Wednesday, March 7, 2012


                           "Today is Monday, today is Monday
                            Monday is wash day,
                            Everybody happy?
                            Well, I should say!

                            Today is Tuesday, today is Tuesday
                            Tuesday is ironing, Monday is wash day,
                            Everybody happy?
                            Well, I should say!

                            Today is Wednesday, today is Wednesday
                            Wednesday is cleaning, Tuesday is ironing, Monday is wash 
                            Everybody happy?
                            Well, I should say!"

This post on Cleaning, is part 2 in the series, "Some Plans to Simplify Household Jobs".
It all sounds so easy and so organized! Could it really be like this? From the start I have to confess I have times when our house is regularly clean and tidy and other times, like now, a week after our daughter's wedding and relatives staying, when life's routines are overridden. I am not complaining, mind you, as the past weeks have all been great fun. But if you have a system, you know what you are doing and cleaning becomes easier.
Over twenty years ago a friend at that time told me about an American who had written a few hilarious books on cleaning. She had found the books in the local library, so I borrowed, re-borrowed time and time again, Don Aslett's "IS THERE LIFE AFTER HOUSEWORK?"
I picked up and put into action principles which he suggested. I still follow a lot of his simple ideas and intend to write about my version in this post. But first some background on the man.
"No one's time should be wasted cleaning needlessly or inefficiently" Don Aslett. 
"Housework is, in fact, never ending and little appreciated. There is no superwoman homemakers - most women are barely managing, meeting daily crises and demands, just like you are, wondering too what's wrong with them. It's amazing that no real training is provided for the most complicated, life-affecting job on earth:homemaking." Don Aslett's blog February 10 2011.
Don Aslett is not a nobody. As a university student he began cleaning homes as a part-time job. His job grew, so he employed other students to clean alongside him. This escalated, resulting in him forming his cleaning company. A press release in 2007 stated his American wide company "Varsity Contractors" had 5000 employers, 3000 subcontractors and annual sales of $250million. So maybe he has some advice worth listening to.
 :\|/:A    Don has a FOUR STEP METHOD IN CLEANING which he applies to cleaning objects and surfaces in and out of the house, along with cleaning walls, ceilings and floors. He says ~
"Cleaning should be done with your head, not your hands....IN FOUR EASY STEPS.
         1. ELIMINATE - sweep, dust mop, brush or wipe all dirt, gravel, crumbs and other loose material from the surface.
         2. SATURATE - apply cleaning solution generously to the dirty surface .... and let it sit.
         3. DISSOLVE - the liquid and the chemical action of the cleaner, will loose and dissolve the dirt.
         4. REMOVE - with a sponge, cleaning cloth or squeegee, remove the now-dissolved mushy dirt. .....
It really works. Discipline yourself to use it, and you'll reward yourself with two hours of free time out of the four hours you once wasted grinding and scrubbing away!"
:\|/:B     Next, to help minimize the time and effort spent cleaning, Don says "Be sure to MATCH YOUR CLEANING AGENT BASE TO THE DIRT OR SOIL YOU'RE TRYING TO REMOVE. This is a simple but important principle. 'Base' in this case simply means dissolving agent. Water won't cut oil because it's the wrong base. Vinegar won't cut grease even  for Merlin the Magician. Most household cleaners won't cut oil at all: and inexpensive oil-based solvent or thinner will dissolve it in seconds. When oil or tar gets on the walls, floors, rugs, or even clothes, a solvent (like paint thinner, turpentine, or other oil-based cleaner) will break down the tar or oil so that it can be easily wiped away.....
Cleaning preparation labels generally give the base (oil, naphtha, water, etc). Whenever you're in doubt as to whether a particular base should be used on a particular surface, test it first in an inconspicuous area."
So check your products so you know what they can clean. Read the labels, Google the chemicals listed, or Google "what cleans soap scum off a shower/stains in the toilet.." and then judge if your cleaner is the right one for the job.
You can also buy Don's book where he gives lots of specific answers to cleaning problems.
:\|/:C     To spend as little time as possible overall on cleaning jobs, it is certainly true that the more regularly things are cleaned, the cleaner everything remains. - little and often. The philosophy is - clean as you go!
How does 'clean as you go' work????
I'm not a morning person so the bathroom is the first room I head for to be resuscitated for the day. After finishing with the TOILET, I take the toilet brush in hand, give the toilet a spray and scrub then leave the cleaning solution on the toilet surface. Germs and grime continue to be worked on by the cleaner until the next person uses the toilet and flushes it away. If I do this once a day I hardly need to do a serious toilet clean. It may work better for you last thing at night when there are less toilet users.
I take a SHOWER, dry myself then use a small shower squeegee to take the excess water off the shower walls and floor.
Once dressed, before I leave the bathroom, twice a week I spray the bathroom MIRROR and BASIN and use one of the bath towels to clean and shine them.
At another time of the day, once a week, I vacuum the bathroom FLOOR, do a spray with the all-purpose cleaner and use a towel to rub over the tiles to dry  off the surface.
About once a month I need to clean the DRAINS in the basin and shower. 
This method keeps the bathroom in a clean condition.
Once a month WALLS and CEILING are vacuumed removing spiders webs - a benefit of living in the country.
Twice a year the CEILINGS and WALLS are washed with water and a drip of washing up detergent.
BUT if, as of late, I'm NOT DOING THE REGULAR LITTLE CLEANS, I have to spend more concentrated effort and time to get the grime off. 
I start on my plastic-molded SHOWER, with white vinegar which I wipe on the walls with a sponge. If this doesn't release the soap scum I add baking soda which gives a fizz reaction, and clean the glass door and plastic walls with the two ingredients in combination, finishing off with a clean water wash-down.
I choose to use vinegar and baking soda as they are 'kind' to our sewerage system, maintaining the balance of bugs needed for it to work.
The tough stains of the toilet I again use baking soda, leaving a paste of it to work on the stain - and keep at it.
Have the cleaning products right there in the bathroom so the family can clean as they go.

