Clean Homes

One of the times I was on leave from knee or foot surgery I started reading the blog Clean Mama, and it helped me get a bathroom cleaning routine in place and also make non-toxic cleaning mixes for the kitchen and bathroom.

I like a lot of her advice but some it is unattainable in France, since I don’t think the French have the same affinity for containers as Americans do (mason jars anyone?). Also I don’t have as much to manage what with only having a baby and a husband and not a gaggle of people whose belongings have to be wrangled.

Anyway she wrote this article the other day: 10 Things People with Clean Homes Do Every Day

Some of these I of course do: we make our bed every morning, though unfortunately I usually make it better than J does. Again, baby beds require no making, so that makes things easier. We definitely don’t let the dishes pile up, and I try to give the kitchen a wipe down after dinner though our wooden counters sneakily hide a lot of crumbs. We wipe up spills when they happen though I have to wonder, besides college students, who doesn’t? And I do sort our mail and throw it into one of three places immediately: 1) a blue stand-up sorter with things we’ll need to take care of or refer to soon, 2) the recycling, and 3) my desk, or if we’re really on top of it, the filing cabinet.

The rest of it is where it gets complicated. Clutter happens all over our house and I am the only one struggling against it. Trying to find places for things on your own is a little tricky, when someone else is spreading things around and then looking for them later. So I wish we were better at this, and relatedly, having a place for everything.

Yesterday we also had a hiccup with “planning ahead.” J thinks he told me that he was heading to work early yesterday and so I had to drop Littlest off at the nanny’s, but I have no recollection of this and freaked out yesterday at 6:45 am when I realized he was on his way out the door. I had to quick text message the nanny and ask if I could drop Littlest off fifteen minutes early, and I hate asking her things at the last minute, because I feel she should be able to, ahem, plan ahead.

So we need to figure out some sort of written system for when we aren’t really listening to each other. Hey, it happens—we talk to each other a lot and some of the stuff he tells me I am only sort of intersted in (Ligue 1 football, for example) so I tune some stuff out. I’m thinking a dry erase board on the fridge could do the trick.

And here’s the kicker: number 10 Be methodical about cleaning and organizing. This is all well and good when I’m on vacation but once I get into a work routine my brain is just fried in the evenings. Not to mention these days I really want to hang out with Littlest until his bedtime and then relax.

So, here’s my question: how does everyone else out there manage having a clean home, whatever that means to them? How do you not feel guilty about it not being cleaner? How do you handle a partner who has different (=lower) standards? What shortcuts do you have that make it all easier?

And on that note, I’m off to deal with some laundry and put more in because I just broke a bottle of olive oil on the floor. It was … not my happiest moment.


19 thoughts on “Clean Homes

  1. Hi hon you know these are issues I have worked hard on, especially the kitchen sink and counters, and you don’t need my input again. But I did want to mention that there is new evidence that microwaving your kitchen sponge in soap, like I always did (see past tense) just forces the evolution of very tough and resistant microbes. I have switched to this system: I knitted some cotton washcloths (from yarn left over from Cheetah and Samuel) for wiping simple water spills. For the sink now I use a plastic scrubbie and the nubby washcloths shown on the blog you linked to. I also still keep a sponge, but use it less, and it has only a one-week life.
    However, I don’t think anyone ever got sick in my house when I was doing the sponge microwave regimen.

  2. as for the husband who doesn’t care about clutter, I think you just have to accept that you are in charge of de-cluttering his clutter, unless you want your marriage to be poisoned by something as silly as clutter. Yes, I DO understand that Julien is particularly cluttery compared to you. He isn’t terribly cluttery, compared to all the messy people of the world. He could be way worse.
    The other piece of advice (I wasn’t going to give you any more advice, sigh) is about finding places to put stuff—if you don’t have enough places to put stuff, get some little night stands and shelves and dressers and bureaus and put them in your basement. I know your basement has started taking shape but you still have some room down there

  3. erin says:

    Have you heard of “bocaux le parfait”? I would say they are the closest thing to mason jars in france .
    As for your question, I do not like clutter and will drop any unwanted stuff to emmaus. Cleaning is more tricky though! I clean once a week. In between, it gets dirty and that’s fine by me.
    Have you thought about hiring a cleaning lady?

    • I recently packed a shopping bag with unworn items in my closet, now I just have to make it to the bins to drop it off! I would rather clean a little every day than a lot one day, but again, I’m so tired after work! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Do you have a non-toxic formula for cleaning wooden floors? I bought a cleaner at the store and the chemicals in it made me break out into a rash.

