Who Taught You How to Clean?

Photo by jbcurio

Growing up, I knew my mom cleaned a lot. I don’t think I helped much.

It wasn’t until when I later had an apartment of my own that I became more interested in cleaning.

I didn’t realize how many of my ideas about cleaning actually came from television commercials, especially the ones showing how dishwashing liquid can cut grease, bubbles can scrub the tub, lightweight sponge mops can glide across floors, and germs will get zapped.

While I watched my favorite cartoons and sit-coms, I learned:

  • that you need a different spray bottle of cleaner for different parts of your home.
  • that regular soap is bad.
  • that everything needs to be sanitized.

Over the past few years I’ve found myself unlearning some of those cleaning habits that I picked up from watching TV. It occurred to me that the more a cleaning product needs to be advertised, the less I probably need it. I started asking questions:

How did people clean up spills before paper towels? Oh, a rag!

What did people use before dustbusters? Oh yeah, a dust pan!

Do bathroom cleaners need to be so harsh that the fumes make me choke? Last year we were talking about “Housekeeping Learned the Hard Way” here on Small Notebook, and Sandra commented, “Once the shower door closed behind me when I was scrubbing the shower walls.  I almost passed out from the Tilex fumes. Death by Tilex is not how I want to go.” Me too, Sandra.

Those cleaning commercials have been filed away in the memory of my youth, in the category “It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time,” along with Lunchables and Little Debbies.

What’s left is the sound advice to make my bed, the helpfulness of routines (from my mom’s 1981 paperback copy of Sidetracked Home Executives), a healthy appreciation for baking soda, the strong urge to get rid of stuff, and my eternal love for a good makeover.

Who taught you how to clean? What influences how you clean now?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. I’m beginning to realize at my age (I’m 45!) that I was hugely influenced/affected by the fact that my mom always had a cleaning lady. Yes, my mom showed me a bit about cleaning herself (how to swish a toilet or whatever) but since she never had to establish a regular cleaning rhythm (since the cleaning lady took care of all the regular cleaning) I never learned to manage my own home in that way. Just this summer I have stumbled onto the Flylady system of routines and ditching perfectionism and it has made a huge difference. Finally I’m whipping the house into shape and it is making me so happy!

    Mary Beth´s last post…chai mix

  2. My mother was not a cleaner – at all. An undiagnosed hoarder (and possible manic depressive), my childhood home would be covered in clutter only to have my mother find a moment of clarity and completely clean every nook and cranny. This never lasted. My parents divorced and my father married a women so obsessed and addicted to cleanliness that she would end up taking 3 hour showers because she was cleaning the shower while she was cleaning herself. We joked that she’d make the bed before you got out of it and take away your dishes if you took a pause while eating. Both examples for me were not good because I got several mixed messages: Add in television (as you noted in your commercials) and I was a mess! Now that I am older (a whopping 33) I have learned from mostly a mix of blogs, articles and such. I avoid products that will “save the world” because most likely the landfill they sit in will destroy it. I work from a bird’s eye view and worry less about every nook and cranny while keeping my home tidy from clutter. I use products around my home (I clean my trashcans and kids toilet with bubble bath) and if I buy something, it’s cheap, natural and won’t kill my pets. My house is tidier than it’s been in years!

    Mel´s last post…It’s a good problem to have…

  3. Kathryn Fenner says:

    My mom-we used paper towels only to drain bacon on and to mop up spills on the floor. Otherwise, counters were wiped down with the dishcloth and suds from washing up. The bathroom was wiped down with plain ammonia and water and a sponge or rag. Floors were vacuumed or sponge mopped after dusting with a dampened rag–one of Dad’s old t-shirts, most likely.
    I’ve picked up a few more ideas–my “pick up the big chunks” boyfriend, Heloise, microwaving the kitchen sponge–I grew up before microwaves, and I prefer a sponge for the few things I can’t put in the dishwasher….

    I love that the mom in the ad is a solid looking person–not a yummy mummy (gack!)

  4. Hi,

    this is my first time here as a writer. I’ve been a reader for over a week and I do find many of your ideas helpful and many other supporting me in my new life style.

    As far as cleaners are concerned I had to teach my mom to use eco and people friendly products. She used to believe in “the more it’s killing you- the more efficient it is” and “if something’s for everything, it’s for nothing”. She finished with hundreds of bottles (as well as different cream for each tiny body part).

    I live in Poland and I changed my cleaners into soda and vinegar and ones made by a German company Frosh. These are based on non-aggressive substances and such things as vinegar, soda, lemon juice etc.

    I admit, cleaning is not the best entertainment, but it’s much nicer if the products work and are pleasant to use.

  5. My mom taught me how to clean, but I’ve rebelled against her frequency of cleaning. As a kid, I used to have to dust the living room and front hall way. THERE WAS NEVER ANYTHING TO WIPE AWAY!!! She cleaned so often, that there was never anything that I visibly saw to actually clean. So, as an adult (living alone, so I don’t have to subject anyone else to my dirt), I clean monthly or less often than that. I keep thing picked up and clean up obvious messes/spills/etc, but don’t do the major cleaning my mom used to make us do every Saturday morning. (And, guess what, I’m still alive, the dirt hasn’t killed me!) :)

    • me too! When it’s dirty, I clean it. waste of time to clean just because it’s “cleaning day”.

