Updated: May 5, 2020
When we were gearing up to leave South Africa, I was very aware of this one big thing I would have to overcome. I was thinking it all through while watching my darling nanny, Geraldine, doing what she did for the last 14 years... and that this would now be me, in Canada, pretty soon.
What was my actual fear around this topic? It wasn't that I did not know how to scrub an oven or floor or iron clothes or even make up an "army-standard', crisp bed that skriks for niks...(Afrikaans phrase: "that's scared of nothing"). I realised it was a "job" that would be headed by myself FOREVER. I was going to be the captain and head girl of this department. Yes, of course the family would all pull together and help, but ultimately it was going to be my baby.
Sigh. So, I always try to minimise the size of the "thing" in front of me by asking the question: "what is the worst thing that can happen?" or in this case, "what is the worst thing about this department you are going to head up?". Worst thing? At that moment, nothing really came to mind. I was thinking broken nails, dry skin from detergents and then it hit me.. cleaning poo toilets (mind racing, having visuals of kids vomiting). Ok yes, that is the worst. Or is it dog poop in the house? Let's stop here. Also, just all the time spent doing these chores.....yuck.
When friends and family in South Africa heard we were moving, a topic that almost always came was about the fact we wont have any help with the cleaning. It felt as if people were concerned and felt sorry for me. How are you going to survive? Gee, was it such a big thing? You know what I am referring to and have probably experienced the same conversations.
I decided that this journey was an adventure and nothing, not the cleaning, not the weather, nothing was going to get in the way of this move to Canada. You need to make the decision for yourself and be positive. Moving and everything that goes along with it, is hard enough. BUT this cleaning thing? It's really not a biggie. - I needed to suck it up and move on!
Here goes - my tips for cleaning house, from the girl who loves cleaning (true story, ask my friends):
1. GET YOUR HEAD IN THE GAME
You need to think this through. What are the actual tasks required in order for me to be happy in my home? What standard of "clean" will you be happy with? This is key. I had, and still do have a picture in my mind of how I want things to look like and the rest of the family does not. The best thing to do is to sit down with the family and talk/walk through this (there are many ways to do this too eg. picture charts for smaller kids/husbands!!!). Remember, your domestic help in South Africa did it one way and perhaps that is not entirely how you will do things living in Canada... after all, you are the chief cleaner now. You might be happy not to change the bedding every week or vacuuming the whole house three times a week. Perhaps you will wash clothes only once a week instead of every day. So, once your head is in it and you know your path, you can convey what you need and expect from the rest of the fam. Lovely.
2. SPOUSE SUPPORT
Now that you got this, you will need your spouse's support - insert red flashing and alert signs here! Asseblief mense! (please people). Read this article and/or discuss these things before moving countries. Since we have mostly grown up with domestic help in our homes, it is not part of our routine to think of chores. In fact, you will be pleasantly reminded of how wonderful your domestic worker is when you are in your new country. Geraldine did things that were amazing for us, sometimes things just happened or were fixed without us knowing about it! So, with that in mind, you need to hit this thing as a team. If the support is lacking, resentment builds up and slowly but surely that can hack away at a marriage, the kids and builds up unnecessary tension. This is the cherry on the top if things are a little tense, which they will be for sure when moving countries. My take on things is to do whatever it takes to keep things as simple as possible, with the least amount of stress. Climb in, help and get it done so that you can do life and adventure!
3. TASK AT HAND
Getting started is the most important part. Pick a day of the week or two that works for you and stick to it - in this way, everyone gets into a routine and knows where they stand. So, throw you hair into a bun or cheeky pony - turn up the volume to Bohemian Rhapsody, Billy Jean, Kaptein, or something by Justin Bieber or Drake and get your clean ON! The rule is: always run up and down the stairs, you will sweat and be so fit within weeks! Go - do it!
Every single home that you buy or rent will have a dishwasher (and a washing machine and tumble dryer). Hallelujah! So there you go! My advice is NEVER leave a dirty kitchen after dinner. Worst thing ever is to walk into a trashed kitchen first thing in the morning. W.O.R.S.T.
GREAT KITCHEN PRODUCTS:
SWIFFER DRY WIPES
These are great for "sweeping" the kitchen and picking up pet hair. You will need a Swiffer Sweeper too.
SWIFFER WET WIPES
Used for "mopping" the floor. Attach the wet wipe to the Swiffer Sweeper to clean floors. Smells fab and easy to use instead of a bucket and mop - old school! Throw away wipes and done, no water and no bucket!
You will mostly likely have heard of this general all purpose cleaner from that fabulous movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". Windex does everything, very similar to Wynns Clean Green. Best for cleaning windows and almost anything, (um, no, I don't think it clears a pimple on your wedding day!).
You have two options here. Many homes in Canada have an internal vacuum system. There will be numerous plug points all over the house where you can insert the vacuum cleaner hose! This works like a bomb - make sure you empty the filter once a year or so. It is tricky - wear a mask!!!!! The vacuum unit & filter is usually in the garage or in the cold room in the basement. The other option is to buy a vacuum cleaner. I love my cordless Dysan. We bought it at Canadian Tire (large retailer of all things including tires). Look all over for best deal - even Best Buy. It is worth spending a bit more to get this product. I am blown away. lol. Great for small kids to use. It is light in your hand and the best part of all, it is easy to empty the waste straight into the garbage bin with no hassle. Really recommend this product.
BATHROOMS (NOW YOU WILL CALL THEM WASHROOMS)
This is the nasty part. This is where I get the family involved. My husband and I will clean our bathroom and guest loo. The girls will do their bathroom and basement toilet (works for us).
