How to Learn the Art of Housekeeping

Whatever you call it, housekeeping, homemaking, or just plain cleaning, keeping a home clean should be a primary concern for every homeowner. If you plan on entertaining, having a clean house is an essential first step towards making a good impression. If your home is your sanctuary, you’ll want a neat, refreshing place to relax. Fortunately, learning how to keep a house clean and organized is a skill that can be self-taught.

The first thing you’ll want to do is to organize a schedule for cleaning, organizing, and upkeep. There are many options out there, the simplest being a list of chores that need to be accomplished. I recommend that everyone have at least this basic list at hand. Go room to room and list everything, down to the finest detail, that needs to be done to upkeep that room. Also, make a note of how often the task should be completed. You can break down the list by room and frequency, and then you have an upkeep schedule.

Now that you have your schedule and routine set, you can move onto the second function, setting yourself up to clean. You’ll want to have the right amount of cleaning tools and supplies. Use just as many supplies as you actually need, not more or less. Make sure to always keep them on hand.

For cleaning supplies, I use a solution of equal parts vinegar and water as a general cleaner. Vinegar cuts through grease and dirt, and putting the solution in a new spray bottle makes it easy to apply. Baking soda mixed with a tiny bit of water makes a good scrubbing powder, and is gentler than most store bought cleaners. Baking soda and vinegar, when used together, clean drains and make stinky garbage disposals a little easier to bear. The only products I buy at the store are toilet bowl cleaner, dish and dishwasher soap, and laundry detergent. I keep these on hand, as well as vinegar, baking soda and bleach. (Instead of a laundry softener, I use dryer balls.)

I’ve invested in good quality (though not necessarily expensive) tools. I use a good broom, vacuum, lots of rags, (which are easy enough to clean), a scrubber brush, a toilet brush, and rubber gloves. I also use old toothbrushes, a box of toothpicks, and a brush for washing dishes. I bought a scrape to scrape pans with, and use that with the green scrubbing pads for stuck on food on dishes. If you are allergic to dust, as I am, you can use a dust mask to help with dusty jobs like cleaning vents and fans.

The third step is organization. Make sure clutter is picked up regularly and stored well. Storage should make sense to you, be in an easy to access place, and look nice. Everything should have a home, but more importantly, you should know where to find anything. Paperwork should be filed, and files should be weeded out weekly or monthly to prevent clogged folders. Mail should be sorted and acted upon as soon as it enters the home. It’s a good idea to have a place for mail that needs to be acted upon. There are lots of resources to help you get organized, so look some up if you have problems in this area.

The last function of cleaning a house is, well, cleaning. Learn how to properly care for your things. Wash clothes according to fabric. Don’t just throw a load together. Take care of the fabrics on your furniture. Each room should be dusted or wiped down weekly. Vacuuming and sweeping should be done at least once a week. Clean appliances, walls, and fixtures on a set schedule. It generally helps to clean from top to bottom. Dust cobwebs from the corners, then dust, then vacuum, for example.

Go through your list regularly, and do your best to keep up. Devote time everyday to cleaning, and tackle at least one room per week. If dividing your house into general areas is easier, focus on one area a day. Your house will thank you.

So far in this essay, housekeeping has seemed like a science rather than an art. It is both, and the art side of it comes through with decorating and deciding where to put the things you love most. Trust a clutter-bug: keep only what you really love, or what you need right now. If you love what you have, you won’t mind the work it takes to make your home look nice. You’ll be entertaining, relaxing, and enjoying your home before you know it.

Whether you were never taught how to clean, or you’d like to learn better techniques or “green cleaning” solutions, there are a great number of resources in print and on the web to help you get started. I’ve listed a few of my favorites below.

Setting up a system:

http://members.tripod.com/~frankysj/org-02.html

This website teaches how to set up the index card system mentioned in this article. Don’t be afraid to tweak the process for your own success.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CreativeControlPanel/

This is a great yahoo groups message board that helped me begin the process of setting up my home journals.

Tools and Supplies:

Home Comforts, The Art and Science of Keeping House, by Cheryl Mendelson

While some criticize this book for making things too complicated, I think Mendelson’s take on housekeeping is thorough and complete. This is an indispensable tool for my home.

http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Prairie/8088/clngrn.html

Clean and Green. This website is great for “green” recipes for household cleaners. I’ve listed what I use in the above essay, but if you’d like to delve further, this is the place to start.

General Housekeeping:

http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com/

I turn to this website for recipes and kitchen information. It is one of my favorite places on the web.

http://www.thenewhomemaker.com/index.php

I’m relatively new to this site, but I love it. There are hundreds of articles, forums, and news links, all about keeping a home. I found the link for Helium from this website.

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