The second room of the day for me is definitely the kitchen. With our large family of the past (it is fast diminishing, with another daughter moving to San Francisco next month as an au pair for the year), we have a policy - you get the food out - you put it away after you use it; you made the mess/spill - you clean it up; you took your plates to the table - once finished, you take them to the sink, rinse and stack them. If you can establish this routine at home it not only speeds up meal clean-ups, but pays out benefits to your kids once they visit or live elsewhere. They can be responsible and not an encumbrance to someone else.
After all meals the CROCKERY and UTENSILS are rinsed and stacked. We don't own a dishwasher so our method has always been to do all the DISHES immediately after each meal. This way there's no time for food to harden and become difficult to clean. Once the food is served out of the POTS I put in a little water to soak and prevent a huge scrub job later. If the POT is particularly difficult I put it back on the stove with a little water in it and gently heat it up. A little scrub and the food remains easily come off before the wash up. 
All kitchen SURFACES and TABLES are wiped down so they are clean and ready for use after each meal, and CROCKERY, UTENSILS, POTS and PANS are put away into their storage place.
SINKS are cleaned with baking soda twice a week. Baking soda is a great cleaner for DRAINS as the cleaning continues as it goes down.
After breakfast the FLOOR is vacuumed and again after the evening meal if necessary. The FLOOR is washed once a week with an organic wash for wooden floors.
Cleaning the FRIDGE, STOVE, OVEN, RANGE HOOD, FREEZER, CUPBOARD SHELVES and DOORS, KITCHEN CEILING and WALLS, dining room TABLE and part of our family Saturday jobs, where each person in the family chooses a job to do.
Cleaning the KETTLE, COFFEE POT, TOASTER, FOOD PREPARATION MACHINES... is an on going, as it's used exercise. Again this is Don Aslett's philosophy - clean as you go.

When most of our kids were little, the lounge FLOOR and RUG were vacuumed once if not twice a day, but now it's every two to three days. We have a wooden FLOOR and it was washed each week, now every two to three weeks. Once a week the WALLS and CEILING are vacuumed - country areas get more spiders and dust than urban. 
WOODEN FURNITURE is dusted weekly with a cloth and oiled with light furniture oil about three times a year.
The occupants of the bedroom are responsible to vacuum their own FLOOR. A child as young as three years can have a go at vacuuming a couple of times a week, with a parent doing the real deal once a week. Most care in bedrooms goes under the heading of tidying which will be discussed in a future post.
Again depending on the mess level of the family, the FLOORS in these areas are vacuumed daily up to weekly.
The laundry FLOOR is vacuumed as regularly as the hallway. The exterior of the WASHING MACHINE and DRYER are cleaned with the all purpose spray when they get dirty. The SINK is cleaned weekly, again with baking soda.
My husband loves to clean our windows. He uses a bucket of water with a couple of drops of washing up detergent, rubber window squeegee and rag. He generously wets and rubs over the glass with the rag, and squeegees off the water. He does this every 2 - 3 months.
Be kind to yourself and make sure you have an adequate door mat outside each exterior door to your house. If you train the members of your family to wipe their feet on it before passing through the door, you cut back on the time you will spend cleaning floors. You also protect the floor surface from damage by walked in grit and protect your family from slipping on the wet brought in by shoes on rainy days.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ read this Don Aslett quote. 
"You are entitled to a life of love, fulfillment and accomplishment, but these rewards are almost impossible to obtain when you spend your life thrashing and wallowing in a muddle of housework. Time - the time to love, to be, to grow - is the most precious commodity on earth. No one's time should be wasted cleaning needlessly or inefficiently." 
Quotes like these are why I love Don's approach to cleaning. The big focus is NOT to become some super cleaning frenetic machine. We are people, and as Don says, cleaning is to assist us to enjoy our families and life. So put your perspective of cleaning into the right gear. 
Does the cleaning program at your house need to change? Every member of your family will benefit if you approach cleaning using Don's model.


  1. This is good advice. Clean as you go. How you clean is how you live. Glad I saw a segment of Don on tv the other day and heard him say "how you clean is how you live", how true!

  2. So glad Don is still being given opportunities to speak to a big audience. I'd love to read your blog, Brenhna. I followed the links but didn't get there? All the best to you today.