How to Keep a Clean House by: My Mom

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My Mom’s kitchen, this morning–before 10:00 am!

My Mom, Cathy Forsythe, is a Clean Person. Caps for emphasis. Actually, to truly communicate her organizational and cleaning skills, perhaps I should type CLEAN PERSON. Or even:

CLEAN PERSON

What I mean to say is, my parents’ house is always lovely–and clean. Clutter-free, no-dirty-dishes-in-the-sink, no-hair-in-the-bathroom clean. The dining room table? When they’re not eating, it has placemats and salt and pepper on it. That’s it. When my Mom complains that her house is dirty? It’s actually cleaner than my house when it’s clean for company.

It was this way when I was growing up, too–except, of course, for my room. Because whether it’s my nature or it was some weird reaction to having a Clean Mom, I grew up an irredeemable slob. I actually unearthed a checklist my Mom made for me when I was about 14. Not only does this show how nice my Mom’s handwriting is, but it alludes to how horrifically messy I was. I remember wading through knee-high piles of clothes, books, and plates:

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It’s even in a plastic sheet protector! I’d like to say I took this to heart and mended my ways, but I really didn’t. And while I’ve gotten a lot better since marrying my husband and getting a house, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately with two kids and the unending piles of books and things taking over my dining room table. So I went to the source and asked my Mom for her advice! She wrote me an email later that day:

I was thinking about your question yesterday about how I keep the house so neat/clean. Thought I’d share some things that worked for me (not quite so regimented now).

1. Weed out the Clutter

First off, clutter makes me nervous so I don’t have a lot of things I don’t use or love.

Guys, my Mom is totally right. There are days when I feel like I am living her origin story, as I hold up my children’s toys and ask, “But really, when did you actually play with this last?” This is also why I’ve switched to a 10-item wardrobe and cleared the heck out of my closet.

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This Great Room is a great room, am I right?

2. A Place for Everything, and Everything in Its Place

Second, I try to have everything in an assigned spot so it’s easy to find, with things I use often handy.

Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up said the same thing, but I trust–and listen to–my Mom more. Hopefully I can follow this.

3. Timing Is Everything

Third, I try to stay ahead of things to make things easy to tackle. Dishwasher run at night and emptied so it was ready the next morning. Not as critical now of course! I still neaten up the house before bed. We make the bed first thing in the morning (I think you do too?).

I am going to incorporate the dishwasher tip tonight–my day generally starts with me delaying doing the breakfast dishes until I empty the dishwasher. If something comes up (it always does), this means I’m struggling to clean the whole kitchen right before I make dinner. No more!

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Living room!

4. Make a Weekly Schedule

I did find the thing that really worked for me was a regular schedule. I cleaned house, washed sheets and towels on Monday, clothes laundry on Tuesday and grocery shopping on Fridays. Wednesday and Thursday were used for projects, volunteering, and fun. Saturday morning I gardened while Dad golfed!

This makes so much sense to me! I need to figure out what is going to work for our schedule. Also, this reminds me of Ma Ingalls’ schedule: “Wash on Monday, iron on Tuesday, mend on Wednesday, churn on Thursday, clean on Friday, bake on Saturday, rest on Sunday.” Um, I’m glad I don’t have to churn every week.

5. Create Systems–and Assign Them Accordingly

I guess I really like systems, I was always missing stains on your Dad’s clothes so I finally put a bottle of stain remover under his bathroom sink and told him to pretreat his own stains before putting in the laundry!

I wish I could have Sarah do the same–but two is probably a little early for that. I have started having Scott and Sid do the dinner dishes while I’m putting Sarah to bed, which helps a lot.

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Look at those shelves. This pic is from when my parents first moved into this house, but it still looks nice. How?!?

6. Let Something Go

We also had that great play space downstairs that I could ignore if needed!

Phew! In our house, I also can shut the door to our basement and let the kids run wild while I entertain upstairs.

7. Limit the Interruptions

Another thing occurred to me is the difference with social media and internet. We didn’t have to react and reply to texts, twitter, Facebook, and emails. Lots of interruptions now that we didn’t have!

This is probably the hardest guideline to follow–not just because I do a lot of side projects where I need to answer email or post things on social media in a timely manner, but because the advent of this technology makes me feel obligated to respond in real time. I’ve been toying with the idea of just putting my phone away for an hour or two at a time every day–stay tuned!

Thank you to my wonderful Mom for passing on her wisdom to me (again), hopefully I can follow it this time. Hope you all find this helpful!