Keeping the home: five of five

Don't miss Parts 1, 2 , 3 and 4:
Keeping the home: 1 of 5
(Thoughts on housekeeping and things I do to keep my home)

Keeping the home: 2 of 5 (The ABC’s – Organizational Tips)
Keeping the home: 3 of 5 (Step-by-Step-Overhaul–Room #1 The Bathroom)
Keeping the home: 4 of 5 (Step-by-Step-Overhaul–Room #2 The Kitchen)

Part Five: Step-by-Step-Overhaul–Room #3 The Living Space (dens, living rooms, family rooms, etc.)

Remember this important disclaimer. This is not about creating a museum or an abode that you cannot abide. It is about cleanliness and order. If you don’t wish to have that…skip my tips.wink

If you struggle with these areas of homemaking, my goal is to help you along the way by sharing what I do to keep our home. Find what works for you. All of this—more than many want to know—is simply what works for me! This is how I make our home a haven from the world—a place we can be comfortable and a place that is comfortable for our guests…whether it’s one guest or fifty!

Once you know how to clean and organize one room, you can usually apply that same method to cleaning and organizing other rooms. These tips may sound repetitive, yet some find it helpful to have things broken down into specifics…even if it is nearly the same thing they did to get another room in order. I'll discuss cleaning and organizing hand in hand.

Ceremonial Grounds or Burial Grounds–A living room should be comfortable for the resident family. When we started setting up our home, Jonathan made one request of me. Everything in our home must be able to be used. He did not want a museum atmosphere! Think about it like this: a living room that cannot be lived in is not really a living room! No antiques that can’t be touched, couches that are lovely but uncomfortable, or items that one cannot afford to break would ever grace our home.

The living room is often the easiest space to organize and keep clean because it consists of larger furniture, less cabinetry and more space (in most cases). Yet, it can become a burial ground for everyone’s junk if not kept up. It is nice if the furniture can be used to sit instead of store! Clean it up and find your lost treasures!

This essay will be a ‘catch all’ for your main living area. Not everyone has the luxury of a family room, den, sitting room and living room. Many are lucky to have two rooms of this sort, some only one. In our present home we have a family room in an unfinished basement and a living room which is open to the dining room and kitchen. We’ve had different things in different places and we’ve used them, well, differently. I think discussing the living space in general should cover all of the different sorts of rooms: sunrooms, libraries, parlors, sitting rooms, family rooms, and dens.

Furniture: This is a snap. Scotch guard is helpful in keeping couches stain free. Vacuum couches (yes, under pillows, too)—more often if you have pets or long hair! When we have large gatherings or potlucks, people eat all over our home. This is a great time to vacuum under cushions and under the couch! Vinegar in a spray bottle is a great freshener. Don’t worry, the smell dissipates!

A nice trick to make vacuuming behind furniture easier is to keep it a few inches from the wall with nothing underneath.

Shelving: Dusting is a must. Be kind to your books and keep them dust-free. Organizing books by genre is a great help to your home library. Dusting shelves bi-monthly will keep them tidy. Pledge works the best for me, but plain rags do the trick, too.

If you have lots of knick-knacks, I recommend you purge or store and rotate. Pack-rats have a harder job of dusting than the ‘less is more’ group. I like the motto, ‘creative clutter’…you don’t have to be a minimalist to be clean! I have plants and pictures on my bookshelves and stacks of books all over my home. I like this look so I accept that it means more items to pick up and dust under!!

Just remember, the more goodies you have the more you will have to remove, wipe and return. If you do a thorough job, your upkeep will be simple. As with any area, strip shelves bare first, give them a good cleaning (depending on the surface), and return dusted items to shelves.

Cabinetry: Some living areas have wall to wall shelving, library areas, cabinets, elaborate pieces of furniture and some have very little to clean and organize. I guess most of us fall somewhere in the middle. Cleaning a cabinet is not rocket science, but it usually takes some thought. The best way to clean a cabinet is to peruse it for a while and troubleshoot (i.e. Why is this messy? What do I need to do to fix it? Would containers help? Is this the best place for these items?).

