On Wednesday, Deepa Lakshim shared this so-sad-it’s-funny post on MTV.com:
“It’s a travesty, we know,” Lakshim writes. “Try not to shed a tear for the long lost days of sweet, sweet summer that are whizzing by way too fast. Because wherever you go and whatever you do from this point onward, September is coming for you.”
It’s true — summer is short. If you live in someplace like Buffalo or Chicago, a beautiful summer is the rich reward for five (or more) months of miserable weather. For students, summer is a glorious breather. If you work full-time, summer is even more condensed.
Add a newborn or young children to the mix, and summer can disappear completely.
“If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are,” Tim Krieger notes in his 2012 New York Times essay, ‘The Busy Trap.’ “ It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing.”
So why, with precious little time to enjoy long days and warm weather, would anyone chain themselves to a bucket of soapy water?
Your Summer Cleaning Strategy: Speed, Efficiency + the Big Picture
Regardless of the season, most of us don’t want to spend six hours scrubbing from bathroom floor to ceiling fan. We do it (sometimes) if we must, but it’s no cause for celebration. Even in the darkest months of the winter, your Instagram feed is never flush with oven-scouring pics.
The strategy for summer cleaning is to be selective. Speed and efficiency are your goals. You need to remain aware of the big picture — targeting the places in your living space where you actually live.
- Focus on high-traffic areas
- Be aware of trouble spots
- Take care of big messes fast
- Do a little bit every day
“When I first learned to clean my own place, I thought Saturday had to be an all day clean-a-thon,” Apartment Therapy’s Sarah Rae Trover remarks in her post ‘How to Clean Your House in 20 Minutes a Day for 30 Days.’ “I didn’t really have a concept of how to balance the work load during the week so weekends could be reserved for larger projects or even you know…fun! Now I clean in 20 minutes a day — every day — and things just seem to take care of themselves.”
So let’s figure this out.
Get Regimented: Use Lists
If you’re the type of person who needs structure to succeed, consider downloading a cleaning schedule or list from Pinterest (there are hundreds) or one of several popular home organization websites like Better Homes and Gardens or Real Simple.
Real Simple, for example, has a 28-minute daily quick-cleaning checklist. If that sounds optimistic, check it out — it’s doable, especially if you get into the habit of cleaning every day. And you should.
Concentrate on the Most Important Rooms (aka The Ones People See)
You could join your friends for drinks at a waterfront lounge on a sultry July night…or you could scrub the grout in your shower. You could thrill the kids and wave down the ice-cream truck…or you could dust the guest room. These are not difficult choices.
Yet while you are warmed by the joy of a four-year-old’s face as she mushes a frozen vanilla Ninja Turtle into her face, you have no interest in living in a pig sty — nor having your friends, family and in-laws think you live like a frat boy.
Let’s focus on quickly (and, more importantly, effectively) cleaning three key rooms: the kitchen, bathroom and living room.
According to Good Housekeeping, there are five steps to a clean kitchen fast:
- Clean the counters. “Cooking is your kitchen’s top priority right now. So stash mail, school schedules, and that rarely used juicer elsewhere,” writes Carolyn Forte. Once organized, use soapy water and a soft cloth to wipe the counters down every morning after breakfast and every night after dinner.
- Get real with the fridge. It only takes a few moments to discard old produce, unused leftovers and congealed condiments. You’re not using them! Wipe the shelves and bins out with a cold water / vinegar combo and a soft rag once a week, and you’ll be surprised how nice your fridge looks — and smells.
- Ignore the oven. You’re probably not doing a ton of baking during the dog days of summer, anyhow. “Spot-clean dead-giveaway grime — stovetop spills, grease on the door handle or inside the glass door — with your sponge and a dash of baking soda (it’ll rinse off easier than a sudsy cleaner, FYI),” Forte recommends.
- Stay on top of the dish situation. If you have a dishwasher, use it. Dirty dishes get rinsed and go straight in — no sink pile-up. No dishwasher? Take the five minutes after each meal to wash and then air-dry your dishes. Remember to wipe your sink thoroughly after each use. There’s no excuse for crumbs and crud stuck to the sides or in the drain (so gross).
- Have a floor plan. Sweep daily. Notice a stain? Don’t break out the mop bucket — simply use a soapy cloth to scrub it out. Boom, you’re done.
Have five minutes?
That wasn’t too bad, was it?
The trick to a clean living room is in the planning. If your living room is full of knick-knacks, framed photos, pillows, blankets, magazines, books, your DVD collection (come on, it’s 2014!), a gaming system and the various clutter that comes with it, then you’re already in trouble. When your living room is a combination bedroom / game room / parlor / storage unit, staying organized is hard enough — much less keeping it clean.
Not everyone has a huge house. Many of us live in small apartments (I spent my share of time in a 330-square-foot beauty of my own — with a roommate, of course). Regardless of the size of your living room, though, you need to ask yourself two questions:
- What is the purpose of this room?
- What are my storage options?
If your living room is meant as a space to entertain, keep the decor and accoutrements to a minimum. Focus on places to sit, gather and converse. All focus does not need to be angled towards a television. Keep the games, movies and framed photos of your besties in the bedroom or office, spaces meant to be more personal.
If your living room must serve dual purposes — entertainment, office, game room — make a storage game plan. Clutter looks and feels messy. Can you add wall shelving? Can your incorporate items like a storage ottoman? Do you have a desk that can dual as your office space while absorbing storage duties, as well? Can your desk double as a TV table? Can you make use of cabinets, cupboards, shelves and sideboards?
Regardless of your thoughts on their furniture (and this is not an endorsement), a trip to your nearest Ikea can be helpful. The company’s interior designers are ingenious at devising room layout schemes to maximize storage in small spaces. Get inspired!
As for cleaning: Housekeeping.About.Com offers a good plan for a 15-minute living room strategy, which basically boils down to the following:
- Wipe down any hard surfaces
- Put away anything that should not be in the living room
- Vacuum / fluff your couch and chair cushions (I recommend rotating them, as well — it’s an easy way to minimize the wear and tear)
- Vacuum the floor (even if you have hardwood! So much easier than sweeping, and the vacuum sucks up the dust and dirt that may get into the cracks)
I am a big advocate for daily vacuuming. It doesn’t take long, and makes your living space look much cleaner. If you have kids or pets, you should definitely make vacuuming a priority — the air can get pretty, uh, musty when you let dirt, dander and odors settle into your fabrics or floors.
Summer should be a fun, refreshing time. Get out there and live! Just make sure you’re coming home to a space that you makes you happy, too.