Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Practical Ideas to Cleaning (Try 'em out!)

I'm feeling that my Spring Cleaning Post (see below) was pretty tough (but true), and that some people just want ideas. Believe me, I have wondered what it is, exactly, my parents did to me to change me from a clutter-prone, messy, moderately hoarding teen to the minimalist who delights in a "fresh linen" scented home I am today. I have come to realize, through meditation (in the form of completing seemingly simple, mundane tasks) that I have a list of dialogues going through my head. Through persistence and enthusiasm (oh, the enthusiasm), my parents taught me these things over and over to the fact that they became as automatic as brushing my teeth or putting on lipstick (another post for another time). I've added some of my own, too. Enjoy!

*Think about the ENERGY—mental, time, etc—it takes to keep this item. You have to see it, store it, move it, clean it, hold onto it, think about it, stumble across it. . . Is it worth the time and energy?

Keeping an item you “might need” prevents something NEW and BEAUTIFUL and MEANINGFUL from taking its place. This less important item has weight in your life. Is it worth it? Do you want a home full of things you might need, or a few things you are crazy about and love?!

Start by organizing and cleaning a place just for YOU. Pick up a copy of Virginia Woolfe’s A Room of One’s Own or Simple Abundance. Make this area in the home special and meaningful to you. Your favorite place.

Smell: Choose a cleaning product you love light a candle, essential oil, something invigorating or relaxing.
Sound: Put on your favorite music while you clean.
Touch: Use cleaning materials that feel good on your skin, or protect yourself when you have to use the heavy-duty stuff.
Taste: Reward yourself with a treat while you clean (gum, chocolate, soda)
Sight: Declutter—make it look like you really cleaned! Create a space YOU LOVE.

These items should be a few, treasured items stored in a proper place. Pre-set a limit and stick to it. Or take a photo of it (or scan it) and store it on your computer. For example, one box of school projects per year=12+ boxes of “school work” for each child. When they leave home, what are they going to do with 12+boxes of pictures and papers? (I have one plastic tub for grade school and middle school, and then a second for high school)

For example, if you’re cooking and you take out the vanilla, you put it in the mix, then put it back in the cupboard. Immediately. Don’t set it down to put away later, don’t movie it to the side. Don’t put it down. Touch it once.

5 Minute Tasks:
Break down your weekly cleaning chores into short, daily, 5 minute tasks. Do one or two a day. Do it during a commercial break or while you’re talking on the phone.

Home Maintenance:

Does everything have ONE convenient place? Make cleaning and organization simple enough for a 5 year-old to do by making sure everything has a regular place. One place for shoes, one place for pens, one place for important papers, one place for bills.

The less junk you have, the less you have to clean. When it doubt, throw it away! If you’re reluctant to do this, keep a box in the garage and throw stuff out there, and every 2 weeks, throw what’s in there out.

Fill out notecards for every cleaning task you want done.
For example: “Clean the downstairs Bathroom” has a list of items like:
*Spray cleaner on sink/around faucet and base and scrub clean
*Spray cleaner around top, seat, and base of toilet—wipe down
*Put toilet clean in bowl/scrub around sides
*Spray shower with cleaner/wipe down all faucets, walls
*Wipe down floor
*Windex mirror with paper towel
*Take out garbage/replace liner
Give these cards TO OTHER PEOPLE. Then, they know when they’re “done.”

Check out “I want you to let go of your perfectionism because that is what has been stopping you dead in your tracks and just get up and do something.” –flylady

Start with a place for everything. Make a specific list of everything you need to clean out (laundry room, boys’ closet, kitchen cabinet under sink, etc.) Then do the “Clean Sweep Plan:” Get three boxes or bags:
1. throw away
2. keep
3. give away or sell
As you go from room to room, put everything in one of three piles. Make it easy on yourself and, when in doubt: Throw It Away!

Throw away 20 things a day.


  1. Yay! Love this post. I love having a clean and organized home. I love how your tips are focused on the mental process around cleaning/organizing rather than the 'use this cleaning product" because it's the mental stuff that prevents us from doing anything :)

  2. Oh, Lisa. . .you would be my perfect wife. We have such the same philosophies. I was just making my "spring cleaning" list today, inspired by your recent post. And I REALLY wish my husband would catch on to the touch it once rule. Are you reading, JOSH? I know you are.

  3. Once again, this is too fabulous! Thanks for your great thoughts and as I just mentioned on my blog, I'm going to quit writing and just link to you. Thanks again!

  4. so so hard. I am trying to get my mother (84) to do this so we can sell her house and she can "down size" Love it or Lose it I say, but she tells me 1.I love everything. 2.I might need it, as sure as I throw it away I will need it. She will NOT change her philosophy.

  5. This is so great! I'm going to post it on Facebook for others to see. You make it seem less painful to clean. Yes, I think it's "painful" :)

  6. To be honest I have never read post like yours to make think about the cleaning this way. Now I will handle my move in cleaning much easier.

  7. Touch it once? That might change my life.

  8. Oh, I am so trying to do this. My house is a total disaster and I really need to fix it.

  9. You are awesome. I am inspired. While cleaning and getting rid of a lot of my stuff (which was awesome and I want to clean out more), my mother offered to store things for me if I didn't have room and wasn't sure if I needed to keep it - so at least I know where I get it from.

  10. I love this! I feel inspired to grab a diet coke, some hersheys chocolate eggs, and get going on some cleaning.

  11. Thanks for all the encouragement! I really do this stuff. Like today I put on a Vanilla coconut home fragrance oil, turned up some good music really loud, and cleaned as much of the house that I could in 30 minutes. I like to dare myself.

    I got the bathrooms scrubbed, kitchen wiped down, then my sister called so I emptied the dishwasher, dusted, windexed the mirrors and some windows, Then, a leprechaun left me a diet coke with lime on my doorstep which gave me the incentive to vacuum really quickly! 30 minutes is my "big cleaning day."

    I'm just imagining what I could do if I had some hershey's chocolate eggs. . . that's powerful stuff.

  12. Another good idea is to do your Spring Cleaning in sexy outfits!

  13. this post rocked my world, major "aha" moments happening... now just to apply it all! thanks so much, and i hope you don't mind i linked to you today:)

  14. Do you have a laundry system?

  15. I love this list, Lisa! And Topher's helpful suggestion.

  16. Thank you Thank you Thank you for this wonderful post. This is exactly what I needed to do some Major organization and throw out from my house.

  17. You know, I hate cleaning, and I never do it, but this post was actually inspiring.

  18. Love this blog, keep up the great work wish you all the best.....
    selling a house privately

  19. You know, I come back here and read these posts you wrote whenever I need home-keeping inspiration.