From washing to sweeping and scrubbing the bathtub, keeping a home clean can be every bit as time consuming as a full time job.
Throw in the fact many of us do also have a living to earn, along with children to look after and a partner we’d like to see once in a while, and the task can seem positively Herculean.
Even in 2019, women are still more likely to do housework than men in 93 per cent of households, a University College London study revealed last month.
Now, however, a new book rubbishes the notion that hours of hard graft are required to make a house shine. The Organised Mum Method (TOMM) claims all the cleaning can be done in just 30 minutes a day.
Author and mother-of-three Gemma Bray has insisted that British households can save time at the weekend by devoting just half an hour to housework each day Monday to Friday (Pictured: Antonia Hoyle)
Author and mother of three Gemma Bray insists devoting just half an hour to housework each day from Monday to Friday will not only leave your home spick and span, but eliminate the need to lift a finger over the weekend and banish spring cleaning for good.
Bray, a no-nonsense Northerner with natty catchphrases (‘get in, get it done and then get outta there!’) coined The Organised Mum Method while buckling under the weight of housework on maternity leave from running her own fish and chip shop.
Two years ago she started sharing her concept online. Now, with 161,000 Instagram followers (or TOMMers, as they are known in her vast online community), she is one of a new breed of ‘cleanfluencers’ — social media stars, including Sophie Hinchcliffe, aka Mrs Hinch, and Lynsey ‘Queen of Clean’ Crombie, who have amassed an army of fans with their housekeeping advice.
The nation’s obsession with cleaning has also brought about a revival of traditional products such as bicarbonate of soda, which have started appearing in the cleaning product aisles of shops such as Wilko.
The idea of being able to run an orderly home in less time than it takes to watch The Great British Bake Off, is appealing — especially to someone with as haphazard an approach to housekeeping as me.
But does TOMM work? I donned my Marigolds to find out…
THE BOOK’S PREMISE
From Monday to Thursday, focus on cleaning one area of your house for 30 minutes a day. Monday is for tackling the living room, Tuesday the bedrooms, Wednesday your hallways and stairs and Thursday the kitchen.
This is followed by the ‘Friday Focus’ — a half hour deep cleaning stint dedicated to a specific part of the house, which rotates on an eight week cycle. Bray’s fans (known as Team TOMM) all follow the same schedule on social media and the book features an eight-week ‘Friday Focus’ checklist to copy.
SCRUB A DUB DUB
The average Brit spends two years cleaning their homes during their lifetime, new research has revealed.
Bathroom cleaning, meanwhile, is part of your ‘daily running tasks’ — an additional 15 minutes a day in which high traffic areas of the home are kept clean with a ‘little and often approach’.
This is not (thankfully) a book pushing perfection — Bray discourages obsessive cleaning, granting ‘permission to stop after the 30 minutes are up’. There is one caveat, however: a cast iron focus is needed during the half hour. Scrolling through social media or stopping for a cuppa is discouraged.
The additional daily time, which can be spread throughout the day whenever you can grab a minute (to a maximum of 15 minutes) is to keep things ‘ticking over’.
(Discovering Bray’s regime adds another quarter of an hour to the core 30 minutes of cleaning feels slightly disingenuous but her idea is that this blitz becomes so second nature you barely notice doing it.)
Jobs in this section include making beds, vacuuming or sweeping, cleaning the bathroom and kitchen and washing, drying and putting away one load of washing.
Antonia Hoyle (pictured) donned her marigolds to find out if Gemma’s time-saving method really works
Because, as TOMM explains, you can’t clean clutter, ‘entry level’ TOMMers such as myself begin with ‘The Messy House Bootcamp’ — a week-long (or more if needed) blitz in which all
household possessions are divided into three piles and kept, binned or donated.
Bray advocates a ‘one touch policy’ — once you’ve picked up an item decide what to do with it before putting it down again — and recommends taking before and after pictures of the clutter then the clutter-free space to boost motivation.
As a hoarder I dread this part, which takes around an hour a room. But after two days, during which my initially reluctant daughter Rosie, eight, and son Felix, six, help discard a mountain of tat in their rooms, I grow more merciless. A candlestick I was given for my 21st birthday is binned, along with my noughties eyeshadow collection.
‘I feel so much freer, Mummy,’ admits Rosie, who can see her carpet for the first time in months. So do I. By the end of the week — six bin bags lighter — I’m raring to go.
ELBOW GREASE TO START YOU OFF
Bray dedicates Monday to the living room on account of the ‘bashing’ it gets over the weekend.
Chores, although not prescriptive (TOMM acknowledges that no two houses are the same) might include tidying up, washing throws, cleaning windows, dusting and vacuuming.
I settle the children in front of the television (not sure what Bray would make of this, but holidays are not the easisest time to start a new cleaning regime. The minute you clear something up, they mess it up), set my stop clock (timing a clean is ‘non negotiable’ to ensure TOMMers don’t overrun) and get to work with my duster, starting in one corner of the room and moving clockwise for efficiency, as per instructions.
