A Lick and A Promise

Photo compliments of istockphoto.com I buy all my photos from istock

I remember my grandma saying that so and so needed to give her house more than a “lick and a promise.”  Even when I was really little, I knew what that meant.  I remember hearing things like, “Sluts wool” (dust bunnies) and “slovenly.”  Grandma didn’t have much patience with a dirty house and her sister was even more persnickety.  I remember being afraid to put my glass down after drinking water, or Aunt Etta would grab it and have it washed and drying before I could ask for a refill!

I have a feeling I’d be charged with such offenses.  As much as I love a spotless home, for various reasons that aren’t really the point, I don’t keep one.  So, I’ve learned a few tricks.

Have you ever heard that a room can be messy but look clean as long as the bed is made?  It’s true… to a point.  I mean, obviously, if you look around, you’re going to see the mess, but you can glance into a room that is almost pristine, and if the bed is messy, it’s going to look like a messy room.  However, if you glance into a room and the bed is made, even if it’s dusty, has things out of place, and the curtains are askew, you’re not likely to notice.

This principle applies to every room in the home.  So, if you only have a short amount of time to give to the house, what do you do to get the biggest impact first?  Well, in MY house you start with floors.  No matter what the room, get the stuff off the floors.  No matter how clean the rest of the room is, if the floor is cluttered with shoes, clothes, toys, newspapers, or whatever, the room looks messy.  The reason has to do with surface area.  It’s the biggest surface area, so your eye naturally gravitates toward it.  After the floor, each room is different.

  • Living room-  In here, it’s the couch.  It takes up about 1/3 of our wall space in the living room.  If it (and the spaces on each side of it) is clutter free, the room tends to look clean– even if there is junk on the table!  (Our dining table is a gate-leg table with the leaves folded down at one end of the living room)
  • Bedrooms-  Definitely the beds.  If the bed is smooth and clutter free (and the floor clear of course) the rest doesn’t attack the senses.  In our bedroom, the craft table also messes up the space because it blocks easy access to the room.  You have to navigate around it and it’s OBVIOUSLY out of place even though it isn’t very large.
  • Kitchen–  Obviously, it’s the counter, but in my house, it’s the island.  The island is the larges single unbroken space.  If that’s cluttered, the rest of the kitchen can be spotless and still look awful.  Second to that would be the stove.  In our house, even more than the sink, if the stove is a mess, the kitchen may look nasty.  It’s almost as if the sink is SUPPOSED to house dirty dishes so it doesn’t scream “mess” like the stove if it’s holding things that need to be washed.
  • Bathroom–  Sink/counter.  Aside from the floor (which is a HUGE mess flag… because it’s so small???), the sink is the biggest thing.  Close the shower curtain (1.2 seconds), toss the dirty clothes in the hamper (3.4 seconds), toss the trash (1.3 minutes), and wipe down the sink (3 minutes tops) and the bathroom can go from looking like a health hazard to something reasonably presentable.

We don’t have things like an office (computer desk/desk) or a formal living room (clear off the baby grand piano!), but if we did, I’d simply walk into the room and look for the biggest thing there.  That’s where your eye will go and THAT is what needs attention first.

I used to clean a room by starting at one side of the entrance and working clockwise around the room.   Not anymore.  I now start at the biggest thing and work my way to the smallest.  That way, if I get interrupted, I still can FEEL a sense of accomplishment.

Houses need to be cleaned.  Dirt needs to be washed away, dust needs to be taken back outside, and clutter needs to be removed or sent “home.”  However, between cleanings, it also needs a little bit of upkeep, and if you are faithful with that upkeep (which I am not), you’ll find that it needs less cleaning than you thought!

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