Remember when Lucy cleaned for her mother-in-law?

One of my favorite I Love Lucy shows is when Lucy’s mother-in-law comes for a visit. Lucy’s pretty relaxed about the preparations until Ethel scares Lucy about persnickety mother-in-laws who demand for everything to be clean. Even though Lucy’s television-set home looks fine, she decides to do a deep cleaning just in case. Of course, that means turning her house upside down so her house is a mess when her mother-in-law arrives.

I sympathize with Lucy. 😀

I’m not good at organizing. Scrubbing, polishing, scraping, washing, dusting, vacuuming–all good. Deciding how to handle years’ worth of accumulated clutter, not so much. I’ve tried all kinds of tips and tricks over the years, and I’ve come up with one solution that works whenever I have to get serious about cleaning:

I take a clipboard, pen, and paper, and I sit in the middle of each room. I look around and write down everything that needs attention. The only rule is that whatever needs to be done must be visible. So, for example, “clean under the bed” doesn’t count unless I can see under my bed. 🙂 I put down everything, even teeny things like “charge my phone” (true story) or “put trash in wastebasket” (even if there’s only one food wrapper on the floor). I repeat this in every room until I have a gigantic list (today, 62 items…so far).

Then I take one of two approaches.

1) I take 3-5 highlighters and color each item according to how long they will take (i.e., pink for tasks that will take fewer than 5 minutes, yellow for 5-10 minutes, green for 10-15 minutes, and blue for 15+ minutes). Then I go through and do all the pink tasks…it’s fun to cross all those items off the list very quickly! Sometimes I put items on the list just to be able to cross them off–such as hang up my car keys, shake out the welcome mat, or dump dirty clothes into the hamper. That’s three items right there. It feels good! I move on to each color, and by the time I get to the hard tasks I’ve built up enough momentum to power through the list.

2) I number all of the tasks and get a random number sequence from random.org. (That’s today’s method.) Just like my cleaning lottery (a topic for another day), the surprise of randomness helps to keep me motivated. It’s especially nice when I finish a big task, check my list for what’s next, and find something easy like “put away plastic bags.”

Either way, the hardest part is usually making up the list in the first place. But since I don’t do any work at that point (just writing, no cleaning), soon I find that I have a good, comprehensive list.

I’ve heard of people who tape a strip of bubble wrap alongside of their list, and they pop a bubble for each item completed. That’s too much work for me, but I do enjoy taking my pen to draw a thick line through my finished task.

I’ve also set out a range of boxes (one of my tasks today was to break down and take out cardboard boxes, but they might as well get used first). One for each room in my house, plus three more for give away, throw away, and keep but don’t know where it should go. When I have to do a hard job, like sorting through my closet, I line up my boxes so I can toss misplaced items into their assigned room-box. It saves me walking back and forth (and getting distracted) while clearing up the clutter.

I hope I’ll be ready for company by tomorrow night, but in the meantime…my worst fear is that they will arrive a day early. 😀 Funny how any cleaning method includes making a gigantic mess first. Hmm, that sounds like a metaphor for writing…or for life.

Nah, let’s not get deep today. Random.org tells me that my next task is to straighten the magnets, coupons, and papers on the fridge. Back to the grind…

What are your cleaning tips?

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25 thoughts on “Remember when Lucy cleaned for her mother-in-law?

  1. nancygoldberglevine says:

    Another great post, Ana, and your system seems very organized to me. I remember that episode of “I Love Lucy.” Was that the one where her mother-in-law and Rickie spoke Spanish, and she couldn’t understand what they were saying? Love that one.
    I hate cleaning and organizing and I’ll have to do both before Passover. I put everything in the middle of the room and go from there. It looks horrible at first but once I’m done, it looks great. I do this with every room. I try to take breaks every couple of hours and do something else.

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    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Yes, I loved that! I never understood why Ricky was exasperated with Lucy using the translator (except for comedic effect). If I’d been Lucy’s mom-in-law and she went to all that trouble to communicate with me, I’d also think she was wonderful. 🙂

      I found a hilarious Passover card for my friend who is Jewish, and I’m going to send it to him. He gets such a kick out of commercializing holidays, the point where he has light-up Hanukkah bears. I love to tease him about it.

      I used to take things out all at once, but I got so overwhelmed that I’d quit before I got halfway through. You must have more discipline than I do. 🙂

      Like

  2. Joseph McNamara says:

    Nice ideas and techniques… Personally I am a perfectionist and seldom find myself in this boat so to speak…I have often literally driven my significant other crazy of sorts by taking a bedside glass or dish to the kitchen and dishwasher before going to sleep… *smile*

    You certainly don’t want your loved ones saying… “Ana, 👀 you got some splaining to do”… 🌟

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Oh, Joseph, I love your sense of humor. 🙂 I probably have splaining to do every day of my life! I would drive a neat person nuts (and vice versa), but it sure would be nice to have someone to help with the straightening up. Hugs and good to see you.

