First, I have to start this post with a confession. I had the best of intentions when it came to setting “deep cleaning” as the theme for April. I envisioned taking everything off of the kitchen counters, dismantling the stove, and giving everything a thorough scrub before playing with the accessories. I imagined finally cleaning the things that are typically neglected like blinds and high shelves. I did do some deep cleaning, but the month has come and gone and I’ve been too occupied with other things to do as much as I planned. I realized the idea of a monthly blog theme is great, but it’s not always going to work out in reality unless I want to be owned by it.
So, I was asked a few months ago by a blog reader if I had a cleaning calendar I could share. If I had one, I would’ve been happy to share it, but I have never worked off of a cleaning calendar, schedule, or chart. I have always cleaned when things needed to be cleaned. Any kind of routine settles in around other daily and weekly activities and ebbs and flows with the seasons. But, that question did get me thinking… Should I have a cleaning calendar? Have I been falling woefully short in this area?
Despite having a relatively clean and tidy house, I felt like maybe I wasn’t doing enough or doing it properly and a cleaning calendar was the reason.
And then the thought occurred to me… I have been successfully cleaning and caring for my own home, from a 1 bedroom studio to a three-story suburban house, since I was 18-years-old and I’ve never once had a schedule, calendar, routine sheet, or chart to follow. And I feel okay about that.
I firmly believe that the things in your home, including your home, should serve you. And, while I think a cleaning calendar can be a great tool, it can also make you feel like a slave to your home. So can a theme publicly shared and announced about a particular month being “deep cleaning month,” apparently!
A calendar can feel like an obligation, a commitment, and when you have to skip a day or shuffle things around, it’s easy to feel like a failure in some respect.
On my Instagram Stories a couple of weeks ago, I took this very unscientific and completely unfair poll…
Even though the options were extremes, the vast majority of people admitted they want their home just clean enough to not kill anyone. While I would’ve clicked the “clean freak” option, I was pleasantly surprised to see I was in the minority. (And I found it amusing.) Sometimes I wish I wasn’t so particular about things being tidy and clean. I do enjoy cleaning in some respects – it’s good “thinking time” for me, it often gets me working on other projects, and I just love the smell of fresh laundry, vacuum lines in the carpet, clean and crisp sheets, and a gleaming stove. But, I can also get frustrated if things aren’t up to my standards.
Admittedly, those standards are a bit arbitrary. Some messes I can live with and some I can’t. I’m very picky about cleaning some things while lax about cleaning others! Aren’t we humans such interesting, baffling creatures?
Anyway, as I’m eyeing a dust bunny gracefully swaying under the cabinet in our foyer, I think the “as long as my home doesn’t kill anyone” crowd has it right. To me, a clean home is a comfortable home. Neatness and beauty are calming and inspiring to me. Places that are too untidy are distracting. And there are plenty of benefits to having a clean home – it’s easier to find things, it smells nice. But, it’s easy to put a clean home on a pedestal and give it more importance than it actually deserves. I don’t think anyone, not even Martha Stewart herself, wants “she kept a very clean house” as an epitaph. When the house is messy on a Saturday morning, it feels very important. In the big picture of life, we see that it’s not a worthy pursuit. It’s a good thing, but it’s not the most important thing or even a very important thing at all. And when I stack it against going on a walk with Jeff on an unusually warm spring day, taking a sketching class with Calvin, or making a cyanometer, cleaning is losing out more often.
So, use a cleaning chart if it works for you! If it keeps you on track and helps your house run smoother, use it! But, if you feel like a slave to it, if you feel inadequate because you find the chart to be another unrealistic expectation in your life, if it’s not really helpful or pulls your focus away from more important and rewarding endeavors, then don’t pin them on Pinterest or tuck them in your planner or stick them on your fridge.
Just clean when you need to clean. And I’ll do the same.