Queer Housekeeping 101: Holiday Edition
I received a fairly good education in housekeeping. I grew up with a mother who valued order, I had chores like washing dishes and clothes and cleaning my brother and my bathroom every two weeks. I’m not either and wasn’t afraid to ask “hey, how the hell are you doing that?” about things I didn’t understand from beloved and trusted housewives.
I have become the person people turn to when they wonder how to clean their cast iron or how best to revive their wooden spoons. I like this. I like to be a trustworthy person to help people achieve domestic happiness. And the more I became the go-to friend of housekeeping advice, the more I realized that a lot of things that I consider housekeeping basics have never been taught to some people! Not everyone has had a loved one who taught them (usually over and over again) how to do a housekeeping task.
Many of us are entering the accommodation and cleaning season that comes with the holidays, and hopefully this makes preparing the company a little easier and puts some order in what can sometimes seem like be an unbalanced time of year.
1. “I don’t care if you use my stuff, just put it back where you found it.” – Persephone Hall (aka mom)
This is the key to my mom’s skills as a housewife. She said it to my brother and me more times than I can count (when she was really angry she said “shit” instead of “stuff” and we all tried not to laugh). Every time she takes something from where he lives, she puts it back. Almost immediately. The lesson here is: everything has its place, and must stay in its place. The majority of the damage in my apartment is due to the fact that I take something out and never put it back. If you always put things back in their place, you never have to take hours out of your day to clean things up because you never let the place get messy.
2. Clean the bed, clean the head.
I’m sure you’ve heard of it in one form or another; it’s a tactile cliché, but it’s an important mantra in my life. When my bed is full of books and vape pens and my phone and random socks that I took off in my sleep and the sheets are on my hips, I don’t sleep well. When I don’t sleep well, I’m more likely to become disorganized. When I’m not organized, I’m messier. Choosing not to keep my bed made and cluttered can turn my whole apartment into disarray. It takes me about 4 minutes each morning, and there is a noticeable difference in my day when I do it.
3. “Throw a little bleach in that dishwater!” “- Margaret Monts (Grandma)
Listen, do it at your own risk. I’m not saying it’s safe !!! Corn! If you don’t have kids or pets, and you’re not forgetful and won’t damage your dishes and have the luxury of a split sink, give it a try. At the start of each morning, my grandma would put away all the dishes she had dried last night, fill a sink with super hot water, a squirt of dish soap and a capful of bleach, and leave drop the rinsed dishes in this water throughout the day. At the end of the day, she would drain the water, fill the sink with hot water and soap, and do the dishes (you should wear gloves – you probably don’t). Its process helped keep the water from getting cloudy and sanitizing the dishes. On days I’m hosting a dinner party, it’s a good way to keep a huge pile of dirty dishes stacked up and easily do a quick charge when I have a spare moment.
Also, clean your sink (and honestly, as much of your kitchen as you can handle) at the end of the night. Morning you will be deeply grateful.
4. The easiest way to fold a napkin is in three.
I don’t make the rules I just follow. Fold your napkin like a brochure, then fold it back on itself in thirds. This keeps them nice and compact and your towels look great in a linen drawer or cabinet.
5. Stop soaking your dishes for 4 hours.
Hi, I love you, and you are soaking your dishes too long. If you have a food problem, here’s what you do: add VERY HOT WATER to cover the dish, a squirt of dish soap and let sit while you wash all your other dishes – 10-15 minutes max! And then use elbow grease and clean this dish. Don’t let this thing soak all afternoon, you won’t be more excited to wash this pan at 8 p.m. than 4 p.m. I promise.
6. Vacuum the hallways (you should also cut your hair the same way).
This tip comes from my grandfather, a 60 year old barber, who will tell you very seriously that vacuuming and cutting grass is just like cutting hair. Do not walk on the ground without a plan, use clear ways. You don’t want to miss anything and you’ll get those super satisfying suction lines when you’re done. This is a good tip! I’m not a hairdresser, so don’t trust me to tell you how to cut your hair.
7. Your house is not a museum.
A house should look good, whatever that means to you. Your home should generally be tidy, well organized and sufficiently clean. But your home doesn’t have to be a museum. It’s easy to go from someone who doesn’t like cleaning to someone who is content to tidy everything up and leave only empty spaces. But this is not an inhabited house! It is neither comfortable nor cozy. Keep your book on the coffee table. Let the cat’s fluff be on the floor. Doing damage shouldn’t be the end of the world, it doesn’t matter if there are any imperfections. These often end up being the charming places that your guests fondly remember.
8. Wash your sheets more.
I don’t want this to turn into a place of judgment. It is a safe domestic space. But the point is, as a society, we don’t wash our sheets enough. I’m not going to tell you how to live your life, but I want to encourage you to maybe wash your sheets like… 1.5 times more often than you. And wash your pillowcases every week. We do a lot of shedding, farting, drooling and other bodily stuff on our sheets. To help us stay healthier and keep our spaces fresh and fragrant, let’s wash our sheets a little more frequently.
9. Sweep with the grain of the wood.
Also, use boiling water when mopping (be careful), old t-shirts are great for replacing the dry mop, and iRobots will get caught in the ropes on the ground if given the mop. opportunity.
10. Your clothes will last longer if you separate them by colors; also don’t use the dryer if you really don’t need it!
I divided my laundry into six different groups. White, light, light, dark, kitchen linen, bed linen. The difference between lights and lights is something I do entirely because my mom did. The lights are like khakis, lighter grays, pastels. Glosses are really just… any unmitigated color. If I am feeling really chic, I will also divide all of my denim into their own load. And I really don’t put anything in the dryer other than the kitchen linens and towels. Everything else is hung up to dry. It saves electricity and it also makes your home smell like your fabric softener! Free air freshener!
11. Buy yourself flowers. Keep fresh flowers in as many rooms as possible.
Because you deserve the luxury.
What other tips and tricks have the people you love taught you? What are the 101 tips for housekeeping / housekeeping / housekeeping / domestic service that everyone should know too?
Notes for a Queer Homemaker is a new column that will be published on the fourth Friday of each month!