out of the toilet. A daily toilet cleanser is convenient. A favorite bathroom product of mine is Courtesy Flush, found at Bed, Bath & Beyond. This item sanitizes and deodorizes the toilet water. Just 1 to 4 drops can last 7-10 days, though I’ve noticed it can last up to and sometimes over two weeks. It’s biodegradable and eco-friendly as well.
When purchasing household cleaners, consider how much you use regularly of each item to plan spending accordingly. For example, dollar stores often have brand name cleaners you regularly use, like Comet, Soft Scrub and Magic Starch. Plus, cleaners like basic bleach (no brand name needed) and buying carpet fresheners there are more cost effective. I am very picky and choosey about the cleaners I buy from dollar stores. Except for carpet freshener and bleach, I don’t buy off brands because they just don’t work as well. Cheap imitations are not worth the dollar when they don’t do their job. I always do coupon and ad sale searches before buying. I always look for the shop that sells the cleaners I use for the lowest price. When I find a product that works great (cleans thoroughly, leaves no residue, preferably green), I stick with the cleaner. (Coming soon, my article on My Top Cleaning Must Haves) But I am always open to trying new items when they come on the market, especially if they’re eco-friendly. If I like it, I replace the previous cleaner with it. If I don’t I do a review, then stick with what I have. You may think you are saving money by going with off brands, but in actuality, you may be spending more because if, for example, the off brand grease doesn’t cut grease without using tons of it, you’re using more and needing to replenish the product more often. Use what works the best with the least amount of product regardless of the cost. You are saving money doing this. Buy certain bulk cleaners at Costco, like the multi-packs of Lysol Wipes. Buying multi-purpose cleaners saves money and plastic waste.
Annually and seasonally, I go through the rooms and closets to remove the items that haven’t been used in more than a year. Those items go on eBay or craigslist or in a rummage sale. Why not make a little income on that clutter? What doesn’t sell; take to a thrift store for donations. Be sure to ask for a receipt, as I mentioned earlier for tax deduction purposes.
Firstly, taking a few moments to rinse a dish or wipe a spill at the time they appear or occur can save hours on regular cleaning. Plus this keeps your furniture and floors looking newer longer. Secondly, keep crates with handles, nice wood or wicker ones for presentation purposes, by the door. Get one for each family member and mark with their names. As you pick up clutter, put the items in the crate for which they belong. When the kids and spouse get home, they have to take their own crate to put their items away. Third, know that not everything needs to be done in the same day. That’s what a home care maintenance log is for. Using the log, you can do deep cleaning on a specific day every 3-5 months or 6-12 months, but keeping things up daily and weekly might cut those spring cleanings down too. Even on a day when I’m doing deep seasonal cleaning, I can tell you I spend no more than 2 hours cleaning a 2-story, 2 bedrooms, and 2 bath home. On a regular day, I spend no more than 15 minutes to a half hour cleaning. Keep cleaning utensils (sponges, brushes, scrubbies) separated based on the room they’re used in; kitchen ones separate from bathroom ones. Don’t forget, after you’ve used them; clean the sponges and brushes and any other cleaning utensils you use too. Wash them out with soap and water, spray Lysol on them to disinfect, put sponges in the dishwasher with the load of dishes or in the microwave for 10-15 seconds (watch it closely, it can spark, so I stick to 10 minutes) to disinfect. The vacuum is like a magnet for dust and hair. Wipe it down after usage.
