Domestic Goddess: An informal, humorous term used to describe a woman with exceptional domestic skills, especially one who excels in preparing meals.
God mode: A mode found in many video games, usually requiring a cheat code or fulfilling certain requirements within the game. During this mode the player can access powers of a ‘god’ within the game, such as invincibility, access to all weapons/items, and being able to transport anywhere in the game environment.
Domestic God Mode: The art of dominating your domestic responsibilities with a power beyond that of mere mortals.
First off the bat, just to make it perfectly clear – I hate cleaning. Cleaning feels like an eternal battle against an infinitely respawning enemy – every time you finally slay that pile of dishes that’s been taunting you with its growing size and unbalanced-ness, it comes back the next day to torment you, and the next day, and the next, wave after wave after wave…
And when you’re a single dad, time is not on your side, so there are so many other things I’d rather be doing with my time than tidying up that minefield of toys for the umpteenth time. So make no mistake, I’m not one of those weird people who love cleaning, or have a compulsion to ensure the kitchen is thoroughly sterilised every time I make a sandwich. My ideal scenario would be having the ability to summon a cleaning-apparatus-equipped Gilgamesh to take care of the chores while I do anything else not cleaning-related.
(…and then he’s all like “EXCALIPOOR!” and I still have to do the cleaning myself.)
However, once you enter 1 Player mode it’s an unfortunate reality that you’re probably going to be in charge of a household on your by yourself, which means you’re the only one who can keep it habitable (until your children are old enough to help you/get tricked into doing it for you). So if you’re not sure which end of the toilet brush to use, or you don’t know the original colour of your shower floor anymore, it’s time you unlocked your own Domestic God Mode. So here’s some of the strategies I use to dominate my household cleaning routines:
Vanquish the dreaded task when your energy is highest
Of all the domestic cleaning tasks I need to do on a regular basis, washing dishes is the one that I hate the most. Dirty dishes are the everlasting Zombie mode of your home life. I can vacuum once or twice a week, do the washing a few times a week, but dishes somehow magically appear every meal time. And they’re the last thing I want to do after putting my daughter down to bed and finally managing to sneak out of her room without waking her. More often than not, I’d find myself doing dishes at ridiculous hours of the evening, after my daughter was asleep and all the other chores had been done. Not. Fun. At. All.
I finally worked out the best way to manage this task is to make it my priority when my energy is the highest – whether that be straight after dinner, or right after I put my daughter to bed. If I sit down for a while to relax or do some other work, minutes add up quickly and my energy for doing my most hated of chores decays significantly. Whether it be the dishes or some other regular task that takes the top spot in your most hated list, bite the bullet and get it out the way first so you can relax sooner.
Clean as you go, or at least rinse/stack dishwasher
When you finally get down to the dishes, you know what sucks? Trying to contend with baked on food crap. If you can wash dishes as you go during the cooking process you can combine two tasks into one time period, or at least rinse off/soak the dirty ones to weaken them before you come back to finish them off.
If all else fails, try to be this guy:
Cook in bulk for future you – cut down prep/cook/clean-up time!
If you’re going to cook, you might as well save yourself some time and effort and cook double, triple or more and save portions for later. Cooking extra usually doesn’t add much more time to prep and cooking time, but being able to save yourself cooking a whole meal the next day is a huge time and effort saver (as well as saving clean up – and if it’s not clear yet, I hate doing dishes!).
On the nights I have my daughter, I usually cook a ‘family’ sized meal and divide the leftovers into lunches and/or dinners for the evenings I don’t have her, or freeze. This saves me time and energy on the nights I don’t have her, because the last thing I want to be doing on the nights I don’t have my daughter is…you’ve guessed it, more cooking and more dishes! It also saves time and money on preparing lunches for work, and my work colleagues are always commenting on how good my lunches smell when I’m heating them up in the kitchen.
