Each holiday season I tell myself I’m not going to overdo. I’m not going to clean like a mad-woman, not gonna pressure myself to make everything perfect, and I’m just going to enjoy the spirit of the season. Each year I fail. I blame my mom. Yep, I do! When we were kids, Mom told us Santa wouldn’t come to a dirty house, so we’d spend all day just before Christmas cleaning every nook and cranny, working like little elves to make sure Santa didn’t trip over a toy or a load of unfolded laundry. Sneaky, wasn’t she? I don’t know about my brother, but I still clean like a crazy person to make everything perfect for out-of-town and in-town visitors.
It starts with cleaning the house just so I can mess it up again; dragging out the dozens of boxes of decorations, which takes a week, sometimes two, to empty and put in their respective places. Just when I get all that finished, it’s time to clean again! Yuck! Look folks—I’m not a housekeeper. My house is lived-in, cluttered, and most of the time, dusty. Now, if you call to tell me you’re coming by, I’m gonna fly through the house grabbing up laundry, glasses, empty plates, shoes … whatever is around and cram it into any crevice that I think you may not look in! I once put dirty laundry in the dryer, and dirty dishes in my oven just to get them out of sight. On the positive side, I NEVER preheat my oven now without first looking inside!
I go at cleaning like it’s closing time and they just announced a K-Mart blue light special! The older I’ve gotten, and being just on the cusp of Senior Citizen status, I do pick up daily now, and make sure there aren’t dishes in the sink, etc. The tub scrubs, tile scours, and fridge-freshening are all part of a one-day marathon cleaning that leaves me a sore, broken, whiney, Tylenol-popping mess, and my family, looking like a bunch of frustrated chimney sweeps.
As seniors, or anyone, really, how do we get it all done without putting ourselves in traction or the hospital?
First—start now. Go through your home and make a list of all you want to get done before your guests arrive. It used to infuriate me that my mom would leave me lists of things to do on the fridge every day. Now, I live by them! I get such satisfaction by drawing that big fat line through each accomplishment. If you’re lucky enough to have people help you, assign them tasks and give them a deadline.
Develop your timeline based on all you have to do and spread it out over days, even weeks if you want. I know it feels like rubbing a cat’s fur backwards, but truly, do we really have to get it all done in one day?
Identify all the tools you’re going to need to get the job done. You may be rolling your eyes at this, but the older I get the less I’m able to kick that Kirby around the carpet and lug it up a flight of stairs! Consider treating yourself with a lightweight vacuum, maybe even a cordless one, or looking into automatic types of machines that can do some of the work for you, especially if you have mobility issues like I do. Consider the cleaners that will do some of the work without you having to add so much elbow grease. Purchase scouring or dusting extenders so that you don’t have to bend so much or reach too high. Dilute some dishwashing liquid or vinegar, spray on the tub or shower, leave 10-15 minutes and then spray off. Have you invested in a hand-held shower head yet? Maybe now is the time! Shower liners worn or stained? They’re just a little over $1.00—replace them. Trouble wringing a mop, they have ones designed that require no wringing on your part—or no wringing at all, AND the pads are disposable! They have them for hardwood floors, too! Drop a chlorine tablet in your toilet’s tank or a bottle of vinegar with holes poked in it, to keep them clean longer. Whatever you think you need to make cleaning manageable and make your life easier—invest.
Clean the stove now so that closer to the holiday, you just have to wipe it down. Empty the fridge of anything you haven’t used in a while, like those nearly empty jars of jelly, expired salad dressings, and make room for all the goodies you’re going to need room for throughout the festivities. We all have “plastic world,” but do we know where the lids are? Consider tossing out the old and investing in some quality leftover storage containers that you can reheat in, or even purchase disposable storage containers so you can send leftovers home with your guests! While I’m on it, why not purchase some disposable foil pans to cook some of those sides and deserts in so that you have less cleaning to do? If you start now purchasing the items you’ll need, it’ll be less impactful on your budget, but so helpful!Is anyone going to see under or behind your couch? Then you don’t have to move it.
Is anyone going to see the tops of your refrigerator, or cabinets? No. Behind your washer and dryer? Of course not. Do not worry about what you can’t see. Now is just not the time.
Lastly, have you considered a one-time gift to yourself of hiring a cleaning person to come in close to the holiday to do those extras that you would like done, but just find it impossible to do? There are reputable companies you can call, or ask your friends or church family who they recommend. You’d be surprised with how affordable they can be. If you’re someone looking for a service or volunteer project, this would be something ideal to do to help a senior better enjoy the holidays—and you, too!
Don’t let the holidays overwhelm you. Be gentle with yourself. Take your time. Santa does come to a dirty house, but how does he eat all those cookies? One bite at a time!