As we've established by now, I am a neat freak, a Monica, and obsessively neat person. Let's not beat around the bush, I love a nice neat and tidy house!! It started a loooooooooooong time ago when I was a child, I loved it so much when my Mum's friends would remark on how neatly I kept my bedroom and how tidy a child I was.. It was an addiction and my friends, I cannot kick it.
Let me put it into perspective for you. Getting home from the hospital when Ethan was born, after 29 hours of labour and 56 hours without sleep, the first thing I did was to get down on my hands and knees and sweep the floors of my house.
I don't recommend anyone become as obsessive as I am about cleaning and keeping things neat, but I know many people out there would like to be a little more tidy or at least are curious about how I manage it with a two year old (and a husband) around the house. So, dear readers, let me introduce you to my top tips, my short cuts, the things I do to keep on top of things.
First of all, I need to tell you that I only vac the house once a week unless there is some extreme reason for me to go and grab the vac. I dust once or twice a month, tops. The bathroom is cleaned once a week. No more than that. The key to making your house magazine article presentable is not the amount of cleaning you do, but keeping things tidy. It's true what they say, a place for everything and everything in it's place. If you want a house that looks good, don't hoard too much, get yourself organised and have a set place for things that get taken out and used every day (lets face it, I'm mainly talking toys here).
I reckon that on a good day, when Ethan is happy to amuse himself for a bit I can vac the house, dust and clean the bathroom in 1.5 - 2 hours. So, in a week, that's not much, is it? That's the easy bit. I find it helps to have a set day in mind for fitting this in, if you can. It can be flexible, but me being the anxious type I am, I tend to stick to the same day each week. It makes me more relaxed because I know where I am!!
Now for my tips.
1) Tidy up as you go along.
This tip mainly applies to the kitchen but does come into play in the other rooms in the house. I make sure I clean up in the kitchen as I go and that breakfast things etc. are always washed up before we go out for the day. I will admit it sometimes means we turn up late for things, but I can relax in the knowledge that no manky cleaning is waiting for me when we get home. It's self explanatory really!! Before I go downstairs in the mornings I always "straighten up" the bedrooms, i.e. make sure the beds are made and in Ethan's room his toys are back in the cot. The bathroom is one of my key areas. When we bath, shower or use the sink we wipe down after use. I know, I know. It's boring but let me stress it takes no time at all really and once you've fitted it into your routine you don't even know you're doing it. The pay off, in my opinion anyway, is well worth it. Our bathroom almost always looks spotless and the actual cleaning with proper products I do once a week takes far less time because limescale etc hasn't been able to build up. My recommendation is to invest in a few cloths (0r even flannels - that's what I use!) to keep in the bathroom and just wipe as you go! Your taps will shine all the time :)
2) Wet wipes.
When you become a Mum you soon realise how indispensable wet wipes are. Of course there is their intended use on bums, but they are amazing for cleaning up on the go, wiping mucky hands etc.. However, this is not their only use! They are excellent as a stop gap between dusting. Grab a wipe after a nappy change (clean of course!) and you can whip around your whole house with one wipe, sweeping it over surfaces just getting rid of dust and buying yourself time before having to dust properly. I know it may seem wasteful in this eco conscious age, so if that is a concern for you just use a damp (very slightly damp, not soaking please!) cloth which you can pop in your wash after. Or as a half way house, use biodegradable wipes as I do. They are pretty fab at cleaning a loo up as well, or dusting lamps/light fittings. And grease marks if you have a husband who like mine, is addicted to his push-bike and leaves greasy things lying around in the garage for your toddler to get hold of...
If you have a little gent or lady around the house you no doubt have reams and reams of toys and toddler gadgetry... The key here my friends is storage. Invest in some boxes, bags, wicker baskets, whatever takes your fancy, fits your budget and goes with your decore (or not if you don't mind!!). At the end of the day, you can either attempt some type of "lets tidy up game" or you can do as I do and just wait until they are in bed and put it away yourself telling yourself you'll get them involved in it one day.... Please, please, try not to follow your child around all day putting stuff away the second they put it down. It's not good for the mental health of either of you. I speak from experience here - it happened to me and just look what I'm writing about!! No, in all honesty, it's not worth giving yourself the stress. I used to tidy up after Ethan at least twice a day, definitely if we were leaving the house, but it's a waste of time. They only get it all out again.
