Cover photo by Kelly Sikkema, Unplash.
Life is too busy. There is too much stuff going on and too many things to take care of. When you have everybody in the household working outside the home, something has to give. Things get neglected.
A lot of times what gets neglected is housework.
I have a lot of kids coming in an out and if I apologize because my house isn’t spotless, a lot of them will say something like, “You think this is a mess? You should see our house!” And when I do see their house, I realize they’re not just being polite.
I’m not judging. My own house is far from immaculate.
My mother and I lived together for most of my adult life and she voluntarily did most of the cleaning. After she died, I not only had to do it myself, but I started having a lot more company. How could I possibly keep up with everything?
Then I remembered that I’d very rarely seen my mother clean the house. Yes, it was always clean. Even the pearl white carpet was spotless. But it’s not as if you saw her spending 12 hours on a Saturday cleaning everything. What was her secret?
Gorilla cleaning is a variation on “guerilla warfare.” Yes, I know the word “guerilla” has nothing to do with the word “gorilla,” but when I’m just making stuff up, I can spell it however I want. 🙂
Guerilla warfare is the deployment of small-scale, fast-moving civilian units that go up against a standard military. Gorilla cleaning is the deployment of small-scale, fast-moving residents who go up against the constant onslaught of dirt and clutter in their own household.
Now before I go into the details, I realize some people are going think, “Wow, thank you Captain Obvious!” Because maybe you stopped living with your mom decades ago, and you figured this out for yourself. That’s awesome! But you’re an exception, as far as I can tell. So I’m going to tell the others because this is pretty handy for the rest of us.
The Basic Idea
You don’t set aside big blocks of time to clean. Not very often if you’re doing this right. If you’re like me, “big blocks of time” are just an invitation for dread and procrastination anyway. Who wants to be confronted with week-old filth and clutter on a Saturday morning? Yuck.
So instead you buy a few supplies and you clean all the time. Yes, all the time, as in hyper-vigilant daily hunts for dirt and clutter. If that sounds worse than setting aside one big block of time, stay with me!
Kitchens and Baths
Kitchens and bathrooms are the hardest to keep clean, I’ve found. So what you need to stock up on are wipes. The ones that come in a plastic dispenser and kill 99% of bacteria. Put them in all your bathrooms and in your kitchen.
Most people go into the kitchen or bathroom frequently, so when you do, clean something.
Take a wipe and clean the sink this time, the toilet next time. If the shower seems like too much, then just clean one wall or just the pan where people stand. Or pick up that nasty gooey soap carcas someone has left behind, and grab the dirty towels and wash clothes.
Once in awhile, you’ll actually need to break out a sponge and maybe some gritty cleaner for the tub or shower. You might use a mop on the floor, but personally, I just take a sponge and crawl around, wiping it by hand. It seems easier and more thorough, and you can get the sides of the toilet while you’re at it, since that area tends to get gross and disgusting pretty quickly.
Do the same in the kitchen. Don’t spend more than a couple of minutes. Just wipe or organize or toss something in the trash. Maybe go through the fridge and see if you can find some food that’s past due and get rid of that.
It’s like you’re literally hunting for whatever little thing you can do to make the place cleaning in just a few minutes.
You’d be amazed what these little bursts of energy can accomplish. It’s true you’re never quite cleaning a whole room. You will probably want to do that once in awhile. But if you’re in the habit of gorilla cleaning, things are not going to get out of hand. Ever.
I’ve done this even with a house full of teenagers, and managed to keep up with them fairly well.
Other parts of the house don’t usually require the same level of vigilance. But I do a sweep a room here and there, and figure out what gorilla techniques to deploy.
When I come in from work, I look at the foyer. Are there things to be put away? A jumble of muddy shoes in the boot tray? Some stray packaging someone tossed on the table or floor? Does the rug need to be swept or the surrounding floor mopped? Has someone left an empty dish on the foyer table?
I try to find some small thing to do. If there’s nothing, then woohoo! Onto the next room, or maybe, for now, I’ll just relax.
It’s Just a Simple Habit!
If you get in the habit of this, it becomes second nature.
