Sunday, October 24, 2010

the necessary evil


You really need to keep your environment clean and ordered. It helps you to write, because
a) you will be THINKING about cleaning, if you haven't done it. It takes surprisingly big amount of your brain capacity, which you should be free to use fully in your writing.
b) clean space is inspiring. Your mind will try to fill it. Use this to fill your pages with words ;-)
c) People with allergies are only very, very sensitive. Everyone gets tired of needing to breathe dust. You don't need to be tired, you need all the aid you can get to be alert and awake.

If all the members using the household take their responsibility (and even small children and animals can be trained to do their bit), it shouldn't take more than 15 minutes a day to see that your home is "clean enough". It doesn't need to be spotless, so clean that you could eat from floor (you can't. Ever. And won't either.) or not even the hotel standard. It's a home, not an ad for a cleaning firm or a hospital. (sometimes it is, but not usually, at least for writers.) If you keep the floor empty so that you can drag the vacuum cleaner through the home once a week, it's good enough.

You just need a couple of rules:
1) there is a place for every item and every item has a place.
2) You put the things back right after you have used them.
3) Put the visible scraps, garbage, crap in the garbage bin when you see it (or straight after you have stopped creating it).

This means that after breakfast, you put the egg shells and used teabags and coffee filters and what nots in the garbage bin, and you wash the dishes you used and let dry.
After having taken a shower, you dry the floor and hang your towel to dry in its place.
After having brushed your teeth, you wipe the sink and mirror.
Just the way you wipe your bottom, flush and wash and dry your hands after having used the toilet.
It doesn't take a long time, but it makes all the difference.

If you do arts and crafts, you clean up your work place every day after having used it. This is what we learned to do in craft school, because we weren't the only people using the same room and tools, so they had to be clean and everything in place for the next user. You can easily show yourself the same consideration.

You should wipe the laundry machine and clean the floor from all possible excess washing detergent and lint every time you have used the laundry machine. This is what we do in Swedish common laundry rooms. It doesn't take long time, but makes all the difference in the long run.

If you take a book from a book shelf, you put it back in after you have read it.
If you use a pair of scissors, you put them back into the drawer or nail or where-ever you storage it.
You either hang your clothes to air or put them in a laundry basket after having worn them.
You pack the clean clothes to their correct storage spaces as part of taking down the dry clothes from  the line (or out from a dryer). Don't just take them down/out and leave in a pile somewhere.

You should really see just a little afore of yourself. Bend down and pick up your hair from the shower drain. Wipe the table, counters, stove, sink, what ever you have used after having used it. If fat drops burn on stove or if your toothpaste dries on the sink, it's a hell to get it off. It's barely a bother to wipe it off fresh.

Also, choose your tasks wisely. For example, don't bother making your bed, because airing it is good for you. We have gathered a lot of unnecessary rules from our upbringing, television, friends and magazines. Find out why you do things, and stop doing things you do just to stop people from talking about how nasty you have at home. Most creative people have at least somewhat cluttered homes, and you don't need to be "good at housekeeping". It's a skill and should be appreciated as such. Housewives and SAHMs do an amazing job, but seldom get credited for it. We should really ease up a bit and understand that I don't need to be a superwoman and good at everything. It really IS enough to just vacuum once a week (or dust and swipe the floors, if you don't have a vacuum cleaner), it really is ok to have dishes in the dish drainer. You don't need to dry the dishes and set them neatly in a cupboard. It's ok not to make your bed. It's ok to have it arranged so that it works for you, and if it works for you, don't care about what people tell you.

Your guests will usually note ONLY 4 things when it comes to cleaning
1) dishes. Dirty dishes are #1 thing to make your home look uncleaned. Also, everything you offer your guests to drink or eat with/from should be spotless.
2) toilet - see that your toilet is sparkling clean, that the sink is clean, that you have picked up all the hair from all drains and that there is plenty of toilet paper and clean hand towels available.
3) kitchen - the area where food is stored, prepared and eaten should be clean. The tablecloth must be spotless. It's better to eat on bare (well cleaned) table than with a stained tablecloth.
4) entry - you should have space for your guests to store their coats so that they won't be brushed upon or stained by; there should be some surface to put the things the guests have on their hands, like handbags, gifts, gloves and so on, during the time they take off the outer garments, and there should be a chair or stool to be used if needed when taking off and putting on shoes, if shoes are to be taken off. (Which it is in Scandinavia). It is also a nice touch to offer your guests slippers or socks or such, if the shoes are to be removed, but that's just a petty, pretty thing and doesn't have anything to do with cleaning :-D

Make it easy

Get yourself a rug in front of the doors, because that will stop a lot of crap being carried in your home on feet of people.
Have a washcloth on a rack by kitchen and bathroom sink for easy access and therefore also easy wiping of the surfaces, and also so that you can quickly rinse it and hang to dry for next use. Have plenty of paper baskets, garbage bins and tabletop waste baskets, and empty them when they are getting full. Not when they are full, but when "there's place for a couple more x's there". Otherwise you will come to the waste basket with your hands full but no place to put the garbage in.