According to The Dr. Oz Show, the first room in your home that you should clean is the kitchen. The last room or rooms you should clean are the bathrooms. On an episode of The View, I found out that the place in your home that has the most germs and bacteria is the kitchen sink, which you will leave as the last thing to clean when you’re cleaning the kitchen. To cut down on oven and stove cleaning, I line the burners with aluminum foil. After the oven (if it’s needed) is cleaned out, I place cookie sheets on the racks and place whatever I’m cooking, a casserole dish, and deep rotisserie pot, on top of the cookie trays. This way, should they spill over, the mess lands on the cookie sheets. It’s much easier to take out and clean those sheets than it is to clean out the oven. Don’t forget to regularly clean the stove vents and the microwave. The microwave is the most neglected appliance in the kitchen. Think about how often you cook in that thing; compared to how often you clean it. Might you need to clean it more often? Lastly, to keep the disposal clean, egg shells sharpen the blades and citrus peels deodorizes it. For good measure, every month or so, I use the commercial item, Plinks to deodorize and disinfect the disposal for good measure.
Bathroom cleaning can take time but with a few simple measures you can cut cleaning time immensely. Another tip from The Dr. Oz Show, when the toilet is flushed, fecal matter can float through the air for up to 25 feet. Most bathrooms are smaller than that and no one thinks to clean off every item regularly, including dental care that often sits out in the open near by. Simply closing the toilet seat before flushing and keeping it shut regularly can cut down bacterial transfer quite a bit. (Imagine how much spreads around public bathrooms that don’t have toilet seats? Yuck.) Use Lysol Wipes to wipe down EVERYTHING IN THE BATHROOM, including all exposed dental items, hair care items, shaving and washing items, and then toss the used wipes away. Don’t forget the regulars, counter, sink, toilet (don’t miss the bottom part and back of the toilet) and walls. Another hypothetical question, how often do you clean the inside of the shower or the inside of the toilet? If it’s less than you should, you might want to take extra precautions to clean them. For example, spend one time really scrubbing that porcelain and then a daily shower cleaner spray as well as a daily toilet cleaner will maintain those. Also, it doesn’t take long to swipe the toilet brush around the bowl every day or, at the very least, every other day. Use soft scrub for the rings around the toilet and tub with elbow grease. Bleach water helps with ring stains.
Laundry is another area you can cut time and save money as well. (Coming soon is my article on keeping your wardrobe longer) For starters, part of saving money on wardrobe is using items that keep your clothes lasting longer. I choose a quality detergent that works well on stains and keeps colors well at the same time. You’re saving money in both cleaning them and keeping them longer. Other laundry product must haves are Woolite for Darks, a quality laundry booster, a good stain pre-treater, The Tide Pen or to-go stain treater, liquid fabric, bleach and a set of colored fabric markers. Firstly, to save energy and money on your gas bill, wash clothes before noon and after 7pm . I have my son help me sort the laundry into darks, brights, lights and whites. You can have your husband put a load in after he gets home from work and/or put a load in before he goes to work. My son also helps me stain treat and put them in. I use an alarm to remind me to change out the wash. I do other chores while waiting for the laundry. I get my hubby to help me fold and everyone puts away their own clothes. Now, I do get help with laundry by my hubby too. Often times, he does a load without my having to ask. In fact, he often does a load of dishes without my having to ask. I’m a lucky one, I know. However, it doesn’t hurt to ask your spouse to help you out. You’re a team, after all.
You may want to consider some home improvement work to cut down on cleaning efforts. Replacing carpets with wood floors cuts down on allergens like dust mites and using that allergen filled vacuum. At repainting time, use easy to clean paints. If you don’t have one, a dishwasher saves on time and water. Keeping any holes patched can help keep air, dust and bugs out. Hooking up a house water filter into your water pipes system saves hard water stains, as well as giving you fresh drinking water and fresh cleaning water out of every house faucet. A utility room with storage cabinets can be the central area for all cleaning needs. Finding ways to put more storage space in your home may help with those extra pesky items that are just left about. This seems like a lot, because I do like to be thorough when cleaning, but being thorough doesn’t have to be back breaking. However, making it fun with music (Sing a Happy Little Working Song! ~ Enchanted) and utilizing certain house work as exercise can make the time pass quicker. It’s no fun cleaning all the time. Make those plans and preparations so the task is much easier on you and your wallet, and maybe even make some wiggle room for some “me time.”