Freeze meat as flat as possible for easy defrosting
This is a little trick I learned recently, which is handy for being able to defrost meat as quickly as possible. I used to portion up meat into ziplock freezer bags and squeeze the air out of the bags so they end up in cylinder-like shapes to save space, however when it comes to defrosting this shape is inefficient as the meat in the middle takes longer to defrost. By flattening the bag before freezing it, it has a larger surface area and less meat inside the middle of the bag which helps it defrost much quicker.
Cooking = Prep + Pickup
I learned this strategy from Tim Ferris’s book The 4 Hour Chef. Professional chefs do not prepare and cook a meal in one go, rather they do the ‘prep’ work (cutting vegetables/meat, pre-cooking parts of meals) hours or even days prior to the ‘pickup’ or actual cooking of the food, so that everything is ready to go and the least amount of work is needed when it comes to cooking the meal. By doing as much of the ‘prep’ work as you can before you need to cook, you can significantly cut down your time in the kitchen before meal time, which is very useful when you’re cooking for cheeky little monkeys who can get up to mischief as soon as your back’s turned for a second.
On the nights I have my daughter during the work week, I’ll do as much of the evening meal prep as I can either the night before or in the morning before work and lay out all the tools I need in the kitchen, so that as soon as I get home its go time, and I can get straight to business without having to worry about laborious prep work.
Stick the tools where you need them!
One of the (many) things I sucked at cleaning-wise was cleaning the bathroom mirror. I’m usually too busy staring at my reflection to notice the toothpaste scum accumulating on the mirror’s surface. When I moved into my own place in 1 Player mode, my thought process for cleaning the mirror usually went something like this:
“Hmm, that mirror looks a bit dirty, should probably clean it…glass cleaner’s upstairs, so are the paper towels…which means I have to go all the way up there and come back, then take it back upstairs…yeaahhh, maybe later.”
“Ok, that’s it, this mirror is getting way to dirty! Time to clean it. Where’s the cleaning stuff? Oh yeah, upstairs…(goes upstairs)…hmm…why did I come up here again? Oh look, the fridge. I’m hungry! (minutes later) I’m sure there was another reason I came upstairs…oh well, internets!”
I finally worked out how to solve this problem by using a principle described by Ramit Sethi, personal finance author/blogger at iwillteachyoutoberich.com. In one of his articles he describes how he increased his gym attendance by putting his gym clothes right beside his bed before goes to sleep, so that when he wakes up in the morning his feet hit his shoes as soon as he gets out of bed. Doing this eliminated some of the major psychological barriers he had that were preventing him from getting up early in the morning to go to the gym, and his attendance rate skyrocketed. Using this idea, I now keep the glass cleaner and a roll of paper towels within arms reach of the mirror (but out of reach of little hands!) so that when I finally stop looking at myself and notice the dirt, the tools I need to get it sparkly clean are close at hand.
Wipes for everything!
One thing I’ve learned in having to clean a whole apartment for flat inspections, is that baby wipes do a great job of cleanups for far more than the baby bottoms they were originally designed for. Bathroom walls need cleaning? Baby wipes! Appliances getting dusty? Baby wipes! Kitchen floor needs a clean up? Baby wipes! Window sills need cleaning? You know the drill. They’re not for everything, but when you need to clean something quick, they can’t be beat.
Use 80/20 rule for tidying
The Pareto principle states that for many events, around 80% of results come from 20% of causes. For example, a general rule of thumb in business is that 80% of sales come from 20% of customers; and by contrast, 80% of complaints come from 20% of customers (I’m guessing a different 20%). In my ongoing search for efficiency and time-saving, I try to find ways to apply this rule in as many areas of my life as possible (to compensate for the many other areas of my life where I’m not so efficient).
When facing the aftermath of a toddler tornado having laid waste to our apartment, I used to stare blankly into the carnage wondering where to start. But after applying the lens of the 80/20 rule, I try to work out the quickest way to get it close enough to tidy without having to put every single toy back in its place. Focusing on one or two things that are taking up the most space, such as a Megablocks minefield or clothes airer obstacle course, can make a huge difference and give you the quick wins you need.
Shake it off, shake it off!
Yes, give in to your inner T-Swift…ahh, I mean…ummm…wait, what was I saying? Oh yeah. Washing-slash-laundry.
