I don’t care how big or small your house, apartment, or condo is. When it’s a mess, it feels like it takes FOREVER to clean up. And when you’re busy trying to stay on top of your professional life, your kids’ homework for the week and somehow find a free moment to enjoy your spouse’s company, you just don’t have time to clean as much, or as thoroughly, as you’d like.
So, sometimes, we just skip over it and choose, instead, to stare begrudgingly at the tasks we should be doing rather than doing anything about them.
I don’t know about you, but when my home is a wreck, I feel lazier and much less productive. I love spending time in my house when it’s clean, but being in my messy kitchen after I didn’t have time to clean it all week makes me feel totally unmotivated. And I’m not the only one: neuroscientists at Princeton University have found that too much clutter can negatively impact many people’s ability to focus. And if you work from home like me, this can be a huge problem.
But who really wants to spend hours upon hours of their weekend picking up trash and vacuuming? Me? I want to sleep in until noon and watch Crunchyroll all day – not mop my kitchen floor.
If you detest weekend cleaning as much as I do but still want to keep your home organized and welcoming, here’s a collection of 20 tips, habits and ideas that simply work. I’ve tried to include a little something for everyone here, organizing my advice by practicality, atmospheric enhancements and tips for actually enjoying cleaning.
Give some of these a try and hopefully you can get a cleaner home and a large chunk of your weekend back. And if you’re too busy to read this entire article, at least be sure to check out tips #1, #2, #12 and #20… because you probably need these cleaning tips most!
Practical Ways to Keep Your House Clean
1. If It Doesn’t Look Dirty, Don’t Clean It
I know many people think that they should completely scrub down, disinfect and vacuum every single room in their house each week, but the best way to save time and keep your home clean is to only clean the things that look dirty. “Gross!” you might think. But this practice is actually very beneficial.
Not only does this save you time, but it’s also better for your immune system and it allows you to better focus on the areas that need to be cleaned, rather than trying to clean everything just for the sake of cleaning. The end result is that you let your body be exposed to a tiny bit more dirt, which keeps your immune system in check, while simultaneously saving time and having a house that looks spotless.
2. Divide Cleaning Up Across Every Weeknight
I know this sounds like it would take more time than less, but the truth is that if you divide up cleaning during the week, it takes less time overall, especially if you heed my advice from tip #1, above. Rather than trying to clean the entire house or apartment in a single Saturday, you can spot clean the kitchen one night, the bathroom another night, and so on.
This allows you to focus more on the task at hand, rather than trying to accomplish everything in one shot. Save the rooms likely to get most messy throughout the week until Thursday or Friday, and do a quick spot cleanup of all messy areas on Friday evening. By doing so, your home will be clean for you to enjoy over your weekend and you won’t have wasted a ton of time.
3. Rinse and Put Dishes in the Dishwasher After Each Meal
If you have a dishwasher, don’t waste time hand-washing your dishes. (You might think saying this sounds silly, but my mother always hand-washes her dishes despite having a perfectly functioning dishwasher in her kitchen.) If you choose to wash your dishes by hand in an attempt to save water, you should know that most people waste just as much – if not more – water washing dishes by hand as compared to using a dishwasher.
So, rather than running your dishwasher after each meal, simply rinse off your dishes and put them inside throughout the week, running the dishwasher only when it is full.
A good way to cut down on dishes throughout the week is to only use one cup per person, rinsing and setting it on the countertop until you want to use it again. At the end of the week, wash all the cups in the dishwasher and get new ones for the coming week.
Editor’s Note: We call this Clear to Neutral.
4. Keep Cleaning Supplies near the Areas Where You Use Them
This one’s pretty straightforward. If you keep your bathroom cleaners in the bathroom and your kitchen cleaners in the kitchen, you don’t have to trek through the entire house when you want to do some weeknight spot cleaning. You can see a mess, grab your cleaner, clean it, and move on with your night.
Before I started doing this, I would often ignore spot cleaning just because I knew I’d have to walk up the stairs twice. Yes, it’s lazy. But if that thought is what prevents you from cleaning, then remove the inconvenience so you can get more done, more quickly.
