1. Checklists: these are vital. I have one for each room with a list of all the jobs that need to be done, from washing the floor to polishing the windows and everything in between. As a job gets completed, it’s ticked off. If it doesn’t need doing that week e.g. the lightswitches don’t always need wiping down every seven days, then I put a dash to show that I checked but didn’t need to do it. Checklists stop you missing things out and also, should anyone ever complain about something not being cleaned, you can show that you did it.
2. Get stuff ready the night before: guests are often strangely reluctant to leave which means they’re eating into your tidying up time. We have a 10 a.m. deadline but that’s not always adhered to! So I get the bedding in piles on Friday evening, sort out a clean tablecloth and tea-towels for the kitchen, hunt out sacks and toilet rolls and everything ready and waiting so that I can swoop once they’ve gone!
3. Bedding: I’ve read cringey articles about kitting out your gîte in the past, usually by interior designers and certainly not by anyone who actually runs rented accommodation, saying you should supply crisp white bed linen, all neatly pressed. Crazy. Plain white is the worst colour you could possibly have. Guests have a way of eating chocolate and drinking coffee in bed and leaving the evidence all over the bedclothes. Kids stick brightly and indelibly dyed sweets under the pillow which leave lovely circles of colour behind. Bedding soon gets stained so unless you intend replacing it every month, choose patterned fabrics, not too pale so that any marks you can’t remove don’t show up. And go for poly-cotton that will dry wrinkle free on the line or in the tumble-dryer. You won’t have time to be ironing pure cotton or linen sheets week after week.
4. Cleaning materials box: I keep all my cleaning stuff in a big plastic box which I cart from room to room with me. That saves valuable time otherwise lost in trying to find the polish or the disinfectant or the special wooden floor detergent or whatever. Shove in sacks, kitchen roll, rags, dusters, rubber gloves etc so that you have a complete kit.
5. Throws: cover any sofas or armchairs with throws - easy wash and dry ones at that. OK, they’re a bit on the naff side but they’re invaluable. The first time our newly acquired smashing second-hand, but good as new, two piece suite met clients it got scribbled on in biro by teenagers. Grrr. So, I now chuck throws on everything. If they get ruined, it’s not the end of the world.
6. A good vacuum: we have an industrial grade machine. Admittedly I have to wear earmuffs when I use it as it seriously makes your head hurt, but it does an excellent job. It’s high powered so you can zap round in as little time as possible and not leave anything behind.
7. Delegate if you can: if family members are to hand, use them. This is where the checklists come in handy. You can simply tell them to find something that needs doing and do it! Caits will often do some vaccing for me and the lads tackle the grass and outdoor jobs. If things are running late, they’ll come inside and help there too.
8. Minimise clutter: again, certain magazine articles suggest putting quaint atmospheric knick-knacks here and there for ambience. Don’t. You only have to dust them every week and it’s simply a matter of time before they get broken anyway. I’d love to twee our gîte up a little but it’s just money down the drain.
9. Provide a few freebies: everyone loves freebies so get your guests in a good mood by leaving a bottle of wine in the fridge, or some fresh garden produce on the table, or a local specialty such as a gateau or bread, that kind of thing.
10. Take a break! Even if the place is in a bit of a state and you know you’ll be lucky to finish before the next set of guests arrive, take five now and again. Grab a sandwich and a cup of tea. Do something uncleaning related for a few minutes. In the height of summer I go for a quick skinny dip in the pool to destress and cool down. You feel ready to cope again.
There, I hope they help! It’s not easy, but with a bit of organisation, Changeover Saturday needn’t be a nightmare.
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