Thursday, May 31, 2012

A lady’s guide to basic house keeping

Alright, I know very few people actually enjoy cleaning, but it’s still a necessary part of life, and, if you get good at it, it can work in your favor.  I’ve always kept my college dorm spotless and organized, and the result was that my friends loved coming over for tea or dinner.  Despite the fact that I occupied a room roughly the size of a broom cupboard with a refrigerator box sized bathroom, I still managed to make it an elegant little abode.  So, here are my basic tips and tricks, as well as the benefits, of having a well-kept room:
1.        A general rule of thumb is keep clutter to a minimum everywhere.  There are certain exceptions to this (old libraries in Victorian houses are, by default, allowed to be cluttered and mysterious, the better to hide arcane books that will become the focus of horror films.  College professors, meanwhile, are also permitted to accrue in their offices piles of paper so large that they begin to resemble leaf piles), but other than that an effort should be made to prevent or disperse heaps or messes of any kind.  Clothes belong in a hamper or a drawer/hung up in a closet, not scattered all over the floor like an ersatz carpet.  Books belong on shelves, not stacked in piles, and for the love of god don’t leave them open and face down – that breaks the spine and damages the book.  Papers are harder to corral, but I’ve found that astute use of alligator clips to keep them all together usually reduces the chaos.  Bulletin boards also help.  I could go ad nauseam in the vein, but I’ll summarize by saying that if it’s in a pile/all over the floor, it shouldn’t be.  So your job is to figure out where it should be and arrange it as such.

2.       Yes it takes time to clean, but that doesn’t excuse not doing it.  If you find yourself bored by the task, put on music or an audiobook and, for lack of a better term, get over it.  Chaotic rooms are unpleasant to live in, whether you realize it or not.  You wind up tripping over/breaking your possessions, losing stuff, and generally not making good use of your things, with the added detriment of needing to replace lost/broken items.  Also, the brutal reality is that no one likes a slob.  People will not want to visit you if your dorm room/apartment/house/residence of an unspecified nature looks like ground zero for a nuclear war.  Furthermore, there are few things less lady-like than having to dig your lost panties out from behind your desk or greeting your guests with a heap of dishes festering in the sink. 

3.       Keeping your room organized will cut down on time you spend looking for things.  If you make a small effort to put your items back where they belong you will save ages digging around in search of a missing shoe or your AWOL car keys.  Am I starting to sound like your mother, dear reader?  Good.  As much as we all may hate to admit that childhood admonishment to clean our rooms served any purpose other than to annoy, the reality is that our parental units were right in insisting that a clean room is, in every way, superior to a messy one.  Not only is it more aesthetically attractive, but it will help make you more efficient in every way. 

4.       Making sure your room clean has the added benefit of minimizing allergies (if you have them), and will keep the creepy crawlers away.  And while not everyone here has a dust/mildew allergy (I do), no human being thrills to the idea of cockroaches, spiders, and other creepy crawlers taking up residence in one’s abode.  Regular dusting, vacuuming, and general scrutiny and care, however, will prevent or at least greatly limit all of the above. 

5.       The way your room smells is important.  This may seem trivial, but scent is one of the most primal aspects of the human brain, and if a room doesn’t smell good it will drive people away and may serve to depress/annoy you.  You can fix the problem with incense (I strongly suggest you invest in good Japanese incense, so your room doesn’t smell like a head shop), scented candles (make sure the scent in question won’t be too overpowering or artificial in execution), sachets (store these in drawers with your clothes to keep moths away and keep your garments smelling fresh), or atmospheric perfumes (again, make sure they don’t smell too artificial).  Avoid cheap, synthetic air fresheners like the black plague.

6.       Make your room interesting!  Allow it to express yourself.  Dull, bland rooms are not the goal of housekeeping.  Clean, interesting rooms are.  And, even more importantly, make sure you decorate to please yourself.  After all, if you don’t like living there, why should anyone else enjoy it either?  Notably, I find a great way to spruce up dull rooms (especially ones with hideous wallpaper/drabs walls) is the strategic use of art prints or posters, and as for the ugly sofa you rescued from the alley, you can cover its sagging self with colorful throws and cushions (and pesticide, in case of lurking insect life) and turn it into a couch fit for a queen.  (Expect future articles to include more information on how to decorate less than lovely abodes). 

7.       You don’t have to do all your housekeeping every single day.  A few things should always get done (putting laundry in the hamper/washing the dishes/making the bed), but other things (vacuuming, mopping, doing the laundry) can be spaced out to weekly or even monthly occurrences, depending on what your individual living quarters require.  The end result is a balanced workload so you, dear lady, do not burn yourself out.

This chaos occurred during my finals. 
Yes, dear reader, I did at one point have a messy room.  Mea culpa.
8.       Lastly, don’t let your housekeeping build up.  If you do, you will inevitably give up on trying to tackle the mess and simply allow it to grow out of control.  At that point matters usually progress until someone stages an intervention or the Hoarders team shows up on your doorstep, whichever comes first.  Instead, just grit your teeth, get the broom, and do your part for the day, so it doesn’t become an added burden for tomorrow. 

Yes, it may seem tiresome.  Yes, you may be busy.  Yes, the fight against entropy is never ending.  The fact remains, however, that keeping one’s home tidy, though sometimes boring and unpleasant, is a necessary aspect of being a lady.  Well-kept living quarters will aid in your efficiency, health, and social life.  Your things will last longer, you’ll spend less money, and you’ll generally feel better.  So put on some enjoyable music or make a game out of your work (a spoon full of sugar and all that, hat tip to you,  Mary Poppins), and get out the dustbuster. 

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