The Art of Cleaning

One hot Summer’s day I was sitting out in the garden cleaning the hoover head. I was focused on the part that rotates in a circular motion to collect the dirt. I was cutting open the thread it had wrapped around it’s cyclon function. As I blew off the dust from the Dyson in my bralette and grey elasticated leggings I thought ‘you’re obsessed!’ From the garden I could hear my neighbours settling in to watch the England vs Colombia football match. The truth is we’re all passionate about something, some of us reserve that passion for our free time. Others, work out how to make money from it and turn it into their day job.

When I was twelve years old, I told my Dad I wanted to be an interior designer. As a Punjabi Dad who had sacrificed his own passions to provide, his response was ‘ uh no!’ I was young enough to forget about it and moved from career to career never finding my feet.

As an adult, I can tell you ‘if you want to build a business, build it around something you do in your spare time.’ It sounds obvious but the only way your business will survive is if it doesn’t feel like work. If you’re not getting paid but it’s costing you money, then it won’t be so bad if it’s something you would do anyway. 

The recognition, press and profits can take so long that you’ll wonder why you started a business at all. If you can honestly say ‘you love doing it’ then it’ll be a win-win situation.

I don’t love cleaning which is a contradiction to everything I just said. I don’t hate it though and I’m really quite good at it. I’ve always been an organised person - I can decorate with no budget, fix other people’s junk to make it valuable and throw a hassle free party. How you might be good at maths, I’m good at getting things in order.

So I thought it was time to list how I go about getting my house in order:

1. Start where you’re sat

So many times I’ve over romanticised the notion of cleaning the entire house in one go. The thought becomes overwhelming and you just end up binge watching Netflix all day with Twirl bars at the ready. Author Mel Robbins says ‘you have five seconds to get up and go.’ If you wait any longer your body goes into survival mode.  This happens when your brain reads your hesitation as a threatening situation. A signal goes from your brain to your body that says ‘don’t do that, it could harm you.’ The result is inaction which means the house doesn’t get cleaned and the thought remains a once good idea. As you’re sitting there thinking about the cleaning task ahead of you, count five, four, three, two, one… Rise up off your feet like a rocket and find anything which will propel you into action. It’s that first step which is the hardest - it’s moving from your head to your hands that’s challenging. Just use your hands to wipe the thing closest to you, you’ll see the dust on your hands and you’ll be up to wash them. I know you’re thinking that’s a silly start, but that’s the key - to start.

2. Use the tools you have

Have you ever smelt the laundry and cleaning aisle in a supermarket, it’s heavenly. However there’s far too much choice and as you’ve never thought to research what products suit your home and your health you head to the biscuits display. In my teens, I spent hours cleaning my family house. It would make my Mum happy to come home to a clean house after work and the physical activity put me in a good mood. I cleaned almost every day from the age of sixteen to eighteen. I didn’t have any money to spend on cleaning products so I would fill a bowl with hot water I had boiled in the kettle. The kettle would kill any germs in the water when it reached boiling point. I would wait for it to cool down and then pour it into a large bowl. I would add several drops of Fairy and then pop on my yellow latex gloves. When I didn’t have gloves, I would go without but for the sake of your cuticles I would say buy them. I would drop a scrubber with a soft yellow side and a green scouring side into the bowl to soak. I'd start at one corner of the kitchen and work my way around the space in a 360 degrees motion. I moved everything out of the way until the worktop was clear which helped me feel like I was making progress. I emptied each item that was on the worktop and washed it in the sink so it was deeply cleaned. Let me give you an example, in one corner we stored onions, potatoes and garlic in a three-tier tray. I’d take each tray at a time, empty the contents onto a plate, wash the tray in the sink with a second sponge and leave it to dry. Once it was partially dry, I’d use a kitchen towel to dry it completely. This stopped it leaving streaks from where the water had drained off it. Finally I’d clean the surface where the tray was sat with the scouring side that had been soaking in the bowl of fairy water. Once scrubbed, I’d dry the area with a kitchen towel and everything would go back to where it belonged. I’d then move onto the next surface.

