We spent last week enjoying the world’s most gorgeous weather.
Look at this picture:
It’s the stuff family memories are made of, right?
I wonder if I’ll remember that we didn’t eat breakfast until noon?
Because the fire kept going out.
Even though our coffee never perked, it was a blast.
A mile away from that campfire-on-the-shore shot is my parents’ place where we stay.
It’s like a microcosm of my life. My cleaning life. Kind of a Slob Blogger research lab.
Let me explain.
On the day we arrive, it’s always comfortable and welcoming.
We remove dustcovers from couches and beds and immediately begin relaxing.
There’s no dishwasher, but the fact that things are so perfectly comfortable is great motivation to use as many paper products as possible and wash everything else right away.
To keep it comfortable.
And this lasts a day or two.
Usually we only stay a day or two, but last week we stayed five days. Five days is plenty long enough for the novelty of an always-perfectly-clean kitchen to wear off.
I know what it takes to keep a kitchen/house under control. I’ve even written a book about it.
But oh . . . it’s just soooo much harder to do when you’re technically on vacation . . .
So on day three, I fell behind. I want to blame it on the fact that we spent the first half of the day cooking breakfast a mile away and the second half driving to “town” for haircuts and shopping. Those could be shaped into proper excuses, but it’s likely I would have let things go no matter what was on the agenda.
On Day Four, I still didn’t feel like cleaning the kitchen. But I did. Because Day Four was our next-to-the-last-day. And the last day at the lake (whether it’s day two or day twelve), is Cleaning Day.
For real. There’s no getting around it. There’s a numbered list on the wall and everything.
So Thursday, our next to last day there, I started peeling back layer one.
I knew that if I put off the dishes another day (even though we hadn’t cooked at all on Thursday), I’d be de-disasterizing instead of cleaning.
And there’s a big difference.
Pre-blog, I thought I cleaned, but I really only ever de-disasterized.
Going from Perfectly Clean to Lived In and back to Perfectly Clean within five days helped me think through how the layers of a clean house work.
Layer one is daily stuff.
It’s the stuff that isn’t a project. It isn’t a stop-everything-while-we-tackle-this task.
It’s a habit. Just a habit.
It’s the most important layer. If I keep up with this layer, it doesn’t even feel like a layer.
Layer two is decluttering. I was going to say that layer two is cleaning. But thanks to the Lab environment of the lakehouse, I realized my mistake. On the last day when I’m worrying about sheets being changed and floors being swept and details being noticed . . . we remove all of our stuff before we clean.
Our stuff doesn’t belong in there. It doesn’t have a permanent home in that space, so leaving our stuff in there makes it difficult/impossible to really clean.
Real Life Translation: If something doesn’t have a home, it’s clutter and needs to be removed so cleaning can happen.
Layer three is cleaning.
It’s the weekly (or kinda-weekly) things like vacuuming and mopping and stuff.
It’s so much easier to peel back one layer at a time than three layers at once.
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Really good post! I have never thought about it this way before, but it is so true!
Rose Arthur says
1.Handwash Dishes 101 2.)declutter table/counters? 3.)Sweep and mop kitchen/diningroom Is this what you mean, Dana? xo
I am confused about this too.
After listening to her book, I started some things.
Now, I am not sure where to start.
I came here to look for support, maybe I will look into the 5-day challenge.
Alana in Canada says
De-disaterizing, or as I like to call it, catastrophic cleaning, (I like alliteration!) is all three layers at once, then?
I have something I call my morning routine which is layer One. Make bed, swish nd swip bathrooms, laundry, dishes, pick up and put away: I find that if I do these daily (and I don’t) the house practically cleans itself!
It’s projects which get me down. I get so involved–and they are lways so much more fun than housework. (Heck, trimming my toenails is more fun than housework!)
jean haila says
Like your Morning routine. It helps me stay focused for almost part of the day.
Sometimes, your posts come at the right time — when I need a kick in the butt to keep cleaning. Sometimes they come at the wrong time — when I’m desperately trying to ignore the mess around me. Strange that those are the same time? I’ve got some bad layer 1 mess around me right now. 6:12? Fine, I’ve got 8 minutes until supper is ready… I’ll be a good girl and peel back that layer!
I. LOVE. THIS.
Kristy K. James says
Shh. I think I have more than three layers in my office. I’ve got all of my stuff…plus it seems to be the catch-all place for things that don’t have a home. To make an excuse, there is no storage in this house, so I have the tall plastic thing that holds my wrapping paper in the corner. I also have plastic grocery bags full of paperwork I always intend to get to…and then prefer to forget. Maybe I’ll work on that for a while tonight. I’d rather burn it, but that’s probably the layer I need to start with. If I don’t resurface in a week, send a search party please. 🙂
Rachel R. says
The fact that architects seem not to believe in storage is one of my pet peeves. One can live in a *smaller* house more comfortably than a *larger* one, if there’s enough good storage designed into it. It’s so much easier to keep things neatly stored in dedicated storage spaces than when you’re trying to store them in living space!
YES’ our big open plan house had bedroom closets and kitchen cupboards, but everything else just went into the blackhole of the garage. Between lack of walls between rooms, and big windows, and The set of stairs being open to the room i had space for 3 billy book cases at the end of the room farthest from the kitchen, no other storage/display space. Zero. Zip. Nada.
Our traditional flat here in the UK has as much living space. For the bedrooms we had to buy standalone wardrobes for the clothes, and we have the same shelves and dressers as back in the US, so no change, rally, in what can be stored in bedrooms. But the rest of the house, instead og being a giant room with Long lengths of wall, is 4 seperate rooms (living room, dining room, kitchen, and room sized central entrance hall) plus 2 walk in closets (called a ‘press’). All the rooms and closets have walls against which can be placed bookcases and cupboards and sideboards, or which can have hooks and shelves attached. Things can be stored or displayed where needed, rather than boxed up in the garage. Pictures can be hung! Tis glorious!
Carolyn Shives says
You are hilarious and so relatable.
this was well timed, with making cleaning checklists being this week’s declutter 365 mission….
I beg to differ. You found four layers. You forgot to number the layer that is the list that tells you what to make sure you clean. You Just follow that list. Thorough and complete.
May we please see the list? And what are the dust covers made of? What do they look like?
Dana White says
True! Here’s a post that has a photo of the list: http://www.aslobcomesclean.com/2010/03/hit-or-miss-genetics/
The dust covers are long, raw-edged pieces of fabric. Some are knit, which stretches well and is heavy enough to “stick” when you pull it over the furniture. The others are another type of fabric (not sure what kind) that’s heavy, but not stiff at all, so they drape well.
I never get past 1st layer- I, hubby and children don’t pick up we just keep adding to it.
Wow. Just wow. Every now and then…even at 47 years old…someone posts something that suddenly makes things crystal-clear. This post did that for me. I totally get it now. Better late than never!
Amanda T. says
This post just helped me figure out my first three month resolutions. January I will work on daily habits. February decluttering habits and March cleaning habits. What a perfect article to read as I transition back to the real world (health issues). Thank you!
I’m reading this as the two overloaded baskets of mismatched mens socks stacked in front of a TRASH bag full of more of them ruin my “me” time taunting me. Socks. My mortal enemy. I know I am not alone.
Debi Z says
Toss them all. Seriously. Go buy a new pack of men’s socks and toss the rest! My husband, about a decade ago, stopped worrying about his socks. When he notices that he has a hard time finding socks for a few days, he just goes and buys a new package! Probably happens about 3 times a year. That is $30 VERY well spent 🙂
Kim Domingue says
I solved that problem by tossing all of my husband’s socks. I then purchased one type of white socks, one type of low cut sport socks and one type of dress socks. No matching required. I put dividers in his sock drawer, each type has a spot and the socks get tossed in the appropriate section. Even if there were no dividers and the three types were all just tossed in the sock drawer willy nilly, he could still pick out a matching pair quite easily. I throw away socks as they get worn out or develop holes without worrying about a sock not having a mate since they are all alike. Every couple of years, as the sock supply runs low in one category or other, I toss all of the remainder of that that category and buy a new set. I haven’t fussed with matching socks in years! It’s glorious!
