Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Five-Minute Fix: How to Clean Your House with Five Minutes

I am thankful for a lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutters that need fixing because it means I have a home.... I am thankful for the piles of laundry and ironing because it means my loved ones are nearby.

~Nancie J. Carmody

Overwhelmed by clutter? No time or energy to clean it up? Try this easy approach, which will change things while your loved ones are nearby, underfoot, and making messes every moment of the day.

Pick one area of the house that is bothering you. Start with an area that is:

  • not too difficult to clean, but which definitely needs help
  • a place where you spend a lot of time

For example, you should not pick the garage. Typically, this requires a major overhaul of large and heavy items, old objects which must be removed altogether, and tasks requiring the help of your spouse. It's way too complicated and too far away from where you spend most of your time. Good choices are: the kitchen, the family room, the school room, the dining room.

Once you have selected your spot, go small. Really small. Like Alice in Wonderland, you can shrink the job by taking very small bites of it. Whenever you have 5 minutes, you can clean one small section or put away one object. Try to do this at least three times a day, after each meal. While you do this, you can also hand one object to each child and ask them to put it where it belongs, if this is appropriate and doesn't complicate the job too much.

Let's pretend you chose your kitchen. To shrink the job, you choose that small counter with the phone. You are only interested in that counter right now. At one five-minute interval, you move the school papers to your learning area. For the second five-minute chore, you move the science and art supplies from the counter. Over the third five-minute cleaning spree, you wipe off and straighten the cookbooks and throw out those old recipe papers you never used anyway. So you don't lose the progress you just made, you put something on the counter top to keep family from piling more stuff there -- a potted plant, a bowl of fruit, even a sheet of aluminum foil will work. Be sure to tell them not to put anything there.

The next three five-minute spots let you: clean the counter top thoroughly; clean the phone ( our phones always get grimy); and clean the cabinet doors above and below it. Now the counter is clean and pleasant. For the next few days, leave the potted plant, bowl of fruit, or other object on the counter to remind family members (including yourself) to avoid piling stuff there. Keep you cleaning supplies handy for your next task.

Each day, you can attend to three things in the next area of the kitchen for five minutes at the time. Work your way around the room until the entire kitchen is clean and tidy. Continue to put decorative items on counter tops to keep family members from piling stuff there. While you are doing your five-minute job, you may also be able to get your kids to work on the dishes -- unloading and loading the dishwasher, and even washing the pots and pans. If this becomes too much of a distraction, then don't try to do both at the same time.

As you begin seeing clean areas, you can celebrate your small achievements by placing a decorative item in each newly cleaned area. Let yourself enjoy the new results and the progress. You can play a favorite piece of music or light a candle during your cleaning chores. This reminds you that you are doing more than attending to a mess, you are building a place of beauty and peace in your life.

You may discover that there are many five minute spots in your day where you can do a bit more. Although you won't want to fill them all with cleaning, you may choose to use 2 or 3 of them that way and move the job along faster. Use those minutes on the phone during light conversation or while waiting for the family to sit down for supper to clean one more thing. Where you notice larger chunks of spare time -- 10, 15, or 20 minutes -- you can use those for your kitchen. After a week or two, the kitchen exterior will be clean -- without the need to schedule the cleaning time or find the extra energy and focus for a big job.

It won't take long for you to begin feeling much better about your house and to begin feeling a sense of hope and momentum. Before long, you' ll realize that your cabinets need to be better organized if you are going to maintain your new kitchen. Those can be fixed -- five minutes at the time -- in the same way.

More on this tomorrow!


Want to join me in applying the five-minute fix to your frustrations? I hope you will. Tell me what you choose to work on. Feel free to ask me any questions you have about your project.

The Five-Minute Fix, copyright 2009 by Cassandra Frear.

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