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.)

Last week I wrote about why I think today’s homes are so filthy and then I explained my strategy on how I get my house clean without working to death.

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?

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13 Responses

  1. Karen Wilson says:

    I’ve been following The Fly for a little while now and have a good routine going. She has good suggestions on how to keep things clean and tidy without killing yourself to get the work done. She suggests projects done for small bits of time so you don’t get burned out ( much like you’re suggesting). She uses daily routines for keeping up with things like dishes, laundry, wiping down the bathroom and has weekly projects that you do a little each day, none of which take much time. It really works and is managable. What you’re doing is quite a bit like what she suggests. I think you’re on the right track.

  2. Beth Wiggin says:

    I have been following for a while…she is amazing & my house stays CLEAN!! You are also giving some great suggestions:)

  3. Joy2Journey says:

    I own the book you are referring to. In fact I own all the Messie books 🙂 Thank you for sharing … *sigh* … back to cleaning! Hugs

  4. I watch Hoarders! Makes me want to clean.

  5. Donna says:

    Loved the ideas in this post.

    I work full-time, so finding time, used to mean taking a week off work to focus on spring cleaning. Fun Vacation – NOT!

    Now, I’ve dedicated each month to assign one room/area of the house for ‘special attention’. During that month, I’ll take 1 hour or 2 (usually on Sunday) to focus on decluttering/cleaning the room/area. With about 4 weekends a month that gives me anywhere from 4-8 hours to focus on that one space, without using up my precious vacation time.

  6. Pam P says:

    Ive gone to bed every night with a clean sink ever since I won the little kitchen towel/pot holder set when I first started reading your blog. Really makes a big difference in how your day starts if you do just that one little thing each night. Thanks for that!! Blessings, Pam

    • Susan says:

      That is awesome, Pam. I’m typing this at 9:59 p.m. with a sinkful of dishes left over from tonight’s cookout. I’ve got to get back on the wagon! 🙂

  1. February 13, 2017

    […] still spring cleaning. And I just found out that what I’m doing is called the Mount Vernon Method  ( Which […]

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