Smart and Frugal Solutions For The DIY Janitor
Many small business owners neglect housekeeping. We can all name dingy mom-and-pop shops and greasy spoons that offer good service, but we probably wouldn’t recommend to someone we don’t know very well. Messy workspaces don’t inspire much confidence.
While I feel looks are often overrated, appearance and hygiene matters. Especially for a business. Here are just some reasons why:
- Cleaner, neater workspaces are more comfortable for workers and customers
- Less clutter usually translates into a safer working environment
- It’s harder to lose things you need
- You cut down the risk of attracting pests
We’re sure you can come up with other reasons. We can probably all agree a good housekeeping routine is essential for any business. Unfortunately, a regular cleaning service simply isn’t in the cards for everyone.
This is why we asked the PrintRunner housekeeping crew which simple things have the most impact. These are things nearly any small business owner can do:
7.) Have More Floor Mats Than You Think You Need
There’s a reason why cultures all over the world have a taboo against using shoes indoors. Sweeping is a huge pain in the neck. We don’t want to be condescending, but most of the dirt you have in your workspaces had to come from the outdoors, usually from your shoes.
Of course, having everyone take their shoes off before entering your business is not going to be practical in most cases. Good floormats allow you to have most of the benefits of having people take their shoes off without the hassle of annoying them.
Now instead of sweeping and mopping every couple of days, you can probably cut this down to every week or so. Of course, you’ll still need to clean the mat eventually but this still saves you far more time compared to daily sweeping and mopping.
However, you don’t want just one small welcome mat at your entrance. You want your matted area to be at least a couple of paces long, and with a texture that can actually dig out most of the dirt from people’s shoes. This way, even if they ignore a huge poster you put up outside reminding them to wipe their feet, the mats you set up will do all the real work for you.
These mats can be found online and in virtually any decent hardware shop. Having multiple smaller mats of the same type works as well, and is a bit easier to clean out than single large mats.
6.) Use Only Lidded Trash Cans – And Have Enough of Them!
An open trash can is an open invitation to pests. Simple as that. There’s simply no good reason to have them if you can get one with a lid. Unless you have bears or raccoons about, a lid also has the plus of buying you a bit more time before you really have to empty it.
Make sure that there trash bins within easy access of all workstations. While it might seem to have more sense to buy one huge bin for cheap instead of several smaller ones, having one within reach is a far more important consideration than total capacity. This is to ensure all little itty-bitty pieces of trash get thrown out as soon as possible, instead of lingering in limbo on someone’s desk until who knows when.
5.) Install Decent Sinks and Toilets
This is definitely a case where “buy once, cry once” applies. Installing plumbing fixtures is expensive, but low quality fixtures not only tend to be annoying to use, they might very well eventually cost you more than you expected.Well-made fixtures last longer and are less likely to leak or crack under the weight of someone’s backside or ham-handed flossing.
Good fixtures also help keep you and your employees (you do plan on expanding, don’t you?) more comfortable and just makes you look so much better as a business. It’s not unlikely you might even get some business because you’re the only one around who bothered to have some nice toilets available.
As soon as you can afford to upgrade plumbing fixtures, do it.
4.) Create and Update a Regular Housekeeping To-Do List
Pretty self-explanatory. Create a list of housekeeping tasks that you need to be done regularly and stick to it. Here are several ready-to-use general office checklists from places we’re pretty sure you’ve heard of. This default Excel Housekeeping Template is for residential use, but you can use it for small scale business as well.
If your needs are simple enough, you can also use an old-style columnar book or a whiteboard as well. I prefer these, as I can easily use those even when my hands are filthy, but that’s just me.
3.) Never Leave Minor Repairs Undone!
Office chairs with loose screws, creaky floorboards, squeaky hinges – each by itself is easy enough to ignore. But allow enough of these minor annoyances to accumulate and it can create an atmosphere less than ideal for doing your best work.
Not only would your place of business be a more irritating place to work, prospective customers might get turned off by what they may think is a lack of attention to detail.
2.) ALWAYS Have these On Hand :
- Vacuum cleaner - unlike other appliances, expect to pay more for something that actually sucks.
- Squeegees – perhaps the greatest time saver since bread came sliced.
- Decent broom – You’ll feel much more of a boss if you get one that can actually move dirt around.
- Clean Rags - Perhaps one constant you’ll want to have in your life.
- Mop - While you can get by fine just fine with a traditional mop, newer PVC and rubber sponge mops can save you plenty of time in my experience. Anything to get mopping over with faster is a good thing.
- Durable buckets - Cheap buckets often split or tend to lose their handles, making them next to useless. Make sure you have enough decent ones.
- Spray Bottles – Use these to apply cleaning solutions in controlled amounts. This can help reduce your consumption of cleaning chemicals over time, and make your life so much easier all at once.
- Scrubbers – because toothbrushes are for teeth and people with too much time on their hands. You don’t.
- Supply Caddy - Helps keep everything in one place, and makes room-to-room housekeeping so much easier.
- Extendable duster - Because your ceilings get filthy, and having a functioning back is worth it.
- Latex Gloves – for yucky stuff.
- Duct tape – a stronger contender for the best thing since sliced bread
- Light machine oil – others suggest WD-40. I’d prefer having both. However, WD-40 is not a lubricant as much as it’s a solvent. If you don’t use enough machine oil on equipment and fixtures that need it, you might find you’ll eventually need WD-40 to free them back up again. WD-40 however, is an inferior lubricant for most applications – even door hinges. We’re huge believers in preventing problems rather than inviting them
- Trashbags – Because unlike what your college room mate thinks, trash cans actually work better with liners
- Tool box with at least :
a pipe wrench,
a pair of long-nose electrical pliers,
a 12oz claw hammer,
two standard size vise grips,
a set of flathead and Philips head screwdrivers.
If you need more than these to fix a housekeeping problem and couldn’t figure out how to do that thing you Googled, it’s probably better for a qualified contractor to do it. That list is what you might need for a typical office setting. Clearly different businesses require different things but I’d bet most of them would do great to have all those items on hand.
1.) Schedule Clean-ups REGULARLY
Having a to-do list, floor mats, and the right tools is great, but pretty pointless if you don’t use them regularly. Make sure to schedule cleanup activities at times you don’t see any much business going on.
BONUS: Listen to audio books while you work!
Maintenance people, we love you, and we desperately need more of you around in general. But you have to admit that after you master how to do routine housekeeping tasks, you don’t need much brainpower anymore. But that’s actually a great opportunity to listen to an audio book on your phone or media player.
Imagine if you could finish even just one audiobook a month while mopping your business’s floor, and you will be ahead of everyone else who did nothing else at all. Over a few months, that’s more than enough time to acquire hundreds of other ideas on how to work better, and smarter.
Maybe this is how you’ll get the ideas that will help not only expand your mind, but help your business grow.
And maybe you can finally move on to having someone else do the cleaning for you.
Additional Reading and Sources
Work Harder, Work Smarter: 5 Office Cleaning Tips - TLC/HowStuffWorks
General office cleaning checklists - Gobookee.net
Can Restrooms Really Attract Customers- Chistian Broadcasting Network
Breaugh, James A., and Mary Starke. “Research on Employee Recruitment: So Many Studies, So Many Remaining Questions.” Journal of Management (2000): 305-434. Web. 12 Mar. 2011.
Arthur Piccio is one of PrintRunner Blog’s resident Admins. He is also the head writer for The Art of Small Business. His work has been featured on New York Times’ You’re The Boss Small Business Blog, Bizsugar, SmallBiz Trends, and other small business and printing-oriented online publications.
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