Making the Most of Your
Chapter 3 "Clean Your “Messy House” in Minutes!"
“I will make a clean sweep of the house . . ."
—1 Kings 14:10
I guarantee that this method will save you so much time, and give you such a boost, that you will never want to go back to the way you used to tidy or pick up your house. So often, we feel like we are picking up things all day long and still not getting anywhere. Though I still tidy when I go into a room, I do not spend my time or energy running back and forth to pick up or tidy my house, and I have used this method for years!
The “Clean Sweep” Saving Steps
This method is so good, it can even be used when you are lying on the couch with morning sickness, by using your toddlers and young children to pick up for you just before “Daddy gets home.” I know from experience—I’ve done it hundreds of times! So if this method works when using toddlers or small children and a mom with morning sickness (who crawls from room-to-room and lies down on any available bed or couch in the room, or more often on the floor!), then you know that the “Clean Sweep” method will work for you, too! Here is my fool-proof method that is simple and yet works:
To Get Started
You will need: one to several laundry baskets for collecting stuff around the house (the bigger the mess, the more containers you will need), a trash bag for trash, and a large brown paper bag (or smaller baskets)—one for each room of your house for sorting.
With a black marker, label the bag or basket for sorting with the names of the rooms (i.e. “Master bedroom, laundry room, kitchen, Tyler’s room, etc.). Save these at the end so that you can use them over and over and over again.
Gather. Now, use your laundry baskets, and pick up everything in each room that doesn’t belong in that room. Begin in one room, and systematically work through the entire house. The best place to start is at the front door (or back door if your husband comes in that way). Put any stuff you find by the door in the basket, old newspapers in the trash bag, and any toys in the basket.
Tidy. Once you have picked up all the stuff (everything that doesn’t belong in that room) and put it in the basket or trash, then pick up or straighten pillows, wipe down tables, make any unmade beds in each bedroom, then sweep or vacuum the room (by the way, young children love to vacuum). Your first room is now clean, so you’re ready to move on to the next room!
Use this same method as you move from room to room. For me, it is easiest to begin in my room, then to move through the house in the same way. Whatever works for you; do it. If you seek the Lord, He will lead you to what will work best for you and your family.
Rules. Make sure that you NEVER put anything liquid or wet in the basket. Make sure you NEVER put Daddy’s wallet, checkbook, or other important items in the basket. Instead, send a child (or go yourself) to put it on his dresser or on his home desk.
Confession: Years ago when I was still married, during an emergency clean sweep (see below), I put some of my husband’s important items in the basket. Because it was an emergency, we didn’t have time to sort the basket either. DAYS later (I had hidden the basket in our laundry room), when he was running out of the house, my husband had asked if I had seen his checkbook. I sent up a “flare prayer,” and God brought the unsorted basket to my memory. I ran in, put my hand deep in all the “stuff,” and pulled out the lost checkbook. God is good! Amen?
I don’t think I need to give you an example of when something wet or liquid got into the basket. Even a “drop” from a finished coffee cup can cause you to have a real mess on your hands (see below for a Tip on coffee-to-go mugs).
Make sure that you and your children are completely clear with the “rules” before running ahead with this wonderful method. Like anything else, it can be a blessing or a curse, depending on your obedience to following the rules.
Tip: This is from when we used to live over an hour from our church, and some of us would bring a “to go” coffee. After I experienced what a mess “just a drop” would make, I developed this method that I taught to all my coffee drinkers. Once you have finished your coffee (or you pour it out), then put a napkin in the bottom of the cup and put the lid back on. This will soak up the “last drop” and eliminate a mess waiting to happen.
Sort. Once you have picked up each room, and then cleaned and tidied what remains in that room, bring all the baskets to one location.
Now, sort the collected “stuff” for each of your rooms: each bedroom, each bathroom, the kitchen, living room, laundry room, etc. When you have the items sorted, take that bag or small basket back to each room (that is already neat) and put the items away!
If you use young children, you would not want them to put the items away (since you may never find those items again). Instead, simply have them put the bag or basket right inside the door, until you can get there yourself (walking or crawling if you are suffering from morning sickness).