    My husband and I have never lived together (we live in apartments next door to each other). Nonetheless, he cleans my apartment (and does the dishes) at my place more than I do. I’m a massive slob.

    • We have like 80 square feet of wood floor in our house, and it doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic (mostly my office), so we use some sort of oil on it with a really soft mop cloth. I’m not sure how effective that would be for heavy traffic or larger floors! But I like the smell!

      When I roomed with people who were cleaner than me I didn’t particularly enjoy it either I have to say. I spent so much time feeling guilty! Sounds like you have a great arrangement though.

  5. I’ve bought mason jars in Hema before, but nowadays we consume so much apple compôte that we have lots of big jars lying around (which would be taken out for recycling more often if we were more organised about cleaning …)

    I find keeping the kitchen clean an endless challenge with a small person in the house. My tip for keeping on top of it is to make sure that every meal involves at least one thing that they can eat with their fingers without making too much mess (things which take a long time to chew, like bread, are ideal) so that you can whizz around wiping things and doing dishes while they finish eating. And always have a floor cloth handy!

    • Hmm I should take another look in Hema some time for pretty containers. Littlest isn’t really feeding himself though we may start giving him biscotte since he seems to like it. So he isn’t yet making too many food messes. We do have his toys all over the floor though, but for now I prefer that—there’s always something interesting and safe for him nearby to play with.

  6. I’m always meaning to get a cleaner, but haven’t got around to the logistics of finding someone. I’ve been doing a lot of deep cleaning to try and get ready before the wedding (my parents will be staying in the apartment) and it is definitely satisfying to see a nice clean house (things like inside cupboards and fridge that get neglected). In other ways it’s frustrating to see how quickly it gets dirty again though! The cat is the bane of our lives in that respect, although obviously he makes up for it in other ways 🙂

    • I guess I could look into pricing a cleaner—I’m just skeptical it could fit in the budget! It would make sure the deep cleaning stuff gets done (things like the shower drain, ew). If you had the budget, for cat hair, robot vaccuums seem like a fantastic fix (at least for floors).

  7. I think those ten tips are most likely unattainable every single day for people who have full-time jobs outside the home / don’t run a clean blog for a living 😉

    On vacation and the weekend, I am so good about keeping our apartment looking spotless, but come Monday it’s as though I’d never cleaned at all! I do feel guilty about it, especially because having a clean living space also gives me peace of mind. My husband has lower standards than I do as well, and for a while I tried putting lots of stuff off to see if he’d pick up the slack and nope!

    Have you seen those comics by Emma? She had

    • oops. She had a comic that became popular on social media (even in the States) about the mental load women take on (cleaning, housework, etc). It made me feel a little bit “better” or validated about my feelings toward housework/other things.

      • Yes I meant to say that too—not working at home makes some of it less doable. But then when you work at home it’s so easy to get distracted from work by housework. So not necessarily an advantage. When I worked at home all day Wednesday I used to have to forbid myself from cleaning.

        I’m with you on the peace of mind. I also enjoy looking at clean spaces. I don’t feel like our house is particularly bad but I feel like a few tools might make things a lot better.

        I remember when the “charge mentale” was making the rounds of Facebook and even the radio, because J actually heard about it on the radio and started talking to me about it on his own. So we have talked about it, but not in terms of cleaning, more in terms of household management tasks. Which is why I gave him the job of paying the nanny, except I ended up always having to remind him… so now he’s set an alarm. It’s all a work in progress.

        Anyway, thanks for sharing. I’m always curious how it works in other couples.

  8. Reb says:

    I’m more tolerant of clutter than my husband is. Since he’s gone back to work and I’ve taken a congé parental, I’ve gotten “stuck” with the cleaning, though. The only thing that works for me is to regularly do a little bit, and to recognize that a little goes a long way, even if it’s not as frequent as it ought to be. A lot of things turn out to take about 5 minutes or less. I try to make sure those get done.

    One of the things my husband does that helps is to express his expectations, and to mention them only one at a time. (“It would be great if you could vacuum today.” and then not mentioning the unfolded laundry until after the vacuuming has happened, even if that means biting his tongue for another 24 hours.)

    We’ve also started keeping a calendar on the fridge that we add to whenever we think of something, whether it’s an appointment or an event, a birthday, or a planned trip to the grocery store or to the gym. It makes planning less of a sit-down activity and MUCH less of a memory game.

