Cleaner Than You Found It



Before a missionary can move to the foreign field, he will visit over 200 hundred (give or take a few) American churches to raise prayer and financial support. This is called deputation. When the missionary secures 100% of his support level, he moves to the field where God has called his family to serve. After the missionary has lived and served on the field approximately 4 years (the first term), he returns to America to report back to his supporting churches and possibly raise new support. This is called furlough.

Deputation and furlough usually require a lot of travelling. During these travels, missionary families will stay in several types of accommodations: hotels, prophets chambers, people’s homes, camps, etc. They may stay one night at a time or several weeks at a time, depending on their schedule. My family and I have travelled exactly 33 months in America in the last 10 1/2 years.

During our travels, I’ve been made very aware of a really interesting thing: when a missionary family leaves an accommodation, someone has to come in and clean up after them. And I’ve also learned that: the missionary can either make it easier or harder for the cleaner. In my opinion, I suggest the missionary do everything they can to make it easier for the cleaner, especially where the cleaner is a volunteer (prophet’s chambers and people’s homes). Actually, I suggest the missionary leave the place cleaner than when they found it!

So I wanted to share a few tips of little things I try to do (not always) to clean up before we leave.

*Bring along a basket of your own cleaning things. Here is a picture of my cleaning products that I bring on every trip:



(I really like the Lysol Dual Action cleaning wipes because they have a scrubby purple side that’s perfect for cleaning bathtubs. I know they cost a whopping $5! Trust me, I’m the world’s worst penny pincher. But think of all the money you are saving by not paying for your own accommodation. So don’t worry, I think you are still in the positive!)

We’ll start with the Bathroom:

1. Using the Lysol wipes, wipe out the sink and faucet, mirror, toilet, bath, and shower. I use a ton of wipes to do this. You can use gloves if you want to. I don’t. I just wash my hands over and over through this process.

2. Now start over using the paper towels. Dry everything til it shines. (I learned this when I worked at a B&B in my 20’s). The bathroom looks cleaner if it’s dry. Water spots make a bathroom look used. You want the bathroom to look like you never touched it. That’s why I use the Brawny paper towels. They go a lot further than the off brand.

3. Clean the toilet bowl. I don’t carry my own toilet bowl cleaner, but usually you can find some under the sink or in a closet.

4. Look back over everything for any stray hair. I think it’s pretty disgusting for a cleaner to have to clean someone else’s hair in the bathroom. So find those strays and wipe them out!

5. Give the floor a good wipe. Pay attention to the corners and behind the toilet. I know it’s disgusting, but you used it so you clean it.

6. Empty the trashcan. We always take all of our trash with us. If there is a dumpster where we are staying, we just throw it in there. If not, gas stations have pretty big trashcans where you can get rid of your trash. Look for a new trash bag to put in the trash can. If I can’t find one, I just use one of my own. I don’t like leaving a trash can without a fresh, empty trash bag in it.

7. If at all possible, wash and dry and put away the towels and wash cloths that you used, if there is a washer and dryer available. I know this is not always possible if you have to leave in the early hours of the morning, but try to make an effort to do this if you have the time. I know the cleaner will really appreciate it. (There have been times where the host has specifically told me not to wash the towels and linens, so in that case, I wouldn’t do it.) In the past, I have gone to laundromats to get this done if there was not a washer/dryer in my accommodation.

Let’s talk about the Kitchen:

1. Wash, dry, and put away all dishes. Do not leave dirty dishes in the sink or dishwasher. Do not leave clean dishes in the sink or dishwasher. Even if you would do it at your own house (we all do), don’t do it for someone else to come in and have to fix it when you’re gone.

2. Wipe down all the counter tops and table and oven. You won’t have to do much scrubbing if you only stayed one or two nights. Just don’t leave any of your crumbs for the cleaner to have to get rid of.

3. Clean out the fridge and microwave. Don’t leave any food behind. This will make the cleaner have to think of how to dispose of it. So save her the time and energy, and you dispose of all your own food.

4. Check the floor. If it needs swept, then sweep it.

5. Take out the trash.

And Finally, the Bedrooms:

1. Strip the beds and pillows. Wash the linens if at all possible. I try to do this, then remake the bed with the clean linens. This is not always possible due to time restrictions. But if you can make it happen, then do it! If you can’t wash the linens, then put them in a neat pile on the floor so all the cleaner has to do is pick up the pile and throw them in the washing machine. Sometimes I put them in the washing machine and get it going, so when the cleaner comes, all she has to do is dry them. (Even in hotels, I make my kids strip the beds.)

2. If you can’t remake the bed, at least lay the pillow and comforter neatly on it. Don’t just wad it up and throw it on the mattress in a big ball. This will leave wrinkles.

3. Vacuum if you can. You do not want to leave any of your dirt behind.

4. Take out the trash.

5. Use a damp paper towel to dust the furniture lightly.

And you’re done!


I have 3 kids, a busy schedule, a work-a-holic husband, and a disdain for cleaning. So if I can do it, so can you! Just put a movie on for the kids, tell your hubby you need about 20 more minutes, and get cleaning! Believe me, someone will appreciate your effort. And for more tips on “being a guest,” go here to read an awesome article by my good friend Amy Coffey.

With Love,



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  • 7 thoughts on “Cleaner Than You Found It

    1. Thanks for the great tips Teri. Although I try to leave things neat, I have never thought to travel with cleaning supplies. Now that my kids are bigger, they could help too! I would imagine the supplies would come in handy for other incidents that might come up on the road as well.

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