Housework and I haven’t always been friends. It’s been a struggle over the past twenty-three years of married life to learn the habit of keeping a neat and orderly home. Some days I’m more successful at it than others, but I’m learning and growing in this area constantly.
I’ve often found that reading assorted books by housework “experts” are more depressing than they are inspiring for those of us who are a bit domestically challenged. Yes, these experts know what they’re doing. But so often I don’t feel like they have even a glimpse of how difficult basic housekeeping can be for someone who just doesn’t seem to have it in their genes to do it naturally.
One of the most helpful and simplest things my children and I do to maintain our home is something we’ve dubbed the Ten Minute Tidy. What it involves is this: Everyone runs around the house picking up clutter and putting it away as fast as they can for ten minutes.
Whenever I notice that the main living areas of the house are getting that well lived-in look, I call for a Ten Minute Tidy. Everyone drops whatever they’re doing and then flies into “pick-up-the-stuff” mode. I actually set a kitchen timer for ten minutes and when it goes off, we’re done. Usually I tidy the kitchen and main bathroom myself while the kids tidy the living room, family room, and if there’s still time left, their bedrooms. It’s amazing how quickly the house can go from looking messy to looking neat when everyone works fast, works together, and works smart.
The purpose of the Ten Minute Tidy isn’t to actually deep clean the house, but to tidy up the rooms so our home looks neat and livable again. The cleaning and regular maintenance is done during a scheduled “Upkeep” time each day. I always focus the Ten Minute Tidy on the areas that make a first impression when people enter my home. In our case, that’s the entry/hallway, living room, kitchen/family area, and main bath.
Deborah Taylor-Hough (free-lance writer, wife, and mother of three) is the author of ‘Frozen Assets: How to cook for a day and eat for a month’ and the soon-to-be-released ‘Frugal Living for Dummies(r)’ (Wiley, Feb. ’03)
**This article excerpted and adapted from “A Simple Choice: A practical guide for saving your time, money and sanity” (Champion Press, 2000).**
Used with permission. All rights reserved.