Friday, May 8, 2009

Ready, Set, STOP!

Recently I have been flattered and honestly, humbled, by a surge of interest in my cleaning habits/methods/illness. My Manic Cleaning/Coffee Saturdays are of particular intrigue. At the urging of several friends and total strangers, I'm launching this modest little blog in hopes that my obsession can be of use to someone, anyone.

I've over-thought the format for this post until I nearly flat-lined, because what is useful to me may bore and/or piss you right off. Let's start here:

First off, I do not live a life of sparkling splendor. In fact, this is my palace:

Now you know why I am loathe to invite people over. (Insert obligatory show of gratitude for having a house at all.)

While I do not feel that some zen list of Cheyenne's Cleaning Principles is likely to translate into some sudden infusion of inspiration for you, I will explode, right now, if I don't reveal the number one key to winning your war:


Wait. Don't x-out yet. Contrary to what you may think, about the word maintenance and/or about me, this does not mean cleaning around the clock. I do not clean around the clock. In fact, I don't spend as much time cleaning as you think I do, I just enjoy it...and of course, must do it, lest I gnaw my tongue off.

What I Have:

* A very small house with four people and a lot of stuff.
* Two children, ages nine and ten, who are definitely tidy, but still insist on touching things, and are opposed to my suggestion that all belongings should be for display, never to be touched or moved.
* An ex who cooks, cleaning as he goes, and has a healthy aversion to disorder, though he is not on the spectrum of illness.
* An admittedly obsessive need to have a clean home. The most important things to me are minimal clutter, clear, wiped-down surfaces, and never looking in my kids' tiny shared bedroom, for my doctor has ordered me never to do so. You may be able to solve a Rubik's Cube but you cannot organize their things in a way that won't make me cry. And one of them doesn't even have things. Just books.
* An innate love to clean.
* A natural energy level that knows no bounds. I am a night owl and an early bird. I am folding laundry until 3am, and up at 6am starting more. And I only drink coffee on Saturdays. I know it doesn't seem fair. Soon I will post a picture of my stomach and then you won't feel so bad.
* And yes, I have tasks I hate.

What I Do Not Have:

* A nursing infant.
* A toddler.
* A nursing infant and a toddler.
* An ailing live-in loved one. <3
* A nightly expectation to cook.
* Kids in public school.
* A job (blah blah motherhood, yes I know).

Is anyone feeling less intimidated yet?

Before I delve into the shark-infested waters of how to manage your house so that you don't want to kill yourself everyday, I'm posting a couple of examples of recent Saturday lists. The first one was a short day because there was a swap at 1pm, so I set my timer for one hour, and accomplished the crossed-off things. The second list represents a more typical Saturday, prior to completion. (I filled in the impromptu tasks later.)

But from what I'm hearing, Manic Saturdays are a ways off. What I want to do is explain how maintenance is the secret, even though this may feel totally counter-intuitive. None of us is sitting on our asses all day watching TV, we're always moving. What I'd like to impress upon you is that taking each movement a step or two further throughout the day adds up like pennies, and before you know it, your house will be at a manageable level.

For instance:

* Each time you walk through a room, pick up a toy, scrap of garbage, or some shoes.

* Do the dishes when there are four of them, making it less likely that there will be 40 later.

* If you are facing a heap of dishes, keep them in the left side of the sink, soaking in soapy water. Do not leave pans on the stove top.

* Count how many wastebaskets are in your house and grab that many plastic store bags and just empty them all, re-line them, and haul the trash outside to your bin.

* Set a timer for 20 minutes and pretend your partner is bringing home his/her boss.

* Instruct your children to put their things away.

* Grab your Ajax, or whatever eco-friendly cleanser you use and coat your shower/bath, that way, at some point before the next shower, you will have to clean it. And while your there, grab a Kirkland wipe (which has now become a staple) and do a cursory cleaning of the sink and toilet. See? Your bathroom just got a make-over in three minutes.

* Keep your counters and surfaces clear and wiped down. This is so gratifying.

* Do one thing that isn't priority but will make a difference, such as cleaning the window over your sink.

* Teach your kids to dust.

* This is big: Rather than dwelling on the insurmountable* tasks that threaten your very sanity, restrict your vision to the things in front of you. Floors that need sweeping, beds that need to be made, the laundry you can easily fold while catching Oprah (you know you all watch her).

*Nothing is insurmountable, and I will get you through these major jobs. No, I will not paint your house, but I will convince you that you can, and I will ride your ass until you do it. And you will feel like a super hero.

The main problem with the people I know is that a combination of no routine and the fact that everything piles up (or scatters out) so quickly, most of you find yourself in the miserable pattern of having to tackle the entire house, which I liken to having ice picks shoved into my eyeballs. My goal is to implement baby steps, so that no one ever has to face the whole shebang again. I'm hoping through sharing my routine, and featuring tips from my esteemed partner in OCD, we can deflate this big bad wolf that is cleaning. You are all capable of this, and I welcome questions, comments, tears, pictures, whatever it takes to show this monster who's boss. So fire away.