I would like to point out a couple of things here. You need to check the back of your stove every now and then, as when you fry, you will get teeny tiny layer of fat on the wall behind the stove, and when you boil something, the steam will wash down this fat, and it will collect on the electric parts of the stove, and might cause electric problems, even fire.
You need to keep the fridge cooling grills clean from dust. It takes just a bottle brush and a couple of swipes to do this. This will help the fridge working and keep your electric bills down.
You need to keep the fridge cleaned. Empty it and wash it once a month. It is not at all uncommon for people to have something spoiled, old, rotten or moldy in their fridge, how ever "good" they are, and this takes space from good food, makes the good food go bad quicker, and it also makes you less likely to use the fridge, let the good food go bad, because you are not sure if you can use it, you don't know what you have and have not and so on and so forth. So clean the fridge once a month.
It is very important that you keep your AC clean. It can make you sick if you don't.
Also, keep the heating elements, lamp shades and such dust-free, because you will get a nasty smell of burned dust if you don't.

About once a month, take a round in your home with a duster, and dust your books, pictures, all the little things on open shelves, walls, tops of doors... well... everything, especially if you are a collector (or hoarder. Creative types are usually dragons in disguise :-D). We usually don't, but doing this will remove a lot of "invisible" dust and stop it from becoming visible.

Finally, if you need a quick clean up, wipe the mirrors, door handles and light switches. It's amazing how much such details do. You can almost have as nasty as can be, but if the mirrors, door handles and light switches are clean, people are likely to think the rest is "not usual" :-D

P.S. A lot of people swear in the name of FLY lady. I don't. I used to be part of that, but they were getting more and more obsessed with cleaning... it wasn't ok to just wipe the sink clean, you were to use bleach and boiling water and all sorts of unnecessary, even harmful things, that took way too much time and bother. It really is enough if you just take a dishcloth and wipe the sink, tap, tabletop and wall behind, as the last thing you do after having washed up your evening meal dishes, and not even bother being meticulous about it. My breaking point came when one of the members was sharing how she and her siblings EMPTIED their mother's home while she was in hospital, without her knowledge or approval, and everyone was praising this member... I'm sorry, but human rights, values and integrity are thousand times more worth than the cleanest home in the world, or the economical value of their prospective inheritance. Dang! Also, I was p'd off by the constant pushing of the merchandise. EVERY DAY you were told how much easier, even possible, your FLYing would be if you just had this or that gadget, daily chores were built around using one of their gadgets and so on and so forth. They weren't even interested in giving people alternatives. I asked, and was basically told to find a way around it myself.
Sure, I did. I also quit the whole dang thing, and I will speak against them at any possible venue, because I firmly believe they are after selling their crap and forcing the "clean" dictatorship on creative people who WANT to hoard and collect things and live in "chaos".
I mean, there are "filers" and there are "pilers", and neither system is good for the other. My husband won't be ABLE to find anything from my files, just as I can't find anything from his piles. He knows exactly what's where in his piles. They tested this, and asked 5 pilers to find one specific piece of paper. 4 out of them found it in under 5 minutes.
I haven't always been a filer, you know. I was born a piler. My brother tried to get me cleaning, so he asked me fetch one specific thing from my room. I went to my room, digged it out from the piles of clothes, craft material, school equipment et al, and gave it to him. He asked for something else. The same thing happened. He tried with a third things, this time a specific part of a machine, about the size of a pencil, and flat. I was back to him with in in a minute. Then he laughed and said, "ok, this is not going to work. Just go and clean your room!".

If a cluttered desk signs a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?
- Albert Einstein

1 comment:

Hart Johnson said...

Oi! I'm a piler... and like your husband, that is how I find stuff... right where I left it. Drives my husband crazy, but our house is too small to hold the containers these things would GO IN, were they to have a place...

And a messy house makes me write... Writing is how I avoid cleaning...