      I do try to run my sweeper vac in high-traffic places (kitchen) a couple times a week…

      vegeater´s last post…Today I cooked…

      • “Cleaning Day” I remember that growing up! It was every saturday morning. We’d have to clean the house and help maintain the flowers and weed and mow the lawn.

  6. Hello, this is my first time commenting too but I’ve been reading for a while, your blog is so useful!

    My mum pretty much cleaned constantly when I was young, and I remember being asked to dust and there never being much dust to pick up! I always made my bed before school, too. Now she lives in Cairo and is constantly fighting against dust!

    Now that I’m an adult I have totally rebelled against the making-the-bed rule! My husband has really bad dust-mite allergies, and we’ve read that leaving the covers turned back all the way until the bed is cooled and aired leads to much fewer dust mites, so we usually turn it back before work and I make it when I get home again. I use an antibacterial spray on my kitchen surfaces (which my mum never did) and am a total nut for liquid soap (I get really bad dermatitis from normal soap), but one product I have copied from my mother is lemon cream cleaner – she used to use it on everything, and now I do to, and my sinks are sparkly!

    But all-in-all I have to agree with Susan – I don’t clean anywhere near as often as my mother did and it doesn’t seem to have done me any harm yet!

  7. When I grew up, my grandparents raised me. I was never taught how to clean bet really remember that gma kept the house SO clean that gpa would get angry… He said that the house needed to looked lived in… Now, as a mother of 4, and all boys on top of it all, I have a hard time keeping my house together, since nothing really was passed on…My husbands mom, did the same thing with him and his siblings, picked up everything after them, so I was kinda hit with a one, two, punch! I try to keep my gpas advice and not go CRAZY clean but, have it at least neat and tidy… Again, a hard thing for me to do, but learning as I go… I have found that this stuff from the Dollar General called AWESOME, is one of the best stuff I have ever found. It cleans EVERYTHING! and only costs $1! You can dilute it to your needs… I also use windex for anything else…
    Now I try to pass on cleaning tips to our boys and have them help with the cleaning… Hoping that one day, they can help their wives, instead of hinder them…lol

  8. My husband taught me to clean. We nickname him ‘The Queen of Clean’ as he loves order and tidiness. My Mum like the poster above suffered from depression, relied on a cleaning lady and I left home not really knowing how to do anything.

    My husband on the other hand has a very organised and tidy minded mum – she comes every Monday to mind my kids and does loads for me. (I work full time). I am amazed at how she can turn what I consider chaos into order – for example when I am ready to throw out a lot of odd socks she will miraculously find all their partners. She has taught me a lot too.

    Top lessons that have made the biggest difference (these are probably embarrassingly obvious to everyone else!)

    – if you are wiping something with a damp cloth then you need to dry it after to give a non smeary finish.
    – elbow grease really does make a difference
    – even the toughest tomato stains on clothes will disappear if dried in the sun
    – doing the washing doesn’t just mean putting it in the machine, the job doesn’t finish until its back in the wardrobe!
    – the quickest way to pick up in a bedroom is to make the bed then put everything on it. Then rehome it all, only then tackle the cleaning.

    I’m still on a steep learning curve with this!

    Anna´s last post…3 Beautiful Things

    • Anna, I really like the tip about making the bed and putting everything on it. One tip for people with light covers: throw a dark blanket or towel down before you pile the junk on.

      I’ve learned that my aunt, who always struck me as crazy, because she wanted us to take off our shoes in the house and wash our hands after eating and before playing the piano, was right. When it’s your stuff, you can see that it is worthwhile to keep things in better condition by preventing wear and stains, rather than trying to keep up with them.
      MightyMighty´s last post…Eating better for less

  9. No one ever taught me how to clean.

    And, I actually wish someone would do a tutorial (maybe there are some out there). Here’s how to healthfully clean the bathroom… the kitchen… etc. I feel like there’s probably some better way I don’t know about. What to start with, what to use where, how to tackle certain problems, etc.

    Our house was kept reasonably clean (as it can be with 5 kids) but there was never any teaching. I would even get in trouble by my dad by not dusting “right,” but I would ask him to teach me and he’d act like I was being ridiculous.

    This is hard for my husband to live with, I know, as he lived with an OCD mom who never allowed a speck of dust!

    The Butterfly Nest´s last post…Sleep- Glorious Sleep

    • You should get the book “Home Comforts”! Not only does it give routines and info, it also is a VERY DEEP reference about how to clean everything, including various types of cloth, how to fold sheets, etc etc etc.

      You can get it cheap used on Amazon – that’s where I got mine. It’s amazing!

  10. I remember watching my Mom wash our new kitten when I was 9 or 10. I remember how calm and through and patient she was and that the cat fell asleep both in the warm water and later under the hair dryer. I marveled at not only her focus but her apparent pleasure in the task.
    My mom was always an incredibley thorough housekeeper who took great pride and comfort in the orderliness of our home. There were conflicts that arose from her high standards, mostly due to the other members of our family not pulling our weight and her 50′s era guilt hangover about asking for help even though she worked full time. As a woman who had little use for “process” in the rest of her life, she took a surprising measure of zen-like comfort in the mundane task of keeping our home.
    In addition to being naturally inclined towards order and simplicity, I definately learned to value order and cleanliness from her excellent example.
    And I can wash a cat like nobody’s business.

