Ask UfYH

Ask UfYH: Taking Shortcuts

Q: I am often ill and overexertion makes me worse. When I’m having a bad time, the house gets squalid. Then when I feel better I CAN’T marathon, but slow and steady is slow. Are things like floor wipes and bathroom cleaning wipes really, really awful?

A: It’s really easy for someone to say, “Yes, those things are awful. Never use them.” But that’s not the whole story. It never is. 

Disposable cleaning wipes and other “convenience” cleaning items are bad for the environment. That’s not really a fact that’s in dispute. But a cut-and-dried judgment on using these items doesn’t take into account a lot of factors. Take your situation, for example. You have a limited amount of time and an even more limited amount of energy to expend on cleaning. You need to maximize the time you have when you have it. There’s a reason convenience cleaning items exist: they’re convenient.

I’m of the opinion that there’s no across the board “right” or “wrong” for anything, housekeeping-wise. All of those rules are what make people think they can’t keep a clean house to begin with: You have to vacuum [x often]. Never let clutter accumulate. Everything has to be sorted and labeled. There are so many rules that housekeeping and organizational systems give you that it’s just easier sometimes to say, “Fuck it, I can’t do all of that,” and just do nothing instead. And that’s not helping you one bit.

So here’s my take on convenience cleaning items: If they make life easier for you, use them. Maybe think of a way to offset the environmental impact in another part of your life, or seek out tutorials on DIY cleaning wipes, or come up with a reusable system that’s still convenient for you to use when you have the time and energy. But there’s no sense in beating yourself up for doing what you have to in order to keep yourself healthy and your home clean.

Also, start thinking of things you can still do when you aren’t feeling 100% that won’t overexert you. Sorting and folding laundry in bed. Trash cans or laundry baskets in more places so you don’t have to travel as far to get things put in the right place. Giving the bathroom floor a quick sweep from, ahem, a seated position. Think about the small things you can do, or how you can modify tasks so they aren’t draining you when you’re short on energy. There’s no right way to clean; there’s only what’s right for you.

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4 replies on “Ask UfYH: Taking Shortcuts”

First off, yes you need to use what works for you. If wipes are what you are up for, then that’s what you need to use.

That said, if your hands don’t hurt too much to use a spray bottle, you can spray the area down, then let it sit 30 seconds or so and wipe it down with a washcloth. Really, no kidding, I use terrycloth cloths for cleaning (not the same ones I use for my body!) and they work well. Use it, toss it in the laundry, then use another one later. It doesn’t add much to the laundry, and I find it slightly easier to wipe down a surface saturated with cleaning solution than to scrub a dry one.

But you shouldn’t feel badly if what you need to use are the cleaning wipes.

First-I’m NOT judging your cleaning methods. If using the wipes works you, then you do you. I’m sharing my own experience with various cleaning methods, which you are free to either consider or ignore (because you are a free person and I’m not going to track you down through the internet and make you take a high stakes quiz based on the contents of this comment).

BUT, I’m wondering if using the wipes is ACTUALLY less work, or if you’ve been brainwashed by Big Swiffer. I say this because having gone through many cleaning methods, I really do feel that, in many cases, using the wipes is actually more work. For example, if I am cleaning the kitchen counter with some dried on crap that I didn’t clean up when the mess was made, if I use wipes, I need to scrub at each spot until the mess is gone. But, if I use cleaning spray and paper towels, I can spray the spots, wander off for 5 minutes, and when I come back, the spot is significantly easier to clean up. And if there’s anything left, I either spray and let sit again, or I take out my trusty Magic Eraser.

Same thing, when I used a Swiffer WetJet to clean my kitchen floor. I switched to a steam mop, and my floor is cleaner in less time. (The Swiffer was, however, a better choice than the traditional string mop and bucket combo.)

I think it’s less about what may or may not be the most effective, and more about what the letter writer sees as the easiest/involving the least hassle/least taxing form of cleaning. The process of involving two items (cleaning spray and paper towels) might be overwhelming. Thinking about having to launder rags might be an obstacle to actually doing the cleaning.

And yes, steam mops win. WetJets make everything sticky.

That is true. The LW mentioned overexertion, so I looked at the problem from my perspective as someone with purely physical issues (who also likes a clean house, but hates doing the actual work). My other perspective is as someone who loves shortcuts (that will solve ALL the problems!), but often discovers that they’re not as helpful I would have hoped. For example-before I use my Roomba, I need to clean all the big things off the floor and move the tables that the Roomba can’t see. I also need to empty the thing every 5-10 minutes. And I still need to get into the nooks and crannies, vacuum the furniture (two dogs) and stairs. And it’s loud and takes forever. So it’s usually easiest to just vacuum the floors myself.

And with the WetJets, I would legit go through 3 or 4 pads just mopping my not-large kitchen. I have two dogs and they go in and out through the kitchen. And I live in Seattle. They make mud.

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