    What’s frustrated me recently is that I’m somehow also solely in charge of thinking of the little one. Unless prompted, my husband doesn’t remember to, say, bring some form of baby transport with us, or something warm for her if it’s chilly out. Every couple has their imbalances, I guess!

    • Yeah I dunno about that default mom at home cleaning thing. I mean I get it, but I KNOW if my husband were at home all day with the baby, he would not spend it cleaning. Then again, not everything is a feminist battle, some things are just the way things work out best.

      Like I said, when I’m home on leave (or vacation more like), it’s easier to do something every day, like wipe down the bathroom counter+toilet, or mop the kitchen floor, or throw in a few loads of laundry. It’s the days when I get home at 6 that I just don’t have the motivation.

      Some cleaning gets delayed because of the sleeping baby too, e.g. vacuuming, especially in his room.

      I did realize recently, mostly because it’s been summer vacation and I’ve been spending all day with Littlest, there are many things that my husband is unaware of, like how many baby yogurts are left, or where the latest pack of diapers is, or what his nap routine is like. That will probably even out as we settle back into the school year.

      So, anyway, way to go managing all that on parental leave. I hope you’re enjoying it. I know I enjoyed my summer time with the baby though I was ready to go back and see adults. But also I still have him all to myself one day a week so I don’t have much of a feeling of missing out.

      • Reb says:

        A lot of things *are* feminist battles, though, which is one reason I never intended to take parental leave. The original plan was for my husband to take a few months off, but pregnancy exhausted me to the point where I felt more rested during the first weeks with a newborn than I had since week 2 of pregnancy, and we changed our plans. I didn’t really get back to feeling reasonably awake until the last week or so, and I’m still napping whenever the baby naps.

        My work context is also… nuts, and not in a good way, at the moment; I’m relieved not to have to be in the office for that.

        Adult interaction is definitely important. Between different associations I belong to that have hours during the day, lunches and evenings with friends and co-workers, and appointments for adult things (the bank…), I hope I can keep from feeling like I’m stuck in baby land.

        I try to do housework because if he were home with the baby, my husband would. And if I don’t do some of it during the day, he will when he gets home, and then I’d feel guilty–particularly since I know his first choice of work would have been for child- and home-care. He handles finances; I handle logistics; we try to split the rest out of a sense of fairness. It doesn’t always work, but we try. As I said earlier, what’s been most helpful to me in terms of reigning in my greater tolerance for disorder at home has been having a clear sense of his expectations as far as clutter is concerned and feeling like I can meet them. Otherwise there would definitely be a lot more stuff not put away than there currently is.

        For example: I asked my husband today if he thought we should buy the same brand of diapers again, and he mostly expressed astonishment that we need more diapers. But since I never found a good place to put the previous packs away (which drove him nuts), the lack of stock in diapers is really obvious, at least to me…

        My parents made Sunday cleaning day, and no one left the house until the weekly tasks were done: scrubbing the bathtubs, sinks, and toilets, picking up and vacuuming each room, mopping in the kitchen, dusting the living areas, folding whatever laundry was in the works that day… Vacuuming the kitchen, making beds, and doing the dishes were daily tasks (or more frequent). The collaborative approach seemed to work for my parents. Could something like that work with your husband, or are your weekend schedules too busy?

  9. L says:

    For logistics, I think the American style “family calendars” are really practical. I’ve just discovered there are tons of digital version too (I was thinking the large paper calendar with a week or month showing).

    As for cleaning, I’ve kind if decided the few things I need to have clean (vacuuming cat hair!!!) to focus on, and the clutter I deal with in waxing and waning cycles.

    Like Reb, my parents had a regime of “Saturday is chore day”, which meant stripping beds, emptying waste baskets, sorting laundry, etc, whereas Saturday=relaxing for my husband, and changing the sheets just seems like a huge bother.

    What bothers me more than my husband practically never mopping is that if there’s a vegetable other than a carrot or a potato, he declares himself incapable of cooking it, so if I get an AMAP and there’s potimarron in it either I have to find time to cook it or it spoils. Come to think of it, I picked up some purple carrots and I don’t think my husband thinks he can cook them, so restrict that to orange carrots and potatoes.

    • I will give some thought to the American calendar idea—added bonus is that they’re pretty!

      I get the Saturday chore day thing, but I actually would rather not feel like I have to do EVERYTHING on Saturday.

      I shouldn’t complain too much though because J is a really good cook, so I don’t have to do that part of things. Though if I buy something too weird or hard to peel (butternut squash I’m looking at you), sometimes, he won’t cook it either.

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