Housework guru reveals cleaning secrets

by Setsuko Kamiya

Staff writer

Worn out spending precious weekends cleaning the house? Then it may be time to turn to Jeff Campbell, who claims to be “America’s home care expert.”

“Life is faster and busier, and the pace of the world is different than it used to be,” he said in an interview during a recent visit here. “How to get done with the work and leave extra time has become important for many people.”

In his million-selling book “Speed Cleaning,” Campbell, 55, tells people how to do just that.

His rules are simple and systematic: go around the room once, working from left to right, top to bottom, from the back of the object to the front — all without backtracking. Use the right tools, carry them around with you and put them back in the same spot. And don’t dare clean it if it’s not dirty.

“The first time you start cleaning, it takes time, because you’re cleaning everything, and most people try to go back and forth and clean certain things,” he said. “But if you remember the rules, it’s easy to cut your time by two-thirds. In fact, it saves energy, because you just go around once.”

Since its release in 1987, “Speed Cleaning” has sold over 1 million copies in the United States alone. Its Japanese translation, published by The Japan Times in July, has sold more than 30,000 copies here.

The book has also been introduced in Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands, and Campbell has recently signed a contract with Chinese and Slovakian publishers.

“Nobody was taught how to clean (efficiently),” he said. “People didn’t know where to start or when they were finished. And so they kind of worked at it all day until they had dinner.”

By following the speed-cleaning rules, people can feel a sense of completion and achievement, he said.

Campbell, however, was not born a housecleaning genius. Instead, he came up with the method through efforts to make his San Francisco-based housecleaning service firm a success.

After leaving his job at a telecommunications firm, Campbell in 1979 started The Clean Team. But he soon realized that his team took too much time to get the work done neatly. They had to come up with a more efficient method.

For sometime afterward, Campbell recalls, his team held numerous meetings, discussing how to clean different parts of the house and which tools and cleaning products to use. They honed and timed the process.

Their efforts were outlined in the company’s manual and eventually became his successful book.

Campbell said there is a demand for his cleaning method, as more women join the workforce and are left with no time to do what was previously looked upon as “woman’s work.”

“But whoever got the house dirty really ought to get it cleaned again,” said Campbell, who encourages couples to share the work as a team.

“Once you become aware of how to be efficient, your productivity increases, and that works with a lot of things,” he said.