One of my 2019 goals was to find a way to slowly bring our current house into reasonable order. As it is with any partnership, I am the partner that becomes more unsettled when things are cluttered or untidy, and so I wanted to find a way to do everything I wanted to do without becoming resentful of the husband, who may not feel the need to clean/organize as often or as thoroughly as I do.
A book that kept popping up as a recommendation on Amazon as well as in Goodreads (thanks targeted marketing!) was Unfuck Your Habitat by Rachel Hoffman. I caught it on a Kindle deal and figured that just like any self help tome, it had to have at least three useful takeaways that would help me move forward. In this way, UYH did not disappoint.
TAKEAWAY #1: Stop Marathon Cleaning
I tend to want the entire house to be clean all at once. The dream is to walk through it as though it was a model home, marveling at all of my hard work and how good everything smells. This is not reality and more likely than not I see all the things I need to do (oh god the walk in shower tiles…) and then my mind simply gives up. But once in awhile, if someone is coming to visit or I’ve just had enough, I clean as much as I can all at once, which continues my bad relationship with housekeeping and tires me out, making it certain that it will be awhile before I get around to any of the maintenance type things again.
So I am taking Hoffman’s marathon cleaning suggestion to heart. I have slowly been cleaning in little ways every day. For example today I sprayed down half the shower with a bleach foam cleaner and then scrubbed and rinsed it away. Did it get up everything in the first try? No, but tomorrow I can spray it again and get a little more. Dusting is another culprit, one that I have started attacking with a single Lysol wipe. If I’m waiting for something or bored I get up and grab a Lysol wipe and start cleaning the tops of things I don’t think about. When the wipe is completely dirty or whatever I’ve been waiting on is ready, I stop. I don’t have to dust the entire house all at once.
I do a good job with doing the dishes, vacuuming, laundry, the regular type stuff, but the rest I am going to start tackling just a little bit each day. Counters, dusting, even power washing the pool deck – a little bit each week, each day and eventually it’ll all be a reasonable 2 minute chore I do and it’s done.
TAKEAWAY #2: Don’t Put It Down, Put It Away
Our house is very tiny, and the living room and kitchen are separated by a breakfast bar type countertop that also hosts the dishwasher and sink on the kitchen side. We don’t use the breakfast bar for eating, but we do use it for setting everything down. Right now there is a bag of bananas from the grocery delivery, a box of dog dental treats, a pint-sized personal ice cream maker, a dirty Nalgene bottle, and an empty seal-top container (the kind that pops up a thing that you push back down to seal it closed). All of those things have homes that are not on this counter, but there they sit because that’s where they were set. When I’m done typing this I’m going to get up and put them away.
I mentioned earlier I’m good about doing laundry. That’s true, until I have to put it away. I don’t usually put it away as well as I wash, dry, and get it into my laundry basket. Honestly I’m considering getting rid of the laundry basket because that would force me to put away my laundry right out of the dryer with no place else to put it. Putting the laundry down but not away is my worst habit, I think. I throw trash away, I put books back on shelves, I keep my side table clear…it’s the small knick knack stuff and that damn laundry.
My current mantra is “don’t put it down, put it away” or alternately “where is its home?” and my depression thanks me for keeping the clutter to a minimum.
TAKEAWAY #3: Do A Little Every Day
I am a completionist. This makes me at risk for marathon cleaning. I hate to do a job halfway. So what I’ve been trying to do is just clean part of something, and later clean the other part of it. Maybe today I just vacuum the livingroom rug, and tomorrow I vacuum down the hallway. Dusting just one room. Doing even one thing every day makes everything better.
I’m already starting to notice certain things becoming a routine. It’s nothing for me to grab a Lysol wipe and just walk around a room wiping off surfaces and picture frames. I run a Lysol wipe over the toilet surfaces every night and squirt in some cleaner before I go to bed. I’m vacuuming more often, doing the dishes faster, and noticing cleaner counters and cleaner air the longer I work on these life skills.
It’s ok to do a small bit every day as long as whatever you do gets finished. This viewpoint is really making cleaning and organizing much less intimidating for me, which means I’m more likely to do it.
I’ve been putting many of the tips in this book into practice for the past 3 weeks or so, and I can report that I am noticing a big difference. Every little bit helps. Even on days when I am fighting a depressive episode, I find that simply dusting the picture frames in the hallway or throwing away a few pieces of trash makes me feel accomplished, like I am fighting the effects of depression with action. A great strength of this book is that it takes mental health into consideration when offering suggestions for regular housekeeping, and offers suggestions for those with both mental health struggles and physical disabilities.
My house isn’t as cluttered and the small cleaning tasks are ones I can keep up with as I move through the house square foot by square foot, day by day, bringing things back to square one so that I can maintain them in 5 minutes a day instead of hours all at one time once a month. Doing this in a better way has improved my moods and made me feel more productive and sane at home. I strongly recommend this book if you want to change how you approach housekeeping. Take what works for or applies to you and leave the rest, skip around and find ways to make your home more comfortable and clean.
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