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11 Things I Learned About Cleaning During Lockdown

By Laura Anderson

COVID-19 has inspired cleaning right around the country. Judging from my Facebook feed, people have tackled tasks neglected for years. I guess there’s nothing like being stuck staring at four walls to prompt the realisation that those same walls occasionally need a scrub.

Here are 11 things I learned about cleaning during lockdown.

1. You will hate it but it will spark joy

I understand on an intellectual level that some people enjoy cleaning. I do not; I hate it. But there is pleasure in looking out of clean windows, especially when they are your only windows to the world.

My classic moment of lockdown cleaning was gazing through the oven door — which I’d scrubbed the day before for the first time ever — at a loaf of gently rising sourdough bread.

2. Cleaning shared is cleaning more-than-halved

As a great fan of sharing the cleaning load, I feel for those who are lonely in their lockdown homes. My preferred sharing is a ratio of 90:10 skewed towards the other person but, failing that, being able to play to each person’s strengths or simply joining forces in a cleaning marathon is much more enjoyable than going it alone.

3. Ignoring the basics at times is essential

In lockdown, knowing that no-one was coming over to see unswept floors or grotty sinks gave the incentive to ignore basic cleaning tasks.

This selective ignoring allowed us to get to tasks like the oven and rangehood, shifting bedroom furniture to get to neglected skirting boards and even (shock horror) to clean the outside of the house.

4. Read the instruction booklet. I repeat, read the instruction booklet

For appliance cleaning, don’t wait until all else fails; proactively seek out instruction booklets. Don’t worry if you didn’t file instruction manuals at the time of purchase, or if your landlord hasn’t left them for you, as most are available online.

It can be worth making your own versions. After carefully studying the manual to work out how to take apart the cleanable parts of my dishwasher, I videoed the process for much easier reference next time.

5. Create community in your cleaning

One of my favourite Facebook posts of 2020 was proudly showing off before and after photos of my oven. I honestly admitted how surprised I was, after discovering just how dirty it had become, that it still deigned to work.

That post created a wonderful sense of community. It inspired others to tackle their own ovens, created conversations between disparate friends, and helped me feel even better about having finally paid attention to this hard-working appliance.

6. Clean like you’re being paid

My hubby has always been a better cleaner than me. He attributes this to being naturally brilliant (of course) and good teaching by his mum (big thanks to my mother-in-law!) but also to having done a stint as a cleaner during our backpacking travels.

During lockdown, I channelled his mindset and pretended that I was being paid to clean – by the job, not by the hour. Imagining doing the work in a professional capacity for someone else helped me become ruthlessly efficient.

7. You can never have too many cloths

I didn’t panic-shop for toilet paper, I did a pre-lockdown stock up on cleaning supplies. After ending up with an embarrassingly large number of reusable microfibre cloths, I fortunately realised that this was a solution to one of my cleaning gripes – having to repeatedly rinse out the cloth I was using.

I now use several cloths for each task rather than one, meaning that I spend less time and use far less water.

8. Decluttering is a gateway to cleaning

I’ve always been better at tidying and decluttering than cleaning. I used to give myself a hard time, assuming I was using tidying as a procrastination tool.

The intensity of lockdown helped me see that these are all equally important in the big challenge of keeping our homes liveable.

9. Cleaning multi-tasks as maintenance

As a multi-tasker, I loved the realisation that many cleaning tasks also serve the purpose of maintaining your home or appliances.

Washing the outside of my house also minimises the corroding effects of salt air. Diving into the disgustingness of my dishwasher makes it look shiny and makes it less likely that a blockage will result in an expensive plumber call-out fee. That’s what I call a win-win!

10. Don’t forget the pack up

During lockdown, there was no opportunity to head out and deal with the pack up later. Now, I allocate time to packing up; putting everything away, getting rooms back in order, washing cloths and having a shower to cleanse myself of the cleaning I’ve achieved.

11. Cleaning is never-ending

I’m fortunate to live in a region where my life once again roughly resembles pre-pandemic times. It’s a couple of months since I immersed myself in lockdown cleaning.

I am happy about this but saddened to discover that this human health crisis has not halted dust, mould or cobwebs. My oven door window is no longer fully see-through and my skirting boards are once again lined with dust.

If the pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that life is both precious and unpredictable. I have found a new gratitude in everyday things, including my house which has kept me safe during a time of great uncertainty. This perspective has brought a new calmness to my cleaning.


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