Saturday, January 26, 2013

Keeping My House "Show Ready": How Do People Do This?

As my previous rantings on the topic have probably made obvious, housecleaning is my Achille's heel. I have skills. I'm good at things. This is not one of them.

I realize that "I'm just not good at housecleaning" sounds like one of those things that people say to avoid pulling their share of the work, but I have no one else to pass these chores on to, so I get nothing out of saying it.

In the past, this weak link in my chain of abilities wasn't really a major problem. I'd have to send myself into a cleaning frenzy when people were coming over, and I'd sometimes get overwhelmed by clutter and feel the stress of it, but--for the most part--we just lived with dusty baseboards and piled up laundry.

But now our house is on the market. We're supposed to keep it "show ready," which the realtor says in such a calm aside, as if "show ready" doesn't really mean "cleaner than your house has ever been ever, but every single day."

On top of my less-than-stellar housekeeping skills, we also have a toddler, two cats, a dog, and a house too small to fit all of our stuff (thus the reason for selling it in the first place). I know there are lots of things that could be done, and I know that a massive de-cluttering where we sacrifice the mounting piles of stuff to the garbage and Goodwill are definitely in the future, but I'm at a loss as to how to actually do that and then keep it that way for any length of time. (And by any length of time, I mean longer than five minutes. Have you seen what a toddler can do to a kitchen?)

This, for example, is what happens when she goes to "make hamburgers."
How do people do this? This is not a rhetorical question. I know that they do do it, so I want to know how. I've been looking online for tips, but these minute-to-minute breakdowns of how often to scrub your sink just aren't cutting it. 

Help! Please!


  1. I wish I could help! I hate doing laundry, so we always have a nice pile. I clean every other day, but my house is still messy. I'm going to venture to say that people who have kids and a clean house spend A LOT of their time trailing behind these little ones picking up after every single play session, which we know can be broken up into mini play sessions with multiple toys over an extended period of time. It all sounds so tiring! We are preparing to put our house on the market too, so if you figure this out let me know!

  2. Right! In the time it takes me to clean up one pile of toys, she has gone and made three more. It's an exercise in madness!

  3. The people we bought our home from had 3 kids and they boxed up absolutely everything they could live without and stacked boxes & Rubbermaid containers to the ceiling of the garage.

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  5. What you said about perfectionism is exactly what I do, too. I'm like, "If I can't clean the entire bedroom, there's no use picking up these toys." Then that just piles up and up and up. Twenty minutes is a manageable solution.

  6. I'm terrible at cleaning, and absolutely hate it. But I also get stressed about living with clutter and messiness, so for the past few weeks I've been trying to come up with a better system.

    One of the things I've learned is that I'm a perfectionist, so if I don't have 3 hours to re-organize my closet I won't even hang anything up. I'll just throw it on a pile in the floor. This exacerbates the problem even more because it starts getting more and more overwhelming. So I'm trying to learn to use even 5 minutes to do something, like dishes or hanging up clothes.

    I've started cleaning for 20 minutes every day. I broke it down by room and just use 20 minutes to clean whatever needs to be cleaned in there. Really, 20 min. isn't that long, it keeps the whole house feeling like less of a disaster, and I feel much better after it is done.

    Also, I second what the other commenter said about surfaces. They make everything look better! And de-cluttering. Getting rid of things always helps!

  7. That's looking like the best option. Hide it all!

  8. A friend rented a storage locker, put everything they could bear to part with temporarily in it, and wafted around a suddenly empty house. As a bonus, you're ahead on packing for the move and it may be easier to get rid of stuff when you see it again. You could also sacrifice a spare room or garage to this scheme.

    Otherwise, my top tip for instant tidiness is: surfaces. If the counters and tables are clear, people seem to be more forgiving of odds and ends, like toys. If I'm right, your daughter isn't tall enough to get to most surfaces -- if she is, I'm sorry as this is useless... good luck!

  9. She's not quite tall enough to reach the counters, so that's a great tip. Thanks. Now I just have to sell it before she grows!

  10. hmmm... i was all excited because it looks like i can comment again - but then it wouldn't go through. trying again! was just saying i agree with the others: pack stuff up, esp. toys (your daughter will be thrilled to rediscover her old toys in the new house), and set aside even just 10 min./day to straighten up. it only takes a long time to clean when you haven't cleaned in a long time!

    also, I've given you a Liebster Award! you can get rules/details here: I hope you have fun with it - you deserve it. Love your blog!

    - deb

    p.s. if this ends up a duplicate, please just delete one!

  11. Hi, if you're ok with f-bombs, there is a truly inspiring tumblr/blog i read regularly she is full of funny gifs and tips for different situations and techniques for easy cleaning and just reading/seeing b4 and after fotos is a great motivator, which might help you face a 20/10 (clean for 20/relax for 10.) She is very good at being motivating without shaming, a lot of followers have depression/fatigue issues/ 3 kids under 5 etc, i have fibromyalgia (chronic pain/fatigue) and use her to motivate me a lot. Good luck, and thanks for writing your wonderful thoughtful and thought provoking blog ;)
    birds sing artblog

  12. Thanks for the tip! I am definitely okay with f-bombs, especially when it comes to housecleaning. In fact, housecleaning would feel incomplete without them.

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  14. Hehe, I put half my stuff in a storage locker, AND moved out for 3 weeks :) Did you sell your house? Have you bought a new one? I haven't been keeping up lately :)

  15. No. We took it off the market and sunk our down payment savings into some repairs. I was feeling kind of defeated about it, but we had some changes in the neighborhood that have made living here for a few more years seem much more manageable, so I'm feeling good about it now. :) How have things been going with you? I hope well!

  16. A year late ... but my toddler has almost no toys at our house. We're basically couch surfing during the day to all my other stay-at-home mom friends' houses so my kid can play and I can not be home. It's a hectic frenzy in the morning to hide the dog bed under our bed, throw the wet towels in the dryer, make beds, clear the kitchen counters, etc etc etc, before we leave each morning to have it "show ready." I'm totally OCD too, so once crumbs, milk, juice--whatever--falls onto the floor or counter, I go into a cleaning everything-must-be-perfect frenzy all over again. I am TIRED. We may take the first somewhat decent offer we get just to be done with it!

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