    Juliet´s last post…Pushing on a string

  11. FlyLady
    Don Aslett

    You can’t beat’em!!!

  12. My mom taught me to clean, but there was always a lot of clutter around, so I’ve had to learn from other people (my hubby, friends, books, and blogs) how to keep things tidy.

    My mom was very thorough but also slow, and she believe that slow and methodical was better than fast . In other words, fast is not good. So I have also had to unlearn some things. I have sped up to the pace my husband can clean, and guess what? Things are clean! I don’t vacuum twice over every 18 inches of carpet like my mom. She taught me how to clean a bathroom thoroughly except that our bathrooms were carpeted to be “warm underfoot” as I was growing up. I can’t stand carpet in a bathroom now, or even a throw rug around the toilet. Maybe cuz I’ve had 3 bosy and care less about comfy toes in the bathroom more about health!

    My mom used Shaklee products, and she made us scrub the kitchen floor on hands and knees. I don’t do that. Mop it every other week, yes, but with a mop. Once a year I get on hands and knees.

    My house is cleaner and tidier now than it’s ever been on a consisten basis, so I can attest to the fact that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks.

    Zoanna´s last post…Welcome Home- Kids!

  13. Ugh I never thought about this—we learned to clean from commercials!!!
    What about toilet bowl cleaner–do you use it? I find it difficult to let go of the perfectly shaped bottle and clingy gooey cleaning liquid to get under the rim. Otherwise I think I could be “deprogrammed.”

    • have you tried baking soda, vinegar and a few drops of (lemon, sweet orange or tea tree) essential oils? This cleans/disinfect really well and smells yummy, too.

      Flo´s last post…on a rare afternoon like today

      • Do you have any ratios for that? I need to clean my toilet and I don’t have any toilet cleaner at present… So i’m willing to try something new.

        • have a plate, pour some soda in and dampen with vinegar. add more soda for a more abrasive cleaner. that;s for counters and tub.
          for the toilet, pur in a cup of vinegar followed by a half cup of soda and let boil until done, swipe with bowl mop or scrubber and let sit for a while. i love the commercial where you are cleaning the ‘germs’ from the toilet–now what is a toilet for?
          if you have stainless sinks, after cleaning with soap, spray with window cleaner, let sit a minute and wipe. this brings back the luster of the sink.

  14. Must chime in. My mom really taught me how to clean, she showed me how. I am so thankful for that. It took a lot of time, more time than cleaning it herself.

    However, the book *Speed Cleaning* took it to the next level: Super-efficient routines, the right tools, techniques, etc. I love that book.

    Next was Don Aslett’s book *Life after Housework.*

  15. I find myself eliminating more cleaning products too-I love mrs meyers and use their concentrate for just about everything now. I have one of those old copies of “sidetracked home executives” too – I think I even had a file box at some point…

  16. Denise C. says:

    My Grandmother & Mom taught me how to clean. Both had a whole cache of cleaning products. My Mom to this day will not part with any of the cleaners under her kitchen sink….some date way back!

    I love cleaning my home with vinegar, baking soda, & Clorox Natural Cleaner. I also adore my Dyson vacuum.

    Speaking of cleaning….guess what I am doing at home today? I have enlisted the help of my 4 year old son, & 2 year old daughter to help. :)

  17. My experience was similar to yours. My mom always kept things clean, and taught me some things, but I didn’t help much. I have been running my own home for a little over a year, and it’s definitely been a learning experience! I love things neat and clean, but I am a perfectionist, so I will often just give up.

    My husband and I didn’t have much time to get our things organized before we moved in together after our wedding. I had moved from out of state, and he had lived in a small, very messy room. Our garage is still full of clutter and our office is cluttered but tidied… I hate clutter but am learning to take it one room at a time and not let it keep me from cleaning. I just finished redoing my baby son’s room and closet, and it is so refreshing!

    I do a weekly cleaning routine – I’ve just started doing the one from justmommies.net. I have a week-long plan of everything I want to get done, and then sometimes a daily list. I am trying to keep it doable, because then I’m more likely to get it done!

    I love your blog.

  18. Whenever my house has gotten past my tolerance threshold for clutter, but I’m strapped for time, I’m a huge fan of the Ten Minute Pickup. I know I didn’t invent this. I actually set a timer, and my husband and I run around putting things away for ten minutes, then we stop. Usually, ten minutes is all it takes to tidy up.

    vegeater´s last post…Today I cooked…

  19. I’ve always tried to use a lot of inexpensive cleaners, especially ammonia, vinegar, and rubbing alcohol for cleaning windows. These are more environmentally friendly, too. When my sister extolled the wonders of a steam mop, I had to try it. How wonderful to get floors cleaned and sanitized using only water and a washable mop covering! It takes more elbow grease than using chemicals, but pets and babies are safe on the floor.