Today is Saturday, and for those of you who are reading this, I want you to go into the scariest room, with a garbage bag, and fill it as much as you can, and then toss it outside.

Then I want you to start the laundry and then do the dishes. Once they're done, clear your counters and wipe them down.

Now go into the room that guests see first and do five things to make it more presentable. (Five is my favourite number, five factors into a lot of what I do.)

Anyone who does these things, let me know, and I will challenge you to more.

You can do this, it is possible. I promise.

Here is what I will be doing today:


  1. Fabulous! I am older than you and am just learning the "pick up a scrap when you go through a room" thingy. I love your blog!

  2. bravo! bravo! i love the title too :) can't wait for more, no pressure or anything.

  3. What a fantastic blog! Can't wait to see more. I have a cleaning lady, but this is a big house, and she just doesn't do it all (the way I'd like) so I'm looking forward to this. Thanks!!

  4. I am so on board! The hope is that I can *actually* have some sort of life outside of perpetually trying (in vain) to get this damn house in order!

  5. Yay! Thank you so much! I am going to do the challenge and report back later!

  6. No way! Seriously?!? I'm IN!

    I just dragged my sick butt out of bed though, so am getting a slow painful start today. Can I have a cup of coffee first?

    Thanks, C!!

  7. Today is not the day for this. I'm drinking my coffee breakfast while checking online and dressing 3 kids and cleaning the living room and I have to leave in 30 minutes to spend "Mother's Day" with Shawn's mom.

    I can hit some of this stuff tonight after Carmela's baby shower though.

  8. Cheyenne is absolutely right. Instead of setting a timer for twenty minutes, however, I just put six songs on my youtube quicklist, and clean until the music stops. You would be shocked at what you are able to accomplish. Yesterday, with this 20 minute daily strategy I: Unloaded and loaded the dishes washer, folded and put away a load of laundry, switched a load of laundry to the dryer, started another load of laundry, swept the whole house, emptied all of the garbage recycling and compost,washed out and filled my dogs water bowl and fed him, did my daily clean of the bathroom (toilet and sink), did a perfunctory wipe down of the kitchen counters, and sprayed air freshener throughout the house. I am lazy, so I only sweep the entire house twice a week, so on most days this routine is even shorter. Now because my house was at a state that I consider manageable to start with (and granted my house is no where near as clean as Cheyenne's or even Jennifer's, and I also don't have a brood of screaming children running behind me undoing all of my handy work) I was done with cleaning for the day, because really all that was required was the daily maintenance. Later I decided to also vacuum and spot clean my kitchen and hardwood floors, and spent a while organizing in the garage. But those tasks were not tasks that HAD to happen, and had I been too tired, or uninspired, or too busy, I would have just left them to another day. I think it is all about choosing your battles. For me clean, a clear counter tops are paramount, but a perfectly neat organized pantry is not something I am willing to invest the time and energy to maintain, it is important to me that there aren't water spots on my sinks/fixtures, but I only feel the need to dust my blinds or scrub out my bath surround once a month. You know? I think it is fine to prioritize what is important for you and your lifestyle, and do what you can do, and worry about the rest later.

  9. Carmela--Thank you. A little goes a long way, you'll see.

    Gail--You don't need my help girl, *you* keep *me* accountable, lol.

    Wendy--Cleaning help is awesome, I will help you with the fine tuning.

    Heather--Five minutes here and there will free you up, not shackle you to a life of cleaning, you'll see.

    Bethany--You go girl, I have total faith. I would not have had the confidence to do this without your support. Can't wait to hear how you kicked today's ass!

    Sam--Oh Sam, coffee is what makes the world go round, you have limitless grace with me, and limitless help. Time for you to stop thinking and let me steer the cleaning ship. I know your house, I know your brain, relax, it gets easier from here.

    Megan--Sweet Megan, go enjoy your brunch. I have custom-tailored ideas for you, including me coming to unpack those boxes and work up a little schedule that will give you the most mileage for your efforts. I've got your back Mama!

    Chelsea--Thank you. I don't know you but I will help you.

    Jacob--You're a liar. Lazy my ass! Your house is so pristine I feel like I live in a cesspool on a good day. You live in a splendid showroom, and it sure as hell didn't get that way on its own. You bust your ass, and I know I can count on you to share my agony over one water spot on the faucet. You work hard to meet your own impossible standards, and I can't wait to feature your brilliant insight in upcoming posts. Love you my OCD brotha!

  10. Wow, this is great. What I really lack the most is motivation and you've provided! See how great you are?

    (I don't think we've met, but we have mutual friends)