My family live in a home not a show house, so I'm not a habitual cleaner. I had a mother in law who was so fastidious about cleaning that her routine included a weekly dusting of all the light bulbs in the house, (not easy considering she was 4ft6") and daily cleaning of everything including the fridge and vaccuming the garage. This was also the woman who called social services on me when I brought her first grandson home from hospital to my home, instead of handing him over to her to care for because I had a cat! Obviously, that meant that I was going to let my baby son sleep in the litter tray and the cat to share his baby bottles of milk. Suffice to say, I took a view that as long as everything is clean then I'd rather the children felt free to relax and not live in some ideal home version of a show house.
Cleaning is time-consuming, and I've got so many more things I'd rather do than clean up after everyone else, or make sure that there is no dust under the beds. I work, my husband works and I have teenage children. My number one rule is therefore, that everyone in the house is responsible for looking after their own space. If they don't, then they live with it. If their clothes don't make it to the washing basket, then they don't have clean things to wear. I only invade (and it does happen with 17 year old) when I find myself running out of forks and plates. They also know better than to let me tidy their space as it normally involves black bin liners and trips to the tip!
With cleaning being low down on my list of priorities, I have developed a whole raft of time saving techniques over the years and they aren't all throw it in a black bag and be done with it.
1. Always clean up as you go. When you are stood at the cooker making the evening meal, use that time to wipe down the surfaces where you prepared the food, throw out the veg choppings and clean the pans as you finish with them. That way when you've finished eating and you're full and feeling lazy, all that is left is to wash a couple of plates and some cutlery and it's done. There is nothing more soul destroying than trying to relax knowing the washing up is waiting for you. Failing that invest in a dishwasher.
2. Every time you boil the kettle for a cup of tea, pour any excess boiled water down the sink. It's not a waste as otherwise it would have just gone cold in the kettle but it will stop your sink ever blocking up and I never have a dirty sink. I also never get any limescale build up in my kettle because it doesn't stand with water inside it.
3. Insist on a no shoes in the house rule. It's amazing how much longer your carpets last and also how much less vaccuming you need to do. It also means that I can spot which kids have put holes in their socks instantly and throw them away rather than hearing the lament after I've gone to the hassle of washing them whilst not loosing one to the sock fairy and pairing them up again.
4. Don't sweat the small stuff. Who really cares if in the middle of winter your windows haven't been washed. It's freezing outside, the rain and snow will only make them dirty again in a few days anyway and no one will actually notice. It's also amazing how great you feel in the spring, when you do give them a quick spritz with some vinegar, water and newspaper how much it freshens up the room. Who really cares if you've moved all the furniture out and cleaned behind it, who really cares if you could eat off the floor, because no matter how tidy your house, I can guarantee no one actually would ever seriously consider it.
5. Take time to enjoy your life. If it's a choice between going and and having some fun with your children or washing the car; if you really must wash the car, then make it a game with you and the kids. Throw soapy water at each other, chuck sponges at the car and see if they slide down, run round like loons with the hose pipe. The car will still get cleaned, or alternatively, on your way to the beach take the car through a car wash.
6. Invest in good quality devices to do the jobs for you. We are so lucky to live in age where we have gadgets for this and gadgets for that. We don't need to hand wash clothes, heat irons in the fire, get down on our hands and knees to scrub the door step or get out a broom to clean the carpets. I'm all for timesaving efficiency. With this in mind we get to the reason behind this post and that is that Morphy Richards have this wonderful new 9 in 1 steam cleaner
which I really really need in my life. This is such a clever piece of kit, that I could actually find myself having clean windows all year round, and sparkling floors without smelly socks on display. I may even find myself vaccuming more than once a week because they also have a rather nifty new vaccum cleaner too. Clean and sparkly house with time left over for living... my idea of an ideal world.