      Like

  3. Sunny girl says:

    Great post Ana and I love how detailed you make it sound. I live with someone who sounds a lot like Joseph McNamara above so things never get too out of hand. I’m the messmaker.
    I have telephone numbers that work pretty well. 🙂

    Like

    • nancygoldberglevine says:

      Your friend sounds funny like my friend the real life hero of “Mr. Short, Dark…& Funny.” I gave him some matzo to try one Passover and he said, “Matzo–yeech!” LOL! But he did like the chocolate-covered matzo I gave him.

      Like

      • Anastasia Vitsky says:

        I just mailed the Passover card to him. I sealed it already (too fast!) so can’t remember the exact words, but it’s a parody of driving up to a fast-food drive-through window and ordering a Passover seder…complete with children’s toys. Chocolate-covered matzo, really? I will have to ask my Jewish friends if they have tried it. Yum!

        Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      We need someone like Joseph, right Sunny? Haha about the telephone numbers. Wish I were that lucky, but the cleaning stuff is always easy (except grout). It’s the de-cluttering that’s so hard, and only I can do it.

      Like

  4. quiet sara says:

    I usually just put everything in a pile that doesn’t belong in that room and systematically go through the pile until it is gone, then I dust, vacuum and mop and I am done. It works 🙂 Whatever works for you is good.

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  5. catrouble says:

    Dang Ana…I think I need you to come clean out my house! The decluttering is the part that drives be bonkers! LOL Hope you are feeling better.

    Hugs and Blessings…
    Cat

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      I’m sneezing and coughing fit to be tied (ooh, kinky!), but I’m sure the dust isn’t helping. Phew, what a lot of work!

      I actually started a “how to clean your home from top to bottom” post a while ago, but I ditched it because I thought it was too boring. Maybe later. 🙂

      Like

  6. Roz says:

    Great post Ana, I love your approach to cleaning. You are more than welcome to clean my house 🙂

    I’m afraid I’m rather boring. I have a very structured approach to general cleaning. I do everything in a certain way and in a certain order. When it comes to extra jobs like decluttering, or deeper cleaning I tend to just decide on one task/room at a time.

    Hugs,
    Roz

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Grin. It’s always more fun to clean someone *else’s* stuff. But I like doing laundry, even mine.

      You’re lucky you’re good at cleaning and decluttering. 🙂 You’re also welcome here any time. Chatting makes any tedious job more fun.

      Like

      • nancygoldberglevine says:

        One of the hosts on QVC used to have a blog about cleaning–he had some great tips–I loved it. I can’t remember any of the tips off-hand except to only do a “big” cleaning once in a while and just do basic stuff weekly.

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        • Anastasia Vitsky says:

          Hm. Well, I certainly only do the big stuff occasionally…but probably not as often as I should. 🙂 Though basic stuff every week does help to keep things manageable. If you remember the blog/host, let me know.

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          • nancygoldberglevine says:

            Ana, the host’s name is Dan Wheeler and he still has the blog, but he’s writing about different stuff these days. I think he did the cleaning blog a couple of years ago. He also sang a song on the QVC hosts CD called “Christmas Can’t Be Far Away” that I wrote a parody of–LOL.

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              • nancygoldberglevine says:

                Hope you find the old blog posts, Ana. I don’t have a link to my parody, but I did find it in my documents…here’s some background…ever since I had my knee surgery at the end of 2011, my cab driver and friend, Greg, has been a big help, so in 2012, we planned a fake “Greg Appreciation Day.” Now I do it every year, so here’s the parody…
                Greg Appreciation Day
                (Tune: Christmas can’t be far away)
                My neighbor tipped his hat to me this morning
                My boss even smiled and said “good day”
                And I want you to know
                A stranger said “hello”
                It’s Greg Appreciation Day
                Old tightwad down the street
                is buying candy to pass out to the kids at the parade
                the world is on the go
                the weatherman says “snow”
                It’s Greg Appreciation Day!
                The small fry on our street have all been waiting
                Now they’re hiding things and looking guilty
                Mom will get that doo-dad she’s been craving
                And dad will get a piece of tasteless pie
                Both young and old are planning sweet surprises
                They’ll soon be having fun at the parade
                There’s magic in the air
                And you feel it everywhere
                It;s Greg Appreciation Day
                –This year it’s March 31st, LOL!

                Like

                • Anastasia Vitsky says:

                  This is so sweet! Your friend is lucky to have someone who appreciates his caring. Too many people only take without giving back or appreciating what they give. Tasteless pie, hm? That made me giggle.

                  Enjoy Greg Appreciation Day!

                  Like

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