Max Kater is on a mission to redeem cleaning up. “It has such a bad reputation, conjuring up long weekends of hard graft, and it’s tempting to just plop on the sofa, watch MasterChef, and eat a box of macaroons instead,” she says. If anyone can make spiffing up more fun (not to mention stylish), it’s Kater: She’s half of the husband-and-wife team behind cult cleaning line Murchison-Hume. We stopped by her inspiring offices to find out her strategy for making this so-called “chore” less of one!
Dressing the part is one way Max gets in the cleaning mood, which means swapping her typical heeled booties for a pair of comfy Saucony kicks. A cute apron doesn’t hurt.
Secret #1: Dress the Part and Set the Mood
“Proper housecleaning is hot work, so dress for a cardio workout. Even better, slap on a face mask so you are seriously multitasking! Also, I highly recommend cleaning to music. It just makes everything more fun. This season I am really into a samba/disco/folksy vibe. If you don’t have time to put together a playlist of your own, follow One Kings Lane on Spotify and listen to mine!”
Secret #2: Get Your Kit Together
“Having the right surface cleaner for each job is essential and will make it so much easier to get through. I also like to have at least a dozen clean lint-free towels to work with. Paper towels are the linty poor relations to the kitchen towel and are best reserved for only the dirtiest jobs. A few good brushes and sponges are good too. Try to keep everything together in an organized cleaning caddy. I make it easy on myself by keeping a small one under every sink.”
I have set up and maintained homes on three continents, and I can say with a certain amount of confidence that the rules for a good cleaning sesh are universal.
— Max Kater, founder of Murchison-Hume
Secret #3: Give Yourself a Helping Hand
“My friend Rita Konig recommends hiding little ‘treats’ in various parts of the house to be consumed at the completion of each task. Her favorites are Violet Creams, but I like to buy a stack of new magazines. Even a 10-minute break to do your nails will do—whatever keeps you going. The main thing is not to stop until you’re done!”
Secret #4: Tackle the Big Jobs First
“For me, that means windows. The thing about windows is that you don’t really see them, you feel them. Once they are done, everything looks brighter, more cheerful, and just… better. If possible, choose a cloudy day (or early morning) to tackle the windows, as a hot sun can dry them faster than you can, leaving those nasty streaks.”
Secret #5: Work from Top to Bottom
“Start with a general tidy-up. Open the windows. Even if it’s chilly outside, all rooms benefit from a blast of fresh air. Bang cushions together and drag them outside if it’s sunny. Vacuum under the sofas, and move furniture around. It’s amazing where dust can accumulate, isn’t it? How’s that face mask drying? Time for another treat!”
Secret #6: Dusting and Stripping Down
“Once the cushions have had a good vacuum and airing, I like to spritz all the stripped-down furniture surfaces with our Furniture & Upholstery Cleaner and wipe them down with a clean lint-free towel. After dusting, it’s time to strip the beds completely bare and let the mattresses and pillows breathe a bit. I like to have at least two of everything for each bed (including mattress and pillow protectors) so that there is always one ready for service while the other is being laundered.”
Secret #7: Declutter
“I have zero patience for trying to find something I need, so my favorite seasonal activity is reorganizing the drawers, cupboards, and shelves. Throw out all the half-empty shampoo bottles and out-of-date medications. Check the junk and utility drawers and toss out dried-up pens, used batteries, and all the assorted ephemera that’s clogging your life.”
“The kitchen and bathrooms will be your biggest challenge—but also your biggest pay-off areas. In the bathroom, start by removing all the towels and throwing them in the laundry. Carefully remove everything off the counters and give them all a good scrub. I love to add fresh flowers to the bathroom. Finish with the mirrors and stainless surfaces. Once your reflective surfaces are good and gleaming, you are nearly done.”
Secret #9: Finish with the Floors
“Dirty floors, like dirty windows, aren’t immediately obvious, but you really do feel the difference when they are clean. For the best results, you’ll want to sweep or vacuum before mopping. Clear the floor as much as possible by removing small furniture, trash cans, and rugs before you start. Please don’t make the rookie mistake of boxing yourself into a corner; work from the farthest corner to your exit. A good floor cleaner with a trigger and a spray mop are much easier and faster than traditional mopping. Make yourself a hot cup of tea and leave it just outside the room you are working in. You’ll be done before it cools!”
Secret #10: Reward Yourself!
“Stand back and admire your handiwork. Reward yourself with a nice hot bath or shower and your skin will be glowing from your exertions. Now that you’re done, the house will be clean and fresh and so much more comfortable, making it the perfect time to plop down and watch your favorite show.”