  20. I was raised by a military dad and a cleaning obsessed mom… I had to clean bathrooms and dust every day! Of course, I grew up and rebelled against that. I had to re-learn a lot and come up with my own plan. When my kids were little, I loved giving them a spray bottle of water with a little vinegar. They could “help” with windows, floors, and bathroom sinks. I do still think my floor is never totally clean unless I am on my hands and knees with a bucket of soapy water and a rag… but I only go to that extreme a couple times a year. My biggest motivation to clean: having company! I know I should do it for me, and for my family… but nothing gets me in gear like knowing someone is coming to visit. I like to have guests often! Blessings!

  21. Like many, I’m sure, my mama taught me how to clean. She taught me the difference between clutter cleaning and dirt cleaning… clutter cleaning is what we do when company is coming over, ha! And dirt cleaning is what we always did on Saturdays.

  22. hello
    i love to do housework but as i recall nobody told me how to clean
    I liked tiding and cleaning being a child, i washed my dad’s shirts by hand etc
    i just like to have a clean apartment
    when it comes to cleaning products i use vinegar with water and a cloth to wipe stupp, vinegar works great for calk on shower doors
    for toilet i use domestos (chloride) or sometimes just vinegar and i don’t believe in various products for various parts of home
    The specialized cleaning products are sometimes very expensive and usually not so effective as shown in comercials
    The care for enviroment makes me not to use to much chloride, and not too much paper towels which I use to wipe toilet
    I love the effect after cleaning that’s my greatest motivation I have my cleaning systtem which works for over six years as i live in my apartment
    I love your blog I read about it in polish magazine – no spending month was its main subject
    kisses and hugs

  23. Love that ad photo!

    I was raised by my grandma, who didn’t teach me any housework, much less cleaning, but I remember waxing wood floor, dusting, cleaning the fridge, and other cleaning- as a kid. I think I learned most of that from observing adults.

    When I finally moved to my own place, I’m glad Shaklee was there to educate me about the safety/danger of cleaning products. I have since moved on to making my own natural cleaning concoctions.

    But now I just use Norwex cloths and water for most jobs. The toilet and kitchen sink are cleaned with baking soda, vinegar and essential oils. So liberating!

    Flo´s last post…on a rare afternoon like today

  24. Mom of 2 under 2 says:

    The first thing I thought of after I read this post is what my mom said to me sometime after my first daughter was born (she’s now 2): “I like how more women of your generation aren’t as obsessed with housekeeping. If I could go back and do it all again, I wouldn’t worry so much about a perfectly neat and clean house, and spend more time just enjoying the family”. That was a huge surprise to me, and a complement of sorts.

    I definitely learned from my mom, even though she eventually used a cleaning service when she went back to work fulltime (I’m a huge fan of that idea whenever I get to that point).

    My mom’s actually been the one to show me less chemical methods of cleaning. Magic cloths with just water work wonders on glass and smooth surfaces. I’ve abandoned alot of chemical cleaners like other posters.

  25. My parents divorced when I was 11 and my mom became a single mom with a full-time job and 2 kids, so she didn’t clean as much. Dishes didn’t all get done every day, the floors weren’t mopped regularly, beds weren’t always made, the vacuum didn’t run every morning. Instead we valued our time together as a family at the end of the day, and school/kid activities took precedence over things like scrubbing floors on hands and knees on weekends.

    Contrast this with my grandmother (mom’s mom), who is almost OCD about cleaning. I was in my 30s before I was able to stop feeling guilty about not cleaning the house top to bottom (windows, hand-scrubbed floors, etc.) every Saturday morning. She still cleans her refrigerator once a week by pulling everything out, putting it in a cooler, and wiping down the interior of the fridge with baking soda water.

    We cleaned using pretty simple cleaners, usually, but not necessarily eco-friendly. I admit I still use Clorox now and then. I love using baking soda, though, and Method products for things like window cleaner. We use microfiber cloths to dust when it’s necessary. I also tend to use what’s available, I’ve been known to mop the bathroom floors with my (non-toxic, naturally scented) shampoo. It’s just another type of detergent, that’s all!

    But mostly, as a working mom myself now, I focus on keeping things clean enough to be safe and healthy. I wish I could find time/methods to handle the clutter of a non-neat-freak husband and two kids, but other than that we do OK.

  26. I have learned to clean by trial and error, I definitely did not learn from my mom, if you look up pack rat in the dictionary, her picture is there.

    I use mostly vinegar for the counters, minor messes, etc, but I LOVE Comet for the sinks. I still use bleach on the kitchen and bathroom floors once a week or so.

    I am a neat freak. The kids or I vacuum and clean the main bathroom every day and there is no clutter, it is reactionary to my upbringing, but I LOVE a clean house, it says home to me and every time we go to a “slobby” house, my family does thank me. =)

    My brother has a clean house too, we just cannot start down that path…………

  27. I remember that book!!

    I went to see Pam and Peggy in Los Angeles, CA when their book, Sidetracked Home Executives came out. They were so funny just so down to earth. Their message really struck a chord with people however and continues to do so to this day. It’s always wonderful to laugh while you’re learning something new. Now Flylady kind of picks up where they left off.

  28. This is why it was much better to grab snacks during commercials on Saturday morning cartoon day! No cleaning influence for me.

    Seriously, though. I have always kept things neat but am not a big cleaner or scrubber. This stems from my family because that is how it was growing up. Totally frustrates my husband who likes it clean. So we compromised and got a cleaning lady twice a month. Now he doesn’t feel like he needs to do all of the heavy cleaning and I don’t feel guilty for letting him.

