Learning to Clean

How to overcome cleaning overwhelm

We’ve all been there, “clean up the home”, has been on our to do list for like a week but keeps getting put off until later. Just the thought of cleaning the home seems overwhelming.

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I have a confession, when I was younger, my version of tidying up was shoving everything into bags and hiding it in the closet so my parents wouldn’t be able to see. Then I would do a quick wipe down of surfaces and sweep and mop, however, only the visible surfaces would get my attention. The result? I could never find what I was looking for, which ended up wasting more time than if I had actually put everything away where it should have been, plus my space never felt like it was fully clean.

Fast- forward to today, I actually enjoy cleaning and organizing and I love helping others achieve the same results. The organization came in my teen years where I learned how to fold clothes and organize things in the home (more on that later). But the cleaning part, which was the hardest for me to overcome, came to me when I was started working as a professional cleaner with my mom.

One day I was free and my mom needed a helper to get the cleaning work done, so she took me along and taught me on the job. I was surprised by how easy it was when shown the right techniques and given the right tools.

Here is what I learned from my training and work as a professional cleaner (and what helped me overcome the dreaded cleanup time):

  1. Separate the clean up from the organization. When we arrived at a client’s home, most of the items were already put away. As a result, we could focus on just the cleanup. As these were usually more than 2000 sq. ft. homes, it would take about 6 hours just for wiping down all of the surfaces. Imagine if we had to also organize! Yet, for some reason, we seem to always put these two tasks together when cleaning our own home.
  2. Categorize and prioritize the tasks. When we entered a home, the job wasn’t “clean the home”, even though that is our overarching task. We had the jobs split up into smaller, actionable tasks. Usually, we would start on the second floor. One person starts with dusting, wiping down surfaces, then vacuuming, and mopping (if applicable). The other person takes care of the bathrooms. Both tasks usually took the same amount of time, so then we would head together downstairs and repeat the same tasks, plus the kitchen. When broken down into these small tasks, the work seemed so much easier. So instead of putting “clean house” on the to do list, put down “wipe down bathroom on first floor” or “dust first floor”. Take the task from abstract to actionable and easy.
  3. Don’t rush, give it time. I used to hate cleaning because I felt it was always so long. Yet, in reality, I just thought that it should take a lot less time. If you do a proper cleaning of your home, expect it to be anywhere from 1.5 hours (for a studio apartment) to 6 hours (for a larger family home). That’s just cleanup, not organization. So block off enough time for yourself to get the work done, then turn on some music and get to work. Once you learn the cleaning strategies, you can let your body do the work while your mind wanders.
  4. Stay focused. If you are dusting, keep dusting until you are done. Do not get sidetracked looking through a pile of magazines, folding clothes, etc. Just keep going to the task. If you find you keep going back to that area, even in your mind, write down a note for yourself to go back to that area later to organize or clean it. Cleaning is supposed to be simple and systematic, so don’t overcomplicate it by letting other tasks creep in.

Those are the things that helped me to get past the overwhelming task of “cleaning the home” and actually get to making a clean home a reality without the overwhelm.

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