MIA: The Acronym That’ll Cut Your Cleaning Time

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(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

Melissa Maker wears many hats. She’s a YouTube star, author of a new book (out today!), and the founder of a boutique cleaning service in Toronto. Through years of cleaning other people’s spaces, she’s discovered the best ways to clean her own—and she’s sharing some of her best tips with Apartment Therapy.

The shoemaker’s kids never have new shoes. When I first started cleaning professionally, my number one goal was to make someone else’s home look and feel absolutely perfect—my clients had hired me to do the things they didn’t want to or have time to do. Through my work I was able to grow my skillset and become extremely proficient at cleaning, but by the time I’d get home I couldn’t scrub another shower or vacuum another floor. I was toast — wine and TV, please. I still wanted a clean space, though, so I needed to find a middle ground. I decided to focus on what really mattered to me and forget the rest (most of the time). And that’s how the concept of an MIA was born.

(Image credit: Courtesy of Melissa Maker)

What is an MIA?

MIA stands for “Most Important Areas.” Here’s my thinking: Not every space in the home needs to be cleaned all the time but for whatever reason, when we think about cleaning we group Every Single Task in the History of Cleaning into this category and instantly feel overwhelmed. There’s an unrealistic expectation that we do it all—perfectly—and keep it up forever. But we can’t. You can’t. It’s impossible.

Consider this instead: You only need to clean what matters to you. Just let that sink in for a moment—it feels good, doesn’t it? You can say “no” to cleaning many things in your home. Sure, eventually they’ll need cleaning and you can prepare for that (carve out time, hire out, delegate, etc.), but if you let yourself off the hook for some things around your space, you won’t feel the constant pressure of needing to do it all.

I’m a proponent of investing your energy only where it matters to you, and learning how to become extremely proficient in doing just those tasks. That way, you get your work done quickly in the areas that matter the most to you. You’ll feel great about your home because the spaces that irk you are always looking rad.

Use MIAs to Take the Pressure Off

Imagine your kitchen counters in their current state. Are they clean? Dirty? Messy? Would you be able to function in that kitchen if, say, you needed to prepare dinner? Does it upset and frustrate you? If the kitchen counters have riled up any emotion at all, it’s an indication that the counters are an MIA for you. It makes you really happy when they’re tidy and clean, and really restless when it they’re not. Now, think about dining room baseboards. Any emotion going on? Anything? If you didn’t feel that visceral, guttural reaction I’m talking about, then your dining room baseboards can take a chill pill until you’ve got the time. This is the beauty of defining your MIAs.

As you think through your space, you’ll discover that there are perhaps 10 or 15 areas where cleanliness is really, truly important to your mental and emotional wellbeing. Conversely, you’ll also come to find that some of the areas you think you “should” clean (hi, guilt), actually don’t need much attention at all. This is not only a great way to clean less, it’s a great way to go easy on yourself and take the pressure off. You can let go of the need to do everything all the time, and instead just focus on what counts and do that work with fervor. You’ll feel so much better knowing that your time spent cleaning is potent and focused on what really matters to you. Plus, it feels so much more manageable to do it this way. Everything else needs doing, at some point, and you can schedule that later or determine the frequency that makes sense for you. But this is a great way to focus your efforts, gain control of your space and build confidence when it comes to cleaning and keeping a beautiful space.

(Image credit: Erika Tracy)

Discover Your Most Important Areas

In my book, I provide an MIA quiz—a little checklist that readers can fill out to get thinking about different areas in their homes and to help define those unique MIAs for each reader. While going through the book, one can really focus on what matters to them—not some prescription that works for people who have tons of time. I also provide ways to ensure everything else gets done, too. The book is centered around my Maker Method, which consists of 3 steps: determining your MIAs (you get it now!); mastering the products, tools and techniques (or, in my lingo, the PTTs); and finally, creating routines and schedules.

By understanding your Most Important Areas, you get to cut your cleaning time and stress and focus your efforts where they matter most. I encourage you to give this concept a whirl the next time you clean and see how it feels. Take it out for a little test drive, I have a feeling you’re going to love it!

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.