3. Take one small section at a time

Don’t wait until the house is upside down to make a start. Take a corner or drawer or section of the house, complete it until it’s sparkling and then move on. I’ve made this mistake so many times and it takes me an entire day or three to put things in order. I’ll have to dig out photos of my room to show you, where piles of clothes, technology and dirty dishes would squat. I learnt to live in the pigsty until I couldn't or until my Mum cleaned it up. It would always aggravate me too when she did clean it - it was my mess to take care of. Here’s the thing though, if you live with others, your habits will rub off onto them. I was encouraging my younger sisters to live in a haphazard way and my Mum thought the best option was to pick up after me. When she didn’t, it would take me hours to sort through the mess. I had certain 'cleaning' clothes prepared for these days, much like gym clothes but more worn out. These clothes helped me get into the right mindset - ‘today is the day’ I’d assert aloud. I would clean the smallest corner in the room that I could use as a reference point for the rest of the day as motivation. You need something to remind you that the end is near and possible.

4. Tidying is not cleaning

My sister Simi is the queen of tidying, she can hide and store things in places where you’ll never find them again. She likes the space to look clutter-free which I empathise with. If you want to get things clean though, you have to first start with tidying and then follow through by cleaning. Yes, they are two very different steps. Tidying is where you sort, dispose of excess and keep the things that bring you joy. Cleaning is where you restore, display and show off the things that add value to you. I think my Mum taught me how to clean the bathroom once and then I was on my own. So I taught my sisters the same way but with top-up lessons. This may sound old fashioned but I think it’s something they should teach in schools. There’s an art to cleaning which should be taught, practiced and nurtured. Once I’ve had a good cleaning session, I feel I’ve accomplished something, had a work-out and simplified my life.

5. First dispose then buy what’s missing

Since I’ve moved into my own rented accommodation I’ve noticed there’s things which make me happy. I have a small grey teapot I want to tell you about. I hand pick three small leaves from my mint tree and drop them into this teapot with freshly boiled water. I let the tea brew and pour it into my Little Miss Naughty mug. The process takes about ten minutes, I breathe deeply as I do it and it’s a ritual which gets me in the right mood. I could just skip the whole tea-pot part and use a mug or I could start drinking from the kettle itself. As a new minimalist I’ve come to notice what adds value to my life. The Barcelona teapot for one is a non-compromisable. However, I have candles sitting around the house which drive me crazy every time I go to clean. They’re just in the way and I only light them when someone comes over to visit. I would happily let go of them and I’m just waiting for them to run out. Every night I think I should light them up and let them run dry. That’s the opposite of value, they’re a burden. At least I'm keeping them there intentionally and I won’t be buying anymore. I try to avoid going into stores now too because things placed neatly on a shop shelf are so seductive. Don’t candles in The White Company always look beautiful? Yes. Do I need them? No. Do I want them? No. Am I likely to be persuaded to buy them on a pretty display? Yes. So before you go shopping list in the notes section of your phone, what you’re going to buy. Make sure you’re not hungry when you write the list or when you’re in the store. If you see something that’s less then £30 and not on the list wait 30 mins to buy it - you’ll most likely forget about it. If it’s more then £30, wait 30 hours and if it’s more than £100 wait 30 days to buy it - that way you’ll know you really want it.  

6. Treat your things with love

Everytime I walk into the house I say ‘Hi house, I love you and I blow it a kiss.’ I do it every single time and I say with all the kindness I can muster. I do it with the car, my laptop and even cutlery. When you appreciate your things beyond their purpose they transform beyond themselves. This is an idea that takes a while to adopt. It sounds silly to smile at your frying pan every time you make an omelette but it will serve you ten fold if you show it gratitude. I try to say grace in my own way before I eat or drink anything. I say thank you to my debit card everytime I touch it to pay so why wouldn’t I say it to the four walls that protect me. A house provides shelter and your things have a purpose too. Cleaning your tools, your house and yourself is a way to give thanks. Even if you don’t believe in God, there are forces at play which bring and take things from your life. Show your possessions you love them just the way you do special people, they’re gifts that used right transform into trusties.

Here's a book I can't believe I didn't read sooner, it's called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo.

The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying

If you enjoyed my blog you'll love this book. Please leave a comment below if this blog on 'The Art of Cleaning' inspired you or just struck a chord.

clean me cleaning clutter minimalism storage tidying

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