    Dani´s last post…They Know Your Every Step Especially When You Tell Them Your Every Step Also- Reindeer Are Super Fast

  29. My mother definitely influenced my cleaning. She is the reason I see dust on the baseboards and toothbrush drips on the bathroom counter. Cleaning my house is a bit like therapy for me. These days there are several things that influence my housecleaning style. I have kids so I use non-toxic cleaners and the fewer the better. I also use old towels cut up into small squares instead of paper towels ( I dye them dark gray so they feel uniform and I feel like they are something new/special ). My kids are twins so my time is particularly scarce (they just turned two!). I view cleaning and something that makes me feel good and keeps my family running smoothly. That being said, I try to keep things tidy and clean when I get the chance.. but most importantly I try not to be hard on myself when the floor hasn’t been vacuumed lately. I do what I can when I can to keep my home bright and happy and running the way I want it too. As they say, when mama’s happy.. that makes everything better :)

    Sarah´s last post…Today you are this many

  30. I started getting sinus infections from cleaning products so switched to nicer plant-based ones! Much happier now. And I don’t think our house minds one bit.

    From my mom I learned how to make hospital corners when putting clean sheets on the bed and that’s one of my favorite things to do when tidying up. Just call me Miss Hospital Corners (name that film).

  31. Sadly, no one! My mother wasn’t big on cleaning, so as soon as my sister and I were deemed old enough, cleaning became our job, but without any direction. I learned from reading, seeing how other people did it, and taking some advice from a dear old friend, “don’t clean until you can really see a difference once you’re done”!

    I think the most important things I’ve learned about cleaning are to have less stuff that needs to be cleaned, keep the house reasonably picked up all the time, and never to pass an opportunity to do something fun because something needs to be cleaned! I knew a woman who would actually pass up a girls’ day out because it was her day to do laundry – sad, very sad!!

    I’m now learning to use fewer products, but I’m addicted to throw-away floor cloths! I just find that they make the whole floor-cleaning thing so much easier and less messy. I’ll fight to keep my Swiffer cloths – wet/dry/mopping – there, confession is good for the soul!

    ofsageandsepai´s last post…League of New Hampshire Craftsmen Fair

  32. My mom. She cleaned every day but Thursday was official cleaning day. When we got home from school, we had our Thursday cleaning chores. They changed as my brother got older and he took over the “heavy” duties – like vacuuming the stairs. My mother was raised with housekeepers so I’m actually surprised by how thoroughly and dare I say, obsessive, she was about cleaning.

    We were not even allowed to sit on our beds for fear of rumpling the bedspreads. My friends thought we were so strange, lol.

    My mother was raised with housekeepers but judging from the same cleaning gene that she shares with her 7 brothers and sister, my guess is that they still had chores to do. I, on the other hand, was raised with a clean gene mom (& dad) so I’m not really sure how I fell so far away from the apple tree.

    I am a bit of a mess. These days, I could probably excuse the mess and clutter away by explaining that I have toddler twins and a wheelchaired-husband. Unfortunately I can’t use that excuse because I’ve been like this almost from my 1st day away at college. I think it’s probably my one real rebellion from a rather strict upbringing.

    I am a hypocrite though. I cringe whenever I enter a home that is messy. I can’t stand it. So how do I stand my own clutter? I think I compartmentalize it. I’ve been known to step over a FedEx envelope I purposely laid in front of the front door so that I didn’t forget to take it with me. I don’t “see” the mess once I’ve put it into that mental compartment. But…it does eventually get to me and I act like a crazed woman on steroids getting the house in order.

    I need to make a “lifestyle” change and get off my binge cleaning (kind of like a lifestyle change vs dozens of temporary diets). I just found your site last night so I plan on spending some time here in a real effort to make that lifestyle change.

    • Oh Bernadette! I so identified with what you said here:
      “I’ve been known to step over a FedEx envelope I purposely laid in front of the front door so that I didn’t forget to take it with me. I don’t “see” the mess once I’ve put it into that mental compartment. But…it does eventually get to me and I act like a crazed woman on steroids getting the house in order.”
      I’m so like that! I too need to make a lifestyle change. I enjoyed reading your post!

  33. Amen and amen!

    My mom cleaned houses while she was in college and was a total stickler on things being clean! Every Saturday began with a long chore list of things to do before we could have any fun! And if we didn’t do it right, we got to do it again! And again! And again!

    Needless to say I learned to clean EVERYTHING very well…it was just the type of products that changed over the years…

    Kait Palmer´s last post…Guard Dog

  34. As a “much older than most of your readers” type person with asthma, I am influenced primarily by what does NOT affect my allergies. I now use only castile soap on my body and make my own laundry soap and all-purpose cleaners. Since I started this, I no longer get hives and my asthma is finally (4 years) under control. Although making your own laundry soap sounds like too much trouble, it is extremely easy, doesn’t irritate your skin, and is so much cheaper than buying name brands and even store brands. It is also safer for aerobic/regular septic systems and ground water. Making your own all purpose cleaner takes about two mintues. Vacuuming is done weekly, and I do own a floor model steam mop that I love, beats lugging around mops and buckets.

