I love summer. Sunshine, afternoon rain showers, vacations...I also love that all my teacher friends and family members are suddenly available for surprise visits. My house feels most like a home when people are dropping in for coffee, lunch or a glass of wine on the patio. I was raised in a southern home, so being a good host is a must. No matter how busy my mother was, no matter how many deadlines she was facing with her freelance writing business she ran from home, she was always ready for a visitor.
As a wife and mother with a family of my own now, I find that our home is quite similar to the one I grew up in. We are often the hosts of family gatherings, from backyard cookouts to wine and cheese afternoons. I love being the hub for our family and friends, but let's be real. Hosting is work. For a while I got bogged down with work, potty training a toddler and trying to stay on top of meal planning, shopping, house cleaning and busy social schedules. I'd get a call or text from someone saying they were going to stop by and I'd frantically start running around like a crazy lady, scooping up crushed goldfish crackers off furniture, hiding piles of unfolded laundry in the master bedroom and wiping spots off the guest bathroom mirror with the corner of my dress.
By the time our company arrived I was exhausted and felt defeated. Despite my quick clean up attempt, I still didn't feel like my house was presentable. I'm not unrealistic in my expectations. I'm not obsessive about cleaning by any means. I recognize that I live with a two and a half year old, which means that a graveyard of toys can be found scattered around my living room at any given moment. This is an acceptable blemish. Plates of food sitting out from five hours ago, laundry piled on the couch leaving no place to sit and a guest bathroom with puddles of water all over the countertop are not acceptable. Not in my house, at least. The funny thing is that, when I visit other people, if I were to see these things, I wouldn't think twice. Especially if they had children.
My high standards for my own housekeeping stem from the fact that I work from home. I'm here every single day, all day, trying to focus on things like songwriting, researching popular trends in various industries and engaging my daughter in some stimulating educational activities along the way. If my house is a disaster, I can't focus. I can't pretend like the mess isn't there.
In an attempt to create a more guest-ready home and maintain my sanity, I implemented a few strategies that have proven very successful. I'm still a work in progress, but I've managed to tackle and eliminate some of the biggest roadblocks in my quest for an efficient home. Let me know how some of these work out for you!
- Create a laundry schedule. Keeping up with our family's laundry created tons of frustration for a long time. I'd wash a load, toss it in the dryer and start a new load, but the first load would take so long to dry that by the time it finished and I got it out and started drying the second load, I never got around to folding the last batch of laundry. It would sit in the dryer, forgotten, until my husband would have to dig through the dryer the next morning looking for a clean pair of socks. Or he'd need to quickly de-wrinkle a dress shirt only to find a dryer full of clothes he had to empty first. I could go on and on with the laundry issues. I started a laundry schedule, washing towels and underwear on Wednesdays, my daughter's clothes and whites on Thursdays, then regular clothes and bed sheets on Fridays. I throw in small loads throughout the week as needed. Towels, underwear and socks take the longest to dry, which is why I make that load the only load on Wednesdays. Whites are a fairly small load, so I throw those in the same day as my daughter's. Bedsheets are a fast load too, so I schedule those on the same day as regular clothes (i.e. pants, t-shirts, pajamas). I also love having the fresh sheets for Saturday morning. I no longer find myself with piles of laundry everywhere and a constantly full dryer.
- Watch the BOGO sales for great company snacks. Publix has had boxes of biscotti on BOGO in the past. Cubed cheese is often on sale, and I almost always find a BOGO promotion for hummus. These types of snacks are perfect for keeping on hand for when visitors drop in. Places like WalMart tend to have great prices on K-cup coffee pods. I recently bought an 18-pack of coffee pods at WalMart for the price I usually pay for a 10-count. Even though I typically drink unflavored coffee I still like to offer an assortment of coffee options to visitors.
- Create clean-up stations where needed. The guest bathroom is always my top concern when people drop in. Since it's not our primary bathroom I'm never quite sure what kind of shape it's in. Our master bathroom, on the other hand, gets used a lot so it tends to lose its shine quickly. It takes only hours for water spots to appear on the mirror and counter top. Between my head full of long hair and my husband shaving, the floors get dirty fast too. And cream-colored tile shows off every strand that falls. I went to Dollar Tree and put together clean-up baskets to keep in each bathroom under the sink. Each basket has a roll of paper towels, a spray bottle of glass cleaner, small size trash bags and a canister of Clorox wipes. I also put dry Swiffer sheets in the master bath basket and I keep my Swiffer in the corner. Every day, I run the Swiffer over the floor to keep stray hairs at bay. These clean up baskets make it easy to quickly clean faucets, sinks, counter tops and mirrors. Dollar Tree has packs of small trash bags that are scented, so a nice smelling cabinet is a bonus.
- Routinely purge kitchen counter tops. Nothing makes a house look untidy and cluttered like kitchen counters filled with random appliances and items. One day I went through and literally picked up every item on my countertops and asked myself if it was a necessary counter item. Many items were not, so I found places for them in cabinets or drawers. With decluttered counter tops, the kitchen, which is sort of the hub of southern homes, immediately looks tidier. Tidy counter tops are also easier to wipe down in a pinch.
- Implement 5 minute pick ups throughout the day, and one before bed. Throughout the day, I go around and pick up any items that are junking up the floors (mostly toys), counter tops (mostly keys, iPads, wallets and remotes) or table tops (forgotten drinks, used napkins and mail). I do it fast, only spending about a total of five minutes overall. I make sure to do it one last time as soon as my daughter goes to bed. This strategy has saved me from becoming paralyzed by a total disaster. When the mess doesn't have time to invade every corner of the house, its much easier to tackle it. I also feel best when I wake up to a neat house, so the bedtime pick up means that I can enjoy my evening TV shows with my husband without obsessing over the mess around me and I can have my morning coffee with the same peace of mind.
It took me some time to turn these strategies into habits, but once I did, my life became way less stressful. Our home is more efficient which means that my family can enjoy our time here together instead of dealing with clutter, messes and entire Saturdays spent doing laundry. What are some of your housekeeping secrets?