I try not to get ‘caught in the weeds,’ as Bray puts it, and waste time on smaller jobs. Instead, I charge around like a madwoman sorting books, filing bills and watering plants, before running a bucket of hot soapy water, TOMM’s preferred cleaning liquid, to wash the windows. I’m so focused I finish tasks I’d normally fill weeks with, in just 23 minutes.
Antonia concluded that she ‘loves the simplicity’ of the The Organised Mum Method, but 30 minutes per day is more than she would typically spend cleaning
STRUGGLING WITH SHEETS
Tuesday is bedroom day, so allocated by Gemma Bray because it’s the most challenging apparently and, although it is best done at the start of the week before energy levels flag, it’s too much, she believes, for a Monday.
In addition to dusting, vacuuming and tidying bedrooms, her regime decrees all sheets need to be changed. I recoil in horror. I’d never normally change more than one bed at a time every week and because we had guests staying over the weekend I have four sets of bedsheets to change.
It takes me 27 minutes and 40 seconds to strip and remake all four beds as fast as I can, by which time I am sweating profusely.
Perhaps I am slow, but I am sceptical I could whittle my time down.
STAIRS CAN OFFER A MID-WEEK BREATHER!
Blessed relief! Wednesday is for tidying and cleaning the entrance hall and stairs — the easiest areas, according to Bray and therefore allocated to the ‘worst and most boring day of the week’.
Of course, they’re better for bungalow dwellers than people in three storey homes like me…
TOMM recommends investing in a decent doormat that stops dirt getting in, and a cabinet in the hall that makes it easier to file bills before paperwork piles up.
Taking a damp cloth to trap dust, I start at the top of the house and work down, using an extendable lambswool duster (£12.99, lakeland.co.uk) for high up and delicate objects. Bray swears by the ostrich feather duster, (£18, johnlewis.com) she describes as her ‘only cleaning indulgence.’
Perhaps I’m not as thorough as I should be, but I manage it all in 20 minutes. Just as well, as I am still traumatised from yesterday.
Clean a room clockwise for maximum speed and efficiency.
They help you focus and stop you fiddling with your phone.
Kids aged five to ten can strip their bed, vacuum, dust and empty the dishwasher.
But don’t undermine their confidence by redoing their work.
Can’t find 30 minutes?
Split the time into two 15-minute segments.
Shop online and plan meals to save time.
Be your own ‘future friend’
For example, don’t leave dishes dirty on Sunday night when you know seeing them will make you miserable on Monday.
Make your own water and white vinegar cleaning solution and sprinkle bicarbonate of soda on carpets before vacuuming to deodorise.
Banish odd socks by buying every family member a net laundry bag for them to put their dirty underwear in.
Wash and tumble dry each bag with contents intact and hand back.
Store your bedding sets in a pillowcase from its matching set to keep it conveniently together.
Listen to music to make cleaning more fun.
Get a cordless vacuum cleaner to make vacuuming quicker.
Always be realistic
Trying to achieve perfection will break you.
TACKLING CRUMBS IN THE KITCHEN
Thursday is kitchen day — because, as Bray puts it, ‘who doesn’t want a decent-looking kitchen when they down tools on Friday?’
Jobs advised include emptying the crumbs out of the toaster where ‘the raisins from your fruit loaf go to die,’ cleaning inside the microwave and cutlery drawers — neither of which, shamefully, I have done for months.
I put on my Marigolds — in addition to protecting your skin Bray says they improve focus (plus it’s hard to scroll Facebook with a rubber gloved thumb).
I unearth crumbs from the toaster and clear baked bean stains from the microwave before wiping cupboard fronts mopping the floor. It’s not perfect, but the difference is palpable.
DEEP CLEAN TO FINISH THE WEEK
The idea behind Bray’s ‘Friday Focus’ is that, by deep cleaning or tidying one area of the house for half an hour a week, clutter and grime is never allowed back, ensuring, ‘your home will carry on getting cleaner and cleaner’.
It’s a bold claim, but as most of the online TOMM community apparently work through the eight week cycle — split into children’s rooms, living room, kitchen, bathrooms, the master bedroom, entrance hall and stairs, a miscellaneous room and the garden or outside space — together, they help motivate each other.
I cringe at the thought of stranger seeing my mess and as a newbie not yet in sync, I plump for the still-not-spotless kitchen, picking three packed drawers that escaped my earlier de-clutter to clear out, as TOMM suggests.
The effect isn’t dramatic, but chucking out ten redundant fridge magnets and 13 broken hair clips feels cathartic, and the weekend well earned.
Although Bray only advocates 30 minutes cleaning a day, plus the extra 15 minutes, that’s still probably more than I’d ordinarily devote to housework.
At present I clean on a haphazard, ‘needs to be done’ basis, meaning areas of my house most urgently in need of my attention receive it. Frankly, 45 minutes, however fruitful they prove, feels a bit ambitious for me, no matter how simple Bray’s formula.
However, I love the simplicity of TOMM, the practical support it provides and, above all, its acknowledgement that time is too precious to be a slave to the duster.
The Organised Mum Method: Transform Your Home In 30 Minutes A Day, by Gemma Bray, is published by Piatkus on September 5, at £12.99. ©Gemma Bray 2019. To order a copy for £10.40 (offer valid to 12/09/2019, p&p free on orders over £15), call 0844 571 0640.