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My husband might tell you that I love to clean, but that isn't entirely true. I love having a clean house. While at times I find the effort that goes into cleaning therapeutic, it's definitely the result that I love, not the act. I have a hard time relaxing if my to do list is staring me in the face. I'd much rather spend 5 minutes loading the dishwasher, than a couple hours only partially engaged in an activity because the dirty dishes are in the back of my mind.
My family and friends often comment that my house is always clean, to which I usually laugh and retort, "it really isn't, I'm just good at faking it!" The truth of the matter is, that just like many things in life, it's all about prioritizing. Unless you have a live-in maid, the chances of ever maintaining a spotless house are pretty slim. If you're like me and want to keep a "clean enough" house try following the tips I've laid out below. Let me know if they work for you, or if you have some tricks to share with me!
#1 - Your Nose Knows
Someone once said "of the five senses, smell is the one with the best memory" and it is so true. Imagine opening the door to someone's home, what do you notice first? Before you even get the door closed behind you, your nose has already detected what your eyes haven't had the chance to see. This can either work for you, or against you in a very powerful way. If your house smells clean, guests will automatically assume it is. If it smells awful, that's probably the only thing they'll notice. The brain is funny like that, it makes snap decisions without any real information, and we all know what they say about first impressions. For a few years now I've been using the Bath and Body Works Wallflowers all over my home. (This is not a sponsored post, I just love these little guys!) A lot of people prefer to use more natural options, like oil diffusers and such, but I've yet to venture into that world. I love how compact the Wallflowers are and the fact that they don't require a surface. If you visit my home tour you can probably spot them plugged into spare outlets all over my house. Not only do they have a massive variety of scents, but they also have tons of design options; sleek and simple, decorative, themed, and my personal favorite, ones that also serve as nightlights. I pretty much always use Eucalyptus Mint because I love how fresh and relaxing it is without smelling too perfumed.
Don't forget, there is a BIG difference is refreshing your house and layering scents on top of unpleasant odors. We've all seen the Febreze commercials where they joke about becoming "nose blind" to your own odors. Don't let this happen to you! We recently added a cat to our family and I'm so paranoid that I'll grow accustom to the litter box. In addition to the Wallflowers, I use Germ Guardian Pluggable UV Air Sanitizers. I have one near the litter box and one in each of our guest rooms since we have lots of family members with cat allergies. (Again, I'm not being paid to share this, just telling my secrets!)
Lastly, anytime our family comes over I grill them... "Does it smell like cat in here? Are you sure?!?! You would tell me the truth if it did, right?" Find a trustworthy friend or two and get their opinion when they visit.
This is probably the hardest for most of us. We all have at least one spot in our home where we dump the daily "stuff"; mail, keys, purses, backpacks, you name it. In my house we have two. We have a great open entryway that is laid out in such a way there's not really room for any type of furniture. This means that the first surface you encounter when you walk through the front door is the formal dining table. My husband and I are both guilty of dumping our work bags, lunch totes, water bottles, etc. on the table as soon as we walk in the door. (see below) I'd like to say that after we let the dog out and feed the cat (who cries nonstop until you do), we go back to that room, collect our belongings and take them to their appropriate places. But let's be real, we don't. Not to mention this dumping ground makes everything super convenient to grab on your way out the door the next morning.
The second place in our home is a basket on the kitchen counter. It's supposed to hold our keys, a few pens, and important papers that need to be dealt with in a timely manner. It sits on top of a totally cool charging station that my brother in law made me for Christmas. People can plug their phones in and drop them in the basket so they're safely out of the way. Again, let's visit real life here, it often looks like this...
An important design rule of thumb, that also applies here, is to consider sight lines and focal points. If there's a giant pile of stuff it's going to become a focal point, especially if it's directly in your line of vision. As you guys know, I think it's important to provide realistic, practical, and livable solutions, so I'm not going to try to convince you not to drop your stuff on the dining table or completely do away with the junk basket on your counter. What I do suggest however, is you keep it from getting out of hand. Keeping that pile of mail straightened or neatly stacked in a basket can instantly make a space look intentional rather than sloppy. When my junk basket starts to overflow I know it's time to do a quick clean out.
