Emily is a working mom that I'm sure many of you will relate to. I cleaned for her family for a year as they were transitioning to having twin girls and job changes for her husband. Emily battles stress and so much of it revolves around her sanctuary, the place where she lived, worked, and connected with each of her family members. In one conversation, I brought up a science correlation between clutter and stress in women. Emily related so much that it opened the door to some great conversations of how my cleaning service was de-stressing her life.
Emily would see the dirt and disorder around her house and it would create overwhelm and anxiety, causing her to get less done. "When my house was clean, that stress was gone and I could function better." The other intriguing point Emily made was this. "Knowing the cleaner was coming, forced me to organize my house and pick things up before you showed up." I was scheduled biweekly, which created a 14-day cycle of accountability to "clean before the cleaner" by picking up, straightening up, eliminating stuff, clearing counters and desks, etc. Emily shared something powerful. "A clean house improved my emotional state every time you left". I am not a psychologist. I'm a cleaner that has seen the story of Emily year-after-year in every household that hired me to clean. Let's dig into the science of clutter and dirt, so we can help the women in our lives to DE-STRESS!
Sherrie Bourg Carter wrote a powerful article in Psychology Today on March 14, 2012 entitled, "Why Mess Causes Stress: 8 Reasons, 8 Remedies The mental cost of clutter". I would like to extract the 8 points that Sherrie makes about clutter and add my own comments.
I asked this question on my Facebook page this week. "What's the #1 stress going into Thanksgiving?" Here were a few of the common answers.
“Entertaining the overbearing members of your family."
"Family... believe it or not. To many personalities, some don't get along, have different beliefs and such."
"People who are so stressed they take it out on you!"
It's vital to understand that stress builds as a result of many things as my Facebook post proved. Many of these factors are beyond our control, but there is one major source of stress that we can control. I will elaborate in my next article, "Dirt and Disorder Creates Overwhelm & Anxiety" ,where I will share an important scientific finding along with Emily's story. You will relate to it big time. Here's a sneak peak. Clutter creates guilt and embarrassment, especially when guests are coming over. We know that these guests are coming very soon. Let me help you eliminate these potential feelings of guilt, embarrassment, and anxiety from my 15 years of presentation cleaning.
Know Where to Clean & Declutter.
I was trained by the realtors and stagers of Coldwell Banker Prime Properties for many years on how to do exactly this. I learned that buyers are emotional and make their decisions based on first impressions. Therefore, I was trained to add sparkle to the first impression areas as well as strategically cleaning the other parts of the home. This would "present" the home best for the prospective buyer. Let's apply this mindset to your holiday guests. Declutter and clean these areas really, really, really good! If you can't eliminate the clutter, move it to an inconspicuous storage area. Don't wait! Declutter this weekend! This leaves you 10-12 days before the guests arrive. Clean these 6 areas as best you can leaving the toilets, sinks, counters, dining room table, and floors for the final 2-3 days. This short burst of effort will move you from embarrassing to impressing!
Rally the Troops.
Every family dynamic is different. You may be a early 30's couple with 1 baby and all of the work falls on you. You may be in your 40's with 3-5 school age kids. Or you may be in your 50's or 60's with the kids and grandkids coming back to the house. Where ever you are, assign roles to keep the house clutter free and clean throughout the holidays. Husbands, I am speaking directly to you. There is NO pass. Don't say, "I work hard and I'm on vacation." You may not understand it completely, but serving your role in the family to keep the house clean and clutter free will help your wife so much to keep her sanity. Kids, now I'm speaking to you. Do you want to eat and get gifts this holiday season? You are a part of the family and need to support your role with a good attitude.
Hire a Cleaning Service!
This is for the families that want to outsource most of the first two tips! Not everyone can afford to hire a service and I DO NOT recommend hiring an amateur. In another upcoming article, I will highlight the process to finding a great cleaning service in your area. If you can afford it, get a referral from someone you trust, make sure they are insured, and give them a shot. A qualified business will be a great ally as your guests arrival date approaches. They will know exactly which areas to presentation clean and how to advise you on where to declutter as I've taught you in the first tip. They will work alongside you over these next few weeks and throughout Christmas to restore your home and remove your anxiety.
Yes, some of us have a Cousin Eddie coming over. He will probably park his trailer in the driveway and empty his refuse in the sewer. So remember. This is a wonderful time of year to reflect upon all the blessings we have received and to open up our homes to those we love... even to Eddie.
Thank you for reading and Happy Thanksgiving!
Ken Carfagno is a presentation cleaning specialist serving the Indian Valley, PA.