A very distraught man trying to clean the kitchen with a mop on his head

Chicago Home and Lifestyles – Let’s make house cleaning less overwhelming

A very distraught man trying to clean the kitchen with a mop on his head

I’m sure many of us have keeping the house clean as one of our goals this coming year. You see homes on TV or online with not a thing out of place and feel inspired. But do people really live like that?

There is no end to guides showing the proper way to do household chores and how often we should do them. However, much of this advice is subjective. Some cleaning tasks are strictly necessary, yet some can be a matter of personal preference. There are many practical ways to reduce the burden of housework!  

Recognize that most chores are superficial. The list of chores that pose a serious health risk if done poorly is fairly short. We need to reduce the spread of germs and pathogens on surfaces in frequently used places like kitchens or bathrooms. But you aren’t going to catch the flu from a dusty shelf! Of course, if you have mold or dust allergies you may need to be a little more diligent and invest in air purifiers with HEPA filters, but not much will happen to most of us if a few dust bunnies are floating around in the corner. 

Remember that over-cleaning can be bad too. There is even evidence that overly sterile environments don’t let the immune system properly develop. There are good bacteria that we need in our gut to help us tolerate allergens. 

Put the whole cleaning thing into perspective. In the 1960’s Women’s magazines were full of articles on the correct way to wax a floor and dust knickknacks. But as more women entered the workforce some cleaning standards were relaxed and nothing catastrophic happened. That tells us much of what was being done in the past is not strictly necessary! 

Make peace with yourself and be a little forgiving. Women do unfortunately share most of the burden and feel the pressure of being judged. We need to understand cleaning standards are more relaxed now and learn to be kinder to others and ourselves.

Break up tasks and distribute labor fairly in the house. Call on kids, especially teenagers, to do their part. Make a plan to keep cleaning as easy and efficient as possible.Here are a few ways to streamline chores:

Cut down on laundry. Many clothes can be worn several times before laundering. Hang clothes as soon as dried to avoid ironing. Towels can go 3-4 showers if hung up to dry. 

Take off your shoes. Keep the floor clean by removing shoes as you enter. Keep a pair of house shoes to wear if you need support like I do. 

Spot clean. Do this especially for floors to avoid mopping till necessary. Swiffer mops are easy too as they don’t need a bucket or water. 

Meal plan. For mealtime keep easy meals on a rotation that use minimal pans like a pot of soup, casseroles or sheet pan suppers. 

Keep dish washing simple. Pre-rinsing dishes that are going into a dishwasher is not necessary. If you hand wash let them air dry, it’s more sanitary anyway. 

Manage toys. Teach the kids to have a toy pickup time before play is done for the day. But realize those toys are just coming all out again tomorrow so it’s not the end of the world. Fewer toys are good too. Studies have found that especially toddlers who have fewer toys are encouraged to play more creatively and focus more. 

Experiment. Try waiting a little longer to do certain tasks and see if you really notice the difference. Think of how often a space is used. If you have a basement bathroom that’s used infrequently, it might not be necessary to clean weekly. You may find dusting every two weeks has little difference over weekly dusting.

Not one cleaning schedule will work for everyone, so don’t try to chase an ideal that’s impossible! It is liberating to be more in control over what needs to be done. 

Kathleen Weaver-Zech and Dean’s Team Chicago