    • Do you have a recipe for laundry detergent you’d care to share?

      • Laundry Detergent
        1/3 bar Fels Naptha Soap, grated (or Ivory)
        1/2 cup Super Washing Soda
        1/2 cup Borax
        2 gallon size bucket

        Makes 2 gallons laundry soap/64 loads- the cost to make the soap here in Texas is .0114 per load

        Grate soap into a saucepan, add 6 cups water and heat until soap is dissolved. Add washing soda and borax until they dissolve, remove from heat. Pour 4 cups HOT water into bucket, add soap mixture and stir. Add 1 gallon and 6 cups water and stir. I put the detergent into gallon milk jugs. Use 1/2 cup per load. Since the detergent seperates a bit in containers, I put a handful of marbles in the bottom of containers (2-1 gallon milk cartons) to make remixing/shaking easier. It doesn’t make many bubbles and is safe for low suds washers. Happy laundering, Julia

  35. I keep searching for ways to make things more efficient when cleaning. I’ve thrown out the duster for an old wet tshirt. and I use bicard soda, or vinegar most of the time.

    Mopping still iritates me as does the washing. I’m very much over folding clothes only for them to end up in a big pile. Anyone got suggetions?

  36. I learned to clean in an odd way… my mom was not really a ‘cleaner’ and always had a bit of a dirty house. Mom was a feminist and really anti-domestic so she really didn’t like anything involving housekeeping. But, we had chores from time to time as kids and I thought our house was average.

    When I got my own apartment, I kept it ‘average’, I thought. It wasn’t as messy as one of my very-messy-bug friends, and not as clean as a catalog.

    Then one day, I had a somewhat older friend in to visit, and she freaked out on me, “Oh my goodness, I can’t believe you keep your house this way!” She went on and on about how dirty it was and how shocking it was. I was mortified. And yes, that was a very rude thing for her to do, but it opened my eyes to the fact that there was another level I could move to. I thought I was doing all there was!

    Eventually a different friend came in and helped me clean and organize everything, and *that’s* when I learned to really clean. She taught me to look for details, to make sure white appliances stayed white, how to declutter, etc. It was a great learning experience to work with her.

    Since then I’ve also learned a lot from “Home Comforts”, a book by Cheryl Mendleson. All of you talk about rebelling against super-clean – I actually have had to become OK with wanting more for my home! I’ve had a lot of anti-domestic heart junk to overcome.

    Sorry for the long post! :-) Enjoy your homes!!

  37. I really enjoyed cleaning as a kid… (to say home life was crazy is an understatement) so cleaning was my escape…

    I actually looked forward to cleaning grout with a toothbrush because it would occuply me for a while and I could just listen to music. A lot of times when I was home alone in the summer, i’d just decide I couldn’t take the messy kitchen and i’d go to town organizing and stuff…

    Now in my house, I mainly clean it once a week, unless i’m bored (and then i’ll do mini projects that don’t get done once a week.)

    SouthCountyGirl´s last post…changing insurance premiums

  38. We also had cleaning day on Saturday. My mom worked during the week so all major cleaning was done on Saturday. My main job growing up was dusting the furniture and cleaning my room and the bathrooms. I hate cleaning the bathroom to this day:)
    Now, I work up to 60 hours a week so I have carried on the tradition of Saturday cleaning day.

  39. When I was growing up, our messy house was blamed on us kids by my mom… and blamed on my mom by my dad. I never really knew who’s fault it was until we all grew up and left home, and my parents divorced. Then I discovered my mom was a packrat, and my dad is a borderline hoarder.

    My grandmother always had a clean house, and taught us kids how to clean her house (our own house was too overwhelming). Once I was on my own I was OCD about a clean house, b/c of the fear I’d turn out like my parents. I never wanted to be embarrassed to have guests over.

    Now, I have a picked up house, a husband and a one year old. We’re all happy with that. When we have guests over, we have a CLEAN house that we spend the day before cleaning. Luckily we have guests over about every other week, so our house stays pretty clean.

    However, t’s a compromise I had to find to keep my sanity. After the baby came, I had to break the Saturday morning scrubbing routine (that I actually enjoyed!).

  40. You did! Well, you and the broader internet population. When I was a new mom just a few years ago, I had no clue how to keep a house clean. Obviously there were cleaning chores to do, but finding a rhythm that worked for me and ACTUALLY implementing it was a how to that I gradually gleaned from the wiser net-population. My own childhood home had far too much going on to maintain a steady focus on clear, calm spaces so I had never realized how much preserving and creating a peaceful home was worth. So…thanks!

    Zom G.´s last post…The follow through

  41. Rachel P. says:

    My ADD mother tried to teach me how to clean, but it was so random and involved so many products and different schedules (as in, this product on this surface but only every other week while this product needs to be used every week and once a month you need to seal it but don’t use this cloth use this special one). It was so frustrating although I did learn to do it her way. She says I’m the only one who can work with her. Her other problem was how she would drop the vacuum and become completely distracted to the point where I would be stepping over an full laundry basket and the vacuum to put away some random object while she was doing dishes only to come back and find her dusting. It was chaotic and she usually only cleaned when company was coming. Now, I live in a chaotic home with three children and a husband who refuses to help me clean (passive refusal, not as in he has verbally refused) and I shrug most of the time and say to myself, “There are clean dishes and clean clothes and toys are picked up at the end of the day. What more do you want?”

