Melissa Maker wears many hats. She's a YouTube star, author of a new book, and an entrepreneurial cleaning expert who's made a living over the years doing the things that the rest of us dread doing. We invited her to Apartment Therapy to share some of her wisdom on how not to dread doing your chores.
Like many of you, I suspect, I grew up resenting cleaning. I never had Home Ec lessons in school and hardly any explanation about how to "adult" at home. Subsequently, I struggled to keep myself and my home happy and afloat when I first moved out on my own at 22.
A few years later, I found myself starting a cleaning business despite my cleaning issues (that story is for another time) and as I learned more about the art and craft of housekeeping, things began to shift for me. Teaching myself—finally—how to keep house felt like a huge life transformation. I built several successful businesses off this newfound skill, but what really changed my life the most was that emotional shift; the part where I let go of resentment and began to embrace the craft of keeping house. I was finally, years after I should have learned how to take care of my home, living in a space that I felt relaxed and proud to be in. I began to appreciate and crave a clean space and take more pride in the work I did for myself and for clients, despite my previous misgivings about the subject.
We will always (until robots rule the earth) need to understand the basics of caring for our spaces. Cleaning helps us live comfortably and peacefully. It's arguably a critical part of self-care. How are we not teaching kids Home Ec anymore?
4 Ways to Change the Way You Think About Cleaning
Housekeeping is a fundamental life skill. It's crucial to our modern lives, relationships and overall wellbeing. And you know what? When you learn how best to clean your space, you'll see how cleaning can foster happiness and pleasure, too (yes, this really happens!).
Remember it's About Your Emotional Well-Being
Your home is your most sacred and special space and the way it greets you will affect your mood and interactions with others. Ideally, when we open the front door, it should smell like something that makes us happy and it should look visually pleasing. When you clean, you're doing your future self (and family) an important service. Cleaning isn't being done "just because" anymore, it's an effort made to maintain and elevate our emotional wellbeing. Rather than taking the dreadful approach of I've got to clean or else, flip the script and see how you (and the family) respond: I clean so that I can live in a beautiful, welcoming space. Doesn't that seem nicer already?
Learn to Understand It, and You'll Enjoy It
Learning how to do something properly and attaining wonderful results can increase your desire to, and joy you receive from, doing that task (just think back to the last time you cleaned and polished your sink). I found that once I learned how to do something really well and truly understood the products, tools and techniques (what I call the PTTs), I (at the very least) felt neutral toward the task and in some cases, started to enjoy doing it.
Use it as a Way to Appreciate What You Have
Cleaning helps you learn to love, value and appreciate your space and what you have. Like any good relationship, love and appreciation grows from working through challenges and difficulties; the light is more beautiful after experiencing the dark. While learning to care for a space, we may not love every minute of the work, but it does help to foster a deep appreciation for what we do have. Housekeeping, and the craft of cleaning, is a great way to express gratitude. Passing that sentiment along to a child is a true gift, teaching him or her to care for and appreciate the things they have. We don't throw our coats on the floor, we hang them up, because we really like them and we don't treat the things we like that way. I wish that was the message I got as a child!
Learn, Teach and Stay Laser-Focused
Learning to clean well will help you manage your time. If you have the appropriate housekeeping skills, you can efficiently run your home. It's oftentimes a stress to think about the act of cleaning, organizing and managing a home. When you possess the skills, you have a more breezy relationship with your space, your life and your time. It allows you to be laser-focused rather than nebulous in your execution and delegation of tasks across family members (which usually ends in confusion and arguments). You can also pass along the skill to a family member in a positive light and help them foster an appreciation for, rather than a resentment toward, home keeping. In today's fast-paced, frenetic, five-minutes-ago world, we all need a better handle on time management.
Taking pride in your home is one thing, taking pleasure in taking care of your home is another. Unless you were brought up in a home where this was the sentiment, cultivating this new attitude will take time. Once the flip has switched, you'll feel better about your space, the tasks (you may even find them relaxing, therapeutic or enjoyable), and frankly, your life. This is the beginning of a very important feedback loop—loving our space because we care for it, and caring for our space because we love the feeling of living in it. Over the years, I have come to appreciate the craft of cleaning for this reason. I can't say I love to clean, but I love what it does for me, and that's good enough. That's why I wish I was taught Home Ec. And frankly, that's why I keep doing what I do at Clean My Space, to help anyone out there who wishes for the same.
Melissa Maker is the author of Clean My Space: The Secret to Cleaning Better, Faster and Loving Your Home Every Day (Avery). She is an entrepreneur, cleaning expert, founder of Toronto's most popular boutique cleaning service, and star of the Clean My Space channel on YouTube (but she still hates to clean!). Every week, Melissa delivers new videos dishing expert advice on cleaning products, tools, DIY substitutes, and practical, timesaving solutions to everyday problems. Melissa has appeared on the Today Show, and has been featured in InStyle, Real Simple, and Better Homes and Gardens.