5. Throw Away Old Food on Garbage Night
We do our best to eat all of the food we purchase, but sometimes groceries get forgotten about – especially if you’re having a hectic week.
Few things are more disgusting than grabbing food out of your refrigerator only to find it covered in mold. Do yourself a favor and take an extra minute on garbage night to dump out the no-good leftovers and anything that’s expired. You’ll make more room in your fridge and you won’t have to throw gross containers into the garbage before it’s ready to be shipped away. It’s a win-win.
6. Fix Broken Appliances Right Away
Appliances tend to break at (what seem like) the most inconvenient times possible. But rather than putting off their repairs, take the time to deal with them in the moment. This can save you tons of time, money and further inconvenience later.
Case in point, a friend of mine failed to act when he noticed the warning signs of a failing septic system at his house, and this inconvenient little issue eventually caused some very expensive lawn repairs. If you call someone to investigate an ill-functioning appliance right away, they can save you a ton of time and home maintenance later on.
7. Keep Microfiber Cloths Around for Quick and Easy Dusting
Rather than wiping dust away only to have it disperse into the air and settle right back into place, keep microfiber cloths nearby so you can do some super effective spot dusting.
Just don’t wipe up greasy or oily substances with your microfiber towels – they can ruin your cloths and make them less effective.
8. Get Rid of Stuff You Don’t Use
Most of us have items lying around our homes that we no longer need nor use. Sometimes it’s fun to hang onto old things, but when useless stuff just clutters up your shelves and tabletops, it’s time to let some of it go!
We tend to hold onto things because they have special memories for us, or we think that we’ll use them later, but letting clutter happen can have negative consequences for our lives. Not only can clutter be distracting and make it hard for us to focus, but getting rid of clutter can actually become painful if we allow it to persist for too long.
Not only will getting rid of your junk free up some extra space around your house, but it’ll also keep you from getting too attached to your belongings and can make it easier for you to focus.
9. Keep a Shoe Rack by the Front Door
Rather than relying on your family and guests to leave their shoes by the door or put them in a hall closet, provide a shoe rack with lots of pockets. This makes it easy for people to slip their shoes off and put them away immediately after entering your house, which keeps your floors cleaner and the space by your front door more organized.
10. Get an Air Purifier
Simply knowing you have a purifier working to clean the air in your home can give it a clean and refreshing feel. Far beyond just making your home feel clean, though, are some very practical reasons to get an air purifier.
The EPA cites indoor air pollution as one of the top five environmental health risks. Particulate matter like pollen, dust, mold and bacteria are some of the most common indoor pollutants that could be affecting your home. Getting an indoor air purifier can remove many of these particles from the air in your house, thus making it cleaner and keeping you and your guests healthier.
Tips for Keeping a Cozy Atmosphere in Your Home
11. Use Tart Warmers and Candles
While tart warmers and candles won’t do much to actually clean your home, they can do a lot to affect the atmosphere of your house. Choosing warm and inviting fragrances will make your house smell good, which in turn makes it seem more inviting and appealing that it otherwise might appear.
An additional perk of having some candles and tart warmers in your home is that they give off soft, ambient light. This kind of lighting can add an alluring accent to any room and make your home appear more comfortable.
12. Stick to Warm Colors
Whether it’s the color of your carpet, your furniture or the paint on the walls, try to use deep, warm colors as often as you can. Not only do such colors appear soft and inviting, but they also do a much better job of hiding dirt than whites and pale colors.
Even if your house isn’t dirty, lightly colored furniture and paint can retain smudges and stains, making your home look dirtier than it is. Warm colors, on the other hand, tend to look fresh and clean even when they are a few days past their scheduled cleaning.
13. Use Trendy Storage Cubes for Small Items
Many people find themselves continuously picking up their children’s toys, their own various electronic cables or even their pets’ toys. For the smaller items in your home that tend to be constantly under foot, get some room-accenting storage cubes to keep them out of sight.
Once you designate a spot for these smaller items, make sure that they get returned to their proper places after use. This’ll save you a ton of time picking them up each week, and you won’t have to constantly be asking yourself where you left your phone charger.
