Cleaning tips from the cleaning obsessed

I’m a self-professed clean freak, and I am proud of it.* I am proud when someone comes over and comments on how clean the house is. One time I had a friend swipe his finger over a chandelier during a party, and he was amazed to find no dust. And I was beaming. I have had people ask what the secret is. My house is about 2,700 square feet, and it’s a good amount of space to keep clean.

I do have a few tips I’ll share:

= Clean from the top down. Nothing worse than getting the dining room table perfect only to remember I hadn’t yet cleaned the chandelier. Doh. Start at the top, and the dirt that misses the rag works its way down.

= Clean the floors next to last, for the reasons mentioned above. And clean the kitchen or utility sink last, because you’ll have to use it to rinse all kinds of dirty rags and mops, etc.

= Clean everything. Everything gets dirty. Baseboards. Light switches. Baseboards. Tops of cabinets. Baseboards. Air vents. Baseboards. Behind the TV. Everything everything everything (baseboards).

= Have cool cleaning toys.

Must haves:

Pledge multi-surface cleaner (if you ever wondered “What do I clean that with?” wonder no more.).
Swiffer wet jet. I love the smell of the cleaner, and it’s an easy way to do a quick wipe-down of the hard floors.
Swiffer duster. Perfect for high reaching areas (fans) and delicate items (trinkets)
Method anything. My current favorite is lavendar scented. I used to use cucumber scent. Love it all.
Music. Cheesy romantic stuff, played very loud. Makes cleaning fun, every time.

Add to the wish list:

Roomba. I use mine twice a day, especially when the dogs are inside. Great for the daily cleanings.
Hoover hard floor cleaner. This takes a long time to use, so I don’t break it out all the time, but it works well. Three coats of cleaning x 2 = vaccuum setting, wet mop setting, wet pickup gunk setting. Repeat with the grout brushes for floors you can eat off of.

= Clean often. Do a deep clean every 2 weeks. Do a quick clean of the most-frequented/messy areas once or twice a day (at my house, that’s the living room, the kitchen, and the offices).

= You don’t have to clean everything, every time. I don’t clean my windows every time I clean (they often get neglected way longer than I’d like to admit.) I might forget to dust the pot rack sometimes. I don’t always clean the inside of the cabinets. Just don’t neglect any one thing for too long – trust me, if you do, you’ll regret it.

= Have a place for everything. If you know where it goes, you don’t have to waste time thinking of where to put it. Go to Ikea and get lots of fun storage options if you need help!

= Clean bathroom items such as soap dishes, toothbrush holders, etc. in the dishwasher. No need to scrub. Do not put a liquid soap dispenser in the dishwasher, even a seemingly empty one. The liquid soap left over will bubble over and out of your dishwasher – you’ll have a bigger mess than you started with.

= Don’t get overwhelmed. Make a list of what needs to be done if you feel like it’s neverending – as you cross items off, you’ll feel very productive. Play games with yourself if you want (“By the time this load of laundry is done, I will have two bathrooms cleaned” …)

= Section off the cleaning. I split it between downstairs and upstairs, not moving onto one until the other is completely clean. Within the floors, I then section by job – will do all the dusting in all the rooms, then all the wiping down in all the rooms, all the bathrooms, etc. …

= Sometimes, settle in for the long haul. Occasionally warranted are those cleanings that require you to take every book off the shelf instead of dusting around them, or the cleanings that require you to reorganize the closets or scrub the grout by hand. And during those cleanings, expect to see a little progress at a time – and expect to spend hours or days getting it all done. And it’ll be so worth it at the end. In fact, I’m in the middle of doing one as I write this blog post. This tip I thought of as I scrubbed the sticker off of the bottom of some candleholders I got for my birthday about 3 years ago … I’d say that was long overdue! I also found some painters tape underneath a window sill … that room was painted about 6 years ago.

= Don’t be afraid to get help. I read in a magazine somewhere that 3,000 square feet is the point at which a house becomes unmanageable to clean by one’s self. That’s really not that big. Add to it other responsibilities, and if you need to have someone come in once or twice a month to do a deep clean, there is nothing wrong with that. However, I will say this: I had a cleaning service come in once a month for about a year, when I was working a job that required 70+ hours a week. Three things happened that led to me getting rid of them: a) they got all the credit for my clean house, when really, it was cleaner before and after they were hired; b) I started cleaning behind them, their definition of “deep clean” was clearly different than mine; and c) the last time a cleaning lady came to the house, she called me downstairs to say, “I just have one question: Where’s the dirt?” At that point I realized I was paying $70/hour for something I was doing myself already.

= If all else fails, plan a dinner party. I mean, we all know we clean better if we know people are coming over to see the house, right? Although the dishes after may feel counterproductive.

*Note: I wasn’t always this clean. Former roommates can attest to that. I think cleaning is an acquired taste!