I’ve done this for my youngest grandson too! With little dogs that love to run off with socks I finally got smart and bought all white low cut and crew socks for him.
So much easier!
Kim Domingue says
Oh! Goodness, yes! Between the dogs and the one cat that had a weird sock fetish, socks went missing and/or showed up with a hole chewed out of the toe, lol! Glad to meet another woman who came to the same solution that I did!
Please donate socks, even mismatched! Or, take to a fabric recycle place along with all your other unwanted clothing and textiles!
Could you tell more in depth and examples about layer 1 daily stuff?
Dana White says
Those are the daily habits I go into in great detail in my book: http://www.aslobcomesclean.com/book
Hi, I’ve been on a month long mission to declutter and organize my overwhelmingly messy home. I binge listen to minimalist podcasts while I work, and your podcast was next in the queue. I just paused episode 6, while you were speaking about creativity being a common thread among your commenters, and cried. I haven’t had that response to anything else that I’ve listened to. I’ve continually thought during the first five episodes that you were speaking about me. Pretty much everything you’ve said, I’ve done or thought. I even supplemented my new stay-at-home-life by selling my thrifted treasures on Etsy for a while. I constantly tell my family that I can’t clean the house properly because i can’t get through the layers of mess. The only difference that I could see, is that we homeschool. When you mentioned the creative lives of your commenters, I realized that homeschooling is my creative outlet. Something about my identity as a slob just clicked. Thank you, thank you! I can’t wait to keep listening!
Andrea Smith says
I can relate to your reply! Homeschooling mama too! I know this is a few months later, but I hope you’re still going strong and finding success!
one corner of my home at a time or small space visibly seen yea thanks for this!
About Creativity says
Jan S Jones says
I’m just excited that there are only 3 layers! I’m down to layer 2 in some places, layer 23 in others. And now I’ve started doing layer 1 on a more regular basis, because I have realized, with your blog, that the top layer hardly takes anytime at all if you just do it every day😀
Jan S Jones says
Ok, that was supposed to be layer 3, NOT 23, lol!
I love your blog! I find it so hard to motivate myself to clean because it always seems so daunting, and that’s because I’m trying to achieve perfection! so silly, when you’re realistic about cleaning its much easier to start a task.
I love this! Thank you. It makes sense. I just discovered that usually what I do for my cleaning is de-disasterizing. If it is bad enough, I actually see it, and then it takes forever to finish. I would love to keep up enough that it’s not a huge chore if people come over, like last weekend. I’m happy to know about the daily tasks and I’m excited to start.
Lindy Thompson says
Hi Dana! At one time your site offered this very cool, brightly-colored single-sheet free printable with the layers of a clean house explained. I have been unable to find that again. Could you make that available again please? Thanks!
You know it explains why I never actually get to cleaning – except for 5 min. of vaccuming once a week (at least the available surfaces) because I like walking barefoot, and after a week the floor becomes too gross to be confortable.
On my design cleaning time, I spend time on the everyday stuff (that I too often put off until later) and then decluttering (which I actually like to do, unlike the “everyday” and the “declutter”). And then I think that I spend enough time already and… no cleaning really happens…
I only truly “deep” clean (or is that de-catastrophize?) when I know I’m going to have guest… It sort of works but it probably could be better…
I would note that as someone with a chronic illness who must clean in small chunks of time, I can get to mopping and vacuuming only if I do them as small daily chunks along with the other daily tasks of laundry, dishes, 5-minute pickups, and wiping down surfaces.
Daisy Mae says
Me too – I also don’t have the energy to sweep/mop or vacuum all of it at once due to chronic illness. Great idea to break that down into daily chunks instead! Gonna start this tomorrow!
I do the dishes every single day, the other day I did the dishes but I did not clean the countertops as I had things laying there… next day, as I left for the office, I noticed the dirty kitchen, so that night I did the dishes, put everything away and I cleaned the countertops… took me longer, as there was more things there to be put away.