Saturday, May 9, 2009

It Takes a Village to Clean the House (Long)

I must say I am rather surprised at the overwhelming response to my maiden post, considering I finished it at 1:30am, and made no effort to publicize it on my own. Thankfully, my friends pimped it out, and we're off and running. Thank you everyone for your kind words. We've got enough momentum to start making things happen, just give me a little slack as I get a feel for the format that will be the most beneficial to everyone.

Okay, enough tender moments and qualifiers, mush doesn't clean the house.

My friend Jacob and I have been conferring to determine the best way to siphon our shared neuroses and obsessions into a structure that real people, who aren't mentally ill, can apply to their lives. Today we have isolated two things that you need to embrace as part of your new outlook on cleaning.

1. MUSIC MUSIC MUSIC! Can I be more emphatic? I have music going constantly, in the car, on the computer, in the master bedroom, from my iPod. You know, as far as survival goes, it's a toss-up between music and oxygen for me. But cleaning music is a different realm from the soothing Loggins and Messina you have playing in the background while you wander around the mess wanting to burn your house down. No, when you embark upon a cleaning frenzy (which sounds scary but really, it's highly addictive, like meth, only you get to keep your teeth), you need loud, fast, nerve-rattling music that is not on your regular playlist. I'm talking trashy pop that you'd never admit to, rap (gag!), anything that will keep those receptor sites on edge. I think I have 5,000 songs on iTunes, but when it's time to clean, I queue up some serious trash, and I'm going to share that list with you, at the risk of losing all my readership. I'm also posting Jacob's playlist, because I don't want to be embarrassed/possibly shunned alone. The point is, turn off the TV, let Dad take the kid(s) out if possible, and crank it up baby. (Sam, this helps you not be able to all, lol.)

Jacob's Playlist, entitled "Get 'cho clean on" mix:

My playlist, "Let's Kick Some Ass!":

I must reiterate that these songs don't depict my actual musical palate okay?

I hesitated to start this blog because I thought people would scoff and say, "Ever heard of FlyLady?" However, I don't actually give a shit about every mom in America, nor do I believe in rigid, ritualistic regimens that only make sense for Stepford Wives with no children. I just care about my friends, and their friends. Real moms with real adversities, limited time, lots of children, no energy, lots of unnecessary guilt, and a shared aversion to cleaning. FlyLady makes some sensible points, but I've never met anyone who has been able to incorporate her militant, assuming-you-have-no-life-beyond-cleaning-your-sink, schedule into their lives permanently. And frankly, her checklist pisses me off, but that's me. She makes no allowance for the variables we're all struggling with. When your kids have sore throats, the f-ing dishes pile up, that's life. Okay okay this isn't a FlyLady rant (well, maybe a short one), it's reassurance that I know most of you, and your circumstances, your strengths and weaknesses, and I know what is most likely to encourage you realistically. I have been to all of your houses, I've cleaned many of them, and I am confident that I can diffuse the paralyzing fear of cleaning. I'm not FlyLady, I'm your friend, and if you want me to come over and write up a schedule, I will, I've done it many times. You are not accountable to me, I just want to help, and I really want you all to stop feeling guilty right now. None of you has any cause to feel guilty. The reason your house is a mess is because you're prioritizing your children, your partners, your jobs, other loved ones, volunteering, um, cooking (I'd rather die than cook), pets, and a thousand other things. How is it that you're all such stellar people but you all struggle with the cleaning? Because you give everything you have to these other things, and it follows a certain logic that since cleaning has no voice, and can be postponed, it is. (No, I don't neglect my kids, and I am hella busy, ask anyone, but I'm a slave to OCD, so not getting everything done just isn't an option. And no, you don't wish you had it too. I have scrubbed things that were already clean until I literally bled, during the 3-4 hours of sleep I get each night, I get up and check locks many times, I never sit down because I always have to straighten cushions, ottomans, the alignment of the remotes, blankets, the stack of mail on the counter, the napkins that get crooked in the holder, freaking name it. I have struggled with wanting to drink Lemon-scented Lysol, and I often rage and/or cry about the parts of my house I can't change, even though no one else on earth or in my house would ever notice them. I just had to clear that up--I don't clean at the expense of other responsibilities, I just happen to have no choice but to do it all. If it's any help, my mind is never satisfied. So don't go giving me more credit than I'm due. I literally cannot knit because I can't sit still. There is always something to straighten or scrub. Just ask anyone who has ever been here. How many times did I wipe down that counter Megan? Six? So yeah...)

Is this a cleaning blog or some woo-woo self help workshop? Jesus, sorry. It's just that my friends are so down on themselves, and I really want to put the kibosh on the guilt-a-thon. FYI: I can't cook, knit, sew, garden, nor deliver babies.

Now that we've got some music going, let me get off my soap box (I heart soap, what can I say?) and get back to helping. Those of you I know, are mamas. We love these babies, but let's be real, everything about motherhood is fundamentally at odds with keeping a clean house. You are not a slob. Your baby is. And s/he is wired to deplete you of any and all motivation to clean. So let's set some simple, realistic goals for lightening your load so you don't have to choose between a clean house and selling your baby on craigslist.

