Sometimes, it is hard to see the benefits of a life change until you have actually lived that life for a while. Then, you can look back and assess the differences with pristine, hindsight clarity.
In our nearly 33 years of marriage, it has always been my heart’s desire to make sure our home is a welcoming, comforting place – a haven for my hard-working husband to come home to and a safe and clean environment for our son to grow up in.
It is my life’s work, mission, and calling to be the best keeper at home I can possibly be, and I find a lot of fulfillment and joy in the daily minutiae and work required to make that happen. To be honest, mundane “chores” are some of my favorite things to do, and standing over a soapy sink full of dishes is one of my ideal places to meditate and pray.
Over the years, I’ve done a lot of productive thinking standing in front of our kitchen sink, and I seldom use our dishwasher because doing that would rob me of something I find extremely fulfilling.
Today, as I straightened our room and made our bed, it occurred to me how much simpler it is to live out my life’s dream of keeping a clean, organized, ready-for-company house than it was five years ago.
Then, we were living in a mortgaged 4-bedroom, 3 bath house; every closet, drawer, shelf, and cupboard was pretty much filled to overflowing; and excess was oozing out of every nook and cranny of our home. Now, we live in a rented 2-bedroom, 2 bath townhouse, have eliminated about 90% of our physical possessions, and there isn’t much in our home that we don’t love and use on a regular basis.
Comparing cleaning efforts now with then presents a stark and welcoming contrast.
Here are some of the ways minimalism has made cleaning simpler for me.
1. Having less stuff, in and of itself, obviously reduces the amount of effort and energy required to keep things clean. Less furniture means less dusting, less clothing and linens equals less laundry, etc.
2. Owning less means we require a smaller living space. Less square footage equates to less sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, and overall cleaning.
3. Less time spent cleaning means more time with my family, more time to help our son study for college exams, more time to devote to outreach endeavors, and more time doing the things we love and enjoy. Having two bathrooms instead of three reduces my weekly deep cleaning time by about an hour. That is an hour I can invest in the online Bible studies I so enjoy, in working on a blog post, or in editing and finishing my upcoming book.
4. Along the way, I have learned to stop buying multiple one-purpose cleaning products and to replace them with basic homemade, all-purpose cleansers. The continual bombardment of consumerism-driven advertisers and marketing campaigns have convinced us we can only use each product for one specific purpose, i.e.., we have to buy a separate cleanser for toilets, sinks, showers, stovetops, countertops, and floors.
The truth is a homemade glass cleaner solution of water, peroxide, alcohol, dishwashing liquid, and vinegar works great for windows, mirrors, and interim touch-ups, and a homemade multi-purpose cleaning solution of equal parts dishwashing liquid and vinegar covers deep cleaning and most of the rest. A dab of body wash or shampoo is perfect for wiping down shower stalls, takes less than a minute of time, and reduces soap scum build-up. A combination of elbow grease and an inexpensive pumice stone is the best solution for stubborn toilet bowl stains, tough stovetop jobs, baked-on oven build-up, and many other cleaning challenges. Such a time saver and so incredibly simple!
Learning and implementing these acquired lessons has immeasurably simplified cleaning our home and consistently saves us a lot of money.
5. There is no cleaning intimidation or deterrent in an uncluttered space. Think of it this way – since countertops and tabletops are already kept clear and empty, you don’t have to tackle a pile of disorder and chaos before you can wipe them down and dust.
Since floors are clutter-free, you don’t have to deal with piles of paper, toys, and other random untidiness before you can sweep, mop, or vacuum. I will never forget how much I used to dread stepping into our oversized garage and having to navigate through and around the maze of boxes, crates, and piles of stuff to get to the outside door. Seeing the mess was not only a glaring, guilt-inducing reminder of what needed to be done, it also presented an unwanted reality check as to how overwhelmingly monumental the task was going to be.
Excess accumulation creates added layers of necessary steps to achieve cleanliness and discourages ever beginning the process in the first place.
6. In our particular situation, we found it was entirely doable to reduce family vehicles to just one. Having one family car that we all share and learning to keep that one car free of clutter reduces the amount of time and energy needed to keep it comfortable and clean.
Whether living in our beloved, long-term, pre-minimalism home or in a post-minimalism rented home with no emotional ties attached, it is and has always been my goal and desire to keep things clean. Minimalism just makes that job a whole lot easier.
About the Author: Cheryl Smith is the author of the book Biblical Minimalism the story of her family’s journey from a life of abundance to a more abundant life. She is the author of the blogs Biblical Minimalism where she writes about minimalism from a Biblical perspective and Homespun Devotions where she writes devotionals and conducts “Inner Views.”