Friday, April 18, 2014

Challenge #15: Company Ready

The concept for this challenge has been in my head for a while, and I'm guessing (based on other women I've talked to on the subject), just may have been a goal of yours that maybe you haven't yet consciously realized you had.

Be Company Ready

To me, that means the first floor of my house--mainly where company would be--is decluttered and clean enough that I feel comfortable having someone drop by on short notice, or even no notice at all.

Now, for years and years this has gone against my grain.  I did not want anyone just showing up on my doorstep.  No way.  I wanted at least a day's advance warning, and preferably a week's notice!  To have someone just pop on by, that was not fun, that was stressful, and I have enough stress in my life, thank you very much.

Honestly, it got to the point where I didn't really even want to let my kids have their friends over.  All four of my children knew that if, at the end of the school day, they said to me "Mom, can So-and-So come over (right now), his/her mom said it would be okay", the answer would automatically be no.  If you want to have someone over, or--horrors-- someone spend the night, you had to ask Mom at least 24 hours in advance.  No spur of the moment guests.

Why?  Because, deep down, I was afraid my house wasn't good enough, wasn't clean enough, for other people to see.  I knew that the elementary and middle school aged guests wouldn't care, but what if they went home and said something to their parents that would then lead those parents to think "Boy, I don't want my kid associating with those people at this little place here; they're slobs".

Some of this was totally in my head.  But some of it, on the level of 'this is the gateway drug to slovenliness' was true.  Clutter.  Shoes kicked off and left in the walkway repeatedly.  Coats that fell off the coat rack and weren't picked back up.  Dishes that maybe didn't get washed the night before and still covered the kitchen counter.  Stacks of papers in the living room.  Recycling bin overflowing and in need of taking to the recycling center.  Dust being a protective coating on nearly every horizontal surface.  The mudroom floor spotted with, well, mud.  The kitchen floor similarly spotted, but with drips and drops of juice, tomato sauce, ketchup, jelly, crumbs of a crushed pretzel, a stray chocolate chip under the edge of the refrigerator. . .

Pretty much how life is when you have a houseful of kids and live on a farm. But, unfortunately, not how most people view things.  To those with no children, or only a child or two, and not living on a farm, well, our house in it's normal state of affairs was a bit unkempt.  And when it became even less kempt from not being properly cleaned or things not put away for a day or two, well, it looked rather bad.

In all honesty, I go through times of falling down on my daily housekeeping responsibilities as the at home spouse.  It is easy to do when the gardening/canning season was in full swing.  Or winter storms mean animal/outdoor chores take two or three times as long.  Or I'm in full out "finishing this handmade gift" mode with a looming birthday or Christmas or other gift-giving occasion just a few days away.  And once I get far enough behind--say after a month straight of canning just about every day, it takes way more than an hour a day to get things set back to rights.  I'm thinking (okay, hoping) that most readers can relate.

So what I decided, was that I needed to set a standard I refer to as Company Ready, and make sure that the house is up to that standard all the time.  So that I could relax a bit, and welcome company rather than dread the thought of someone walking in my door before I'd had at least 10 waking hours to make things good and clean enough.

Here's my definition of Company Ready for this little place here:

Downstairs bathroom:
  • toilet white inside (a daily swish with the toilet brush to prevent build up), 
  • toilet paper roll on the toilet paper roll holder, 
  • sink clean, 
  • counter clutter free, 
  • two dry hand towels neatly on the towel bar, 
  • trash can never more than 1/2 full, 
  • floor swept, 
  • mirror spot-free.

  • floor swept, 
  • mud washed off floor once a week (during muddy seasons), 
  • shoes lined up along wall, 
  • coats/jackets hung neatly, 
  • bench free for sitting on (versus piled with off cast hats, gloves, backpacks, etc)
  • dishes washed and put away every night,
  • counters wiped off nightly (no drips, crumbs, or dust!), 
  • floor swept,  
  • nothing not food related in the kitchen (ie no stacks of mail, kid's school notices, etc)
  • floor mopped when it has more than a few drips on it
Dining Room (we eat all meals in the dining room, since our kitchen is all work space, not the eat-in kind with room for a table):
  • floor swept
  • table free of clutter
  • table washed/wiped after every meal
  • nothing not eating related on counter (one child has a bad habit of leaving her mail, phone, textbooks, binders bobby pins, earrings, etc, etc on the dining room counter.  For weeks or months if not hounded to remove them to the proper locations.)
Living room:
  • dusted once a week (including tv screen and all photos/pictures on walls), 
  • couch cushions and throw pillows aligned properly (NOT on floor!!),
  • afghans folded neatly in half and draped over backs of couches, 
  • end tables free of empty glasses (or beer cans/bottles!) and anything other than the TV remote or a coaster, 
  • curtains tied back (for some reason, the inhabitants of this little place here--other than me, of course--like to close the curtains pretty much every day during sunny weather, and then not open them back up when they leave the room), 
  • floor swept.
Front door area:
  • no stacks of anything near door or in walkway from front door to living room
  • floor swept
  • bench by front door empty (for guests to sit down on and remove shoes)
This is my definition of Company Ready.  With those items checked off my list, I feel comfortable with the idea of having people visit at any time.  Which makes life a whole lot more enjoyable than constantly worrying about 'what if' and feeling like I am a horrible housekeeper.

If you have young children, you will need to decide what to do about toys--are they allowed in the living room where company would be sure to go?  Or are toys banned from the living room and have to be played with and stored in some other area of your home?  For me, since the occupants of this little place here don't play with those sorts of toys any longer, I don't have to worry about this on a day to day basis.

What I have established, however, for those times when we have company with small children, is my old wooden toy box in the living room as a sort of table to hold framed photos.  Inside the toy box is an assortment of  toys that I have kept, and when we have young guests, the framed photos are removed to another room and the lid of the toy box is opened so the guests can enjoy the toys (right there in the sight of their parents, so we don't have to worry about what a child is doing off in some other area of the house that might not be kept company ready).  Then when the young guests go back home, the toys go back in the box, the lid goes down, and the framed photos go back on top.  Until the next time.

toy box, 
ready for small guests

toy box as a table, 
displaying photos and breakables 
 when we don't have small guests

So I challenge you, even if it takes a whole weekend or even a whole week to get your house on track, to become Company Ready.  Make a list of what areas of your house you most often allow guests, and then come up with a bulleted list that describes what the key points are for each room.  Then just whiz through your list a few minutes every day.  If you get bogged down in your daily chores--say during an illness or canning season, or whatever comes up--make the Company Ready list a priority, and let the other areas of your house slack for a little while, until you can get back on track.

Then, next time someone knocks on your door unexpectedly, you will be able to welcome them in with a smile, instead of wondering whether they know you are home, or if you can just be very quiet and hide out of sight until they go away.

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