Clean Like a Man: Housekeeping for Men (and the Women Who Love Them)by Tom McNulty
Most men have a problem with cleaning house: They don't konw how to do it, and they don't particularly want to learn. The results are usually a messy house or a bitter spouse—or both. Clean Like a Man is the solution. Written specifically for the attention-challenged and motivation-impaired male, it's the first and only housekeeping primer that tells men how to clean the house their way: getting everything done quickly and easily, without getting to Felix Unger about it. It's such a great approach to housekeeping that women will love it too.
- Crown Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.60(d)
Read an Excerpt
For most guys, the first few chapters of Clean Like a Man will be Housekeeping 101-a crash course for all men who never took a home economics class, scraped mildew from shower tile, sewed on a button, or ever cared less about any of it. In other words, 99 percent of us.
The Men Commandments
Housecleaning Rules of Thumb
Professional housecleaners accomplish a lot in very little time because they follow some basic rules. These are good, commonsense fundamentals that both men and women should adhere to. But men have their own unique challenges. So Clean Like a Man took the basics and retooled them to be as guy-friendly as possible. Result: the Men Commandments (ironically, there are ten of them). They provide essential know-how in the manly quest to streamline housekeeping, and they're so simple that you should take to them like a cop to a doughnut.
1. Get Started
This is always the toughest part of housekeeping for men, but it's the most important. Why don't we start? Because we don't know where to start! There seems to be so much to do that you don't know what to do first. Cleaning the house has become an eight-hundred-pound gorilla. Or, more aptly, an intimidating mountain of mess (see "The K2 Syndrome" on page 00).
The best way to start is to decide the one room you want to work on: the kitchen, for example. Don't think about anything else. Go in there and take a minute to look around. What's bugging you most? Crumbs on the counter? Dishes in the sink? Decomposing food in the fridge? Dirty windows? Clutter? All the crap held by magnets on the refrigerator door? Start with the job that will have the biggest impact when completed. Better yet, write down a list of to-dos for that room, put them in order of priority, and handle them...one at a time.
2. Pick Up the Place First
Shoes and socks, scattered newspapers, plates, coffee mugs, knives and forks, half-read Tolstoy novels...all the stuff that's strewn about the room serves only to get in your way and distract you from the real job at hand: cleaning. You can't get at dirt and dust on the carpets or counters if it's covered up with junk. So clear the decks.
Make a clockwise sweep of the room, toss everything into a big box, a closet, or even into another room, and then you're ready for some serious cleaning. Just picking up by itself is a huge improvement.
3. Divide and Conquer
Contemplating the entire job ahead will only discourage you. Break each chore down into room-by-room "quadrants." Focus on one room at a time. Or chop it into even smaller pieces: one swath of carpet to vacuum, one shelf to dust. Things seem more manageable. Your focus sharpens, you work more efficiently, and being 100 percent done with something gives you a feeling of accomplishment.
4. Carry Your Supplies with You
Any project takes longer and is more frustrating when you continually have to stop your work and go look for a tool. Same with housekeeping. So tote basic cleaning supplies-all-purpose sprays, carpet spot treatment, a few sponges and cloths, a whisk broom and dustpan-in whatever kind of carryall works best for you.
If you have a bigger arsenal of gear, you might want to load it onto some sort of serving cart on wheels. If you have less stuff or are on a more limited mission, go with a tool belt that has your most important tools and supplies in the pockets.
Having all your goods at your fingertips saves constant trips from one room to another-or worse, from floor to floor-to fetch items. What's more, you never have to stop your work and ruin your momentum to hunt down something you need.
5. Deploy Supplies Where You Use Them
Place your most-used cleaning tools and supplies in strategic spots around the house to allow instant, easy access. For example, under your bathroom sink should be a sponge, a toilet brush, and a container of cleanser for the john; a spray bottle of Windex for the mirror, the sink, and the fixtures (plus a cotton rag and paper towels); Lysol and Tilex to spray into the shower or the tub and onto the curtain and the tiles to battle mildew; and a Swiffer or ReadyMop to get dust and stray hairs off tile or linoleum in a flash. You can stash a similar arsenal under the kitchen sink, and add a small hand vacuum and/or a whisk broom-dustpan combo for dry spills, and paper towels to clean up small wet spills.
This kind of planning will save you plenty of running around to find the appropriate tools and supplies when you need 'em.
6. Start High, Finish Low
Gravity-it's the law! Clean from the top down, ceiling to floor. The reason is simple: When you stir up dust and dirt, they float earthward. So . . .
