Decluttering can be fun, because you’re finding treasures you had forgotten about. You’re also seeing great changes in your home every day and that can be very motivating. But once you have your home decluttered, it will take your creativity to keep your home clean and decluttered.
I’ve found that what works for me is to try to maintain an environment that is pleasing– not just clean. I try to please all the senses.
I’m very scent-oriented. I would say the sense of smell is my most important sense, because I’m very sensitive and certain odors can make me ill. So, my sense of smell is the first thing I try to please when I am cleaning. I focus on the smell of cleaning solutions when I’m shopping. Mostly, everything I buy for cleaning is lemon-scented: the dishwasher soap, the dish soap, the cleanser, the wood cleaner– so I start with a fresh lemon base. I dilute most of the cleaners so they aren’t overwhelming. I also use a lot of vinegar, which helps deodorize the air and cut some of the lingering cigarette smoke left from the people who lived here before. A nice carpet powder helps once or twice a week. Once the cleaning is done, I light a scented oil burner. My scent of choice is sandalwood oil, especially once the weather gets crisp and the leaves start turning. Another thing I do to please my sense of smell is to keep a lot of live green plants in my home. They help clean the air. I also like to open my windows as often as possible to circulate fresh air. During the winter, I only do this while I’m actually cleaning, but during fall and spring, I keep my windows open as much as possible.
Keeping windows open also satisfies my sense of touch. I can feel the breeze on my skin as I work. I also use my sense of touch to make sure surfaces are smooth. Clean surfaces are more pleasant to touch. Use a variety of textures to make your sense of touch happy. If you have a rough, nubby couch, try putting soft, silky pillows on it as a contrast. Drape a crocheted afghan over the back.
I satisfy my sense of hearing by playing music while I do serious cleaning. I try to pick music that is soothing, yet stimulating. Classical music or opera works really well for this for me, but many people like to listen to a favorite singer. One of my online cleaning buddies likes to crank up her Rod Stewart CDs and another listens to books on tape. You can also turn off all sound and listen to the birds singing or the rain falling outside.
The sense of sight is probably the first one most people think of when they think of senses involved in cleaning. You please your sense of sight when you clear out the clutter. Use your sense of sight to create arrangements of collections or pictures that please you and make you happy. They don’t have to look magazine-perfect because your house is supposed to please you, not magazine editors. Make sure that everything visible pleases at least one person in the house. Ideally, the decorations will please everyone, but sometimes, people need to compromise because one family member is passionate about something that other family members don’t really like.
Pay attention to how your house looks. Sometimes, we go on autopilot, and ignore the debris collecting on the floors and tables until it has reached critical mass. It only takes a second to throw away the first thing, but the longer you let it pile up, the longer it will take to clean it up. Check your hot spots, the places that pile up most quickly, at least twice a day. Make a “sweep” of your house after dinner and clean up things that are out of place, such as toys, books, papers, and crafts. It will be easier to find those things next time you want them if they have been put away where they belong, rather than left out to end up at the bottom of a pile.
If your house is still in danger of failing a health department inspection, you may not be able to take all of these suggestions at once. At a minimum, I would say that you need to use your sense of smell, both to find things that are health hazards and to pick cleaning supplies that you enjoy using; and I suggest using your sense of sight to find the most offensive piles and clear them out quickly.
When you’re a more advanced housekeeper, you can use these techniques to enjoy your housecleaning.
Smell: When you pick your cleaning solutions, make sure you like the way they smell. There’s a lot of variety out there now. Most cleaning solutions come in at least pine and lemon scents, and some smell like potpourri. Don’t be afraid to smell them in the store! It took me a long time to realize that if I didn’t like the way my cleaning solutions smelled, I wouldn’t use them and I wouldn’t clean! If you have anyone in your house who is extremely sensitive to smells, make sure that the solutions you pick don’t offend them.
Smell and Touch: Open your windows (if you can and if it’s safe) while you clean. Let the fresh air circulate and take away the stale air.
Touch: Clean your surfaces so they’re smooth and pleasant to touch. Use a variety of fabrics in your seating area.
Hearing: Play music that you love while you clean. You could even reserve a favorite CD to be played only while you are cleaning. Or, turn everything off and enjoy the sounds of nature or your neighborhood while you clean.
Sight: Clear out that clutter! Make pleasing arrangements.
You deserve to enjoy your cleaning time. After all, when you are cleaning, you are doing a very important job. You are showing your gratitude for your house and your beautiful things when you care for them carefully. You don’t need shiny new things all the time when you can lovingly make your old things look special and well cared for.
People take their cues from their surroundings. If their surroundings are cluttered, dirty, and stale, that will affect their emotions and make them feel cluttered, dirty, and stale. Some people are more sensitive than others, but I think everyone is affected at least a little. You may find that your family feels more positive and there is less discord when your home is pleasant.
Ooops, I almost forgot another important sense! Your sense of taste! When you are done with a cleaning session and satisfied with your progress, sit down and relax with a pleasing drink and snack! When it’s colder, you can enjoy some hot cocoa with melted marshmallows or a cappuccino with biscotti. On hotter days, enjoy some iced tea, mint tea, or fresh, homemade lemonade and some fruit. Don’t go overboard with your treat, but it is perfectly acceptable for most people to reward themselves by pleasing their sense of taste.