i find that with keeping the house clean and neat, it has a couple of elements:
3. regular "picking up"; and
i found that when my house was cluttered, disorganized and not picked up, it made it hard to clean. when i would go to clean, i had to declutter, organize, pick up, and then clean. so, it did take a couple of hours!
by having a process in place where by clutter couldn't collect, things had a home, and i would pick things up on a regular basis, it was much easier to keep everything clean in a quick and easy way.
so, here's what happened for me.
first, we had a huge declutter. decluttering isn't as simple as just getting stuff out the door. it is a massive emotional process whereby you learn about your relationship to "stuff" and why you hold onto it. you also learn why your partner does. LOL
second, once we got decluttered--which was a lot of emotional work--we had to figure out what our organizational structure would be. this is always fine-tuned, but you start with a system that resonates wth you and give it a go. and then adjust it as you need it.
i'm going to add something here that Crayfish talked about in another thread in this forum that i can't remember the title of right now. crayfish said that in order to keep clutter from piling up, you need to have more space than you have stuff. this goes into the decluttering factor.
her example was shoes. if you have 10 spaces for shoes in your closet and 10 pairs of shoes, then when you buy a new pair, you have to immediately ditch an "old" pair, but most of us don't or can't or won't, so you end up with 11 pairs. and then you buy another and you have 12, and it just keeps on going until you need to declutter your shoes again!
so, you need more space to store things than you have things, so that you have aplace to put it when you bring it in!
that understanding really helps with organization as well. you're not afraid of it overflowing because you know you have enough space to home something until your next big purge anyway.
next, picking up became a focus for me. it is one of my "problem areas"--or was. there are times when i just want the freedom to drop and go forward. i want to leave my PJs on the floor or not wash my dishes.
but, i find that if i don't pick up, it becomes a pile up, and then it's a mess. and then it's harder to clean when cleaning time comes.
so, i had to look at my values. do i value the dropping process (and the mess that follows) more than having a home that is easy to clean, easy to entertain in if i have a drop-in guest?
it's ok to value being free to drop or leave kid messes that they may return to or whatever, but then you have to schedule that into the cleaning time and make peace with the fact that guests will come and see a mess.
for one of my friends, the mess of her children makes her home feel like home, and so she's perfecty happy to have it and to have drop-in guests see it. so, for her, that's ok.
for me, it was too uncomfortable to have ongoing mess and also too uncomfortable for me around guests. of course, if my son is playing and making a mess when a guest comes, i have no issue with that. but in the past, my house was crazy-messy and i would be embarassed to have people over.
so, i decided that regular picking up was necessary, and now it's practically ritual!
in order to motivate myself, i looked to my value of wanting a neat space, and then i used a mantra of "do it now." so if i saw something that looked like a mess, then i would say "do it now" and pick it up. eg, if my son was not playing with particular toys, i would pick them up and put them away in his baskets. if i found dirty dishes in the living room, i'd take them to the kitchen and wash them and set them to dry. when i would see that the dishes were dry, i would put them away.
over time, this became ritualized. after every meal, i wash dishes. whenever my son naps, i pick up his toys. when my DH is finished with his shower, i hang up his PJs and pick up the bathroom (hang the towel properly, put the bath mat on it's hanger to dry, etc). every morning, i make the bed as soon as i get up.
so, now, picking up is just a habit. it's easy and nearly unconscious. but, my place always looks neat, i never have problems finding what i need, and i feel good in my space and i am proud of it should someone drop by.
this leads to the fourth element, which is cleaning.
in the past, when my place was messy, it was a lot of work to clean anything! i had to declutter, organize, pick up, and then clean. so yes, a simple job could take hours!
if you are the kind of person who doesn't mind a bit of mess around (like my friend), then you just add the time necessary to pick up to the cleaning process. if the place is already decluttered and organized (and that is maintained), then picking up might only add a few minutes to any given cleaning job.
but, for me, because i pick up pretty constantly throughout the day, it is very easy for me to clean. i have a simple schedule: kitchen day, dust/sweep day, and bathroom day. laundry is on going every other day or every third day, so i don't really think about it as a chore, more of a picking up scenario. lol
so, for example, tomorrow is kitchen day. i chose friday because we have less food in the house, as we tend to shop on sundays and it allows me to clean the fridge and pantry before we get more food in there. lol
now, it's "tea time" right now, and after that, i'll wash the tea cups and cookie plate, and then we'll have dinner later too and i'll wash up after that. DS will be bathed and prepped for bed, and i'll do the "final sweep" pick up for the night. it usually takes about 10 minutes for me to do the final pick up.
tomorrow morning, we'll get up and i'll make breakfast. after that, i'll wash the dishes, bathe and dress myself and DS, and get things together to go to the library for reading day (actually, that's already together. the pack has the books, training pants, and other things i need already packed and by the door).
between 8:30 when we are dressed and 10 am which is library time, i have plenty of time to clean the kitchen. i put away the dishes first, and then sweep the floors. i pull out the bucket and brush for cleaning, and then make my soapy water in the bucket.
i then scrub down the surfaces that i can see--counters, outside of fridge, pantry, etc. that takes about 5 minutes.
then i start on the deeper stuff. i pull everything out of the fridge and scrub it down. it's a tiny fridge btw. about 1/2 the size of the average american fridge. maybe even smaller. normal for here. so, i scrub that down (and the freezer) and it takes about 10-15 minutes. i dry it too, and then put the food back.
i then go to the pantry, and i pull out the stuff onto the counter and wipe it down, make a note of what dry goods, spices, etc i might need, and then put all of them away. that takes about 5 minutes total.
next, i wash the floors (i do it on hands and knees, it's a small kitchen and i don't own a mop), and that takes another 10 minutes.
usually, DS is "helping" in some way, and i'm ok with that. he usually helps me scrub or dry.
so, the kitchen takes me about 35 minutes.
i'm usually done by 9:15, and i either play with DS or check email or both. LOL and then by 9:40, we leave so we can walk to the library.
on Monday, i do the bathroom--which includes wiping out the washing machine and dryer, in addition to the walls and such (it gets humid in there and cn get moldy). that takes 20 minutes. and since it's a 1 br apt, it takes about 20 minutes to dust and sweep the whole place on Wednesdays.
so, by keeping it decluttered, organized, and picked up, cleaning can be done very quickly and simply, and the cleaning is really pretty deep. of course, i wipe doen countertops every time i'm washing dishes, and i clean the toilet any time it needs it, and i dust or sweep as i need to as well--those are 2 minute jobs for me--so that is part of 'Picking up" really.
but, there you have it. that's how i went from Super Mess to Super Clean. LOL