I guess this is probably most women’s least favorite task. And everyone usually has their favorite tools for getting the job done. I guess this is why I have been asked on more than one occasion how I keep my house clean without electricity. Living in a small house with limited stuff really helps and goes a long way in helping me when I do my cleaning. (See A Clean House Makes Mama Happy!) But I also have a strategy that really helps me so that I think I can keep my off-grid house cleaner than I ever did my electric house. I’ve learned some things along the way.
This probably sounds weird, but I usually just use a bar of soap, a tub of water, and a dish rag. I used to have a bunch of fancy cleaners and I’ve also done the whole vinegar and baking soda thing, but honestly I feel like I can get most things done with just soap and water. After all, what did people do before the invention of the spray bottle?
I also have very simple surfaces in my house. No tile and grout! I’ve seen some very pretty tile and I’ve had tile in previous homes, but I knew that I wanted smooth and easy to clean surfaces in my off-grid house. I’m very happy with our formica counters and seamless tub and shower surround. I often think about how people lived 100 years ago with no power and running water. They had very simple homes with maybe a plank or a dirt floor. They bathed in the creek in the summer and in a washtub once a week during the winter. (We are able to bathe everyday because of the invention of the shower bag.) People who had fancy homes with lots of things and pretty interior finishes, had servants. I think it is near impossible to keep up a large beautiful home while living off grid. An electric house is possible because the house is full of “electric servants” (aka. dishwasher, washing machine and dryer, hot water heater, vacuum…on and on).
When I was kid, my chore was cleaning the bathroom. I think this is why it has always been my least favorite chore! I’ve been doing it most of my life! I’m thankful I only have one in my house. It keeps things a lot simpler. I also don’t have a regular toilet. Yes, we compost with sawdust. So I don’t need a toilet cleaner and toilet brush. It’s pretty easy to wipe down the box and seat with soap and water. So, here’s my strategy. After I do my laundry, I generally have usable rinse water. I get my rag wet and lather it with soap to scrub my sink and counter. I rinse and wipe it again and dry with a clean cloth. I do this pretty regularly so I don’t need a scrub brush. If I left it and there was a lot of build up, I would probably need a brush or scrub sponge for this routine. But this way it only takes me a few minutes. If I need to do the mirror, I use the same method and polish with a dry cloth. No windex! It’s stinky anyway.
Using this method, I work my way from least dirty to most dirty. So, if I don’t do the bathtub, the next thing would be the toilet box. After I wash it, I get a clean rag (the one I used to polish the mirror and dry off the counter) wet to wipe the soap off the toilet box. This whole routine takes me about ten minutes. I do this a few times a week. I usually do the bathtub another day when I don’t do the sink and toilet. I use the same method and will sometimes use a scrub sponge for this. I love that I never have to worry about whether my bathroom is dirty if I have guests come announced. I’ve had this happen frequently since living in the country! Plus, with just one bathroom and a few minutes a day, I don’t have to set aside time for cleaning.
I clean the kitchen the same way, usually after I have done dishes. I use my clean rinse water and some dish soap. I wipe my counters and stove and anything else that needs it. I don’t have a microwave, toaster, refrigerator, etc, all of the appliances that I used to have to plan to clean. The kitchen and dining table also function as our schoolroom, so we always clean up after a meal. Likewise everything gets put away after school to prepare for a meal.
There is only one more house cleaning chore that gets done daily, sometimes multiple times a day! I sweep my floor. I don’t have carpet. Even if I could plug in a vacuum, carpet is a bad idea for a young family living in the country. There are so many things that get tracked in: snow, mud, animal poop (sorry, but true!), grass, rocks, and bugs. I can’t believe all the stuff that ends up on the floor. We have the same linoleum throughout the house and I can sweep the entire house in about ten minutes, without distractions! I generally do not use a mop because the floor will never stay spotless. I just spot clean with a wet rag.
Dusting is something I do about once or twice a week. I’ll pick one room per day and again it takes me about ten minutes, but I only have a few things to dust. In the living room I just need to do a few end tables, trunk/coffee table, and rocking chair. I don’t have a tv, entertainment center, and lots of built-in shelving and knick knacks. I get a microfiber towel a little bit damp. Sometimes I have to rinse it, squeeze it out, and keep going. I don’t feel like I need to use any sprays. They don’t really keep the dust off anyway.
Where do I fall short? Windows. Who really washes their windows on a regular basis? Right now, mine are smudged by little hands. They will probably get on my list of things to do soon. But I’m not going to worry about it today!
I have a lot of other chores in my life, so this is what I do to keep cleaning simple and manageable. I don’t have time to set aside an entire morning/day to clean my house. I do it in regular intervals throughout the day so it doesn’t get overwhelming. And I get to enjoy a pretty clean house (most of the time), which makes me happy!