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Home Rule

Use Spare Moments to Clean the House

January 30, 1986|BONNIE McCULLOUGH | McCullough, based in Colorado, is the author of four books on home management.

If the house is a mess, get out of the mess the easy way. There is a technique to recovery.

If the mess is causing you to feel down, cheer up yourself as quickly as possible by doing a chore that shows. Don't begin in the closet. Tackle something easy.

I often teach people to start picking up the house in the living room for that good first impression. As you walk into the house, if the first vision is of neatness, it gives you energy and freedom.

I live in Colorado and woke up one morning to find that there was a snow alert. One of our cars was broken, which meant that I, being the parent with a flexible work schedule, had to drive everyone to work and school. The unusual rush caused the house to be a bigger mess than usual.

Even on a good day the house gets messed in the morning. If you were to count the number of items used in the house each hour, peak usage would probably be early morning.

Rooms Begging for Attention

Every room seemed to be begging for attention. I had several 10-minute breaks between drives. A quick look around told me that if I emptied the dishwasher, I could put away the dishes from evening snacks and breakfast. I worked as fast as I could. When I had to rush out again to deliver the next child to school, the main counter was clean and the whole kitchen looked 80% better. Two tricks worked for me there--pinpointing the roadblock and selecting a task where the results were very visible.

On my second layover, I had another 10 minutes. This time I targeted the family room. I started with the biggest things first: newspapers, cushions and afghans. Then I picked up paper scraps and toys so that I could begin vacuuming. I only got half finished with the sweeper, but as I turned to glance at the room as I left for another delivery, it was rewarding to see how much better that room looked.

As I came home to grab my aerobic shoes, I took a minute to make my bed. That brought my bedroom up to an acceptable rating. After exercise class, I straightened the bathroom as I worked my way out; wiping down the shower and polishing the chrome. By the time I sat down to work at the typewriter, my house was in pretty good shape. It was because I used those spare moments.

Don't wait until you have a big block of time for housework. Use what you have. To give it five minutes of attention is better than nothing. Don't let the big job overwhelm you.

One time, during my early efforts to get organized, I was sitting in a class and the teacher asked us to list jobs that could be done in 10 minutes. The only one I could think of was empty the trash. At the time, my mind grouped work into big jobs. For example, I figured that cleaning the living room was an hour chore. And, if I did not have an hour to spend on it, I didn't do anything at all. Then I learned that I could divide the surface cleaning for the room into three parts: picking up, dusting and vacuuming.

Break Up Big Projects

I have retrained my thinking process and I break big projects into little projects. Now, in three different 10-minute opportunities I can have that living room in order. In just 10 minutes I can wipe out the microwave, scour a sink, polish a mirror, fold a batch of clothes or straighten a drawer.

Busy women and men survive by breaking down big jobs into little jobs and using free moments whenever they can. It's better to do a little, especially when talking about housework, than nothing at all. If you do, spare minutes will add up.

Don't save anything for later that you can do now. Every time you go into a room, make it better. Place the lid on the toothpaste or straighten a towel. Even a little improvement will make you feel good. It increases the time between deep cleanings. Don't wait for enough time to clean the whole room. Place the item in your hand where it belongs--in the drawer or on the shelf--don't just toss it on the bed.

Try writing a list of nine things you could do in 10 minutes. And, if you do them, you can save yourself 1 1/2 hours cleaning time this week.

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