Once you’ve done that you simply strip it bare, wipe it clean, and put items in so that they are accessible. This may be overwhelming for the pack rats, but it is a great way to find treasures you have hidden and forgotten about! So, don’t call it cleaning, call it a treasure hunt!

Media: If you have an entertainment center or other media cabinets, treat them the same way you treat other cabinetry. It is always helpful to sort movies and music by genre. This is a nice chore for a willing helper.

You need to dust and vacuum around any electronics frequently. When my husband fixes a computer (one of his hobbies), the first thing he has to do is vacuum out the MESS inside. People have no idea how much dust electronics generate.

Keeping your electronics wiped down and dusted will go a long way in keeping them in good shape—this translates into saving money down the road.

Toys: Some families limit toys to a playroom or bedroom. We’ve never done that…I liked having little play stations all over for my little ones to be close to me and move freely with their toys around our home. Really, it is not too hard to make them look nice. I have often used nice baskets for toy storage in the main areas of the house. Baskets of books, baskets of toy sets, little stations with various toys set up. I actually had a lot of fun teaching the kids to set up games and toys in areas for ease of play!

It’s nice to be able to have toys for visitors—even if your kids are grown. I always have toys ready for little visitors even when I don’t have little ones around! I keep like pieces together in baskets or other containers and get them out as needed. We have many of them in Rubbermaid containers. We also have a game closet and games on bookshelves.

End Tables: I have items on all of my decorative tables; however there are few enough items that I can still dust easily. I use my end tables for a mixture of the practical and the purely aesthetic. Remove items off tables, dust all surfaces (and items) and replace.

I love to have stacks of books on end tables, as well as candles and pretty little mementos—just not so many things that it is overwhelming to dust!

From a practical standpoint, I put out coasters for guests’ drinks and leave space for plates for when we have large gatherings in which several dozen are eating.

Wall Decorations: You may have quite a few pictures and other decorative items. Less is always more, especially if you do not love the idea of keeping things neat and orderly.

You need take the items down, wipe them with a surface cleaner (like vinegar or pledge for wood items) and re-hang them on your clean walls. For floral arrangements use a computer dusting sprayer or a vacuum attachment.

I love eucalyptus because it can be freshened under water! Real plants often need a shower or to have their leaves wiped. This keeps them much happier. I know a woman who uses pledge on her plants. I just use a wet rag.

Curtains: Upholstery should be taken down and washed a few times a year. It gathers a pile of dust over time.

I actually decided to do all faux wood blinds which can be vacuumed and/or wiped. They are much easier for me to upkeep.

You want to clean drapes or blinds before you overhaul anything else or you will have a mess on your hands (assuming you do not regularly wash them).

Fixtures: If you have a ceiling fan you need to wipe it down regularly. If it is not used it will generate less dust and require less cleaning. If it is used often (depending on your family—more pets and people make more dust!), it will need wiping often.

If you don’t wipe it the dust will stick for a while and then fly off to other areas in clumps. Lovely image, huh?

Light fixtures also need dusting or wiping. When a bulb change is due, clean the fixture.

How Often Do I Upkeep?

This will depend on your family size and your pets. With many pets (including four dogs) and five girls with long hair, our living room requires weekly or bi monthly dusting and nearly daily vacuuming. Since it is done frequently, it rarely takes more than five minutes for a touch up–that includes dusting and vacuuming. I timed myself this afternoon and found that I could vacuum the entire main floor of our home in 23 minutes. I would guess that the basement and stairs add another 5-10. That’s a very small time commitment as far as I’m concerned!

I find that good habits and frequent upkeep avoid overwhelming cleaning jobs and make things run more smoothly for me in a variety of ways. This may not be for everyone and I may be blacklisted for my tips, but our goal of having our home as a haven for our family and others is a reality and that’s what really matters!

Category: Musings
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