I haven't cleaned in a month. That is, I hadn't cleaned in a month until Monday. It's not really true that I didn't clean at all. It would be more accurate to say that I abandoned my cleaning schedule. Until Monday when I attempted to reinstate it. It went well, although some of us (I shan't name names) might have been a mite traumatized that we couldn't be rocked all the live long day.
I'm glad I didn't clean for a month because it showed me two things:
1) If it doesn't get done one week, no big deal! Everyone lived through it and the house didn't even look that bad. In the past I've had weeks where I wondered "what am I doing?" as I dusted furniture that did not appear to have dust on it and vacuumed floors that seemed perfectly clean. However, I also learned...
2) There's a reason that I do it weekly. Even though missing one week (or even a few weeks) really doesn't make a big difference, keeping the mess at bay is definitely the way to go, I thought as I breathed in a month's worth of settled dust.
I think about cleaning a lot. I think that's partially because I didn't grow up being a "cleaner". You know the type. The ones who, no sooner than you've pickup up your cup off of the counter to take a sip, they've got a rag underneath wiping up the ring. Those people.
Because I didn't grow up like that, I still sometimes feel like a stranger in a foreign land when it comes to keeping house. I don't always know the "right" way to do something, if there is a right way. I might not even know an acceptable way, and sometimes I'm at a complete loss. One thing I find constantly baffling is the shower. How often should I clean it? And is it ever clean? I recognize when it's dirty (like it is right now) but I'm doubtful whether it's ever actually clean. Our grout is horribly stained. It's possible that it's 40 years old with 40 years of mildew stains. It doesn't encourage me in my cleaning efforts when I've scrubbed it down and it still looks dingy.
But, I digress. What I wanted to say was that I think a lot about cleaning and I've stumbled on some principles that have really helped me transform from a slob into a Crazy Cleaning Lady (I'm not saying that this is necessarily a metamorphosis that one should undertake. I mean it's good to have a clean house. But becoming a Crazy Cleaning Lady is fraught with its own set of problems. Namely, your family and friends might suddenly appear to be mess-making machines whom it is your destiny to destroy with lasers.)
1) Habits. Small habits. I love habits and routines. LOVE THEM. These are words that I never thought I'd be typing. When I was building a cleaning schedule I started one habit at a time. Now there are a few things that I automatically do daily. I usually dust mop the kitchen every night. At least every night that I cook because those are the nights that tend to result in crumbs on the floor. Sometimes I think "I'm not going to dust mop, I'm too tired." But it's so ingrained now that before I even know what I'm doing I've gotten the mop out and dusted the kitchen. Habits! They can trick you into doing things that you don't want to do! Yay!
2) Cleaning schedules are good. This is just another habit. But the main thing here is doing things like vacuuming even when the carpet doesn't necessarily look dirty. You're doing it according to schedule not necessarily according to need. By the time it looks dirty, the dust bunnies have already won. It's easier to tidy up when there's only minimal mess, is what I'm saying. This might be obvious to the average person but it eluded me for approximately 25 years.
3) Know the minimum level of cleanliness that you can tolerate. This was really helpful for me to think about as I was preparing for a new baby. I knew there would be a time that I couldn't maintain my ideal schedule. So, knowing what I should focus on helped me to keep cleaning to a minimum but also not go insane. For me I settled on three things: 1) Keep stuff picked up. I hate clutter. 2) Keep counters wiped down and 3) Don't let floor get too gritty. So this means that I continued wiping counters, dust moping and picking up after myself (and a few other people) almost daily. But for the past month I haven't moped, dusted, vacuumed or scrubbed the shower regularly. I also took a break from my monthly tasks of dusting baseboards, wiping down cabinetry and bleaching out trashcans. And no one seemed repulsed by the filth that ensued so I'm sure it wasn't actually that bad. (Not even I thought it was that bad.)
And now, without even intending to, I've gone and written a treatise on cleaning. So, I'll save the rest of my thoughts for later. This has to be one of the least interesting posts I've ever written but I tell you, I have to have an outlet for all these thoughts that are clanging around in my brain like tin cans. It gets quite distracting!
And now I'm going to go scrub the shower.