“We all want a clean, peaceful home . . . especially now,” said Becky Rapinchuk, who writes the blog Clean Mama. The challenge, Rapinchuk explained, is that “our homes have turned into schools, restaurants, workout facilities, where you work. . . . It’s upset the home system.”
To find peace in these multipurpose spaces, Rapinchuk has systems and rituals that she has used for years in her Chicago-area home. She has shared those ideas on her blog, and now they’re available in her new book, “Clean Mama’s Guide to a Peaceful Home.” It’s more important than ever to establish daily resets, routines, and habits, because otherwise, “every day rolls into the next,” she said. “When you never leave your home, there’s no starting or ending point. . . . It’s hard on our psyche.”
But even when we know what we need to do, it can be hard to motivate ourselves to get excited about cleaning. So to get these habits to stick, Rapinchuk pairs a “pain point” with a “happy task.” For example, she said, “I don’t like unloading the dishwasher, but I race myself to do it while the coffee is brewing, then it’s done. . . . My motivation is my coffee.”
Soon, some of these habits will be as automatic as brushing your teeth twice a day.
“As you attach [a task] to something, the habit builds, and you slowly layer things in,” Rapinchuk added. “It’s super satisfying as you see how it enriches your life. You’ve got that payoff, and that’s your reward.”
It’s also important to cut yourself some slack, she said. Life will never be perfect, “but you can do your best for each day, even just one little load of laundry.”
Here are Rapinchuk’s top suggestions for getting in the habit of cleaning and making even the most onerous chores more palatable.
Rapinchuk likes to get the least-fun cleaning tasks done early in the week, when she feels more motivated. “Do the thing that you don’t want to do first, and everything else is easier,” she said. Which chores would you never get done if you didn’t have to do them? How can you prioritize them? For her, it’s cleaning the bathrooms, so she knocks that out at the beginning of the week. To make it as much of a pleasure as this dirty job can be, she uses homemade bathroom cleaner with lemon and lavender essential oils.
Rapinchuk has a weekly cleaning schedule and cleans a little bit every day. It’s a habit she established when she worked full time outside the home. Mondays are reserved for the bathrooms. She has her dusting day on Tuesday, vacuuming day on Wednesday, and so on. If she doesn’t get to a chore one week, it’s no big deal; she’ll wait until the next week. On Fridays, she does her grocery shopping or picks up her grocery order. Put in a grocery order Thursday night, she suggested, or earlier in the week if you can meal plan ahead of time. Then pick it up on the way home Friday night. Include a rotisserie chicken and a bagged salad, “and you have an easy-ish meal, plus groceries all done,” she said. If you have to do curbside pickup on a weekend, go as early as possible, so you can enjoy the rest of your weekend.
“Where are things [in the house] driving you crazy?” Rapinchuk asks. “Pick a storage solution, and corral things all together. Make things easy to put away” and easy to find. As you look around the house for pain points, think about what could help. “Let’s say you have kids,” Rapinchuk said, and “. . . their bathroom towels are still ending up on the floor.” Hang hooks above where the towels are on the floor — at a reachable height — where they will remember to hang them up. If the kids still don’t get on board, she suggests putting a basket where they toss the towels, or even establishing consequences or rewards. Slowly teach them the new routines, one at a time. Think about where in the house you might need other solutions, especially containers. A jar at the front door for keys? Somewhere to put clean masks? A dish on the dresser for watches and change? A pretty basket on the kitchen counter to sweep up clutter when it’s time to cook?
If you have a constant stream of negative thoughts about your home and the people making the mess in it, Rapinchuk recommends looking for solutions to the problems instead of complaining about them. Negative thoughts create negative energy, which makes household members less likely to pull their weight. “Flip the switch with how you are thinking about your home,” she said. “It’s a gift to be in our homes. We get to keep it clean, love on our family members, teach them how to do these home tasks.” She has a few sayings that help her stay on track, including: “take it out, put it away,” “group like with like,” and “one in, one out.” As you repeat them, you’ll be teaching yourself and your family the cleaning and organization strategies that will help everyone take more ownership of the house.
Like everyone, Rapinchuk is tired at the end of the day, but every night, she clears the kitchen counters, starts the dishwasher, and cleans her sink with a mixture of baking soda, Castile soap, and essential oils. “You’ll see that it pays off the next day when you can walk into the kitchen and just make your coffee,” she said. In her book, she recommends getting the family in on the nightly kitchen reset by assigning specific jobs and even putting on an audiobook or music to help make it more fun. The habit is so ingrained now that she estimates it takes her family only 10 to 15 minutes to clear the table, load the dishes, and scrub the kitchen sink. Feel free to tweak this routine to suit your family. It could be that you need to prep the coffeepot for its automatic turn-on or set out lunch bags on a clean counter for kids to fill in the morning. A little extra effort in the evening makes for a fresher start the next day.