I’m one of those freaks who likes doing housework. Always have been.
My university house-mates treated me like the weirdo I was: vacuuming, mopping and scrubbing the bath on weekends and hand trimming the garden beds with pinking shears (because I wasn’t so much of a weirdo that I owned gardening tools in my twenties).
These days, (much, much later) I supplement my meager university tutoring income with cleaning work and I love it. Strangely, the more I clean, the more I want to clean. I told you I was a freak!
If you have the right approach, housework can be fun. It’s a workout, it’s easy and the results are deeply satisfying.
Here are five tips to rock your housework:
I cannot stress enough how important music is to cleaning and choice of music is critical. You don’t wanna be cleaning to Nick Cave or Adele, because as great as they are, they are major downers. I reckon you need up tempo music to clean to. I like cleaning to dramatic music with really belt out songs, but jazz and peaceful ambient chill out music while you float around cleaning like a Zen master, is cool too. Here’s a sample of a few faves of mine. Add your own and maybe make a housework mix. You’ll be glad you did. It’s an excuse to listen and dance to the cheesiest music your cheesy soul craves (or the most wild out there alternative music some souls crave!):
Marcia Hines Greatest Hits albums: (make sure you get one with ‘Your love still brings me to my knees’ and ‘What I did for love’, both so appropriate to cleaning). Shirley Bassey Greatest Hits albums: (you particularly want ‘Where do I begin’. I swear these this song will make cleaning the toilet feel like the most important and dramatic thing you’ve ever done). Xanadu: self-explanatory. Queen’s Greatest Hits: will give you energy. ELO: joyful power to your cleaning arm. Elvis: if you do not vacuum better while singing along to ‘Hunk of Burning Love’, I’m sorry, there’s something wrong. Ball Park Music: ‘Happiness and surrounding suburbs’ album. Almost every song will make you feel like the hit single ‘It’s nice to be alive’. KLF The White Album: don’t know it? Grab a copy: it will change your life.
Here are some singles that are extra motivating:
‘Right Here, Right Now’ by Fatboy Slim. Not only is this a rockin song, but the mantra ‘right here right now’ adds a spiritual acceptance to the fact that Yes! You are cleaning! And you are rocking it! Verve, ‘Bittersweet Symphony’. It has momentum and when you are cleaning, you want momentum. Bruce Springsteen: ‘Born to Run’. ‘Strap your legs around my engines’. If that does not get you going, again, something wrong.
But these are just my faves. Choose your own! Test them while cleaning.
2. Get the right tools
I hated vacuuming until I got a proper vacuum cleaner. Yep it’s a Dyson (and nope this is not an ad and later I will prove it’s not an ad). I love my Dyson Big Ball Origin for the simple reason that it actually pulls the dirt, dust and hair right out of your carpet and rugs. When my husband first bought it, I used our normal vac on one side of the carpet and the Dyson on the other. One side was clean, one was not. I don’t use our old vacuum any more. Our Dyson also has a really long extendable arm to reach the cobwebby corners, it gets the dirt out of door and window tracks, it’s pretty light and I love it. So get a Dyson vacuum cleaner or a builder’s industrial vacuum cleaner: either way get a hard core powerful vacuum that actually works. I don’t recommend the Dyson stick vacuum. The battery does not last more than 20 minutes which is very frustrating. See? This is not an ad.
Secondly, get a steam mop. When I arrive at clients’ houses for the first time, I can tell if they have a steam mop. There are no grimy corners. The floors look bright. It’s pretty simple really. Steam mops get hard floors cleaner than a normal mop because they use hot steam. They are more hygienic. (If you ever go on a cruise and peek into the kitchen at night you will see them using steam cleaners). The steam on the floor dries almost instantly, without sloshy water marks. You can remove the microfibre pad and rinse or wash every time you use it. I sprinkle a few drops of lavender oil on mine and many clients comment on how nice their place smells when they get home.
No stinky, stringy old mop strands with dirt clinging to them. Steam mops can only be used on sealed hard floors (not polished wood or fake wood flooring). Some say not to use on vinyl, but I use mine on our vinyl tiled floor and it’s fine. They can clog up so best to use distilled water. For polished or fake wood, get a good microfibre mop. Keep your old string mop for floors of sheds and the like.