In the dining room, we try to find a happy medium. During the week I'll neatly set my purse and our work bags in the corner(s) of the room. Getting them off the table takes them out of people's sight line. This gives the impression that someone made an intentional choice rather than sloppily dumping something in the first spot available.
#3 - Straighten Up
Cleaning up and straightening up are two different things. We don't always have time to vacuum, mop, dust, disinfect, etc. However, straightening up has an even more powerful effect, especially visually. My favorite examples of this are throw pillows, hand towels, and the bed.
In our house we keep an average of seven throw pillows on the couch (and I've recently been looking for a few more). We also have a dog and a cat that love to curl up on the couch, not to mention my husband and I when we relax and/or fall asleep there. We love our couch and spend a significant amount of time on it. The pillows often end up squished, relocated or even tossed on the floor. Fluffing and straightening the couch cushions and throw pillows instantly transforms the whole look of the living room. My favorite way to keep the couch looking fresh is to toss the pillows into the dryer for a few minutes with a dryer sheet. The tumble effect really fluffs them up in a way I can't manually, especially those down pillows.
This same thing applies to hand towels in the bathrooms and kitchen. Draping a fresh hand towel over the sink in an intentional (there's that word again!) way gives the impression that you prepared your space to share it with others.
Make the bed. This feels like a controversial topic with opposing sides as old as time itself. I'll be honest, I don't fully make the bed every single day. That would require I deal with a comforter we never sleep under and far too many pillows. What I do insist on however, is pulling the covers back and straightening the pillows. Once again it presents the impression of an intentional choice rather than a lack of caring.
#4 Pick Up As You Go
Ah, another controversial topic, especially for parents of teenagers. I promise picking up one pair of socks from the living room floor feels so much more manageable than picking up a weeks' worth of dirty clothes from the side of the bed. Theoretically it takes the exact same amount of time to put things away as you go as it does after they've piled up, but mentally the pile can seem like Mount Everest, while the pair of socks seems like well, a pair of socks.
#5 Light The Way
I studied makeup many moons ago and one of the things I remember most is "light comes out and dark goes on". This was drilled into my brain as a guideline for how to apply shadow to all different eye shapes. This principle also applies to home decor, and hiding and highlighting the elements of your choosing. Overhead light is often harsh and unforgiving. You can immediately make a space feel cozy and elegant by flipping off the overhead lights and switching to lamp and accent lighting.
This also works great in open concept homes like my own. If we only have the time, or energy, to really clean one room, it'll be the one we spend the most time in. If we dim the lighting in the surrounding spaces it creates ambiance and drives the eye to the intended location. Just like with eye shadow, blending might be the single most important step. Not following my analogy? Just stay with me... I don't recommend leaving a room completely in the dark. The stark contrast will draw attention and leave the mind wondering, what is being hidden in that room? Just like using a highlighter to emphasize the most important part of a sentence, adjusting the lighting helps emphasize the most important part of a space. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so just help guide the eye to the most beautiful (a.k.a. clean) areas.
#6 Work On Your Acting Skills
Lastly, and this may seem a little counter intuitive, but if you act like your home is clean, your guests will believe you! If you fail to relax because you're fussing over something, they won't be able to relax either. It's a bit like fidgeting with poorly fitted clothing. No one notices what you're wearing, they just notice that you're clearly not comfortable in it! Also, avoid using self-deprecating remarks like "oh my floors are just filthy"... because guess where they're immediately going to look, the floors! So just relax, and when you see a tumbleweed of dog hair roll by just ignore it, chances are no one else will notice! Again, I'm not encouraging you live in denial about the state of your home, but perfection is a myth and will only create unrealistic expectations.
I hope this helps some of you find ways to fake a clean house or keep it just "clean enough". I can't wait to hear what you think and if you have any tricks I haven't considered!