Thursday, August 11, 2011
Maybe you’re not like me. Maybe you can go to bed with dishes in the sink, and toys all over the house. Maybe you can relax with a glass of wine on the couch even though every surface in your visual field is covered in Cars the Movie cars and Polly Pocket Disney Princesses.
If so, you’re lucky. I wish I could. But no. Call it sub-clinical OCD or sensory processing disorder, call it what you like, but I can’t sit down and watch True Blood until there is some semblance of order imposed on the chaos. I can’t relax when there is just STUFF everywhere. So most nights, I do a tidying blitz. Here are some helpful tips if you want to try it:
1) Blitz while the kids are in bed. Sure, I know, we should be teaching them to clean up their own crap. And I do that. During the day, we have teachable moments and whatnot about picking up our toys. But you can’t blitz with “help” from the small ones. They keep pulling things out as you are putting them away. And they’re just IN THE WAY! This is a blitz, people. You need to move fast. No tripping hazards a.k.a. children allowed.
2) Look at the clock when you start. A proper blitz should take about 15 minutes. If it is taking longer, you are not blitzing, you are cleaning. That’s fine. If blitzing sends you into some sort of insanity involving wiping down baseboards or cleaning under the oven, it’s OK. It happens sometimes. But you can’t do that every night or blitzing will seem too daunting. When you’re done, you want it to have felt easy.
3) Do the big stuff first. Train tracks all over your foyer? They all go into the same basket! Easy! Two-hundred foam blocks dumped in the middle of the floor? Quick to pick up but makes a big visual dent in the insanity. It’s like an instant reward to keep you motivated.
4) Don’t try to use just your two hands. You can’t carry enough. You’ll be spending all of your time walking from place to place. For a super quick blitz, I have been known to use my shirt or skirt held up like a hammock to pile toys into. You can cram an awful lot of Mario characters and Cars the Movie cars into a shirt-hammock and then take them all at once to where they belong. But if you would have to make more than two or three shirt-hammock trips, grab a laundry basket. Pile the stuff into it and then take the whole thing into the playroom for sorting.
5) Put the stuff away. As tempting as it is to just leave it all in the laundry basket, don’t. It makes the house look clean. It’s tempting. But the first thing the kids will do in the morning is dump the laundry basket onto the floor. If stuff is put away, you won’t have to blitz the same items again tomorrow unless they actually play with them.
6) No piles. I’m not saying I NEVER wind up with a pile of preschool artwork, but the goal should be to put stuff away (see tip #5), not to relocate the mess. Do you have a place where you put preschool artwork? (And if you don’t, you should.) Either hang it on the wall or fridge, or throw a name and date on the back and put it away. Do you have a place to put bills that need to be paid? (Again, if you don’t, you should.) Put bills and to-do items there. Same with coupons, catalogs, etc. Whatever you find that you tend to form piles of, make a place for it. I found that we always had a pile of shoes by the back door. Now we have a beautiful fair trade African basket there for them, so when I find shoes around the house, I can just throw them into the basket.
7) Make liberal use of the cordless stick vac and hand vac. What’s that you say? You don’t have a cordless stick vac or hand vac? Well, you need them. They are awesome. I have written before about my undying love for my stick vac. I will now add to that my love for my cordless hand vac. We’re not talking about proper vacuuming here. For that, you’re better off with the real thing. But for blitzing, you just want to get rid of the major dust bunnies, dead stink bugs, crushed Cheerios and whatnot. Light, cordless, quick, perfect. Make your house less disgusting without actually cleaning. Stick vac for under the dining room and kitchen tables. Hand vac for corners so you can suck up the cat hair tumbleweeds without having to move stuff. Some stick vacs have a removable hand vac built in. Genius. Some stick vacs work on carpets too. Swoon. Be still my heart, you sexy stick vac, you.
8) Hang a bag by the stairs. I’m lucky. We live in a one-story rancher. I have always liked ranchers because (a) I grew up in one, and (b) I tend to fall down the stairs a lot when I am around stairs. I don’t know why I fall down so much, but I am definitely stair-challenged. Maybe it’s because I am always focusing on 10 things and am perpetually 5 steps ahead of myself, and that doesn’t work so well when I should be focusing on not falling down the stairs. But anyway, most of our stuff lives on one level of our house, and for that my stair-bruised butt and I are very grateful. But for stuff that needs to go into the basement, I can easily put it in the bag at the top of the stairs and then take it all down when I’m done (or not… In my case, the stairs to the basement are behind a closed door, so that stuff just lives there for months until the bag is full or I am cleaning for company.)
9) If you feel tired and annoyed before the 15 minutes are up, it’s OK to stop. A good blitz is energizing. You are a wildly efficient tidying machine! You accomplish in 15 minutes what it takes lesser humans hours to do! After all, the kids don’t care if the house is a mess. Hopefully your partner doesn’t care, or if they do, they had better be blitzing with you. If you’ve read this far, chances are YOU are the one who cares whether or not your house looks like a toy store threw up in it. So if you don’t feel like blitzing, don’t. Your kids will be just as happy and well-adjusted living in squalor. Maybe even happier and better adjusted, if you are more well-rested and relaxed. You’re blitzing for you. If it sucks, you can totally stop.
10) Have a post-blitz plan. Blitzing can easily turn into a martyr-producing hour-long cleaning slog if you don’t have a solid plan in place for what happens when your 15 minutes are up. A bath. A glass of wine with TV. A little treat. Five blessed minutes of silence in a room all by yourself. Whatever helps you to exhale and recharge. You just did something other than sit on the couch while your kids were asleep. That’s a Big Deal! Now take some time for you. You deserve it. And it will feel nice to take that time for yourself in a slightly less disgusting house.