* Begin by cleaning high: removing cobwebs from ceiling corners, dusting the tops of cabinets, ledges above windows and doors, shelves, ceiling fans, lamps.
* Move next to eye level to dust and clean picture frames, lamp shades, TVs, and bookcases.
* Finish low with chairs and sofas, tables, and, last but not least, floors.
7. Get the Right Stuff
Using the best cleaning supplies (both tools and products) makes housekeeping faster, easier, and less aggravating. Spend a few cents more to purchase brand names you've heard of. They're famous for a reason, and they' re specifically formulated for specialized jobs. If you go to a janitorial-supply store, trust the expert to steer you in the right direction. Cutting corners means you'll be using tools and supplies that just aren't as good as they could be, which will make your job harder than it has to be.
8. Give Cleaning Solutions Time to Work
After you've sprayed a surface with the appropriate solution, let it sit awhile before you scrub. For example, wet down the min- eral deposits in the shower with Lime-A-Way and then go clean something else for a few minutes. When you come back, you won't have to scrub as hard to get the walls clean. And you MANaged your time well by getting something else done in the interim.
9. Finish What You Start
Don't move on until whatever you're working on-the room, the carpet, the coffee table, whatever-is completely done. Then you'll have at least one thing 100 percent accomplished, instead of several things only partially done.
10. Don't Clean Too Much
Even housekeeping experts say that cleaning too much or too often isn't good: Too-frequent vacuumings and shampooings wear out carpeting fibers faster, scrubbing rubs away wall paint, and so on. So sweep that guilt under a rug...you're doing fine!
The Men Commandments-Extra Points
Here's an extra batch of tips and tricks specially geared to guys. They're not as top-tier as the first ten but they're great ways to save time and trouble.
Don't Be Overly Fussy
We call this "being too Felix," in honor of Felix Unger, the guy in The Odd Couple who was compulsively clean and annoyingly neat. You probably won't have too much trouble following this rule. It's important to have reasonable standards of cleanliness, but if you're overly persnickety, you'll never be satisfied. Or it will take you a whole lot longer to get to the point at which you're happy.
A manly rule of thumb is: If you can't see it, don't clean it. Dusting the tops of cupboards and overhead fan blades, for example, are tasks that have "once a year" written all over them. Has someone ever climbed up there to look for dust? Or gotten down on all fours to check under the sofa? If it looks done, consider it done for now. You'll have to clean it eventually. But nothing in your house really has to be hyperclean-you're not living in an operating room, after all.
Spritz, Don't Splash
Mixing bucketfuls of cleaning solution is a pain, as is continually dipping in a sponge, wringing it, cleaning with it, rinsing it, and repeating. Instead, purchase as many of your cleaning products as possible in spray containers, or mix cleaning solutions in spray bottles. Then spritz the appropriate solution onto surfaces, let it work, and sponge it up or wipe it clean with a rag. Tote along a small pail of water only to rinse out your sponge.
Try cleaning a few countertops both ways and you'll see that the "spray and wash" (what a great name for a product!) method is much easier than the "slosh and wash" approach.
I recently moved from a big house to a smaller one, and I have yet to unpack about half my stuff. I don't miss it in the least, which tells me I don't need it. So I see the Goodwill truck and a charitable tax deduction in the future. So can you!
* If you own less stuff, you'll have less stuff to clean.
* The uncluttered look is very soothing. Almost all of your cleaning becomes a matter of a little light dusting and vacuuming.
Look at your own collection of stuff: old clothes you haven't worn in a year, esoteric tools you haven't used in who knows how long, files of ancient documents. If you can be unsentimental enough to give some or most of it away, do it. You'll never regret it.
Spot-Clean Whenever Possible
One fingerprint on the fridge is no reason to clean the entire fridge. If there's a small spot on the carpet, it doesn't mean you have to call a carpet-cleaning service. Do you head for the dentist's office when you have a poppy seed in your teeth? No. Do as little as you can. It's the Clean Like a Man credo.
Use Your Vacuum As Much As You Can
Invest in a high-quality machine. It will make your work much quicker and easier, while a crappy one will do just the opposite. The vacuum cleaner-especially a newer one with all the bells and whistles-is an invention that ranks right up there with the wheel and the printing press. It's so important that Clean Like a Man devotes a good amount of space in the next chapter to discussing its merits, most desirable features, most effective vacuuming techniques, and how to get the best value when you buy one.
Set a Time Limit and Then Rush, Rush, Rush...