4) Airing cupboard/linen cupboard and wash days.
I know not all houses these days (the modern ones built 90s onwards) have much in the way of storage space and often have small airing cupboards, but if you have the space, use it wisely!! I have a few tips when it comes to these spaces. Firstly, if you can, build in some kind of drying space - they are excellent for drying your clothes in! My lovely hubby very kindly put lots of nice shelving and a dado rail in ours so I have loads of room to store our towels and bed linen and a place in which I can hang clothes up to dry.
This leads me onto my other short cuts. If you can, hang up shirts and t-shirts to dry on clothes hangers. It saves on ironing and in many cases saves you getting that blasted iron out at all! If possible, hang clothes up as soon as they are out of the washing machine, saves on creases!! I have a clothes horse which lives in our airing cupboard on which the rest of our clothes dry.... I always pair socks up on the drying rack so when it comes to putting the clothes away it's a quick and easy (if boring!) job!
When storing bed linen, a good way to do it is to use pillow cases - let me explain. Fold all your bedding up (fitted sheet, duvet cover and pillow case) but keep one pillow case aside. Once all your other items are folded, place them inside the pillow case you kept aside and store like that!! It keeps everything from the same set together and makes things nice and neat in your airing/linen cupboard!
Finally under this subject, I personally recommend having set washing days. It's a personal choice of course, but I find it weighs a lot less heavily on my mind if I know I only have to put the washing machine on on a particular day. I usually do it on a Sunday and Wednesday but hey, that's only me! I won't lie, there are exceptions to the rule, but that's generally when I do the washing. If you get a lot of stained clothes, I find it's best to rinse out the stains as soon as possible and invest in something like fairy household soap if you can get hold of it - it's amazing at getting tough stains out! I then just pop those wet pre-washed things into my washing bag or straight into the washing machine to wait until wash day. If you can't get hold of the fairy soap (I get mine in the cheap shop in town) I believe Boots to a version of their own. Failing that, try a dollop of fairy liquid! The soap is the best though.. it's what our grannies used!!
5) Dish washer.
This one is self explanatory. If you can afford it and you have the space, get one. It will change your life. No joke. Of course, you quickly forget how long it takes to hand wash and dry and you will soon be arguing over who's turn it is to unload the dishwasher. Or your toddler will climb inside it and break the door... hey ho!
If you want to get chores done, stick on Cbeebies. Or get a few house work style toys for your child so they can "join in". Personally I've not done that because Ethan finds he can vac perfectly fine using a ukele thank you very much!!
7) Dust pan and brush and/or hand held vac.
Another obvious one, but if you want to save yourself from dragging out the huge vac each time your child spreads crisps all over the floor or your dog brings in dirt from the garden, invest in a decent dustpan & brush or handheld vac. This is actually harder than I ever imagined. Most dustpan sets I've come across/used are poor quality and crap at their job. I'm talking from the £1.99 - £19.00 range here!! Just take a look at Amazon and read through the reviews ranging from the cheap to the expensive sets. It's not easy to find one that actually does the job. Let me do the reasearch for you. If you have a useless set or are searching for a decent one, go for this one http://www.amazon.co.uk/OXO-Good-Grips-Dust-Brush/dp/B00004OCL4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1315777131&sr=8-1 It's amazing, comfy to use, a decent price and actually does what it's supposed to.
I don't yet have a hand held vac but it is on my I REALLY WANT ONE NOOOOOOOOOW list. Perhaps not an essential pre children, but I would say it would be very useful once you have one. Children snack. All the time. Mainly in a very messy fashion. Being able to suck up their mess under the high chair/in the car/buggy quickly and easily would be a God send. I have it on good recommendation that this model is a good one to go for and it's what I'll be getting once the husband agrees we have the funds http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B003O2S454/ref=asc_df_B003O2S4544371151/?tag=shopzil_ret149-21&creative=22114&creativeASIN=B003O2S454&linkCode=asn
Well, I think that's all of the tips I can think of for now, though if I think of more I may add them at a later date!! I hope that I'm not offending anyone with these tips and if possible I may save some of you some time!! Most of it is common sense combined with experience really!