As a housewife, I am probably supposed to be fairly adept at housekeeping. You might be a little surprised to learn, however, that I actually stink at it. My best cleaning happens when the arrival of guests is imminent. Otherwise, the kitchen and bathrooms stay sanitary, and beds get made, and the floors are kept reasonably clean. I should dust more often, but I hate doing it. Window washing? Yeah, right. And we are never clutter-free.
This time of year feels right for cleaning, though. All of a sudden, I can open the windows and let fresh air blow away the dog smells and laundry funk that collects when the A/C runs constantly. It’s time to put away the collection of flip-flops and sunscreen bottles that are left about in easy-to-grab places. Some people call it fall nesting. I just think of it as an opportunity to take care of chores neglected when it was 90+ degrees for months at a time.
I do not claim to be a Heloise, a Martha Stewart, or cleaning and organizing blogger extraordinaire. I have, however, compiled a short list of advice about cleaning, acquired over my many years of maintaining a barely passably clean home.
- To properly clean window blinds, remove them from the brackets and…toss them directly into the trash can. Let’s face it. Blinds, especially, mini-blinds cannot be kept entirely clean. Period. Yes, you can turn the slats this way and that to dust them, but this must be done gently so as not to bend or break them. What happens if, let’s say just hypothetically, your blinds are shellacked with the dog drool that goes flying every time your beloved pet shakes his head? What if, again completely hypothetical here, the faux-wood blinds in your kitchen are coated with a hefty layer of grease and just might smell vaguely of bacon? Homekeeping experts will tell you that you simply need to remove the blinds and soak them in a bathtub filled with cleaning solution, swishing them back and forth a few times. Easy, right? This is dog drool we’re talking about, not cobwebs and baby powder. And did you ever try to towel off a set of blinds, or hang them somewhere to drip-dry?? Really, once they get so filthy you can’t stand it, replace them with something–anything–else.
- Bleach will never smell like anything besides bleach. There is no such thing as Spring Fresh or Citrus Breeze bleach. Straight out of the jug or mixed in with other spray cleaners, bleach cannot be camouflaged. So get ready to suffer a condition I call “bleach head.” After you have been confined in the shower with bleach fumes for even a few minutes, you will lose your ability to smell anything else, and your sinuses will sort of throb. It’s not painful, nor is it permanent. But for an hour or so after exposure, you will feel as though your head has swelled to 3 times its normal size.
- Pets are the domestic enemy of housekeeping. There is not a vacuum cleaner or lint roller on earth that can remove cat hair from floors and furniture completely. Wet dog nose prints will reappear as soon as you’ve cleaned them from floors, windows, and door knobs. If you have pets, your home will never be spotless.
- Still on the topic of pets, if you have them, reconsider carpeting. Some primal instinct in cats directs them to seek out carpet when they feel an attack of hairball coming on. I’ve seen this with my own eyes. And dog paws will always leave dirty tracks on your carpet, no matter how well you think you have cleaned them. You can train your dog to wait patiently by the door while you scrub his paws with a strategically placed beach towel–hypothetically again–and still you will acquire a traffic pattern on your carpet particular to your dog.
- Kids. We all know I could just leave it at that. Every age and every stage of childhood comes with its own cleaning challenges. Teenagers, who are perfectly capable or completing any cleaning task on their own, are…well…deficient. Some may clean their rooms upon request or do the chore you nag them about. Left to their own devices, though, teens have about the same impact on housekeeping as toddlers. They are always and everywhere eating. They have way too much stuff to keep track of; and they will take and lose your car keys.
So there you have it. That’s my best advice on housekeeping. In summary: put it off until you can’t stand it anymore; toss out anything that’s too complicated to clean; give up if you have pets or kids.