This is one of the most psychologically valuable things I do when cleaning. Throwing a clock on myself takes the "deer in the headlights" factor out of large housecleaning jobs that can be intimidating. So tell yourself, "I'll clean like crazy for thirty minutes, but that's it." Turn yourself into a perpetual-motion machine, and you'll be surprised at how much you can get done in that half-hour of focused, frenzied effort. When time is up, you can certainly stop and bask in your accomplishment, but you'll often keep going. It's the momentum. It's like setting off to run a marathon versus starting a one-mile jog: The marathon will take a pretty good part of your day, but you 'll be done with the mile in about eight minutes.
It's a toss-up as to what will be more effective for you: setting a time limit and seeing how far you can get, or setting a goal of completing, say, one room in fifteen minutes. Either way is helpful. And Chapter 7 will tell you how to squeeze the most out of your housekeeping time by treating it as an "event" rather than a torturous ordeal.
...But Don't Rush the Wrong Things
It seems funny to suggest taking your time right after I tell you to hurry. But this harkens back to the "let the chemicals do the work" rule and it's worth repeating: If you spray a cleaning solution on a surface, let it do its work awhile. This might involve using 409 to dissolve crud on a greasy countertop (a couple of minutes), spraying Resolve on a carpet stain (ten minutes), or soaking a barbecue grill grate in soapy water (overnight). It turns the dirt, grease, stain, or gunk into something you can easily wipe away. It will take a little more time but a lot less elbow grease when you let the chemicals do most of the dirty work.
Clean As You Go
Make it a habit to pick up after yourself to keep things uncluttered; take care of small jobs to avoid big ones later. If you clean regularly, the job won't build up to a monumental task.
Don't Wash Clothes After Every Wearing
Unless you don't bathe regularly, a shirt or a pair of jeans or slacks is probably perfectly wearable two or three times before it needs washing. Overlaundering clothes wears them out faster. And if you toss something in the wash to avoid folding, hanging, or storing it-a typically male motive-well, you'll have to fold it and put it away when it comes out of the dryer, won't you?
But Do Wash Dishes After Every Meal
It's tempting to let them sit in the sink, but this allows food to harden and bacteria to establish a beachhead there. Even worse is to let them soak: Bacteria still breeds, you get grease slicks on the water surface, it looks awful, and eventually it smells, too. Force yourself to wash dishes right away, or at least rinse them off and put them in the dishwasher.
Clean and Disinfect the Kitchen a Lot
You may not be able to see bacteria, but they're there. In the sink, on counters, on cutting boards, just about everywhere. But they don't belong in the kitchen. It's very important to keep food-preparation surfaces as sanitary as possible. So use Lysol or another disinfecting cleaner both before and after you do your meal prep.
There are scores of multitasking opportunities that will become self-evident to you as you clean. While you don't have to be cleaning house all the time, you might as well take care of as much miscellaneous stuff as possible as long as you have the mojo going. While waiting for one thing, do another. Some examples:
* Hungry-Man dinner in the microwave? Use that five minutes to sponge off kitchen counters or sweep the floor.
* Load of laundry going? See if you can get the downstairs rumpus room picked up before the rinse cycle begins.
* TV commercial time? Dust the coffee table, brush the dog fur off the couch cushions, or maybe even brush the dog itself.
* During the evening news, sort the mail, wipe off the kitchen counters, or spot-clean carpet, floor, or appliances.
* While waiting for the coffee to drip, dampen a sponge and wipe out the spatters inside the microwave.
Don't Waste a Move
This is a first cousin of multitasking. Be a perpetual-motion machine and always be thinking about how to double up on your accomplishments. For example, if your kitchen counters require a light once-over: spray cleaning solution with your left hand, and wipe it up with a rag or a sponge in your right. Or when going upstairs, grab something that belongs there and take it.
Try never to waste a trip, a moment, or a movement. Always think about achieving something "extra" (which is easier when you've set that time limit and you're focused).
Like a shark, keep moving, as if you were a predator of the deep and dirt was chum.
Use your Walkman-next to the vacuum, it's your most valuable cleaning accessory.
Send Out Invitations
That's right, schedule a party at your place. To avoid the shame of having your friends or family enter a messy house, you'll be forced to make sure it 's at least moderately clean. Once those invites get jammed in the mail, you 've set your own deadline and created the incentive to meet it.
Meet the Author
TOM MCNULTY is a writer, creative executive, and student of cleaning who has spent a lifetime observing the Clean Like a Man dynamic and perfecting his own housekeeping style. He lives in Minneapolis. For more information on this book and even more manly cleaning advice, visit www.cleanlikeaman.com.
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