Clean the Whole House in 30 Minutes? We Tried It

Amy Keyishian

House CleaningHave you ever heard of GTD? It stands for Getting Things Done, and it’s a geek-friendly system of time organization and project management that has been taken from the boardroom to the playroom by moms and dads hoping to impose some kind of order on their chaotic homes.

So far, we're just a plain-old WTF family. Hope springs eternal, though, and I’m always downloading helpful lists from places like FlyLady that, if I can just use them correctly, promise to get us in line, little by little.

But these lists ... they defeat me before I can even get started.

For instance, this cleaning checklist from Real Simple. I printed it out, and then just had to laugh. Clean your house in 30 minutes? What world do they live in? If I were able to do any of these tasks in the time allotted, I wouldn’t need the freakin’ list!

For your reading entertainment, here’s the online-organizer tip ... and my real-world experience.

The Kitchen:

Clear Out and Wipe Down Sink (5 Minutes)
Five minutes? To clear out the sink? First of all, we have three types of dishes in here. There’s the grownup dishes, the kid dishes, and the pots and pans. It takes me five minutes just to dig out the sopping, gross sponge from under all that mess, never mind putting stuff in the dishwasher and -- ha, ha! wiping down the sink.

Wipe Down Countertops and Stove (1 Minute)
One minute? I have to find the countertops first -- under the dishes are plastic bags, containers that might or might not go in the recycle bin, and a mysterious puddle. Oh, and the baby-food jars.

Wipe Problem Spots on the Floor (2 Minutes)
People, I’m 43. It takes me two minutes to get to the floor, which is one big problem spot.

Fold or Hang Dish Towels (30 Seconds)
Sure, this I can do. They stay hung for 30 more seconds, then become blankets for Minnie Mouse.

The Bathroom:

Wipe Out the Sink (30 Seconds)
The suggestion tells me to use the “premoistened cloth” I use to wash my face to then swab the sink. That’s so cute! People still wash their faces? With little pop-ups from the drugstore? I like that world.

Clean Spatters off the Mirror, Wipe Toilet Seat and Rim (15 Seconds)

Swoosh the Toilet Bowl With a Brush (15 Seconds)
“No, only Mommy does that. Stop touching that. Oh God, get the baby away! No, leave it. Leave it. Mommy’s done! No no, it’s back there because it’s hiding, it’s scared, the house will fall down if you go back there and touch that brush DON’T TOUCH THAT BRUSH."

Squeegee the Shower Door (30 Seconds)
Go frig yourself, list.

Spray the Shower Curtain and Liner With a Shower Mist (15 Seconds)
If I had remembered to get a shower mist, and/or could find one that didn’t make me worry about toxifying the environment for the sake of my stupid shower curtain, and could figure out how to store it without the little Houdinis finding it, then yes, that would take 15 seconds.

The Bedroom:

Make the Bed (2 Minutes)
This is the first part I like and always do, but it takes about 25 minutes because it involves both kids lying on their backs and shrieking with laughter as I poof the sheet, blanket, and comforters over their heads “Again!” and “Again!” and “Again!”

Fold or Hang Clothes (4 minutes)
“Even better,” the list chirps finger-waggingly, “put them away as you take them off!” Oh sure, list. First, find me a hanger. Second, figure out whether what you're wearing can last for one more wearing. Third, do all this in the pitch dark after nursing the baby to sleep on your bed, where she’s now zonked-out and snoring, but won’t be for long if you dawdle and bump into stuff. Honestly!

Straighten the Night-Table Surface (30 seconds)
People have night-tables?

The Living Room:

Tidy the Sofa (2 minutes)
“Fluff the throw-pillows and fold the throws.” Yeah, and what do I do with the naked Mickey Mouse, the three sweatshirts that got thrown there because they don’t fit in the front hall closet, and the bow from the plastic play violin that’s currently at large below the coffee table?

Pick Up Crumbs With a Handheld Vacuum (1 minute)
I say again: it takes more than five minutes to find the hand-held vacuum, and using it without either terrifying or tempting a small child -- well, that’s a trick I haven’t learned, list.

Wipe Tables and Spot-Clean Cabinets Where You See Fingerprints (1 minute)
Yeah, okay, I can do this one.

Straighten Coffee Table Books and Magazines (2 minutes)
Into a large tower of stuff-we-hope-we’ll-read? As tall as my husband? That takes up most of the kitchen table? Check.

Clear Major Clutter (5 minutes)

Do you find yourself laughing in the face of organizers like this? What are your best tips for keeping clean in an untidy world?

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