Cleaning a House That Cleans Itself, Part 1

At a party recently, I was chatting with a friend who happens to follow this blog. She had some great feedback for me, all positive except for a question that has been nagging at her since she read it. Why, she asked, would I talk about using elbow grease and a Magic Eraser (as I have in recent posts) if the point of a House That Cleans Itself is to clean less, not more? Valid question. My response satisfied her, but I thought it might also be a good idea to post it here too, just in case you've been wondering the same thing.

If you've read The House That Cleans Itself, you know that the overriding goal of the plan is to stop trying to change yourself and instead change your home so that it just naturally tends to stay clean (rather than regularly falling apart). Once you have successfully done that, your workload is so greatly decreased that it's almost as if the house has begun to clean itself, hence the title of the book.

So how does this low-maintenance concept of a House That Cleans Itself (HTCI) mesh with my suggestion to apply elbow grease and a Magic Eraser--which sounds suspiciously like a lot of work? I've got three answers to that, starting with this one:

Reason #1: If your house has been disastrous for a while, elbow grease plus various cleaning tools are probably going to be necessary elements of your conversion to an HTCI. The way I see it, an HTCI is one where a quick, occasional pass with a Swiffer WetJet or similar is all that's needed to keep the floors looking clean day in and day out. But where there is ground in, nasty dirt/stains/etc. that mere swiffering or mopping can't eliminate, those need special attention right up front so that they can be dealt with aggressively and eliminated forever.

To see what I mean, take a look at the before and after photos in the posts called True Magic and True Magic, Part 2. Before we got down and scrubbed those floor tiles with the Magic Eraser, my friend was wasting an enormous amount of time "trying" to get the kitchen floor clean the conventional way. Because she is domestically challenged, I think she figured that somehow if she just mopped hard enough or found the right mix of cleaner-vs-water or wanted it really, really badly enough, that that grimy-looking floor would suddenly, magically get clean. Sorry, but that wasn't going to happen! The stains were too strong, too old, too ground-in, and she was working herself to death EVERY TIME SHE MOPPED THE KITCHEN, trying to make them go away. Once we put the mop aside and dealt with the problem head on, we found that we were able to eliminate that ground-in dirt by scrubbing the tiles with the Magic Eraser. After that, her whole cleaning routine was drastically shortened.

Now, all she has to do to make the kitchen floor look good is, yes, make a quick, occasional pass with a Swiffer WetJet or similar. That's it. Because we dealt with the nastiness and got rid of it once and for all, our efforts at hard cleaning resulted in a floor that now needs only light cleaning.

Does that make sense? Put it this way: Converting a house to an HTCI is a lot of work and usually will require elbow grease and special tools. But once that work has been done, the payoff is enormous. Between the relaxing feel of a clean-looking kitchen and the time saved keeping it that way, I'd say the effort is more than worth it.

Check back next time to learn the second reason why I talk about deep cleaning in a blog that's supposed to be about the exact opposite.


  1. I too love the Magic's my best friend :) I did see at the store the other day that they now have a Magic Eraser mop...Will have to try that one!

  2. I've seen the commercial for the mop but hadn't yet been able to find it in stores. Let us know if you get it and like it, and I'll be sure to do the same.

    Thanks for posting!

  3. Your book, "The House that Cleans Itself" was highly recommended by a good friend and so I am currently reading it. Thanks for such a well written and practical book! I am loving it so far and have already called my mother (a cement clutterer) and told her she must read it as well! Thanks!