Have a House That Cleans Itself
By Belinda Elliott
CBN.com A house that cleans itself? Could it be possible? You can get pretty close to it with these proven strategies, says Mindy Starns Clark, a writer whose research for a novel led her to develop a book about good housekeeping.
The novels in Clark's Smart Chick Mystery Series feature Jo Tulip, a household hints expert who uses her knowledge to solve crimes. As Clark researched the topic looking for ideas to give her character, she discovered that most books on the subject were not very helpful for her. All the books seemed to be written by people who loved to organize and were naturally good at housekeeping.
"Their ideas and suggestions just didn't work for me because I have not a speck of housecleaning talent in my entire body," Clark says.
So she set out to rethink the way people clean their houses. Too many people, she says, approach housecleaning by listing a set of habits they need to break and new habits they need to create.
The problem with this approach is that it can be incredibly hard to change old habits.
"I'm 47 years old and if I pull out my New Year's Resolutions from 10, 20, 30 years ago, they are all the same every year," Clark says. "We change a little bit, but then we revert back. It's very, very hard to change behavior because it's engrained."
Her new approach, she decided, would focus on changing her environment to fit her habits rather than attempting to change the way she has done things for years.
"By the time I was done my house was staying so consistently clean that it was almost like the house was cleaning itself," Clark says.
She decided to put her ideas down on paper and outline the process she used to help walk readers through putting their own homes in order. That's when her first non-fiction book, The House That Cleans Itself, was born.
If keeping your home neat and orderly doesn't come natural to you, don't lose hope, Clark says. Her ideas can transform even the messiest of houses. In her book she explains the CONVERT system that she uses to convert your home into one that virtually cleans itself. Here are a few of her tips.
Begin with Prayer
Clark began her household conversion with a prayer walk because she wanted God to be at the center of all that she was doing.
"It struck me I'd prayer walk through a neighborhood without even thinking twice but I had never prayer walked through my home. I had never specifically stood in each room and asked God's blessings on this room and this space and what goes on here," she says.
She offers a prayer walking plan in her book that readers can personalize to fit their own circumstances.
"It helps you have the right mindset and really does remind you that the whole point of it is not, 'Let me have the cleanest house on the street,' it is, 'Let me just get this done so I can focus more on God,'" she says.
Identify the Problem Areas
The next step, she says, is to identify the problem areas and figure out the reasons those areas collect clutter. To see your house from a new perspective she suggests taking a picture of the room or looking at it from a different angle, like from atop a chair.
"You look at each mess in a specific area and ask, 'Why does that happen?'" Clark says. "Why does it keep happening, and how can I change that space so that won't happen anymore?"
Pay Attention to Sight Zones
Sight zones are areas that people can see when they enter a doorway. If one's first impression of a room is that it looks tidy from the doorway, Clark said, then the whole room appears neater.
For instance, she says, bookshelves that tend to stay untidy should be placed away from the entryway rather than across from it.
"Why do we put the things that tend to get messy right smack where you are going to see them when you come in the room?" she says. "Put them where you wouldn't notice them first and it just gives a better clean impression."
Verify Rabbit Trails
"A rabbit trail is when you try to perform a task but the things you need are spread all over the house," Clark says, "so you're running all over to get all this stuff to do this one thing, when in fact if you would have them gathered already, you'd save a lot of time and trouble and mess."
She suggests setting up stations for activities that regularly take place in that room. If you often do crafts or wrap presents in that room, keep the scissors and other supplies you need there. If you usually pay bills in that room, keep everything related to that task (including envelopes, stamps, a calculator, etc.) nearby in one convenient location.
Take Steps for Ongoing Maintenance
Clark suggests setting up a Quick Clean Station for each room in the house. This includes items needed for a quick touch up to keep that room clean. If you don't have to leave the room to fetch cleaning supplies, it only takes a few minutes to wipe down countertops, dust dressers, or clean the bathroom mirror. She also advises that every room in the house have its own trashcan so family members can easily throw things away.
These small changes will make the actual cleaning of your house smoother, and the house will stay much neater between your more thorough cleanings.
She also suggests creating a list of "chores" that can be done in a short amount of time so that when you are waiting for something like the school bus, a frozen dinner in the microwave, or the water in the shower to heat up, you can spend three minutes doing some "quick cleaning."
Chores that typically take three minutes or less, she says, include unloading the dishwasher, folding a load of laundry, or cleaning a toilet. Faster tasks include dusting a ceiling fan, wiping fingerprints off the fridge, or watering plants.
Enjoy More Free Time
Once readers implement these and other tips that Clark explains in her book, their houses will consistently stay much cleaner because rather than trying to learn new behaviors, they will have re-arranged their homes to accommodate their life patterns instead.
"It's about changing what's around you so that you can go on with what you're doing and what you're doing does not generate more and more mess. I think that's key," Clark says.
Readers will also experience freedom from the guilt that people often feel when their homes are always messy.
"The bottom line is let your house clean itself," Clark says, "and then you can enjoy your family, and enjoy your spaces, and enjoy your Lord without that hanging like a big black cloud over your shoulders."
For more of Clark's tips, check out her blog, www.thehousethatcleansitself.com.
For more information about her fiction series, visit www.mindystarnsclark.com.
Purchase your copy of The House That Cleans Itself.
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