14. Use Lots of Rugs
Rugs can add a lot of personality to your home. They’re also great for hiding carpet stains and normal wear and tear to the floors of your house. When you live in a place long enough, your carpets start to get matted and discolored in the areas where you walk most. This can look kind of grungy, especially if you have lightly colored carpets.
Rugs can get a little pricey, but they’re still less expensive than replacing the carpets or floorboards of your home. If you want a quick and simple way to freshen up your floor space, rugs are the way to go.
15. Keep Decorative Towels on Countertops
One of the simplest ways I keep my kitchen looking clean and homey is by keeping decorative, plaid towels underneath my coffee pot, my snack foods area and on my breakfast bar. I’m pretty messy when it comes to puttering around the kitchen in the morning, and these areas tend to feel the most of my early-morning wrath.
By keeping towels in these areas of my kitchen, I can hide some of my spills and crumbs that occur every day and save the cleanup for the weekend. And when I do need to clean up a mess of crumbs, it’s pretty easy to just pick up the towels and dump the debris in the sink.
Creative Ways to Get More Stuff Done…and Enjoy It!
16. Do X while Enjoying Y
If you have a chore or task that you need to get done but that you seriously dislike, try doing said task while also doing something you enjoy. For example, I’m usually pretty good about mustering up the energy to throw a load of laundry in the washer and dryer, but when it comes time to fold it…I tend to lose interest.
A good way to get this task out of the way for me is to fold laundry while I watch something on TV. I usually put something on Netflix and by the time my 20-minute show is over, so is the laundry folding. Try this with any task you dislike, within reason (i.e. don’t try to mow your yard while simultaneously watching Netflix on your notebook, as this could become a safety hazard).
17. Do Your Cleaning to Music
If you need a way to make your nightly cleanup a bit livelier, put some music on and clean to that. If you put on music with a faster tempo, chances are you’ll be encouraged to clean more quickly and be done sooner.
18. Listen to Standup
Similar to the point above, listening to standup comedy can be a great way to make your cleaning time more enjoyable. While I like listening to music as much as the next person, sometimes it just doesn’t grab my attention enough to distract me from my cleaning tasks. That’s when I put on some standup.
Listening to standup comedy while cleaning gives my mind something to really focus on and, because I find my favorite comics very funny, it gives me a lot to laugh about. Thus, the time I spend cleaning is a lot more enjoyable and I feel great when I’m done.
While your personal preferences may very well be different than mine, here are a few of my favorite YouTube and iTunes standup resources (Warning: These comedians may include some offensive material in their acts, listen at your own discretion):
19. Get a Roomba
I wouldn’t recommend substituting a Roomba for all of your floor-cleaning needs, but they can be helpful for picking up crumbs and dirt throughout the week. That, and they can be quite entertaining. Just ask this cat.
To maximize cleanliness and minimize time, use your Roomba to maintain the amount of debris on your floors throughout the week, but give each room a solid vacuuming during their weekly cleaning.
20. Reward Yourself
Lastly, one of the best ways to get more done around your house is to find new and powerful ways to get motivated. Making reward deals or bribes with yourself is a good way to do this. For example, if I reeeaallly don’t feel like putting laundry away or doing my nightly cleaning, promising myself some Ben & Jerry’s is a good motivator. Indulging in the things that you like as a means of bribing yourself to do the things you don’t like is a simple and effective way to accomplish what needs to get done.
The trick for me is to not break my reward promises to myself (i.e., don’t skimp on cleaning so you can get your reward faster) and to not use rewards all the time. I save self-rewards for the days when I really don’t feel like cleaning, and they seem more effective that way.
Hopefully, some of the tips provided here will help you find the motivation, time and creativity to better manage your home care tasks.
It can certainly be difficult to find the time and the energy to clean and care for your home if you’ve just had a particularly busy work day or are dealing with various family issues, but taking care of your home is important, especially if you plan on living at your current residence for a while.
Furthermore, since a cluttered and chaotic environment can make it difficult for you to focus, keeping your home organized and clean is much more than a domestic chore; it’s a continual productivity tool that can help you stay motivated and focused when you’re in your house.
In what other ways can super busy people keep their homes clean and their minds focused? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.