Thursday, May 29, 2014

Eleven Ways To Reduce Cleaning Stress

"Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass."
Psalm 37:5

Last night, I cleaned and dusted the things sitting on our kitchen floor.
Though I am trying hard to convert over to using the swiffer more (it is still quite the struggle),
there are things the swiffer simply cannot do or reach.
And I like to be there...closer to the dirt,
to make sure I don't miss anything.
Where does all this dust come from?

We have a small collection of crocks that are situated under the counter 
that separates our kitchen from our dining area.
One of the crocks holds several plastic apples we have collected over the years.

As I took them out and washed them, one by one, in my basin of water & Mr. Clean,
I noticed that the ones nearest the top of the crock were covered in dust,
but the ones farther down were pretty clean.
The thought crossed my mind, that it really wasn't necessary for me to clean those apples near the bottom.
I knew I still had a lot to do before the night was over,
and I needed to redeem what time I had left before bed.

I sat I cleaned the top layer of apples and made them shine.

In spite of the knowledge that it wasn't necessary,
the perfectionist, obsessive, compulsive part of me kept reaching for apples....
even though the deeper I dug, the less dust I was finding.
I finally stopped, as it hit me that I was completely overdoing.
I was using energy...and time...unnecessarily...and unwisely.
Those apples simply did not need to be cleaned.
End of discussion.

Can I just tell you how difficult it was for me to let it go?
To move on to the next crock, without fully and entirely cleaning every apple in that crock?
Is there anyone anywhere who can relate to this type of disorder?
This was just plain ridiculous, and it was an eye-opener for me of how seriously I need to lighten up.

There are just certain things that are not necessary.
Life and death did not depend on me taking out every one of those apples and shining it to perfection.

What matters, is that the clean apples on top give the illusion that the whole crock of apples was the same.

It is not my point to imply that we shouldn't keep our homes clean.
My point is that we sometimes over-obsess and overdo,
and in the process, we add way more effort to our workload than is required or expected.

I have to admit that the above incident happened last night,
and I am still feeling a twinge of guilt every now and then...
when I think of those apples near the bottom that didn't get cleaned!
Isn't that silly?

I am a work in progress.
These Titus 2 lists of eleven posts do not in any way mean that I have it all right.
If you only knew.
But, I am trying...I have not yet apprehended, but I am pressing toward the mark.
I have this deeply-embedded, vehement, driving desire to be a virtuous woman.
To give my total best in service to my God and my family.

Here's my list of eleven tips to take the stress out of cleaning house.

1.  Enlist Heaven's assistance.
I know it may sound strange to pray over your cleaning efforts,
 but I can tell you from experience that it absolutely works and makes a difference.
I Thessalonians 5:17 says, "Pray without ceasing."
I take that verse as literally as it was written.
I believe prayer should be inserted into every endeavor,
every decision,
every effort, 
every moment...of this life.
I often pray while cleaning toilets, floors, doing dishes or laundry,
and, for some reason, I always have the urge to sing....loudly....while running the vacuum.
Why is it that I want to break out in song when a loud noise is going on?
Does anyone else do this?

2.  Lighten up.
Stop being so hard on yourself.
Yeah, I know...look who's talking.
I need to hear this, too.
Evaluate your household cleaning workload and see if there are things you insist on doing
that are not really necessary.
If there are, lighten up, learn to let go, and say no.
Focus on what has to be done in order to keep your home healthily clean.
Don't sweat the small stuff....or the apples in the bottom of the crock that never see the light of day.

