Good Enough Housekeeping

It’s when I’m cleaning the toilet that I most get Downton Abbey-envy. As I gaze at my reflection in the bowl, I wonder…why wasn’t I born a Crawley heiress with a live-in staff to scrub every bit of funk from my abode? I love a clean home, but I don’t love to clean my home.

Since a staff of English house maids isn't in the budget at the moment, we are on our own: The husband with the 9 to 5 and after 5; the busy college kid who also juggles a part-time job; the 7th grader with a ton of homework; and yours truly, who has been writing from home for the past few years. Somehow with that “working from home” bit, I find that I’m allowing too much of the cleaning duties to fall on my shoulders, and (surprise!) this fact does nothing to improve my mood.

Sure, everyone helps and participates when prompted, but the dirt only really seems to speak to me. My family doesn’t hear the laundry crying out to be washed, the siren song of the dirty kitchen, or the rustling of tumbleweed-sized dust balls lurking in the corners.

As women, we still  feel as though we have to do it all, and do it well, and often we are foolishly loathe to delegate. We know that we can generally do it faster and better, but what we don’t always realize is that sometimes a good enough cleaning job is good enough. Maybe your partner or kids don’t tidy up as well as you do, so what? Getting help means that you spend less time cleaning, which makes it pretty damn good deal! Perfection is overrated. Instead, we need time to kick back and read the Sunday Times, get out for some fresh air, contemplate a novel, or simply contemplate our navels. Whatever. Cleaning all day, or griping about it, doesn’t leave enough room for fun.

Establish a standard for household cleanliness that suits your family, cleaning style, and commitment. Maintaining a really clean home can require more time, energy, and patience than many of us have. Periodically, everyone has to buckle down for a deep cleaning, but in the meantime, here are some tricks that you can do, with or without the family, that work quite nicely. Add some music to soften the blow:

Beat the clock:  Set an alarm and clean for a number of minutes that won’t make you weep. Some days that might just be five minutes, other days you might be able to stand two hours. The trick is, you have to drop your mop when that buzzer goes off. You would be surprised at the focus.

Quick and dirty: 10 minutes per room, tops. Whatever gets done, gets done. Move on to the next room.

Choose your battles:  An unmade bed drives me crazy, but I can live with a coffee mug in the sink; I cannot stand clutter, but I don’t feel the need to have floors so clean that I can eat off of. What can you live with? What’s a deal breaker? What’s worth losing hours of your time, and what can you let slide? Choose wisely.

Ignore it: Do something fun instead. The funk will wait.

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