Monday, November 2, 2015

The Cleaning Diary of an Oklahoma Housewife

Having a home full of kiddos and dogs, one of the most common questions I'm asked is:

How do you keep your house clean? 

While I appreciate that the question implies my house is always clean, I have to laugh inside every time I'm asked because truth be told, I hardly EVER deep clean. I'm sure if you tested my cleaning practices against others, I would look like the ultimate slacker! Either way, I'm happy to appease the curiosity of those who have been wondering how I do it. But, before I get into how I clean it, I think its best to explain why I clean it.

Now, before you decide that the "why" isn't important and skip to the bottom where I tell you about the "how," keep in mind that no matter how many tips you read or routines you try, if you don't find or know the purpose behind what you're doing, it will be really hard for you to take ownership of it. Let's be honest, its hard to be motivated to do something that looks like a complete waste of time.

So, take a moment and ask yourself...

Why do (or don't) I keep my house clean?

I asked myself that same question several years ago.  My original thought attributed most of my cleanliness to how I was raised.  I figured since my mom always kept our house in order, that must be why I do the same. While there is truth in that, it doesn't fully get to the heart of it... and I have a problem stopping at the surface... So I began to really search my heart and decide why something so simple, that EVERYONE does, was worth my time.

Here is the Sparknotes version:

1. Thankful Heart

"Every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights..."
(James 1:17).  

Respecting our stuff is a big thing in the Rettedal house. It doesn't matter how much it costs or how big it is; the kids are responsible for taking care of their stuff so it not only lasts, but that they feel appreciative for what they have.  What we are trying to instill in them is the principle that everything is a gift, not deserved. The love, grace and blessings we receive from the Lord are GIFTS... including tangible things such as our home. If we begin to obtain the mindset that we earned things or become possessive over items, we are more prone to be ungrateful, greedy and/or even justify our behavior in not taking care of our things by thinking that they are ours to neglect. With a constant reminder that God is our provider, it keeps in focus that our home is something to be respected and grateful for; resulting in taking care of it.

2. Hospitality

"... and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work..." (1 Timothy 5:10). 

Our family loves people and truly thrives on being around others. There is something so fulfilling about opening up our home to serve people. With that being said, I feel it only appropriate to make sure the environment is comfortable, tidy and inviting, in hopes that every time someone leaves our house after an extended visit, dinner party or an impromptu playdate, he/she understands that they are important, loved and worth the "work."

3. Taking Delight in Serving My Family

"... She works with willing hands...  She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness." (Proverbs 31: 13, 27)

Piggybacking off of "hospitality," is this idea of serving my own family. My husband works well over forty hours a week, plus puts in additional fifteen to twenty hours for school. The last thing I would want him to do is come home and have to go grocery shopping or fold laundry; after all, I am the one who has been blessed with the opportunity to stay home so I am able to do those things. I feel as though one of my responsibilities as a wife and help mate is to maintain a clean and orderly house which allows my husband the opportunity to come home and just relax (well... as much as he can with four children who can't get enough of him).  I personally take delight in knowing that I am able to support and serve him just by taking care of things such as the home and the kids so he is able to focus on his job and God's calling on his life.

So there you have it...
Now that you've persevered and endured the excruciating "why," I'll tell you the "how!" 

Here are some of my tips:
  • Tidy as you go. I cannot emphasize enough how important this is. I promise you, if you sort your mail as you get it or implement a rule for toys to be put away after they are done being played with, you will instantly notice how much cleaner your house feels. As the clutter adds up, the more tidying becomes a big project rather than a simple task. Don't let those piles become overwhelming! 
  • Keep a clean kitchen. Like many people, there is no denying that I spend most of my time in the kitchen when I'm home. From cooking to doing homework with the kids, it is the most frequently used space in our house. That being said, it is most susceptible to crumbs, marker and dirty dishes. This makes it all the more important to clean as we go. Even as I'm cooking, I'm putting things away when I'm done and putting the dirty dishes in the dishwasher. Again, this eliminates being such a big project when I'm done. I'll be honest with you, after we put the kids down for bed, the last thing I want to do is go back to the kitchen to make lunches for the next day, empty/fill the dishwasher and wipe counters. But finally sitting down to enjoy my hubby is that much more rewarding and relaxing when I know that my work in the kitchen is done for the day. It also starts my day off on a joyful note when I can walk into my kitchen and grab my morning coffee without seeing any clutter or projects to do. 
  • Make your bed every morning. So simple, I know, but it makes a world of difference! There was an article out a few years ago that said those who kept an orderly master bedroom were in better moods in the morning. I have to agree. I can't stand our bedroom being a mess, but when it comes down to it, its the state of the bed that really determines my mood. I can have an extremely clean bedroom, but if the bed is a mess thats all I see. I just feel more "put together" for the day when I can walk out of my room with my pillows all in place. (The "rule" in our marriage is the last one up makes the bed. Granted, thats not always the case, but its a good habit to form that as soon as you get up, make it.)
  • Empty the trash.  I am super guilty of overstuffing the trash- especially the kitchen. It seems like such a hassle for some reason to do it. And just like the messy bed, if we have an overflowing bathroom trash, I might as well have not cleaned the toilet for a week either. The whole space just feels dirty. So get those trash bags out and just empty!!!
  • Invest in a SwifferVac. Y'all, I'm telling you the investment is worth it. Especially if you are trying to keep a tidy kitchen, this will help you. Instead of getting out the big bulky vacuum that you have to plug in, unplug this lightweight guy from the charger, clean up the few crumbs you made cooking and plug right back in. It's also great to do a quick vacuum job on the main floor in your house right before guests arrive.
  • Schedule your cleanings, but with flexibility.  I cannot stand having to clean every day. So to avoid that, I pick one day a week (usually towards the end of the work week) that I will devote to cleaning the house. I try to pick a day with nothing else going on and the least amount of kids in the house, keeping in mind that it changes from week to week. Knowing what day I'm cleaning on helps me relax and not think about it any other day of the week, but also helps me mentally prepare for that day; knowing when I wake up that I should just get started to get it over with. I also have this mindset with monthly or annual cleaning projects. If you plan ahead, it won't creep up on you and possibly overwhelm you. Below is a link to my "Home Maintenance Schedule." Feel free to use it as a guideline, but please adjust it to your lifestyle, personality and house!!!

(Click here to download the full document)

Please keep in mind, I am a simple housewife and do NOT have all the answers. 
All I can do is share my experience with you in hopes that it may help you in some way! Blessings!!!