3. Go natural
Anyone like me and hate the smell of Spray and Wipe and bleach and Glen 20? Yuck. The best clean leaves no smell or just a hint of essential oils. Vinegar, bicarb and eucalyptus oil are your cleaning besties. Fill a spray bottle with half vinegar and half water and use it to clean EVERYTHING: the loo cistern, seat and pedestal, kitchen benches, windows (streak free), shower glass (removes light lime scale and soap) and mirrors. Sprinkle a few drops of Eucalyptus oil on a microfibre cloth soaked in hot water and use it also to clean really dirty loos, sticky spots and corners of floors, kitchen bench tops and anywhere you want a bit of solvent to dissolve grime.
Use a dessert spoon of bicarb with a bit of water to clean inside the loo and to polish stainless steel.
Here’s what our very old stainless steel sink looks like after being cleaned with bicarb, rinsed and dried: it positively gleams:
4. If you have a cleaner, prep for them
Yes, do it clean for the cleaner!
It will take five or ten minutes tops, you will get a better clean and starts the cleaner on the right foot. If a cleaner has to move all your stuff, they’ll go slower because they want to be careful and they don’t know where stuff goes.
If they spend 20 minutes moving all your stuff (making sure chairs don’t scratch floors or tables, moving breakable ornaments, picking up kids’ toys), that’s 20 minutes out of the precious two to three hours they are not cleaning. Lift chairs and footstools off the floor if you want them cleaned under. Lift light items like laundry baskets, bath and toilet mats and bins. Roll up rugs and pick up the kids’ toys and clothes. Leave out the vacuum cleaner, mop, and cleaning products you want them to use.
5. Encourage your partner to do their share of the housework.
Reduce the amount of cleaning you have to do in the first place so it’s not overwhelming. Fact: most straight men don’t do their share of housework, and slack partners are not confined to heterosexual relationships. I know gay couples where one partner does all the cleaning, shopping, social and emotional housework and the other partner takes care of lighting the incense). Encourage your partner to clean by asking them to do specific tasks (not ‘this house is a mess and it’s your turn to clean it) such as the vacuuming, the dishes, a few loads of washing. The tip is to model the way you do certain tasks for him or her and ask them to model the way they do them for you. Encourage them to do tasks they actually like. My husband’s a laundry man.
I had a major win recently with my spouse and the washing. We all know (don’t we?) that hanging coloured, cotton or linen clothes out in the blazing sun and wind fades them and deteriorates the fibres. So while I hang sheets, towels and old clothes on the Hills Hoist, my good clothes dry in the shade on an airer in the laundry. I hang shirts on coat-hangers on the airer, so they keep their shape and when dry they go straight in the cupboard. No double handling! (By the way a male friend taught me this. Hi Ian!). Recently I walked into our laundry and ta dah! My husband had done our clothes the same way. Check it out!
It’s possible both of you have good ideas for the best way to do housework, so when the vibe’s relaxed, maybe you two can chat convivially about methods over a frosty tube or glass of something refreshing. I’ve learned cleaning techniques from my husband. I wipe all the water off the sink edges after using the sink, because he showed me when water sits on sink edges, it lifts the lino or leaves water marks on your kitchen bench covering. We squeegee the shower glass after every shower and the glass always looks clear and gorgeous.
So there you have it. Make cleaning fun, crank up the music (wear earphones if others don’t want to hear it) get some pro tools, ditch the nasty chemicals, support your cleaner and share techniques with your partner.
Challenge your thinking about cleaning
Do you enjoy cleaning your own body? Most people (I hope) would answer an enthusiastic ‘Yes’.
You know cleaning yourself is unavoidable; you accept it, you get the good tools (great shower head, toiletries, shaver, beard trimmer or hair straightener) and maybe even enjoy it. You don’t curse the fact that it happens daily do you? Think of cleaning your house or unit that way: accept it, embrace it, get good at it and maybe even enjoy it.
Failing that: hire a cleaner.
Vivienne Wynter runs The Cleaning Fairy, a house cleaning service, in the Mary Valley Queensland