3.  Separate deep cleaning from interim cleaning.
I think this one is important.
For example, there are times the entire bathroom needs to be scrubbed from top to bottom.
I'm talking the full-blown process...
floor, bathtub, shower, walls, sink, mirrors, and toilet.
This is deep, thorough cleaning.
Cleaning so intense that you could eat off the floor.
Then, there is interim cleaning.
Maintenance cleaning, the purpose for which is to keep the bathroom appearing clean,
until the next deep cleaning.
My personal recommendation is that most household bathrooms need to be deep-cleaned once a week,
(at least...depending on daily usage and traffic),
and in between deep-cleanings, interim cleanings need to happen every day or two.
I learned a valuable lesson years ago when Kevin and I took on an after-work cleaning job
that has lightened my interim cleaning considerably.
The owner of the cleaning company told us that instead of scouring and scrubbing everything every, single night, to spray the bathrooms with a window spray cleanser instead...
the sink, mirrors, countertop, and yes, even the toilet, except for the bowl,
and then wipe it down with a paper towel, afterwards..
Of course, the bowl had to be deep-cleaned every day with bowl cleaner and a brush.
But, instead of deep cleaning the sinks and surface areas every day,
we did the spray and wipe routine, and it worked.
This works equally at home, during interim cleaning or when you need to clean quickly.
Just grab a bottle of window cleaner, spray everything, wipe it dry with paper towels,
and voila!
Everything looks shiny in minutes.
Shh!  It will be your secret, and your spur-of-the-moment, uninvited guests will never know.
Keeping up with interim cleaning makes deep cleaning 
much easier and less intimidating.

4.  Set a doable, realistic routine.
After you have separated deep cleaning projects from interim cleaning touch-up jobs,
create your own routine.
Come up with a process you can manage and realistically implement.
Don't get me wrong.
I love
I truly do.
(Click here to be re-directed to this wonderful site,
chock full of cleaning and household management tips.)
While following Marla Cilley has helped me in countless ways and has influenced my cleaning outlook and regimen, and she definitely has some fabulous ideas and routine suggestions,
they just don't all work for me.
I tried, believe me.
I ended up frustrated and feeling like a failure,
because someone else doesn't live here and have my personal schedule and responsibilities....I do.
So, I have to put routines in to place that I can live with...
that I can abide by....that I can control.
Perhaps you are like me and need that individualization,
or maybe you prefer a set-by-someone-else routine that you can adapt as your own.
What works for you?
Do that.

5.  Don't measure yourself by the standards of others.
Just because Aunt Sadie washes her windows every other week doesn't mean you have to...
or even need to.
Maybe your grandmother wouldn't tolerate everyone's shoes lined up by the front door,
but maybe that is what works best in your household.
Who lives there anyway?
Do what is best for you and your family,
do what makes your home comfortable and livable,
and don't apologize for it.
It isn't necessary.

6.  Stop procrastinating.
If there is a job you dread to do, don't put it off, just because it is unpleasant.
If it has to be done, procrastinating is not going to make it go away.
I am not talking about being physically unable to do something.
You should always listen to your body, lean into needed rest, and take care of yourself.
But, if the reason your oven is crusted over is because you just don't like cleaning your oven,
grab a can of oven cleaner, and get to work.
Even self-cleaning ovens don't clean themselves...entirely.  ;)

7.  Swallow your pride.
There have been times that I have refrained from inviting someone over
because I didn't feel our house was clean enough.
Even though I had the desire to be hospitable,
I allowed my perfectionist nature to overpower the opportunity to show love.
The bottom line was, our house was fine,
and our potential guests wouldn't have cared anyway.
They wouldn't have been here to scrutinize my cleaning talents,
but to visit and spend time with us.
And if someone offers to help, accept it.
There are times we all need a helping hand,
and to refuse help from the ones that are extended to us is just foolish pride.

7.  Delegate.
Enlist the help of well-bodied, eager-to-help little...or not-so-little...people.
Even if you think they could never do it as well...or as thoroughly...or nearly-so-perfectly...
as you can.
Okay, so I have major issues with this one.
Recently, while preparing to leave for a trip,
I was exhausted and stressed out.
I have this thing about refusing to leave home until our house is so clean you could actually drink toilet water.
There is just something about returning from a trip to a clean house...
and, of course, there is always the idea of someone needing
to come in while we are gone and finding a mess.
That alone is enough to spur me onward in my quest for domestic spotlessness.
Kevin took a short break from work in his home office
 to walk in to the kitchen to where I stood in front of the sink.
In one sweeping glance,
he knew exactly what was going on.
He knows me so well.
After all these years together, words are often unnecessary.

