Using the ‘Mount Vernon Method’ to get organized
(This post is the last in a three-part series on getting our houses clean for good.)
Today I’m drilling down a bit farther because I know many of you cannot fathom the thought of deep-cleaning a room in your house each day in only one half hour. With all the clutter, dirt and debris that has accumulated, surely you’ll need at least 20 hours, right?
Instead of giving up by escaping to the nearest mall or curling up in the fetal position and chanting, “Make the voices stop,” may I propose a third solution? (I promise this one won’t drain your wallet or send you to Crazytown.)
A few years ago, I stumbled upon one of the most helpful cleaning and organizing books I’ve ever read. It’s called “How Not to be a Messie: The Ultimate Guide for the Neatness-Challenged” by Sandra Felton.
In her book, Sandra writes that, while touring George Washington’s estate at Mount Vernon, one of her “cleanie” friends was so impressed with how spotless the place was that she was compelled to ask the head of housekeeping how they did it. The housekeeper explained that she directs the staff to start at the front door and work their way around the outside periphery of a room. Once they’re done, they proceed to the next room. A few minutes before the doors to the estate open, the housekeepers pack up their supplies, leave, then come back the next day and pick up where they left off.
If this “Mount Vernon Method” sounds familiar, it is similar to my half-hour, deep-cleaning method. I swear by it.
But here’s the rub. It’s easy to clean Mount Vernon because George isn’t coming home with dirty coffee mugs or backpacks filled with papers and moldy snacks. In other words, there’s no one there to mess things up!
However, the good news is that the “Mount Vernon Method” can work even if your rooms are not in a condition to be quickly deep-cleaned. Here’s how:
Start by focusing your efforts on one task in one room and spend a half hour working on that project.
Set a timer to help motivate you to work quickly. Try to finish that project if you can. For example, use your half hour one day to organize and clean the TV console. The next day, move on to an end table drawer. If done right, the entire living room will eventually be de-cluttered.
From there, take your new-found motivation and momentum with you to the next room that needs tackled. Once all your rooms are “Mount Vernon-ized,” maintenance should become a breeze.
Remember to think of this as a marathon, not a sprint.
Try not to get overwhelmed by looking at the house as a whole. Focus on the bite-sized chunk you’re working on today. This will help keep you from going into freak-out mode.
Consider rewarding yourself when you finish “Mount Vernon-izing” a room.
Note: You may want to save the kitchen for last. Kitchens aren’t for amateurs.
I’ve discovered that the “Mount Vernon Method” often requires me to make some ruthless decisions about what to get rid of and where to store stuff. This is the price I must pay for a home that’s organized, clean, peaceful and happy. I can’t have my clutter and enjoy it, too, so to speak. If you don’t believe me, watch an episode of “Hoarders.”
Have you tried anything similar to the “Mount Vernon Method?” What’s working for you?