Something Jacob and I agree firmly upon is the five-minute bedtime routine. No, I know you all want to drop dead the minute the kids are in bed, or, five hours before they're in bed, but bear with me. As you leave their rooms, and are already upright, consider pushing a little harder and doing some of these things: Start a load of laundry and/or rotate, load the dishwasher, and stack remaining dirty dishes as close together as possible so your morning eyes don't pop out and roll away, thinking it's the Eiffel Tower. Wipe your counters down, lifting canisters, coffee makers, etc., pick up ten things off the floor while you're in motion, arrange your throw pillows, throw blankets, and maybe sweep something. All of this will take five minutes, and you will wake up feeling like today's cleaning is already in progress. Five minutes. And five minutes at any point in the day will afford you the same satisfaction, and if you just give five minutes when you can, five furious minutes, I should say, you will start feeling less overwhelmed within days.

Can we all try to find three times a day wherein we can bust it out for five minutes? (The answer is yes.)

(Oh yeah, I'm long-winded.) Just three more things:

1. Feel free to email me anytime if you feel I can be of more help:

2. Once we get rolling with challenges, I want to implement an honour system wherein whomever completes/exceeds my list, gets entered into a drawing for Starbucks gift card, once a month. I mean, it's not diamonds, but still...

3. Just in case you want a glimpse into a manic approach to cleaning as opposed to staring blankly, getting stuck in one room, wandering, etc., here is how I start my Saturdays, once I've got that caffeine surging through my veins and there is no going back:

Start the washing machine, strip all bedding as fast as you can, bundle all sheets and put them in the wash. Most of us have two bathrooms. Take your Ajax and coat both tubs, showers, and toilets, liberally, taking the bath mats with you on your way out and depositing them in the laundry room. Next, gather all washable rugs, mats, add them to the pile. So you're already committed to scrubbing your toilets and showers/tubs, you're in it. Your beds are naked, you're in it. You've got hours worth of laundry to run while you: sweep and Swiffer the bathroom floors, and then all the floors in your house including the laundry room because you want to be like me. (Hint: You know your clear plastic shower liner? It washes up beautifully in your washing machine, 20 minutes. That's how to get that pink shit off, in case you were wondering.) Everyone's house is different. If your room is a mess, put every single thing from the floor onto the naked bed. If your refrigerator is too cluttered (and I know it is), don't stand there and rearrange it, tear everything off and then decide what needs to go back on. You won't be discerning enough when it's all still up there. Next, dump all your clean laundry (and there had better be lots) onto your couch (or bed, if your room wasn't dirty), so that it has to get folded before bed. If you throw it back onto the floor later, I will hunt you down and kill you. I am sacrificing my own Manic Cleaning/Coffee Saturday to write this out, so you owe me. Just kidding. (No I'm not.) You now have four or five things you're committed to finishing before you can pee, take a shower, watch TV, or go to bed. Best do it all and then fold the laundry while you watch a movie later. I will be perfectly happy to come shake my Ajax all over your house, strip your shower liner down, strip your beds, pile laundry onto all comfortable surfaces, and then leave. That is manic, that is my life.

You don't have to be manic, you just have to be willing. Ready?


  1. My friend Jacob and I have been conferring to determine the best way to siphon our shared neuroses and obsessions into a structure [...]How about a Twitter group, so we can consume your every moment, demanding motivation and encouragement from you no matter where you are?

    <3 You are so brave to be doing this!

  2. i want to win the gift card!!

  3. i have no idea how to do it, but know what you need? a 'button' with the moxie clean logo that we can post on our blogs as a link to yours. know what i mean? i have a couple of buttons on my blog...

  4. For the record, that time I taught you to knit you did it better than any beginner I've ever seen. It made me mad jealous.

    And, I can do your five minutes but not before bed. Once Ivy is asleep in my arms I do not mess with it. Any housework would wake her and that can't happen.

    And yes, it was 5 or 6. But it was just because you were nervous. It's cool.

  5. I always do my five minutes on my way to bed, just as a part of my shutting down the house ritual, though sometimes the five minutes is actually only two or four. Tonight, for example, I turned off the tv, got up, took the empty soda cans to the recycling, started the already-loaded-after-dinner dish washer, stopped up the sink, filled it with hot soapy water and put what remaining dishes I had in it to soak, I then straightened my throws and throw pillows, table runners, started a load of laundry that had been soaking in the washer all day in oxi-clean, and made one last sweep of the sponge over the stove and counter tops. In total it took me four minutes from turning off the tv to turning the lights out. For me there is nothing worse than waking up in the morning to a mess that feels insurmountable. It is overwhelming, fills me with anxiety, leaves me feeling guilty, and starts my whole day off on the wrong foot. I somewhat regularly whip up large baking and catering orders for 25 to 50 people, so trust me, there are those inevitable days when there is still a mess left for the morning to clean up, believe me I get it, but even on those days, the little organization and pre-soak that I do right before bed, makes the morning chores feel that much less horrible. And, yes, go ahead, judge all you want, I stand behind my's good, yo! =)

  6. C, you severely underestimate my ability to shuffle the laundry from my bed to the basket and back and forth, over and over again ;-) I'm going to fold laundry tonight though! I swear.

  7. I'm goingto try the leaving-dishes-to-soak thing. I have never liked doing that because a) it felt like an excuse not to just do the dishes right now and b) I hate the feeling of sticking my hand in the cold greasy water when I come back to them. Maybe it's worth it, though, to cut down on scrubbing time--especially since our dishwasher can't handle even one speck of food. :)

  8. Dish gloves! I'll stick my hands in anything with my pretty pink dish gloves on. The thick kind with the cuffs to keep the water from going down your arm. They are worth the extra $.

  9. I needed this post. Thank you so much! I've been dealing with all sorts of guilt over the state of my apartment. I'm a new mom with a teething 10 month old. I have a couple of Mom-Friends that seem to just have it together. Thank you for reminding me that it's okay to put my family first. Is it okay that I link to this from my blog?