"Honey, why don't you let Zach do something?
Tell him to sweep the kitchen for you."

My usual defense rose to the surface.

"But, I need to make sure it is really clean, you know?"

"Well, then teach him how to do it.
You look so tired, and there's no reason he can't help you."

I knew he was right.
And, in reality, Zach does a great job.
Truly, he does.
He is a good boy and always willing to do whatever he is asked.
It is just me and my nagging perfectionist, needing-to-do-it-all-myself,
nobody-can-sweep-the-floor-like-I-can hang-up.
That, and the fact that I hated to interrupt his allotted time to play his latest favorite computer game.
So, instead of that, I pushed myself to the point of near-collapse.
Can I get an amen?

8.  Remember what...and most important.
So, your set routine says that today is the day to sweep under the beds.
But, your husband says, "Let's go to the park and spend some quality time as a family."
Or your sweet boy walks up and asks you to play with trains.
Or your best friend calls and asks you to lunch.
Your first impulse is to say all three.
It just goes against the grain to not have that check-off list completely checked off by 3:00 pm.
It is somehow unsettling to you.
A reality check would probably be a great idea right here.
Little ones grow up, no longer fit on the teeter-totter at the park, and lose their fascination with trains.
Husbands grow weary of competing with dust bunnies.
Friends lose heart after being repeatedly postponed for the sake of dirty dishes.
The dust bunnies under your bed are not going to suddenly spring to life
and attack you in the middle of the night should you leave them there until tomorrow.
They'll still be lying there...unmoving....tomorrow or next week or next month.
As the Dolly Parton song, "Silver and Gold", says,
"Time can't be bought back..."
It can't.
Prioritize, be flexible, and do what matters most.

9.  Keep a cheerful attitude.
It is amazing how much easier a task becomes when it is approached with a joyful and thankful heart.
The longer we keep grumbling about what needs to be done, the more we will foster dread,
and the less likely we will be to do it.
Keeping a house clean is a part of life.
The sooner we accept it and embrace it cheerfully, the better off we, and everyone else around us, will be.
 Our children learn what they live.
They mirror our behavior, our state of mind, and our work ethic.
When they see us eager to delve in and keep things clean,
it brings about automatic motivation....which is never a bad thing.

10.  Search out the best way to do chores.
Use common sense.
Wipe the dining room table before you sweep the floor.
Clean ceiling fan blades before you vacuum.
Sweep the floor before you do dishes, so the floor won't be wet in areas.
Mop at the very end of kitchen clean-up.
I know these are elementary examples,
but I am amazed sometimes at how I take the long way around a job
and do little things that make it harder than it has to be.
I add extra, unnecessary work to my day by not thinking ahead and considering the order in which things should be done to optimize efficiency.  
Sometimes, I get into a certain routine,
and I find it hard to think outside my well-constructed, stubborn, little box.
It is just easy to keep doing things the same way because it is familiar.
But, familiar doesn't always mean better,
many times, there is an easier way than we have thought of,
and it pays to keep an open mind.

11.  Accept your own limitations.
There are many of us who suffer consistently and deal with chronic health issues.
It is not an easy thing for a woman to admit that she can no longer
keep up with certain areas of housekeeping.
It was painful to witness this process take place in Mom's life.
One of the main reasons Mom had such a struggle,
is that she never wanted to be a burden to anyone,
and she was fiercely independent.
Growing up, Mom was the most thorough housekeeper I have ever known.
She was the total opposite of a hoarder, collector, or clutter-bug.
In fact, if we didn't need something, it was headed out the door...
usually with the trash.
Our living area was clean, tidy, and void of unnecessary litter.
She liked what-nots, but she never allowed them to overtake our living space,
and she kept them neat and orderly.
As Mom grew older and her body became ridden with severely painful fibromyalgia,
diverticulitis, arthritis, and other health issues,
the smallest tasks became most difficult for her.
She suffered most of the time, in one way or another.
It was SO hard for Mom to accept her limitations,
and she would cry, at times, as she sat and looked at things that needed to be done,
but realized she was powerless to do anything about it.
There finally came a point where she was able to find a place of acceptance,
and it became a matter of fact that she must have help.
Of course, inability doesn't always come strictly from old age.
Debilitating circumstances can strike at any given age or moment,
plunging the independent into a state of partial or complete dependency.
This is never easy...
especially for those who have always preferred doing things on their own without bothering other people.
When these things happen, the only way to really gain victory and find inner peace
is to lean into the situation, accept our own limitations as something we cannot change,
release the hurt, disappointment, and sometimes even embarrassment, to God,
and gratefully...and gracefully accept the kind help
offered by others He has placed in our lives to see us through.