My mom was in the habit of daily gorilla cleaning, and sometimes she was so johnny-on-the-spot it slightly annoyed people. Did you lay your coat down? Well, it’s disappeared, because my mother snatched it and hung it up! Did you want to refill that glass? Well, you left it empty for more than 10 seconds, so now you’ll find it rinsed and in the dishwasher. 🙂
I’m always walking by picking up or wiping this and that. If someone has moved a nicknack 2 inches on a side table, I will notice. Not because I’m incredibly meticulous by nature (I’m not), but because I’ve trained myself to be vigilant and keep things pretty tidy. In spite of being rather lazy and disorganized.
Advanced Gorilla Cleaning: Stealth Germ Warfare
There isn’t a really long list of instructions because obviously, this is a pretty simple concept. You clean a little here and there, most of the time. You can take a day off now and then as well. You can even be on for 5 days each week and off for 2, and it will still work pretty well. Adjust it to suit your needs.
But there are a few bonus activities you might want to try.
When I know I’m going to pull out the wipes and wipe down the sink or something, I will sometimes stealth clean everyone’s phone. Or if I see a pair of glasses on a side table, I’ll clean those. Laptop computers, tablets, game controllers…whatever I can find that people put their hands on a lot, I clean with a wipe.
If you think about how rarely a lot of these kids clean their own phones…hmm…probably better not to think about it. Especially when you consider how common it is for people to take their phone in with them and use it while they use the toilet. So I clean their phones, often while they’re sleeping, and usually, they’re none the wiser.
Clean phones mean fewer germs spreading from person to person.
My mom’s stealth cleaning made it seem effortless. Like we had some invisible fairy that went around picking up after everyone, keeping the house spotless. That’s what I aspire to do.
Okay, time for another confession. My car is filthy. Sad but true!
I hate cleaning the car and I don’t wash or vacuum is nearly often enough. But even accounting for my neglect, gorilla cleaning helps.
For one thing, I do take a few minutes to wipe down everything now and then. The dash or the steering wheel this time, something else the next. It’s the vacuuming part that I really dread and avoid, and I’m not sure there’s a cure for that. Other than “stop being a lazy slob.”
But one thing you won’t’ find in my car, ever, is an accumulation of trash. I always dump all the trash when I’m at the gas station, filling up my tank.
The bin is right there, people! It amazes me when I see someone with a car filled with trash. Soda cans, crinkled napkins, fast food bags and such…there is no way we don’t ALL stop routinely for gas, right?
Put your trash in the trash bin. It’s the easiest, most effective gorilla cleaning tip you’re ever going to get for your car. No trash accumulation! No excuses!
One Last Tip: Taming the Snail Mail Avalanche
For years and years, I kept my mail all over the place. You might have found some on my nightstand, and some on the dining table or my desk. Heck, you might have even found some in a laundry basket or on the floor of my car.
My mother couldn’t stand watching me try to find something that came in the mail, so she bought me a bin for my mail. A simple solution…just put it ALL in the bin. It was awesome.
I confess to still getting WAY behind on my mail. I hate snail mail! Grrr. But at least when I get around to it, it’s all there in one place. Same goes if you’re trying to find a form or a bill or something. You know it’s there, somewhere in your bin, and that’s pretty easy to search.
Since that first bin, I’ve graduated to a 3-tiered rolling mail cart from Ikea. When I go through my top bin, I toss some stuff, take care of some stuff, and move some stuff to the lower bins to handle later.
I also keep some scissors, a notepad, and some pens handy in the lower bin. It’s really convenient since that’s the sort of stuff I can never seem to track down when I need it most.
And in case you’re wondering, yes it does fit in with the topic of gorilla cleaning. That’s mail you don’t have to run through the house and pick up hither and thither. It’s already there, stacked neatly (usually) in one place.
My mother always seemed better, faster, and more efficient than I am at absolutely everything. Gorilla cleaning is no exception.
But this concept has made it pretty easy for me to keep a fairly clean and tidy house with a minimal amount of effort. More than anything, it’s just a simple habit anyone can develop.
All you need is some basic cleaning supplies, the right attitude, and a bit of vigilance.
I haven’t so far found an easier way. So if you struggle at times to keep your home clean and tidy, give gorilla cleaning a try. 🙂