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Women, by nature, are busy creatures. We want to be productive. We want to take care of others. Single or married, mom or not, we have a nesting side, we want to create a home. As a single girl living alone in the US, I created a home out of an apartment. Then in Jakarta, I turned my one-room rented place into a mini home. As a wife, I had a zest to create a nice, cozy, comfy home for my husband. And now, as a mom who works outside the home, I still want to, and do, create a home for my little family. However, with an active toddler following me around the house, and creating mess along the way, and living with a husband who is... well, let's say that dear man of mine is not very clean nor very tidy, it becomes much more difficult. Not to mention that with all the responsibilities that I have now, time has become an extremely limited comodity.
So, how do I create a home? And how do I keep a (relatively) clean and neat home that is (again, relatively) presentable at all (or most) time?
Clean as you go
This is the major thing that has made a whole lot of difference. It means you don't let dirt and clutter grow into mountainous size. After washing the dishes, I wipe off the counter top. After brushing my teeth, I organize and clean the bathroom counter. After dinner, I wipe the table clean. I do a little bit of cleaning as I go around doing my daily activities. Sometimes it could be annoying that you feel compelled to a little bit of cleaning aaaaall the time, but that's the thing. You just do a little bit of cleaning as you go along with your life. You are not going to be stuck with blocking hours in a week to do a thorough cleaning. Your home will look relatively presentable and clean and neat at all times, because you don't let it become too dirty or too disorganized.
Challenge yourself to always do something on the go. You like watching TV? Why don't you dust the home theater set and coffee table while doing that? When you come home from somewhere, you can always pick up the clutter from your porch before going inside. When you put on your makeup, why don't you give the mirror a wipe as well to make it really clear and clean?
Of course, I still need to do a major cleaning like sweeping and mopping the floor, but cleaning as I go meaning that you can drop by at my home any day of the week, and I won't be caught embarassed in the middle of a chaotic or super dirty home, though you won't find me in a perfectly shined and spick-and-span home, either.
I also teach this method to my toddler. I always told him gently to pick up after himself. Sometimes the child will refuse, but most of the time, he will comply and return his toys or whatever things he rummaged from the cupboard, to where they belong. When he did refuse, I will hold his hands, give him the toy he had let stray on the floor, and gently pulled him to the direction of the cupboard to return it. That way, he knows that eventhough Mommy doesn't raise her voice or angry, she does mean business.
Do you know why the houses in the interior magazines look so perfect? Because before the photoshoot, a team of cleaners brush and polish the room clean, and the room was un-live-able during the photoshoot! My husband works in marketing and makes a lot of commercials both in TV and printed ads and magazines, so I know. You can't have perfection in a home with people who truly live in it. If it's perfect, it's not a home; it's a museum! I don't want a museum to live in, I want a home. A nice, cozy, comfortable home where my family can relax and be themselves. You don't need to apologize to anyone, if your house doesn't look perfect. Don't be discouraged if you still have papers and stuff strewn on the floor at the end of the day. It is bound to happen, and that's they way it should be.
As a single girl, I used to change the decoration according to the theme of the season. Pink for February. Spring decoration for April. Flowers for May. Now as a Mom, I don't have time to do just that. I simplify by keeping the same neutral theme throughout the year, and just create some theme centerpieces on the living room table and corner table for auspicious Lunar Chinese New Year, Christmas, and some other holidays or special celebration like birthdays. The rest of the room basically stays the same. The difference is just the centerpieces or the table runner. Ow, and a Christmas tree for Christmas!
Keep the front porch and one room clean
Even if the house if fall apart around you, always keep the front porch clean, because it's the face of the house. And keep one room - just one - presentable where you can receive guests, or relax and gather yourself and recharge before you "attack" the rest chaos around the house. Cheat if you need to. Nobody will see the insides of your cupboard, so feel free to unclutter the room by throwing everything inside your cupboard, dresser, drawer or other storage and close the door if you are running out of time. You can always sort and organize the cupboard later.
Schedule the major things
Routine is a busy girl's best friend. By creating a routine and sticking to it, I save a lot of energy on thinking: "What should I do next?" Routine enables me to operate on automatic mode, without thinking, easy as pie. Examples. If it's the first or third Monday of the month, I know it's time to change the sheets. If it's October, I know it's time to take down the curtains and send them to the laundromat for washing and pressing, one room per week, and I'll have fresh-laundered curtains by Thanksgiving.
Some women said to me that cleaning a house is a neverending battle. Well, personally I don't see it as a battle. I just see it as part of life. It's repetitive, but think of it as a creation process, a creative process, from which the result you can enjoy. A clean house will enable you to live a better life compared to if you live in a dirty, filthy one. If you feel like you're very far behind in your house cleaning, I'd like to encourage everyone, that it can be done, and it doesn't have to be so hard, if you discipline yourself to make cleaning a daily habit, and if you stop to push yourself so hard to reach perfection. Just take baby steps. Start with one room. Just one room. Or even start with the kitchen sink. Yes. Shine the kitchen sink. Then you can clean and organize the dining area the next day. The living room the next. The most important thing is that you're making progress.
I wore this ensemble some time last year, actually, when taking Michael, who was just a baby at that time, to his regular immunization shot. He looked so tiny here. How time flies.
I'm linking up to these wonderful Ladies: