Over the last few months there has been a surge in cleaning and tidying based shows, bloggers, books and hashtags. Whether you’re in the ‘Hinch Army‘, ‘Team TOMM‘ or KonMari it is everywhere you look. Cleaning and tidying are not new concepts, and it’s definitely not a new concept for it to be in the media. After all hasn’t magazines such as House and Home been showing ‘ideal homes’ for years, and do you remember ‘How Clean is Your House?’. However, with the increase in social media and ‘influencers’ there has become more of a community feel…or is that rivalry?
Has cleaning now become a competition?
I have always had a love/hate relationship with cleaning and tidying. Even before becoming a parent. I remember my Mum nagging me to tidy my room and to bring my ‘pots down’. Then when I moved out I remember having to ring my Mum for advice on stains and products. I love having a tidy house, however the effort to do it was the bit I hated. Then I became a parent to my first born. WOW…even as babies they create mess. There’s suddenly the cluttered kitchen sides full of sterilisers and bottles. The living room has more stuff in it than ‘Babies R Us’ (I’m still the mourning the loss of this store) and even our bedroom became a sort of storage area for the bits that didn’t have a home.
Cleaning wasn’t too difficult to achieve during the newborn phase really. Once baby was down for a nap then I would bung a wash on, shove everything to dumping ground/bedroom and clean down the sides. Then collapse on the sofa as I was shattered. I just about kept on top and the house was what I would consider ‘clean’ but not ‘tidy’. It would look cluttered which did get me down. Especially with the hordes of visitors coming to see ‘Baby J’. As J got older, the mess remained and shifted to the collection of toys, weaning items and so many clothes! Cleaning was a bit harder too as I would be followed everywhere, or be needed for something. I didn’t like to clean using chemicals whilst little man was about as he’s asthmatic. So, I would rush it all once he was asleep. I could feel myself getting down about it again and tired as really all I wanted to do was go to bed myself.
Then J started Nursery and I found myself with ‘free time’. I made a deal with myself that I would get the house sorted. Well, he’s been in nursery for a year and my house is still not at a level I’m happy with. However, it’s a lot, lot better than it was. Tidying and cleaning gets done everyday. Now I could have a show home by now if I cleaned from the second I got back from nursery run to the minute I leave for pick up. But I will admit that I like to have some time to myself. I want to browse social media, have a drink and watch TV or even catch up with a friend.
Why shouldn’t we have this time to ourselves?
Now I feel for working parents here as I know you have the added extra of work house taking away from your cleaning time and your ‘you time’. I’m fortunate enough that we could afford for me to be a SAHM for a while (since J was 2yrs). Whilst I am browsing through social media I see the images of these immaculate homes, the shiny surfaces and clutter free kitchens. I see posts about various cleaning products and the ‘must have gadgets’. Suddenly my ‘reasonably tidy and clean enough not to make you ill’ home seems rather poor in comparison. I feel myself feeling down again.
Why can’t my house look like that?
Is it me? Am I lazy? Am I failing as a mother/housewife/woman?
Aren’t I meant to be able to have it all and do it all?
That’s the problem with social media. People tend to post the best bits. Do they tell you how long it really took? Is there a secret cupboard like Monica has in Friends? How truthful are they being? It ends up becoming a competition on the community boards and hashtags, and can that really be good for our mental health?
I think it’s important to realise everyone has their own things going on in their lives. Some of the cleaning gurus are doing this as a job. This means that they are cleaning and maintaining, trying products sent for free with the same pressure that any other employee/worker will in whatever their job role is. They may have partners or staff helping with other areas of their life eg: social media manager or photographers so just remember they are not always ‘ordinary people’ reflecting a realistic family life. You wouldn’t expect to bake like Mary Berry because you brought her book or watched her shows, so why do you expect to be able to clean like these ‘experts’ after following them for a week. It’s going to take time and energy…two things a lot of parents don’t necessarily have (especially if your children are still young).
I’m not going to feel guilty that my house isn’t spotless. I’m now pregnant with baby number 2. I have even less energy and my back and hips ache like never before. It makes cleaning difficult for me physically. However, it has to be done and I have to be a bit more organised this time as I’m only going to get bigger and less mobile, and in April will have TWO children to look after. This means I am doing more than usual in terms of organising cupboards so things are easier to reach and making space for all the new baby bits to come.
