'Clean My Space' Wants to Change the Way You Tackle a Messy House

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Using a 3-step method, Toronto cleaning pro Melissa Maker turns what seems like a Herculean task into something more manageable.

I have a secret obsession with reading books about cleaning and decluttering. I say ‘secret’ because you’d never know it by stepping into my messy, chaotic house. It hardly looks like the kind of place where the owner curls up on the sofa in the evenings to read about how best to wipe countertops and mop hardwood floors. My fascination stems from the fact that a clean house is the antithesis of my life with small children. Books on cleaning, as sad as it may sound, are a form of escapism, like losing myself in Instagram posts of exotic travel destinations (although the goal of the former is more attainable).

My latest find is “Clean My Space: The Secret to Cleaning Better, Faster – and Loving Your Home Every Day” by Toronto cleaning expert Melissa Maker. I first heard Maker interviewed on CBC Radio, when her book came out earlier this year. I liked her approach. It is simple, thorough, and, most importantly, inspiring, which is exactly what I need to get moving.

As Maker explains in the introduction to her book, housecleaning isn’t taught in schools anymore, nor do many kids learn it at home, especially when they’re overscheduled with activities or the job is outsourced to professionals; and yet, cleaning is something that directly affects our lives and can lead to great tension and arguments in households.

“A book about cleaning the house isn’t exactly beach reading. But since we don’t get taught cleaning in school anymore (adios, home ec), and it is legitimately a life skill that affects us and our families each day (just think back to your last cleaning-related argument), it is absolutely worth learning about and mastering.”

The “Maker Method” is the foundation of Maker’s YouTube stardom and her own successful boutique cleaning company. It has three basic steps:

1. Determine your MIAs (most important areas).

The entire house does not need to be cleaned all the time. You’re best off focusing efforts on the parts of the house that you can’t stand being messy or dirty. This differs for everyone. Of course, the rest will get cleaned eventually, but the MIAs will receive most regular cleaning focus.

2. Use best cleaning practices (PTT).

‘P’ is for products and the ‘T’s are for tools and techniques. Maker emphasizes the importance of equipping yourself properly to tackle the job to minimize frustration and wasted time. There is a chapter on how to make homemade all-purpose cleaner, degreaser, floor cleaner, stain remover, toilet bowl cleaner, and more. She’s a big fan of essential oils for their antifungal and antibacterial qualities and their glorious scents.

She explains precise techniques for tackling cabinet fronts, greasy stoves, scummy tubs, cobwebs, and all types of floors – helpful info for people like me who never saw my parents doing any of it, so I never knew there was a ‘right’ way to do it (hello, pretreating!).

Her techniques come down to the 'wave' approach, circling rooms clockwise from an exit point. Wave 1 is tidying and picking up. Wave 2 is cleaning in chunks from top to bottom. Wave 3 is floors and finishing touches.

3. Develop cleaning routines and schedules.

Maker says it’s important to schedule cleaning time, whether it’s a big chunk of time weekly or small pieces throughout the day, though she favors the latter:

“The little everyday lifestyle tweaks are what will give you serious bang for your buck – removing chores from your big list without adding extra time.”

“Clean My Space” is a valuable reference book, with detailed charts on how often certain tasks should be performed and how best to approach them. It may sound like common sense, but sometimes people need to hear these things!

My only contention with the book was that it lacked any kind of discussion about clutter. While I realize it’s a book on cleaning, not decluttering, it felt like a gaping hole. Clutter has become a societal epidemic of sorts, and its minimization – at least in my eyes – should be a priority. Without clutter, one could entirely avoid Maker’s first wave and greatly increase efficiency, which is the entire purpose of her method. (Note: She does tackle decluttering in her YouTube videos.)

By combining the Maker method with my own decluttering efforts, I am hopeful that the state of my house will improve significantly.