  42. Sandra Gonzales says:

    I showed my daughter how you quoted my comment from last year. She thought I was crazy for being so happy about it.

  43. My mom is a good housekeeper, but I never had to do much housework as a child. Some things I learned from her. I am a home-health aid and have been blessed to work in a couple of well organized, well ran homes of other people, from which I have learned a lot. I enjoy smallnotebook.org. Thank you all for sharing.

  44. I am a total SHE, I love that you know Pam & Peggy’s book. I was directed to Flylady a little over a year ago by a friend who could tell I was completely overwhelmed and love that routines can help keep my small home clean and organized. I love that you post pictures of your before and after. They have given me lots of ideas for making my house a home.

  45. My mother was a neat freak, and if we were having company over – it seemed every weekend – my half-sister and I had chores to do – I had to polish all the brass on the Chinese bar, and polish all the silver she liked to display. Then it was on to the bathrooms, where everything had to be perfect, and soap balls put out to complement the colors of the bathroom. And we weren’t allowed to use them before the company came – we couldn’t use the hand towels or anything – we had to go upstairs to go to the bathroom, and be very careful that we left no sign of our being there, if we had to use the bathroom. Yeah, a neat freak. I grew to HATE these parties. And since I was the oldest of her two daughters, I was in charge of being sure everything was done, and my younger half-sister didn’t do diddly squat to help, so I had to do it all myself.
    But when I got married, I was into keeping things neat throughout the week, and then on Saturday, my husband and I did the cleaning. Then our daughter was born, and things changed a bit – it was harder for me to do as much as I used to do with an infant in the house, and so we had more to do on Saturdays. I became a SAHM, and loved it, and got myself going on the SHE program, and did retty good on it, but as the years came on, we tended to move into larger houses, and as my husband’s income became larger and larger, I and he tended to buy more things (that we really didn’t need), and it became more difficult to keep up with. Then next thing we knew, our daughter went away to college, and we were empty nesters, and I don’t know what happened to me, but I totally gave up on the housecleaning, and our house became a pigsty. And this year, I am trying to get it back in order. So far, all I’ve gotten done is to clean up my studio (art, quilts, jewelry making, etc.) and this weekend, I got that room done, except for going through my bookcases. Our son-in-law is helping me FOCUS on what needs to be done, and he wants me to get on those bookcases and clear them out of books I don’t need anymore, and magazines I don’t need anymore also. One of the bookcases needs to be tossed, because one of the shelves has collapsed with the weight of the magazines and books on it. So there I am. Right now, I can’t do anything about it, as I promised my dad that I would make him and his wife (my step mom – who is ultra cool!) a quilt from a picture of their favorite view of Yosemite as they live very near there. I am going out to visit them in California on Oct. 9th – 16th, and want to bring the quilt with me. I am hoping I have it done by then. I just got all the fabric washed and ironed and have started on it, with a gridded interfacing – it is being done “watercolor style”, so I am filling in the squares, and pinning the squares on the gridded interfacing I have pinned up on the wall. I will spend most all of tomorrow doing this also, and hope that I can finish pinning up the squares by the end of Sunday afternoon, so I can sew them together on Monday morning, and then choose my borders, and get my batting, and baste it all together with the backing, and then start quilting it. Once this promised quilt is done, I can beathe easier, and go through my studio again, and further declutter it, including the bookcases.
    I am excited about finding this blog, because it was accidental, and I think my Guardian angel sent me here – it looks just like the place I want to be. I am inspired. And I will spend tomorrow morning and come here to read more. Thank you for your inspiration. Annie Littlewolf

  46. Your right, there are a lot of gadgets out there for cleaning a house. In my opinion it’s just a lot of unnecessary dollars spent.

    I like to stick to the basics and keep it simple.

  47. I was taught by my mum, step-dad, grand-mothers… I started out my married life cleaning with chemicals, but most of those are gone now. I use enjo and love it.

    Tara´s last post…It’s Almost CyberCrop Time

  48. Great post. What’s starting to get to me lately are all the chemicals we use while cleaning our home. I want to cut back and go all natural, but find it hard to find products that actually work.

    Unplanned Cooking´s last post…How should we position the house

  49. very thoughtful question!

    My husband and I are staying at my parents’ house while they’re away, and I spent all day yesterday polishing wood furniture and cleaning anything I could get my hands on– focusing on things my mom doesn’t usually have time for (since I do have the time right now)…

    Eliz K´s last post…encouraging quote for this young wife

  50. I had a book when I was a kid about steps to take when cleaning your room (I wish I had that book for my kids) and it said, “Make the bed 1st (and showed how with pictures) and then get everything off the floor and sort it into piles on the bed.” I still do this.

    My mother was and still is not a “cleaner”. Growing up, our house was always a disaster with a capital ‘D’ and I was terribly embarrassed to have anyone over. I vowed not to live like that but I am not a neat freak myself. I figure if someone can’t love me because my house is untidy then I don’t need them around. ; )

    The book The Queen of Clean is a great book too about how to keep it simple and gives a great timeline of when things should be done.

