I'm a messy person. Not messy in spilling juice and letting it dry to sticky goop on the counter, messy in the way that I leave my shoes (nearly all my shoes) scattered about my apartment. The same thing applies to clothes, and books. My art studio is the same, paper gathered into varying piles, and not much rhyme or reason in the bins that hold paints and brushes. I like my personal space to feel lived in, and I feel a little nervous in houses where everything is put away and sparse, it just doesn't feel honest.
While I don't mind a mess, I do mind dirt. Being raised in a household with traditional values, I learned to cook and clean fairly decently by the time I was fifteen. I also happen to be the oldest of four, so near constant cleaning was a part of my life for many years. Crumbs on the floor freak me out almost as much as the perfectly manicured living rooms in Country Living. Maybe I'm a little crazy, but I've discovered a way to be neat and still comfortably messy at the same time.
Cleaning Product Alternatives
The trouble is, most of the cleaning products that are marketed to us are harsh and sometimes even lethally toxic. I have found some nice alternatives to harsh cleaning agents that do the job well, and are in some cases, a lot cheaper.
Vinegar and Hydrogen Peroxide. Vinegar and hydrogen peroxide are great disinfecting and de-greasing agents. Never combine the two, instead spray one, and then the other onto a surface to clean and disinfect. If you're not a fan of vinegar's strong scent, add a few drops of tea tree oil.
Wet Wipes. You know those pre-moistened napkins that you take along to picnics? I've found that they are exceptional at cleaning up cooked on food and grease on stove tops with ease.
Lemon Juice. Lemon juice can freshen a stinky garbage disposal, and when mixed with baking soda, it can take on stains and mildew.
Listerine. I don't recommend Listerine as a regular cleaning alternative because of its cost, however, in a pinch, the mouthwash can clean just about any surface (you can even clean a toilet to perfection with it). The alcohol in Listerine will kill germs on contact, and the minty scent is refreshing.
Isopropyl Alcohol. Rubbing alcohol can be used to clean floor tiles to a nice shine with a dry cloth. It can also be used to combat creepy crawlies in the kitchen without having to use heavy insecticides.
Borax. Borax has been raked over the coals in recent years as not being as “green” as originally thought because of the potentially harmful irritation it can cause to humans and animals. That being said, in comparison to traditional cleaning products, borax is a better alternative. At worst, borax is a skin irritant, and it would have to be ingested in a huge quantity to become poisonous. Also, it cannot cause cancer, and it does not contain boric acid.. Normally added to laundry soap to give it more pow, borax can be used as a cleaning scrub and disinfectant when combined with water.
Baking Soda. Baking soda is excellent at absorbing moisture and odors. It can freshen trashcans, carpets, and stinky sneakers. When mixed with water to make a paste, baking soda
can clean nearly anything, from hardwood floors, to your teeth.
The kitchen is the dirtiest place in your home, even more dirty than the bathroom. Other than being germy, it's also one of the most dangerous rooms in the house, so you can't afford to get lax about keeping it tidy. One effective way to clean up the kitchen in a timely manner is to tackle the dirtiest job first and work like clockwork from that point. You won't get distracted to start cleaning another area, and you also won't spread any bacteria from the previous spot you cleaned.
This is where I give myself the most slack, but a made bed always makes a room put together, regardless of what mess is on the floor. I'm not a fan of running around the bed from corner to corner, yanking at the blankets to make them behave, so I make the bed while I'm still in it. If you pull all the blankets up (sheets included) while still in bed, you're already more than half done. Roll out on top of the comforter, smooth out wrinkles while exiting to the end, and voila! The bed is made in three minutes flat.
The easiest trick to keeping a clean bathroom is to clean it while you're cleaning yourself! Immediately after bathing or showering, wipe down the tub or shower door and walls. Soap scum, dirt, and grime are much easier to deal with while the surface is still wet. Wipe down the floor once you've dried yourself, and clean up the sink while you brush your teeth. If you make it a habit, the only other cleaning you'll need to take care of at the end of the week is the toilet.
Living Room and Carpet
The living room is where guests are entertained, so it's important to make sure to keep it in order. Keep surfaces and furniture dust free, and be sure to vacuum regularly as well. Mineral oil is an effective alternative to Pledge to keep wood furniture clean and polished. Sprinkle baking soda on the carpet before vacuuming to help lift dirt and absorb odors.
Daily Quick Chores
Most of us lead moderately busy lives, and I know the last thing I want to worry about when I get home from a long day at work is scrubbing the insides of my cabinets. That's a once a year chore. However, there are certain types of cleaning that need to be carried out daily, otherwise your house will be a pig pen. The secret to keeping a clean and sanitary home is simple: do a little everyday! Here is a list of daily chores that will help keep your house clean, odor free, and guest ready:
Empty all trashcans, even paper wastebaskets under desks. Mysterious smells and necessary grossness lurks in full trashcans. If it's full, take it out!
Wipe down counters in the kitchen. Nasty germs and odors will be kept at bay if you do a 30 second wipe down.
Clean up fingerprints on mirrors, glass surfaces and furniture. A quick wipe now will save you a lot of time later.
Shake out rugs and mats. Extra dust bunnies and dirt like to hide in rugs, so a brisk shake outside will help your vacuum keep its suction.
Put dirty clothes in the hamper. You might not have time to do laundry now, but at least keep your dirty clothes contained (I do have a pair of leggings or two lying about, but I NEVER leave dirty clothes out).
Throw out junk mail and old newspapers. There's no reason to keep unnecessary papers that junk up an otherwise clean room.
Do a once a week major clean sweep. I usually save this for Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Mop, scrub, vacuum, launder, and polish on this day to keep the house in tip top shape. If you've stayed on top of the quick chores, the clean sweep will about 60 minutes at the longest.
Make a list. Personalize your chores list to fit your lifestyle.
If you're feeling extra spunky about your quick chores, time yourself. You'll be surprised how efficient you are under pressure!