(To read #1 in this series, entitled "Eleven Ways To Bless Your Husband", click here.
To read #2 in this series, entitled, "Eleven De-Cluttering & Organizing Tips", click here.
To read #3 in this series, entitled "Eleven Steps To A Stronger, Happier Marriage", click here.
To read #4 in this series, entitled, "Eleven Things To Remember During Infertility", click here.
To read #5 in this series, entitled, "Eleven Ways To Make Your Home More Peaceful", click here.
To read #6 in this series, entitled, "Eleven Ways To Be More Frugal, click here.
To read #7 in this series, entitled, "Eleven Steps To Inner Peace", click here.
To read #8 in this series, entitled, "Eleven Times To Be Quiet", click here.
To read #9 in this series, entitled, "Eleven Reasons I Am A Stay-At-Home Homeschooling Mom", click here.) 


  1. Love #1!!!! Such a sweet reminder as I clean for a party tomorrow!! Can I delegate to my husband, haha!!

    1. He! He! You are so funny!! Sure, why not? He seems like a super-sweet guy, and I can't imagine him minding you delegating!! Love you, sweet friend. Enjoy your party tomorrow! God bless your time together and give you peace.

  2. Thank you for joining my blog. I LOVE your blog as well. Your home is home and cozy, just the way I LOVE it!!!
    God Bless your Father-In-Law.

    1. Oh, thank you, Tricia! I can't get enough of your blog. :) It is just wonderful. Thank you for your sweet compliments and kind words...they meant so much! I am so thrilled to have you as a follower and look forward to many future visits...both at your place and mine. God bless you!!

  3. I also become too caught up in small details. This is an excellent reminder to delegate some of those cleaning responsibilities and to recognize my limitations. These two tips will help me avoid getting frustrated when something falls short of how I want it to be.

    1. Thank you SO much, Maureen! So thankful and happy you stopped by!! God bless you. :)

  4. Great advice! I remember when the kids were little I was such a perfectionist and worked so hard at keeping our home immaculate. As the kids got older and we began homeschooling I struggled to keep up with the house, even though my kids were helping with chores.

    I, too, found myself cleaning things that didn't really need to be cleaned. I had to literally FORCE myself to either stop cleaning something or not clean it at all because it didn't LOOK dirty and didn't need to be dusted or cleaned everyday, lol!

    Thanks for linking up to Making Your Home Sing Monday today! By the way, your home is adorable and the roses are gorgeous.

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving such sweet comments! I appreciate it so much. Thank you for hosting the weekly link-up. I always look forward to coming to your place each week. :) Much love and many blessings to you!

  5. Hi Cheryl, I'm visiting from Strangers and Pilgrims. I am enjoying your posts very much.
    I had to laugh at #7. That is me and I thought I was the only I will not leave on a trip before everything is clean. All laundry,dishes, everything.Once, we were leaving on a 12 hour trip. Because of my having to leave everything spot-less we didn't leave until noon. My husband was not happy. My excuse is, if I die on the trip I do not want people to come in my house and think I was not a good house-keeper. Crazy, I know!