More Information on the Clean Sweep
Sidetracked! Do not get sidetracked by attempting to de-clutter a drawer or a closet (which you have learned about in Chapter 2). If you have not yet de-cluttered your house, I would highly recommend you set a specific time each day to do so (it will make keeping everything neat and clean extremely easy to achieve). Then, to maintain those “unseen areas” regularly, I have a fool-proof method in Chapter 7, “The Method” to assign them as one of your weekly or monthly cards.
Once again, do not become sidetracked. Instead, focus on finishing what you have started—“clean sweep the entire house!”
Handling Emergencies. If an emergency arises (like your husband arriving home early or unexpected guests show up), employ the “Clean Sweep,” but wait until after things have calmed down or the guests have gone to sort the baskets. Just don’t wait any longer—since you (or your husband) may not be able to find the checkbook, or something else you need, because it’s at the bottom of a basket hidden in the closet! Once again, I know, because it’s happened to me once too often!
Schedules and routines. Also, get yourself (and your children) on some sort of schedule or routine for doing the “Clean Sweep.” If you are married, use your husband’s schedule as a starting place. (We will talk about routines in more depth in an upcoming chapter.) But in case you are working through this book methodically, starting a schedule is simply to work into your life: waking times, sleeping times, eating times, schooling times, and cleaning times. Even babies are easier to care for, when you have encouraged them to eat and to sleep at regular times. (Though I do not promote the rigorous schedule of the book Baby Wise, I do believe in order and routines for children. See the lesson, “Your Mother’s Teaching” in A Wise Woman for more information on why).
Keep moving. I once heard Elisabeth Elliot tell her listeners to just “do the next thing,” whether it is doing the dishes or making the bed. Remember, “She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness” (Prov. 31:27). If the phone rings, or some other interruption occurs, stop and take care of it, but then get back to doing “the next thing.” If you’re the type that simply cannot get off the phone once you start, don’t answer it, and use your voice mail to your advantage by returning calls when it is convenient for you (unless it is your husband calling). Talking on the phone has always been a major weakness of mine. Therefore, I NEVER answer our home telephone, and only answer my cell phone when it is one of my children calling or someone I know I should talk to right then. Otherwise, I wait and return calls when I am available, not any time anyone calls me.
How to Get More Done
Our main problem with getting a lot accomplished is stated in the following three verses:
“Her feet do not remain at home; she is now in the streets, now in the squares, and lurks by every corner” (Prov. 7:11–12).
“Let your foot rarely be in your neighbor’s house, lest he become weary of you and hate you” (Prov. 25:17).
“I will set no worthless thing before my eyes” (Ps. 101:3).
- Stay home more! “Her feet do not remain at home; she is now in the streets, now in the squares, and lurks by every corner” (Prov. 7:11–12). I know that if I find that I am unable to “keep up” with my home, then it is usually because I have been “out and about” too much. I need to look at my priorities and stay home, to bring peace and stability to my family. If you do have errands, try to do them all on one day each week that you set aside for running errands, as far as possible.
As soon as my oldest daughter started to drive, I began to have her do a lot of errands that I used to do. It was good for her to learn how to do the grocery shopping and how to return things. Even making a list of where she was to go on errand day is a valuable learning experience (which we will cover in an upcoming chapter).
Currently, I just wait until I have an appointment or have to go out, then I do as much as I can while I’m out. This keeps me at home where I find the most peace, and where I create stability for my children.
- Stop talking to friends or family members on the phone. “Let your foot rarely be in your neighbor’s house, lest he become weary of you and hate you” (Prov. 25:17). Whether you go visiting or call a friend (or family member) on the phone, if you do it too often, you and your friend will eventually become a nuisance to each other. Set a time to get together on a regular basis, rather than being “home in body” but continually “out to lunch” in your mind and your focus, while you are chitchatting on the phone.
You would be surprised that most of the distress in your life and home is caused by how often you neglect your home and children through telephone calls and other interruptions. I stopped accepting calls during my home school hours, because inevitably, it would cause me to lose control over the children. If they did “just keep working” as I asked them to do, they would do something wrong that had to be redone. You can always return calls to people who call at a more convenient time for you and your family. As I said, use the voice mail to your advantage, or ask an older child to screen your calls. Everyone will be happier for it!