If you need to do ironing on a regular basis, this trick is a lifesaver. I found this tip posted on a menswear store’s Facebook page with a bold “You’re Welcome” underneath. Well, thank you very much indeed Mr Star-Lord, because this tip is indeed the business (shirt). Giving your shirts, jeans, tshirts etc. a sharp shake-out before you hang them on the line decreases creases like you wouldn’t believe. I’m not sure if this is a thing that everyone knows and I missed the boat on it, but I only learned it recently and it cuts my ironing time down significantly. Shake it off, indeed.
Open windows when drying clothes indoors
Most of my adult life, I’ve lived in apartments or houses where I’ve had limited or no access to outdoor clothes lines. Due to this, I’ve become very familiar with the art of strategically hanging my clothes on indoor clothes airers to maximise airflow and dry my laundry as efficiently as possible (I’ve even tried researching this online…yes, I’m that weird.)
One thing that helps the indoor clothes drying process is to open windows in the room your clothes are hanging to increase airflow and help move moisture out of your clothes and into the great beyond. I usually find myself doing washing during the evenings after I put my daughter to sleep, so before I go to bed I’ll open a window near where the clothes are hanging, and in the morning they’re well on their way to being dry. I know, I said I was weird…
Using micro-breaks to chip away at domestic tasks
As a child, Bruce Lee’s family nicknamed him ‘Mo si ting’ which translates to ‘never sits still’ due to his active nature. I tended to fidget a lot as a child, and still do, so Lee and I are essentially the same person. It’s a habit I try to harness to take advantage of the short moments when I can chip away at cleaning tasks while waiting for other things to happen. While waiting for the jug to boil and my cup of tea to brew, I’ll unload the dishwasher or stack the dishes. If I’m heating something up in the microwave, i’ll try to use that time to give the living room a whip around, or wipe the table down if it’s still dirty from when we last ate.
Another way to have little cleaning breaks is to crank up a song and give yourself til the end of the track to clean as much as you can. “I Want To Break Free” by Queen is relevant, but something that gets you motivated is key.
Apartment inspections – spread out the cleaning plan
And finally, the big daddy of them all if you’re in a renting situation – the apartment inspection. I have quarterly apartment inspections which, on the face of it is a major inconvenience (“I have to clean the toilet AGAIN? But I did that last year!”). However, it’s actually a blessing in disguise because it forces me to keep the apartment in a habitable state by requiring me to attend to those areas that I would normally not worry about, like bathroom/kitchen walls, dusting, and cleaning windowsills.
“But wait – I’ve gotta clean this whole place by myself?!” Well, yes – unfortunately, if you’re living in a place on your own and your children aren’t old/competent enough to help you, that’s the reality of the situation. Unless you can somehow con your friends/family into helping you out with bribes/blackmail/other coercive techniques, or pay a professional to clean it for you (which might not be a bad idea if your budget permits), you’re on your own. This is the ship I’m in, so when it’s coming up to inspection time I get my ‘Method Man’ on and break down cleaning my apartment into a manageable work plan.
My property manager sends me an email 2 weeks out from the inspection date as a reminder, so once I get the email I create a ‘to do’ list on my phone with a list of all the cleaning tasks that need to be done. I put them in order from cleaning tasks that can be done now and will still be relatively clean by inspection date (like cleaning the fridge, window sills) to tasks to do a few days out (tidy my office, vacuum, clean oven) and finally things to do the night before which will be messy right up until the last day (put away toys, mop floors). Spreading it out over two weeks saves spending a whole evening cleaning the night before the inspection date (which I ended up having to do before my last inspection due to being busy and poor planning – the exhaustion at the end of the night was a great reminder to get my plan sorted better next time!).
IDDQD – Domestic God Mode Activated
So there you have it, some of my strategies for keeping your home in a livable state, if only until the next onslaught of cleaning chores respawns and challenges you once more. For a little inspiration, check out Daniel ‘Cloud’ Campos activating his Domestic God Mode with style.
Got any other tips for unlocking your Domestic God Mode? Let us know in the comments below!