    1. Oh, my! Can I ever relate! Can you imagine dying without leaving behind a clean house?? LOL!! So happy you stopped by and left sweet comments behind. I so enjoyed your visit! God bless you and keep you in His care. :)

  6. Excellent and encouraging article! This was exactly what the Lord wanted me to read this evening:) Thank you!

    1. Thank the dear Lord for His faithfulness! So happy you stopped by and left such sweet comments behind. May the Lord bless you in a special way. :)

  7. You always have such cool lists and suggestions. I like the idea of window spray on the counter. Thank you for sharing your lovely post with us here at “Tell Me a Story.”

    1. Thank you, Hazel. So happy you stopped by...thank you for the sweet comments. God bless you!

  8. Great tips for keeping a clean house..

    1. Thank you, Betty! So thankful for your visit!

  9. I am visiting from Woman to Woman! Absolutely loved this post!! Great, practical tips for the house and encouragement on how to keep our lives balanced. I do the same thing...obsess over things that may not matter much. Thanks for sharing!!

    1. Thank you SO much! I so appreciate you stopping by and leaving such sweet encouragement behind. God bless happy to meet you. :)

  10. I am finally getting the hang of the interim cleaning - not every cleaning has to be deep - but I am terrible at schedules. They are not my strength! I'm not the best housekeeper but I'm learning to let go of obsessing because of what people will think about my lived in look! What really hit me about your list was the grace laced through it! Thank you:)

  11. I'm not sure my comment came through so I thought I'd try again: What struck me most was the grace you laced through your list. I'm not a perfectionist - no matter how much I try. Schedules do not work for me - and I have had to overcome people setting standards I just couldn't meet because my life was different. I've learned not every cleaning has to be deep cleaning - and that it's o.k. for people to come into my lived in house - because there's a lot of love here to cover up the mess! Thank you for not just the list but the grace within it!

    1. What sweet and precious comments! I appreciated them so much! So very thankful you stopped by. May God richly and abundantly bless you. :)

  12. Your list is excellent. I must say that #8 spoke to me... I always want to get everything done before this and that... And meanwhile hubby wants to do this and that. It has taken a lot to STOP and say... "Yes sweetie, I can go there right now" and I am always glad when I do! It makes a happy husband and a happy home. Sometimes the housework has to wait. Our #1 priority should be for the people in our homes ;) Thanks for linking this one up to the Art of Home-Making Mondays!

    1. I know exactly what you mean! Because to a devoted wife, there is nothing that pleases her more than to know her husband is happy and taken care of. I so appreciated your words and am so grateful for your visit today! God bless you!

  13. So many excellent and grace-filled suggestions here, Cheryl. I resonated with your thoughts on praying without ceasing, singing while you clean. It helps me to blast worship music while I clean - or sometimes, latin dance music, because I like to dance salsa as well, depending on the mood ;-D. I tend to not be too hard on myself when it comes to cleaning, but I know with certain tasks I can be a perfectionist, and so I love your encouragement here to lighten up as needed and put things in perspective, in priority. Blessings to you, friend.

    1. Thank you so very much, Amber. Your visits and sweet comments always bless me so much. Many blessings back to you, dear friend. :)

  14. Good advice. Sometimes when we have a bigger group for a specail occasion or new people over, it provides incentive for us to get to those details that make a house sparkle! We also clean before putting up our fall and Chirstmas decorations. I like the extra push for doing detail cleaning. over from Grace at Home. Happy 4th of July!

    1. Thank you so much, Linda! You are right...there is nothing like that kind of pressure to compel us to do those extra things!! LOL! Thank you so much for stopping was so nice to meet you.

  15. I'm afraid I have slipped too far from my former high standards! I have recently entered into yet another round of morning sickness and I look around in despair. I feel so awful that I have a hard time directing my children to clean what I can't handle. Oh well, this will pass in a few months and I will have energy again.

    1. Oh, bless your dear heart! I can so relate to the morning sickness! Whew! It is very hard to keep up when you are feeling that bad. This season will pass, and when it does, a brand new blessing from God will rest in your arms! Then, there will be time to catch up....just relax in His arms and know that He carries you and has a special affection for those who are with young...Isaiah 40:11, "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young." He is with you, dear friend, and He leads you gently. God bless you and keep you and your dear little one(s) in His care! Thank you for your sweet visit here.