Whether you are the one who calls, or the one who is called, the telephone (and now that cell phone) can be a tremendous curse on a well-run home or for a peaceful existence.
- Turn it off! “I will set no worthless thing (perfect example: your television set!) before my eyes” (Ps. 101:3). To me, there is nothing more worthless than the TV. We used to have just one television that my husband plugged in on occasion to watch sports (that I would have loved to throw in the trash!) And we had one that was connected only to a VCR that was good for educational tapes, spiritual tapes, and for “family night” (when we watched a good black and white classic movie, ate pizza, and had candy for dessert on Fridays).
These were the “good old days!” God put me through another refining and “dying to myself” experience when we moved from our farm into the city. I had to learn a new level of submission; this time, with a more willing heart and to give a “cheerful” response when my husband (when I was still married) announced that we were getting “satellite television” (connecting our television set to the entire world!), a huge plasma (flat screen) television, along with another very large television for our living room!!
If you are trying to pressure your husband to remove the television, stop and pray; avoid the strife and trust God! (See “Won Without a Word” in A Wise Woman.)
Just for the record, I used to foolishly think that somehow, or in some way, I needed to make sure that my husband knew and understood my concerns and displeasure of things that I believed were worldly or evil. I was wrong. I realized that I had based my decision on my fear (never base anything on fear) that if I didn’t tell him that I disapproved of having a television (or any other evil) that I would end up like Ananias and Sapphira (see Acts 5:1–11).
In the past, I was equally incorrect when I made sure that I told my husband of my displeasure of things he did, not because of fear, but because of my pride and spiritual arrogance. I believed my husband needed to be taught, by me, things that were right and wrong. This type of “mothering” your husband will end up in his tuning you out completely and not asking your opinion on anything. But true to type, a woman like myself either doesn’t realize this or really doesn’t care. We believe that it is our responsibility to lead our family if “he won’t.” Dear reader, there is no better way to drive your husband from the things of God and doing the right thing than to usurp your husband’s position and authority. (To gain more information, get and read A Wise Woman because you are tearing down your own house!)
This time around, the Lord encouraged me to grow up; He showed me that HE knew my heart. He knew that I didn’t want to have a television again after more than a dozen years of not having one. God always knew my heart, when I was faced with something I was concerned about and not wholeheartedly for. I didn’t need to make sure my husband knew it! My job, as a respectful helpmeet, was to smile and to AGREE. Then I was to take my concerns to the Lord so that He could deal with it, if necessary. The self-righteous Pharisee always wants to come back, so I always needed to be careful to not judge what my husband (now my ex-husband) was or is doing or not doing.
In the last revised edition of workers@home, I shared that maybe it was me who needs to lighten up! But that if it were my husband who needed to see the danger in something that is coming in or going on in our home, then I could trust that God would bring it about while I stayed joyful, rather than being stressed or worried.
Ladies, give it all to God to work it out. Remember, “His yoke is easy and His burden is light”!
The reason that the Lord allowed this, and other things to come back into our home, and back into my husband’s life, was because my husband (now my ex-husband) did not share my convictions at all. This meant that my children (even though I never voiced it) were living in a home where there was double-mindedness. God remedied this by giving my husband over to his pursuits (which were the things of this world), which led to him leaving and marrying another woman.
Though to some this may seem tragic, the truth is that God has blessed our family. Now our family’s head is the Lord who is my Husband (Isa. 54:4–6) and my children’s Father (Ps. 146:9). By allowing the wickedness to increase, rather than what I used to do by standing in the way with my opinions of displeasure, my children are now spiritually growing by leaps and bounds!
“A senseless man has no knowledge, nor does a stupid man understand this: That when the wicked sprouted up like grass and all who did iniquity flourished, it was only that they might be destroyed forevermore” (Ps. 92:6–8).
“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path [or way] of sinners…” (Ps. 1:1).
Though divorce would never be my choice, it was God’s will that I might be an encouragement to women around the world to seek the Lord for the Husband that all of us dream about. And you don’t have to be unmarried to take Him as your own. (Please read The Abundant Life for more information on finding true and lasting joy!)