    Rebekah @ It Only Gets Better´s last post…You Capture – Summer

    • I may have that book, or at least one similar. Was it called “What to Do When Your Mom or Dad Says Clean Your Room!”? It was written by Joy Berry, illustrated by Batholomew and part of The Survival Series for Kids. Published 1981 by Grolier.

  51. there were a few things i learned through years of cleaning a house–love what you want and buy what you love. i am not a collecter of small objects de art so i do not dust a lot, only when absolutely necessary. I shred paper for putting around plants as a more natural mulch so i don’t have a paper problem–keep away from magazines and adds as these are covered in shiny, oily paper. this also decomposses faster and still keeps the plants healthy. i put a plastic mattress protector on my mattress or when i buy new keep the plastic on as a cover to deter the growth of parasites and bugs, leave the covers back a few hours and hang my pillows and towels out everyday to air dry; cuts down on smells and the fact that we sweat in bed at night and we need the sun not the dryer to kill bacteria.
    i clean with vinegar, soda and salt in my home but have other cleaners to do certain jobs–just don’t go overboard with the cleaning process. i have 4 indoor cats and when you walk in you will not be able to smell the litter box–soda for odor control. i also clean my garbage cans everyday (indoors) and my curb cans 2 times a week on garbage day. i reuse liners from the store as trash bags and save boxes for bigger throw aways.

  52. the cottage child says:

    I used to be fanatical, now I’m a total slacker house keeper. I’m just not feeling it – I knock off the high spots and run the dishwasher, and that’s it unless it’s grossing me out. My mom had cleaning day once a week, and it was awful. I just refuse to yell about marginally existent dirt – however, it would be nice if the kids and husband would get their dirty clothes to the appropriate receptacles. Secret laundry outposts are beyond annoying.

    And I clean everything with diluted dishwashing liquid – I use Mrs Meyers because I love the smell, but just about any kind will work (Blue Dawn is hard to beat). To clean the dishes, of course, but also counters, as laundry pretreater, sink and toilet bowl cleaner (w/a bit of bleach or baking soda), etc. It’s nice, too, because as my kids are learning to wipe up their own bathroom, I don’t worry like I would if they were spraying harsh chemicals around.

  53. FlyLady (www.flylady.com) taught me how to clean and how to establish routines! She’s based on the Sidetracked Home Executive book you mention above, so I thought I’d comment. I’m a new reader to your blog, but you’re already in my feed reader – I can tell this will be a keeper! :)

  54. My mom was a “secret cleaner.” I never saw her do it, I never helped, but the house was always spotless. I assumed that keeping one’s indoor environment was easy because, hey, my mom worked full time, was never home when I wasn’t, and I never ever saw her having to do any work!

    Big surprise when I moved out on my own and something living started growing in the shower stall. Yuch!

    Like the author, all my assumptions about cleaning had come from TV. So like any dutiful household manager, I went out and bought myself one of every necessary product. Then I noticed that bottles “sweat.” The chemicals inside actually come through the porous plastic over time and make the outside of the bottle a bit slimey. Next, I noticed that my cats had figured out how to open every cabinet in my apartment. The morning I found one cat sniffing a bottle, her nose very close to it, I threw them all out. I was done with chemical cleaners! I’d seen far too many cats with kidney damage to let any of my furry-babies fall victim!

    So now I primarily use water (and rags!) – using baking soda or vinegar only for the toughest stains or for surfaces that food might touch. Dishwashing fluid and washing machine fluid are the last remnants left.

  55. Can I say no one?? Really my mom was not the best at keeping a house tidy. Dont get me wrong there was never any mold or weird things growing in the shower, but cleaning was not on her important list. It was just her, and my brother and me. She was easy on us so our rooms were never clean(my “carpet” was clothing) and chores often when undone. Once I got to the age of around 17 I always told my mom that my house would never be dirty. After moving across the US at 19 and basicly having an instant family(husband came home after a 15month deployment, it was our first time living together and with a 13month old child) I found it had to keep up with everything. I went threw the days of not wanting to clean because it was so overwhelming. We then moved back across the US to be re stationed. That was when it all started coming together for me. I read many blogs and talked to a lot of other women about how they kept up their houses. Then my husband deployed again for 9months and I was able to perfect my routine. Ive now figured out what products I like using and most are chemical free!!

  56. I very much enjoy reading your blogs. They are very inspiring and useful. Definitely I might have observed and adopted the cleaning habit from my MOM. If I think of my childhood days, I remember seeing my mom cleaning and organizing things most of the time. Now she does babysit kids, and the way she takes care of the kids show how cleanly she have had raised us.

    Black Walnut Pearl´s last post…The Keyboard

  57. I learned to clean house by watching my mother, unfortunately! She did a thorough cleaning every Saturday and the smell of amonia still lingers in my nose. She cleaned house in her underwear and it was an all day marathon that made me feel like an obstacle. So–when I grew up & had my own home I decided to clean in a different manner. I’ve always also though ten minutes once a day is better than forty minutes once a month. And I never use amonia! My stand-bys are an all purpose cleaning mixure with bleach that I use in the kitchen and bathrooms and a Swifter mop I use on the floors without carpet. And Glade Powder Fresh spray—couldn’t do without it!