Organizing Theory & Artistry

3 Tips on Holiday Housekeeping

3 Tips on Holiday Housekeeping
Example of the holiday tidy-ing binge going on at our house.
Example of the holiday tidy-ing binge going on at our house.

My apologies for the lack of posts last week. Instead of blogging, I was in early holiday preparation mode as we had some entertaining to do and a house to deep clean.

As I was in my zealous cleaning state, I had to laugh at all the “How to Clean Your House in 30 Minutes” blog posts I was getting. Allow me to briefly summarize all of them for you.

1. Grab a laundry basket and throw all clutter into it.
2. Hide the laundry basket in a closet or other out of the way space.
3. Quickly wipe down any flat surfaces with a sweet-swelling spray.

We have all been there and have all done something like this at one point or another. What happens when you finally have to take the time to go through all those grab-bags of clutter? It happened to me last week and all I can say is that it takes a lot of time. For me, it ended up being a 5-day marathon getting through my office paper and clutter boxes. It’s a good feeling to go through all of that stuff and get it put away properly but you have to stick with the discipline to keep going through it, piece by piece.

If you are going to be hosting house guests this holiday season, you are probably upping your regular cleaning routine as well. It is one thing to tidy up for a guest who will stay a few hours and another challenge entirely to have people living in your house. In our case, it was time to steam clean the carpets, wipe down all the furniture for fingerprints and grime and dust, dust, dust.

I wish I knew the answer of how to make this all go faster. Maybe it can’t. Here are 3 bits of advice from my recent cleaning escapades, though.

1. Downsize in place. If you have small children in your house who untidy as fast as you tidy, clean first in the rooms that your family can avoid using for a period of time. Start concentrating the family into a subset of your house. If you have multiple bathrooms, tidy up the ones for guests and lock the doors. Have the family share one bathroom until your entertaining is done. Tidy and lock the guest room. Put a baby gate on the entry to any room that doesn’t need to be used and tell the children to stay out of it after it has been cleaned. Plan on eating out the night before your entertaining occurs to avoid having to clean the kitchen and dining areas yet again.

2. Plan extra time for organizing “full” rooms. Typical organizing advice will tell you to unclutter first, then organize what remains. Sounds easy but this simplistic advice doesn’t always cover every organizing situation. In my office, for example, the room was already quite full and all the “easy” organizing spots had been taken. I still had plenty to put away and it all had to be kept and much of it had to be kept in that room. A physical impossibility? It would seem but in the end, with some time and creativity, there were ways to pack further into a seemingly full space without making the room look cluttered and still keeping the organization functional. I was amazed myself at the end result and my husband called it a “heroic effort.” This type of work is challenging, however and takes extra time and extra brain power. Plan at least double the time it would take you to normally organize.

3. Be ready to lose some sleep (or money). We all run full lives and fitting in organizing and cleaning into a jam-packed schedule is no fun. In the end, it generally comes down to losing sleep to do it yourself or losing money to pay someone else to do it for you. Cleaning and organizing are physically strenuous tasks. If you are sick or injured, don’t expect yourself to be able to cope with the lack of sleep and physical strain. Don’t be afraid to give yourself a break and call in a maid service if needed.

A side benefit of deep cleaning is finding all the duplicates of things you keep buying more of because you can't find the ones you bought in the first place!  In my case, the big find was nail scissors.  I certainly don't need any more!
A side benefit of deep cleaning is finding all the duplicates of things you keep buying more of because you can’t find the ones you bought in the first place! In my case, the big find was nail scissors. I certainly don’t need any more!

It’s not too early to start your organizing efforts for the holidays. Have a holiday organizing question or tip? Please share in the comments.