I have my own way of doing things. I chose to do a combination of different cleaning approaches. I use the daily prompts of The Organised Mum, combined with the storage ideas of Marie Kondo and the attitude of ‘I’m a Mummy, that comes first‘.
- I spend up to 30 minutes doing a general tidy up based on TeamTomm (The Organised Mum). I make the beds (pull the covers over and shove all the teddies back to the top) whilst J is doing his morning wee or faffing about in the bedroom. I have started to get J to help at the weekends with this. After nursery run I’ll put breakfast stuff in the sink, pick up J’s PJs and pants from the floor and put on stairs to take up when I go on one of my many wee trips (after my wee I’ll quickly go over main surfaces in bathroom with cloth, put any empty stuff in bin etc) and the. do a quick hoover of downstairs (every other day, I do upstairs a different day). I’ll wipe down the sides in kitchen and then have a drink as I’ve earned it.
- I’ll check out the days focus area (Again, TeamTomm method) and make a start on it. Usually its simply a case of tidying the area, dusting/wiping/bleaching and sorting stuff that’s been dumped over the week. If I have time and energy then I’ll get more ‘fancy’ and clean corners and grouting with a toothbrush and spray, or empty out drawers to sort them out, move bits around etc. Often I spread the jobs out over the day. For example on kitchen day I did the general kitchen, but also wanted to start sorting the drawers (honestly they were awful and full of junk I’ve hoarded). Instead of powering through and tiring myself out I did the basics first, then did the drawer as I was cooking dinner. I was in the kitchen anyway and it just meant I was doing stuff intermittently.
- When I sort our drawers/cupboards I use the Marie Kondo method (I’ve watched her show in Netflix and loved it). Basically I empty it all onto the side/bed/floor and instantly throw out broken and unwanted things (being mindful of recycling and making a donation or ‘sell on Facebook’ piles). Then I look at the storage area and see if I have any boxes or dividers I can use to make things easy to store and re-find. If not then I’m just extra careful of what I choose to put in the drawers/storage and how I fold/position so things can be visible.
- My next method is simply ‘delegate’. I may be a SAHM but I’m not the only adult living here so I refuse to accept that the whole of the house is my responsibility. My husband agrees and so he has his set jobs daily. I joke and call them ‘chores’ but in real life we are a team. We work together to parent and to keep the house running. His jobs are to take out the bins (including putting them out on bin night and bringing them back in), washing up each night and helping to do a general tidy of living room once J is in bed. Now I’m pregnant he also does extra bits that I don’t want to risk doing for sake of baby such as any major bleaching (I don’t mind doing the loo), when we had to use mildew stuff on window sills etc…basically anything chemical or that needs someone to stretch up.
- Looking after J comes first. J is in many ways a typical 4 year old, but he is also autistic so I can’t be out of sight for more than a minute as he has a limited sense of danger and spatial awareness. I don’t mind doing some sorting in kitchen if he’s happy in his own world of Star Wars and small world figures, but otherwise I need to be with him…and prefer to be with him. After all he’s my child, I want to spend time with him not with my head in the oven cleaning. DON’T FEEL GUILTY IF YOU DIDNT DO ALL YOUR ‘JOBS’ FOR THE DAY…your child is going to remember the time you spend together, not how clean your house it!
- I look at inspiration on Instagram. By inspiration I don’t mean I look at photos of other peoples perfect kitchens and living rooms that look like Glasswells showroom. What I look for is how people have arranged storage areas, seasonal ideas and eco friendly or homemade products (I’m not believer of mixing things though so I steer clear of chemical based accounts-I was never good at science at school so don’t leave me to make concoctions that could trigger a chemical evacuation, haha). Queen of Clean is a regular I browse on and I recently tried Wilko ‘price friendly’ eco products after seeing her post as I couldn’t bring myself to pay the higher priced eco friendly items I’d seen elsewhere (sorry Planet Earth).
My post isn’t meant to say that one method is better than another. It’s also not to say that this cleaning trend is the worst thing in the world and we should be boycotting these accounts. What I’m saying is not to let it do anything other than motivate or inspire you. If it gets to the point where it’s making you feel down, spend money on products/tech you can’t afford or really need, making you miss out on family time or ‘you time’ as you’re trying to ‘keep up’ or just giving you anxiety then unfollow for a while. Turn off the notifications from the community groups and just do your own thing. Also, if you’ve worked hard and you’re proud of what you’ve done then share it. Toot your own horn as it’s tricky to balance family life and household needs so whenever and however you manage it, be proud.