One of my New Year's resolutions for 2009 was to simplify and organize. I knew that adding a new baby to the mix of my everyday life would be a challenge to my often lazy self. While the jury's still out on my success rate, here are a few things that have kept my husband from nominating me to one of those "clean my disaster of a house" shows.
1. Go through the mail when it comes. Right away! I am notorious for saving piles of catalogs/circulars/generally junky mail because "I'm going to read it later." I shuffle the piles from counters to drawers to tables for days, and when I do get to them, they've usually expired. Just throw them out! Rip the 20% coupon off the Bed Bath and Beyond paper and chuck the rest of it. You're not reading it anyway. Same goes for the newspaper. If you don't read it that day, you're never going to.
2. Put dishes directly in the dishwasher. Don't let them pile up on the counter or in the sink. They're ugly to look at, gross to deal with later, and too overwhelming otherwise.
3. Clean messes when they're fresh. This is Martha's homekeeping mantra, and it's true. It's always easier to wipe up something right away than to leave it. A splatter of spaghetti sauce is a cinch to wipe off the stove as you're cooking, but requires a ton of elbow grease tomorrow morning.
4. Swiffer/vacuum/mop/do what you've gotta do to the floors every day. In our house, dark hardwood floors + 2 furry kitties + 1 crumby toddler = instantly dirty looking floors. I swiffer every day at least once to keep the floors looking good. Not fantastically great, but good. Plus, on the days that I wash the floor, it goes much faster.
5. Go to bed with a clean house. Straightening up tonight will make you happy tomorrow! Of course, do it throughout the day as well. When you leave a room, do a quick once-over and pick up any stray items or toys.
6. Wipe down the bathroom every day. I'm not talking scrubbing the grout around the tub, but a few sprays of Clorox cleaner in the tub and in the sink will keep anything gross from building up and making it a big job to clean the whole bathroom later on.
7. Fold/hang laundry as it's dried. This is my constant struggle. I am always doing loads of laundry and then leaving baskets full of clean clothes for days. It's too bad I don't just put the clothes in closets and dressers. I'd save a whole lot of ironing.
8. Along the same lines, do at least a little bit of laundry every day. Again, the feeling overwhelmed factor. A week's worth of laundry takes hours to wash and dry. 1 or 2 days' worth can be done in an hour.
9. If you're feeling overwhelmed, focus on cleaning one room a day. This is how I did it when I was still working. It kept the house looking decent, and I didn't blow my entire Saturday spraying Windex and dusting.
With all that said, there are still plenty of times that I walk into a room and there's clutter and there are still plenty of times I wouldn't want a neighbor (or my mother in law) to just drop by. But, for the most part, my house has the potential to be ready for guests pretty quickly, I'm not really overwhelmed by the work that needs to be done everyday, and it makes me happy to be in it. And that's what matters.