Five quick cleaning tips

Battling the mess ...
Battling the mess ... Photo: Getty Images

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When I was a teenager our family home was burgled. The police arrived and were shocked at the state of my room. Drawers were tipped out, clothes strewn on the floor and personal items scattered everywhere. The thief left it in such a state the police couldn’t see the carpet.  It was a disgusting indictment of one person’s disrespect and contempt for the personal property of another.

Except it wasn’t. The burglar just took some cash and a bit of cheap jewellery and scarpered. The police merely found my room in its natural state: a right bloody mess.

Yes untidiness is par the course when you’re 16, but in all honesty I didn’t really grow out of it. I was born with a spectacular gift for both making a mess and not caring about it. And I stayed that way until I had kids.  When babies arrived a sloth like existence meant utter chaos. It took an age to find anything and dirty clothes clogged every corner. The disarray started to make my right eye twitch.   

I needed means by which to take back control of the house – things that would require very little time and effort on my part yet give the impression of a tidy and efficient household. It took a while but I eventually found some handy short cuts. If you’re time poor or like me, inherently untidy, here are my top five tips for quick cleaning:  

Dump it:

As soon as they wake, the kids try (and succeed) to toy bomb every available room. To counter the mess I have dumping baskets positioned around the house. On the outside they look like the pleasing accoutrements of a child-free existence, on the inside they house a mega ton of plastic tat.  

It’s easy to scoop up armfuls of toys and dump them in the nearest basket rather than lug the whole lot back to the kids’ room. I always tell myself I’ll return the bits and bobs to their rightful place when I get five minutes (confession: I never do).

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Get hooked:

Nothing makes me want to incinerate all our belongings like a hallway covered in bags, hats and coats. This is the stuff that gets cast straight onto the floor the moment someone walks through the door. As we don’t have a butler on hand to take such items to the east wing, I use hooks as a cheap and easy alternative.

Two rows near the front and back door plus a standing rack for shoes takes care of it. Now everyone is sufficiently well trained to immediately hang-up their outdoor stuff.

Bonus: also ensures I avoid spending 20 minutes hunting for the school hat when I needed to be at work an hour ago.

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Delegate, delegate, delegate:

The ultimate tool for the time challenged tidy-upper is getting someone else to do it – in my case, the other people I live with. 

Unfortunately I haven’t managed to get the kids to clean the toilet or make their own dinner, but we are in a morning routine where they tidy away their pyjamas, help fill the dumping baskets and make their beds.  Husband also pitches in with cleaning the kitchen after breakfast, making our bed and returning wet towels to the bathrooms.

They’re small jobs but make a huge difference to how tidy the house is left each morning (and how warm and fuzzy I feel about the family during the day).

Take a minute

Here’s a little pact I make with myself: if there’s a job that takes less than a minute I do it there and then. If it takes longer than a minute I give myself permission to leave it.

In reality very little takes longer than a minute to clear up so the lazy part of me gets short-changed most of the time.

Ironing bored: 

This is my favourite: do nothing. Well, the ironing to be specific. The family wash is already an eternal exercise in tail chasing without having umpteen baskets of clean clothes cluttering up the place.

I don’t have the spare hours it takes to iron an entire wash and even if I did the kids would re-crumple clothes within minutes of wearing. So, everything gets put away as soon as it’s dry. I try and buy clothes that are crease resistant. Husband irons the school uniforms when he does his shirts in the morning and I get to keep my blood pressure under control.

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