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Cleaning House: Very Necessary!

01/15/2013

Recently I stayed at a friend’s house while they were out-of-town. Normally when I sit for someone I just need to clean the house at the end of my stay, because it’s always nice to come home to a clean house with fresh sheets and towels. However, this time I found myself cleaning constantly because simply being in the house triggered my worst allergies.

According to an article called Personal Health: Bringing Good Hygiene Home, (Aiello, Larson, & Sedlak, 2008) the home is a major cause of illness. Bacteria can grow anywhere that it finds food and moisture, mostly in the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry area, and illness can be spread both directly and indirectly through the home. About 20% of food poisoning reports come from the home, and about 70% – 90% of salmonella cases probably come from the home. Knowing this, keeping your house clean becomes very important!

More than that, I feel better when I’m in a cleaner environment. I noticed that when my apartment was clean I didn’t feel as stressed because of little things and I didn’t feel as dirty as often. Sure, I still took regular showers, but I didn’t feel the need to wash twice a day. Also, as an allergy sufferer, with less dirt on the ground and less dust in the air, I had a far easier time breathing.

But how do you get a clean house? When staying in someone else’s place I did not do a complete overhaul of their house because it’s not my place to do so. I have no right to get rid of their things (because the house had piles of crap everywhere in addition to being dirty) so I didn’t really move the piles of crap around when cleaning.

So, first thing’s first: tidying. Everything should have a spot. If it doesn’t have a spot and you haven’t used it in a little over a year, then you don’t need it. If you don’t need it, then why are you keeping it? Keeping a tidy house allows you to find your things easily and helps prevent you from double-buying because you can’t find what you’re looking for. It also gives you the floorspace you may need to do your Wii Yoga or play on the floor with your children or puppies. Not to mention you won’t be embarrassed to have company over and furry critters like rats and roaches won’t have a hideaway.

But how can you make everything have a spot? Clear everything out of cupboards, dressers, and shelves. Sort it by importance and what you absolutely must keep, the highest priority items being ones you use on a regular basis. Throw out items that are out of date, damaged, unusable, unnecessary, or just plain gross. Once that’s done, start putting things in place. You don’t have to go so far in organizing that everything is labeled (unless you want to, then go for it), but put things away in such a way that its spot is logical and thereby easy to find. Just remember, when organizing you need to make sure that the places you put things is functional as well as “away.” There’s no point in putting your computer paper directly under the monitor if you can’t get it out again.

But what if you don’t have enough furniture? You live in an apartment with one hall closet, a tiny little kitchen, and hardly any storage space at all (well, I did…). Then it’s time for eBay, Ikea, Craig’s List, Amazon.com, or garage sale-ing. Don’t get down on garage sales! Some of my best furniture in my apartment came from either a garage sale or the Salvation Army store. My comfy couch came from the Salvation Army for $90. My beautiful wooden table with four sturdy chairs came from the same place for $80. For $30 and a morning of shopping in the sunshine I got a coffee table, a lamp, an orange squeezer, glass microwave dishes, and a television stand entertainment center. A friend gave me a small shelf that I used as an end table and a DVD rack for free. I lucked out! My whole kitchen and bookcase came from Ikea.

For papers, there are some important documents you have to keep. Legal papers, deeds, check stubs, bills… all of these kinds of important papers should be filed away for safekeeping. Other documents, such as photos that are never going to make it into a scrap-book, class notes, homework, and the like you don’t need to keep. Instead, scan them into the computer to save and then shred the hard copies. You can always print them out later if you want. I’d just back them up on an external hard drive for safekeeping.

Once you’ve tidied, then it’s time to clean. Depending on the size of your house, cleaning can take a long time. A 3 bedroom house usually takes me about 4 hours if I do a thorough job, whereas my single bedroom apartment took maybe an hour when it was filthy (and, yes, it did get filthy).

The things you’ll need to clean your house: A good vacuum. Unless you have a Dyson, most vacuums seem to die after about a dozen years. If you have no trouble removing your hand from the sucky part of the vacuum, then it won’t suck any dirt out of your carpet and you need a new one… or to change the bag or filter. You’ll also need something to dust with. A wet rag works, as do Swiffer dusters. A broom and dustpan are necessary for bathrooms, kitchens, and wood floors. For mopping you can either go old school with a mop and bucket where you need to mix your own cleaning fluid or you can get something along the lines of a Swiffer Wet Jet. You will also need glass cleaner (Windex is awesome stuff!) a surface cleaner like 409 or one of its nature-friendly counterparts, and some form of Scrubbing Bubbles with bleach. You can get a toilet bowl cleaner, but I just use Scrubbing Bubbles. Oh, and don’t forget some cloths. You can wash and reuse them, unlike paper towels which cost more over the long haul. Pine Sol is good when dusting, though optional, because it keeps dust off of furniture longer and it brings a fresh scent into the house.

There is a basic process to cleaning a house: clean top to bottom. Dust first. Then clean all counters and sinks. Then wash the bathtubs. Then do the floors in this order: shake rugs, vacuum carpet, sweep/dust mop wood, tile, and linoleum, and, finally, mop. It’s a long process, especially if you have a large house and a busy schedule. That’s why there are different levels of cleaning to make big cleaning easier and faster.

Every day you should do little things like putting dirty laundry in hampers, put things away after you use them, clean your dishes after cooking and eating, and wiping down counters and tables after use. If you do this, then your home will stay mostly clean.

At least once a month, but preferably once a week, do a good clean of the house using the method above. If things remain tidy and the main living areas are kept up, this shouldn’t take too long. If you have a big busy family, get them to help you. That 3 bedroom house I mentioned earlier only takes 1 hour to clean if all three of us separate out the tasks.

Once, maybe twice, a year you should do a deep cleaning of your house. Go through your stuff and pare down. All junk you don’t need can be sold over the summer in a garage sale for some extra cash! This is the rare cleaning where you move furniture to vacuum underneath it and use the hose attachment to vacuum the dust out of the corners and off the baseboard. Scrub the mold off the tile in the shower and 409 the crap out of the tracks in the windows and the handprints around door handles. Dust ceiling fan blades and wash standing fans. I promise, after this deep Spring Cleaning your house will feel like a whole new place!

About once a year you should also have your carpets cleaned, even if you live in an apartment or duplex,. A lot of the dirt that you, your friends, and your family track into the house gets ground in over time, and a simple vacuuming won’t get it all out. I find that having a professional clean the carpets leaves them far cleaner, but if you have your own carpet washer then go for it. You’ll probably just need to do it more than once a year. For the people who rent, if you keep your carpets and house clean, the owners will keep less of your deposit for cleaning costs. I think they also take more money out of your deposit than it would cost you to have it cleaned, but that depends on where you are living.

I know this sounds like a lot just to keep your house clean, but once you get your regular clean routines in place it actually becomes quite an easy habit to maintain. Please don’t let it daunt you! Your health is worth it, as well as the health of all that you bring home. What tricks do you use to get particularly dirty things clean???

 

Reference:

Aiello, A. E., Larson, E. L., Sedlak, R. (2008). Personal Health: Bringing Good Hygiene Home. AJIC. S153. Retrieved from http://h1n1.fsu.edu/doc/Home%20Hygiene.pdf

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2 Comments
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