By Rhonda Barfield
It started with my friend Jackie telling me about her problem and how she solved it.
Like most of us, Jackie’s family had been living in their house for several years. They had an extra empty room that over time had become a catch-all for items they seldom used. After a couple of years, it was a cluttered mess.
Who wants to spend a weekend cleaning up an area like this?
Not Jackie. Instead, she decided to commit a small window of time each day to tackling one part of the room. She set a timer and got to work. When the buzzer sounded, she moved on to other work.
This story set me to thinking about spring cleaning—you know, the supposedly essential annual ritual of tackling all the dirt and grime we miss the rest of the year. Jackie’s approach appealed to me because I really dislike cleaning and always have. When my kids were growing up, I taught them to do the housework because I needed more time (see my article “Not Enough Hours in the Day?” in the March/April issue of Molly Green Magazine). But I also had an ulterior motive: to avoid spending an entire day occupied with a dust cloth, mop, and vacuum cleaner. What a horrible thought.
I wondered, instead, if spring cleaning could be done in small intervals. What if it could be avoided altogether by spreading the work out, throughout the year?
I tried this, and so far it’s worked for me. I wouldn’t say my house is spotless, but most people agree that it’s tidy and comfortable. Though my husband helps if needed, now that my kids are grown and gone, I do most of the cleaning myself.
Here’s what I find I can do in 15 minutes’ time:
• Quick-clean both bathroom sinks, toilets, and floors.
• Scrub down all the surfaces in two tubs and showers.
• Vacuum all the downstairs, including hard-to-reach areas.
• Dust and polish all wood furniture.
• Dust all the blinds in the house.
• Sweep and wet-mop the kitchen floor.
• Wipe down the kitchen sink, countertops, and outside of appliances.
I’ve found I can save myself a lot of time in the long run if I:
• Wipe down the stove top every night. I have a gas range, so immediately cleaning up or scouring spills is much more efficient.
• Wipe down the inside of the microwave, as needed. This is easy if I first microwave an open bowl of water for a minute or two before cleaning.
• Wipe down the inside of the refrigerator every week. I used to clear out all the leftovers in our refrigerator the day before shopping (and serve a leftovers buffet or homemade soup with the various foods that night). With the fridge relatively empty, it’s the perfect time to quickly clean it.
• Occasionally put the dish drainer in the dishwasher, with a cup of bleach, and run it through the heavy duty cycle. This works with all sorts of stained plastic and avoids scrubbing.
I’ve also discovered ways to make the dirty 15-minute jobs easier if I:
• Keep a list of quick jobs, such as spot cleaning the living room rug, and do one of them every time I spend half an hour on the phone.
• Put on music, set the timer, and move as fast as possible. The quick pace gets my blood flowing and makes me feel more positive.
• Tackle a job in stages. If I keep the window cleaner and squeegee handy, I can do a couple of windows each day.
• Use the cleaning time as a break from cerebral work. Then it seems more like a reward rather than a chore.
Jackie had a great idea with her ingenious plan for organizing her junk room. I’ve lost track of my friend, but if I ever see her again, I’ll have to tell her just how much this solution has impacted my life for the better. It has, after all, kept me from having to reserve an entire day for annual spring cleaning. Fifteen minutes a day makes much more sense to me.
- Spring Cleaning and a Decluttering Challenge
Rhonda is a former homeschool teacher and mother of four young adults. She’s authored five books—Real-Life Homeschooling: The Stories of 21 Families Who Teach Their Children at Home and four on saving money on groceries—plus over 120 articles. Rhonda also coaches students for WriteAtHome.com and teaches piano.