Spring Cleaning by a Messy Person

My idea of spring cleaning since moving into our house has been to put away winter clothes and take out the summer ones.  I vow to do things differently this time.  Purge will be the key word for spring cleaning this year.  Now that my youngest child is two and there are no more babies in the foreseeable future, I want to clear out the clutter that has accumulated in the past three years since we’ve lived in the house.  On top of that, I want to clean the house from top to bottom, just because that’s what spring cleaning is about, right?  Oh yeah, and because my husband stepped on a scorpion the other night (supposedly they like to lurk in cluttered areas).

This is no small feat for me, and it’ll probably take a good month (or two).  I have never been a neat and tidy person – a former boss once referred to my desk as “organized disorganization.” I have actually gotten better since marriage, as my husband’s cleanliness has rubbed off on me over the years.  He grew up with a military father, so he is pretty good about being neat and putting things away.  The problem is that his idea of clean is to stash everything away so that nothing is out in the open (as opposed to my family, who leaves EVERYTHING out).  The counters and floors may be cleared out, but when I open a closet or drawer or cupboard, it’s jam-packed with stuff and in complete disarray.  So actually he just has the illusion of being clean.  As for me, I’m actually quite organized under a messy cover. 🙂  I guess I should consider myself lucky to be married to a man who is cleaner than I am, according to a friend who constantly picks up after her slob-of-a-husband.  However, my husband seems to complain more than help me clean.

I do prefer to have a clean house, I just hate to do it myself.  I suppose I could hire people to clean the house, but somehow I feel wrong about it.  We had cleaning people in Thailand who came in to clean the house every week (and even washed our dishes!), and it was great, I’ll admit.  But over there we were giving the locals jobs.  Over here, it just feels so…elitist.  Why pay for something that I can and should do myself?  The problem is that I don’t, at least on a consistent basis, because cleaning the house just isn’t a priority for me.  I can see the urgency to doing the dishes or washing clothes regularly, but I don’t see the urgency to having a clean house unless my father-in-law comes over.

One of the tasks I do try to be on top of is keeping the floors clean.  With two kids, there seems to be debris (or toys) on the floor all the time, and I always seem to be stepping on something sticky or crunchy or hard.  I make an effort to sweep the floor twice a week and mop the floor every week or two.  I actually got a little obsessed with finding the perfect floor cleaners when we first moved into the house – spending hours online researching the top-rated vacuums, floor sweepers, and mops.  I may have inherited this from my father, who owns 8 (yes, EIGHT) vacuum cleaners.  At first I tried to make do with a Swiffer, but it just didn’t do the job (plus the smell was way too chemically).  I then moved onto two Sharks (floor sweeper and mop), and despite the very pretty color, were pieces of crap.  The Shark mop leaked water and the handle broke off.  The Shark floor cleaner lost a wheel at the bottom and the canister kept falling off.  I finally donated both after they sat in the garage for months. I have finally settled on a Hoover floor cleaner and Eureka Enviro steam mop.

However, with all this research and trying out different cleaners, I’ve found that nothing works better than the way they clean floors in Kazakhstan: on your hands and knees with an old rag.  And I realize that sometimes the simple and minimalist approach is best, and perhaps that’s how I got into this mess in the first place.  I buy things hoping to make my life easier or better when instead I just end up gathering stuff that contributes to the clutter.  So this year in addition to purging our house of stuff, I’m going to be mindful of my purchases to avoid clutter in the first place.  That might mean to:

  1. Cancel some magazine subscriptions.  I have a huge stash of magazines dating back to 2009 on the floor next to my bed – can you say perfect scorpion hideout?!
  2. Get library books or e-books instead of buying paperbacks or hardcover books.
  3. Invest in higher-quality clothes (for me, not the kids :)) and kitchen appliances.  We got two Black & Decker kitchen appliances for our wedding (our choice so our mistake) and have already replaced the toaster oven and looking to replace the food processor.  They are pieces of crap!  I’d much rather pay a little extra for quality items that are better equipped to handle years of wear and tear.
  4. Prevent my husband from going to estate sales.  It’s his new hobby and I shouldn’t deprive him of that, right?  But we end up bringing home more junk we don’t need.
  5. Stop buying stuff for the sake of scoring freebies.  Sometimes when it’s Clinique Bonus Time, I’ll go and get the free pouch full of samples.  The problem is that the make-up comes in a horrible shade of pink and ends up languishing in my cabinet.
  6. Buy only things I can envision using a year from now.  The juicer I purchased a couple of months ago went from being used daily to now being used every other week or so.  In a year, I’m sure it’ll be stashed away in the cabinet of unused kitchen appliances.
  7. Avoid those kids’ meals!  I find that the fast food kids’ meals are a hefty price to pay when my kids don’t even eat the apple slices (which taste very chemically anyway), and the cheap plastic toy contributes to the clutter in the house (have you noticed that the small toys are more annoying than the big ones?) and breaks after 3 uses anyway.  Since my kids are still young and don’t know the difference anyway, I order a combo meal for myself and a sandwich a la carte for the kids, share my fries with them and bring juice boxes from home.

So hopefully following these rules, along with purging this year, will result in less clutter for next year’s spring cleaning.  Now what to do about all those toys that the grandparents buy for the kids…