The Morning or Evening Clean Sweep
The “clean sweep” is a wonderful tool for getting your home ready before your husband comes home, or just to have a clean home to enjoy at the end of your day whether you are married or not. If you are married, or are expecting company, take just a few minutes to “clean sweep” your home, beginning at the front or back door and working toward the master bedroom or kitchen, whichever direction your husband or guests will take.
If your husband has a job that doesn’t have set hours so that you don’t always know when he is coming, ask him, if he can, to give you a quick call an hour, half an hour, or even fifteen minutes before he will arrive so that you will be ready for him.
Prior to training my children to do the clean sweep, before they were even old enough to help, I used the “clean sweep” method every morning. I believe that all women will find that doing this will help when starting or ending your day.
Here is what I used to do when my older two children were young: After we would all wave goodbye to daddy in the morning, I would immediately set out a set of toys for my children to occupy themselves (more about this in Chapter 9 “Toys”) and then head upstairs for a morning “clean sweep.” I would head to my room, make my bed, pick up or tidy around, and throw things that didn’t belong in that room into a laundry basket, including dirty clothes or towels. Then I headed to the master bathroom, then the children’s room. I would also empty the trash baskets into a brown bag that I would have with me.
If necessary and if the children were still quietly playing downstairs, I would give the upstairs rooms a quick vacuum. Then I would head downstairs, check on the children, and sort the “clean sweep” baskets in the laundry room. I would start a load of laundry, head to the kitchen to load the dishwasher, and wipe down the counters.
I also kept the upstairs rooms off limits, except for naptime, which is easy to do if you don’t store toys in the children’s room (once again, we will cover the toy dilemma in Chapter 9 “Toys”). Oh, while your children are young, because they seem to want to gravitate to the clean rooms, get a small gate to deter them from returning to clean areas of your house.
Those Who Work Outside the Home
All of us can benefit from this method of going from room-to-room, once a day, with a “clean sweep”— especially those of you who run off to work! This method will bless you, so that when you return home exhausted from a hard day at work—you will come home to a clean house.
For those of you who work, you can easily incorporate this routine either first thing in the morning (if you are a morning person) or just before you go to bed, which is what I do now even though I don’t work outside my home.
A half an hour before going to bed, I clean sweep beginning in the kitchen, then onto the living room, before retiring each night. After years of doing this with my children, most of them do it themselves, and even do it for me when I have been too tired to do it myself (since I am now a single mom of six still living at home). Imagine my joy when I wake up and see it done for me! This verse is so true: “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6).
Ladies, with this kind of method set in your daily routine—you will feel absolutely wonderful! You will also find that doing it every morning, or every evening, helps your home stay clean and your life is less stressful.
Ladies, I guarantee that the “clean sweep” will revolutionize your life, and make your life joyful again. Rather than cleaning the way most of us have done, by running back and forth, and tidying messes on and off as you find them—you will do it systematically and routinely.
Once again, the “clean sweep” is simply taking a large laundry basket or two and beginning in one area of the house, picking everything up off the floors, tables, shelves, etc. as you “sweep” through the house. Once the house is completely clean, sort what you have collected into bags or baskets for each room.
And as I said earlier, I found that the easiest way to sort your baskets is to label brown paper shopping bags. Label one bag for each room in the house, and label another one for “trash” or bring the trashcan to where you are sorting. Sort and fill up the bags for each room. Once everything is sorted, take the bags to each room (that is now already clean) and put the items away. Save the bags by folding them, putting them all into one brown bag, and storing it in your laundry room next to your laundry baskets.
This method is, by far, the fastest way to clean a house, because it is so efficient in saving you so many steps! A tidy home keeps the stress down in the life of your family. I have used this method (and every method in this book) for years and have taught hundreds of women to do the same. I pray that it will be the answer to your prayer.
If you are ready to make a commitment to GOD to finish the course, by CLICKING HERE you've agreed, and are ready to document this next step along your Restoration Journey in your "My Daily Journal" form. Take your time, sit down, grab your coffee or tea, and pour your heart into your Journal.
As an “Older women likewise…teaching what is good, that they may ENCOURAGE the young women…” (Titus 2:3) you will have the opportunity to speak to the younger women who are still single as part of your ministry.