TIP 1: Keep enough detergents in each washroom (put them al together in a plastic tub that can be cleaned in the dishwasher every now and then (awesome tip right?). You will need a pair of rubber gloves (kids will be far more agreeable if there are gloves), Lysol wipes (try the apple one) to wipe toilets, basins and any surface (do not flush wipes down the loo please!), toilet cleaner/toilet duck type product, Vim or any other general cleaning agent to clean baths, shower spray & a toilet brush (see my fav one at the end). Clean the bathroom showing your kids how exactly to do it. Don't assume they know!
TIP 2: For your guest toilet - use a couple of drops of your favourite essential oils - drop them into the toilet and onto the hand towel. Imagine lemongrass filling the space for many hours - yessss, well if that's what you like.
TIP 3: Have a bottle of hand sanitiser in the washrooms over and above hand soaps
I have no idea where all the dust comes from? Every single week, I look under my bed to vacuum and see "dust tolbos" (tumbleweed)! Canadians call it "dust bunnies". So vacuuming bedrooms and basements is important, especially if you have pets like we do.
TIP: Have a durable laundry basket in each bedroom.
This is soooooo easy! Grab your laundry basket & head for the laundry! Check whether items need spot stain remover... Wash same colours together. Add your laundry detergent (some machines require HD detergent - just check. You will need less detergent than you think for HD machines. Check guidelines (worth the effort). I use half the amount of detergent now.
TUMBLE DRYING CLOTHES
There isn't a single washing line to be seen in Canada. If you see one, the people are probably South African! All washing is washed and immediately tumble-dried. You are probably not familiar with dryer sheets (Bounce is a popular product). Check these out on Google. You will add one or two of these tissue like papers into the tumble drier and that removes the static.
TIP 1: Once your clothes are dry, fold as soon as you can or put onto hangers so that they don't crease even more lying in the clothing bucket, like shirts. This will prevent that thing called ironing. The only items I iron are Kev's work shirts, some golf shirts, some pants and a few of my summer items. As for the rest, everything is folded and packed away or hung up on hangers. Even the bedding. You will get over it. When I first got to Canada, I was ironing bedding and it was crazy.....
TIP 2: When tumbling bedding/linen/table cloths - always tumble them so that the machine is not full. Tumble one duvet cover and a fitted sheet perhaps at a time. In this way it will have less wrinkling! When hot, press with your hands onto flat surface (dining room table) and fold neatly. Voila!!!!!
TRASH CANS & RECYCLING
Wherever you end up living in Canada you will have separate bins for recycling and trash. In Ontario we have 2 bins (these can be provided free (Google your region's website e.g. for Oakville, search the Halton Region website - halton.ca), but most likely there will be bins at your home). Trash pick-up days are different for each area, check on the regions website for this info too or just look outside and see when everyone else is putting their trash out! Both the green and blue bins are collected weekly and the black garbage bags, every other week. Garden refuse collection and other large items are also collected from the curb side, check website for these details.
1. Green wheelie bin with clip lock lid (for racoons who know how to open them!).
This bin is for all food items only (find recommended recycling bags at any grocer). We have a smaller recycling food bin under the sink (IKEA) that we fill with food waste. I then dump these kitchen bags into the larger green bin in the garage.
2. Blue bin with no lid. This bin is only for recycling (paper, cardboard, glass, cartons, plastic etc.) All recycling information and details will be on regional website.
3. Garbage bin. This you will need to buy yourself (Walmart, Home Depot, Canadian Tyre). I have an extra large one that we keep in the garage. I buy black bags for it. This is for everything else... (polystyrene, vacuum cleaner waste, bathroom bin bags etc.)
PRODUCTS I LOVE AND WISH FOR YOU TO HAVE:
THIEVES - all purpose cleaner. I bought this product from a company called Young Living (message me to get hold of this muti or find a distributor in your area), it is safe to use on countertops or anywhere and not chemical based, all natural. Perfect for the kitchen where I handle food. I dilute it into spray bottles for all over the house. I love this stuff so much. It is anti-bacterial and is a green product! I even use it on my yoga mat. It's so inexpensive and smells great.
JOSEPH JOSEPH FLEX SMART TOILET BRUSH
I found these after moving 3 times, I found them at Bed, Bath & Beyond. These toilet brushes are rubber and clean so well. The brush is hidden inside the container and there are no brown marks anywhere on the brush as you will find on a bristled brush.
I have found that the showers hardly ever have somewhere to put your shampoo and goodies. I have bought those stick on shower caddies and in the dead of night when everyone is asleep you hear this almighty crash! Go to Winners/Homesense or Bed, Bath and Beyond and look for a shower caddie that hangs over the shower door and is waterproof. It also has suction caps to secure it to the door. So clever. Most showers won't allow you to hang a caddie over the shower head - it does not fit or its way too high to reach). I don't always see them, but they are the best. You can always take it with you if you move house which is great!
TOOLETRIES RAZOR HOLDER
This is such a great little product. I am always looking for a spot to put my razor in the shower or for our girls on their bath wall. Razors should not be left blade down in a wet puddle! Kev found this product online. This is the first "stick-on" product that has ever worked! Comes with a stick-on mirror, so Kev can shave too. We stuck ours on the glass shower door. Amazing..! (www.tooletries.ca). Really nice looking product too. The website has such great guy gift ideas (just saying...!).
SIMPLE HUMAN BINS
I can't stop talking about these gorgeous pedal bins. I bought mine at Bed, Bath & Beyond. I am sure you can find them online. I have a slim large rectangular one in my kitchen and it takes sooooo much stuff! I have small ones in the bathrooms too. They all come with unique sized bags for each bin. This might sound like overkill and you are thinking, just throw any old plastic bag in the bin, but it really makes life a lot easier and for kids to be able to help, this is a great solution. I keep the bags in the bathrooms so that the kids can put the new bags in each time they empty it. Beautiful product.