I was the child that Mom had to nag every day to clean my room, make my bed, and bring my clothes down to get washed. Once I moved out, my cleaning routine only consisted of what I needed to do in order to keep my roommates off my back (and prevent them from knowing how much of a slob I used to be). My focus on keeping the house clean and manageable didn’t settle in until I owned my own place. Still, even with this new pride in keeping my home clean and presentable it was difficult to keep up with my chores.
You see, I taught full-time. Between the grading, parent phone calls, and endless reports and data analysis (not to mention the lesson-planning), cleaning never seemed like a huge priority. Now that I work from home, I can no longer ignore the things I used to — the dirty laundry piled up in the corner, the dust accumulating on the trim. It’s right in front of my face. It won’t be ignored.
But, I know that being busy and a clean house don’t always mix, so I’ve compiled my favorite cleaning tricks to make your cleaning routine more fun and efficient!
The Two-Minute Trick
This is more of a mindset change, but I’ve been implementing it since I read it here on Just Like the Number. When you come across something that needs to be done that will take less than two minutes, you do it right there and then. Examples include:
- putting a dish in the dishwasher
- hanging up a damp towel to dry
- putting an item away
- wiping up a spill
Basically, if you take the two minutes to clean up that one thing when you see it, keeping your house clean is less daunting in the long run. It doesn’t feel like a gross effort when you do it amidst the day. If you did just five things that take only two minutes each, that’s 10 minutes of work that doesn’t even feel like work because it’s such a small bit. I know I drag my feet if I notice things beginning to pile up and this is the perfect concept to keep your home visitor ready!
The Power of the Timer
Deadlines always inspire a sense of urgency. I find that when I set the timer for 20 minutes (especially if it’s in the morning), I work more quickly than if I just decided to tidy up. If I know the timer is ticking away, something in my brain wakes up thinking that I need to get as much done as possible before my time is up.
I like to do this in the morning because cleaning is not my favorite thing in the world. If I get it out of the way in the morning, I can go about the rest of my day with it behind me. Plus, if I’m sticking to 20-30 minutes, I don’t go over because I still have my other responsibilities to attend to. Now, due to differing schedules, it’s not always possible to do it in the morning, but I do try to fit in 20-30 minutes each day. This really helps me keep on top of things (especially clutter!) without feeling like I’m spending hours cleaning.
The Magic Bucket
I can’t actually remember where I saw this tip. It was a while back. However, its brilliance speaks for itself! I remember this blogger cleaned for 30 minutes a day, using her magic bucket. The only thing magic about it was that it included all of the general supplies she needed. So, I set off to think about what I use most often, and came up with the following list:
- All purpose cleaner
- Duster Cloths
- Cleaning Rags
- Glass Cleaner
- Wood Cleaner
I use these things all over the house. I love that when it’s time to clean, I just grab the bucket and go! So, I don’t have to waste time gathering what I need. We also recently re-organized our kitchen (which you can read about here). So, we keep room-specific cleaners (like degreaser and granite cleaner) in the rooms they’ll be used in. Since we currently only have one bathroom, that includes toilet bowl and shower cleaners as well. That way, the only stuff that gets transported is the stuff we use all the time. It’s super easy to grab the broom along with the bucket, too!
Make Your Cleaning Routine Visible
This one I have to thank my mother for. She always kept a rotating chore chart on the side of the fridge. Since it was a four week rotation, the month didn’t matter. Since this also housed the rest of our command center, we always knew where to find important information. Her command center consisted of a calendar of appointments (color coded by family member), a small filing container for coupons and mail, and a magnetic notepad for notes. I’m sure there were other things, too. However, those things pertained to me directly so I remember them more clearly. 😉
Ultimately what made this system work was its visibility. It was central to the workings of our home. Everyone knew where to look. Therefore, everyone knew their responsibility for the day. Plus, chores gave my parents the opportunity to teach us responsibility and work methods. For our chores, we earned real money. As younger kids, we traded that money in for prizes in a basket my mom brought out each week. When we grew older, our earnings turned into our allowance. I still think this was parenting brilliance on their part.
The Multi-Purpose Laundry Basket
A laundry basket is good for so many things! Since we have laundry hampers in our bathroom and bedrooms, our laundry basket is free when it’s not laundry day. That makes it perfect for dealing with clutter. Just pick it up and while you’re dusting and cleaning each room, toss things that don’t belong in the laundry basket. When you hit the next room, pull out things that belong there and put them away. Then, repeat the process. When you get to the last room, ditch the cleaning supplies and put away the remaining items.
This really helps keep clutter to a minimum. Sometimes if I run out of cleaning time, I’ll put the laundry basket on our bed so at the very least those items get returned to their homes before bed time. I saw that one woman used the laundry basket because she’d put in a load of laundry every day. So, she’d put the load in the washer, then she’d start her cleaning. In order to finish her load of laundry for the day, she had to make sure the laundry basket was empty. It makes for a good system for keeping yourself honest. 😉
Spread the Love
This concept is twofold. If you live alone, you can’t really break up cleaning responsibilities with another person. However, you can spread it across the whole week by creating a cleaning schedule. The brilliance of my mom creating a rotating schedule was that it included things that only had to be done every other week or once a month as well. Plus, spreading things out makes tasks less daunting. If you do a little each day, you don’t have to spend your entire weekend cleaning. Instead you can go enjoy the outdoors, see a movie, or get together with friends.
If you do live with other people, make sure everyone is contributing to cleaning up. I find it helpful to have one person on clutter control duty each day. So, they take that laundry basket and instead of putting everything away, they put the things that don’t belong to them in the owner’s bedroom, for them to put away. Common items get put away as usual. Also, we all have jobs we dislike. Having a rotating schedule means sharing the burden of cleaning out the toilet drain. Ewwwww. Can you tell that’s my least favorite job?
Base Your Time Around Priorities
Life is busy. Some days there just isn’t enough time in the day to make deep cleaning a priority. So, don’t beat yourself up about the sad state of your house before your friends come over for game night. Instead, prioritize what they’ll see while they’re there. At minimum, clear out the clutter, clean the bathrooms, and do the dishes. A quick wipe to surfaces and sweeping goes a long way, too. If you need to, close doors to uncleaned areas.
I also find it helpful to tackle the areas of high traffic as often as I can to keep them under control. If we don’t keep on top of our dishes, they pile up pretty quickly. We prefer to eat at home because it’s easier to stay healthy and we enjoy cooking together. It’s so much easier to unload the dishwasher as soon as it’s done to make space for the dishes we do make. Another problem area is our dining room table. It seems to be a catch-all place for things, since it’s right by our back door.
Let’s face it, it’s easier to keep on top of things when you have less to stay on top of. We recently spent some time eliminating a lot of the excess stuff we have in our kitchen and bathroom. We donated everything we could and threw the rest in the recycling and trash. Since we just merged households, there were tons of things we had unnecessary duplicates of. Plus, we had a lot of stuff we would never use up before the expiration date in the bathroom. While we felt bad for all the waste we created, it’s easier to see what we do have now. That way, we don’t go buying deodorant until we use up the 2 extras we already have.
We only buy things in bulk that we go through quickly, like toilet paper. We find that having less stuff means we always know what we have on hand. Because we have less things to manage, its easier to know when we’re starting to run out of something so we can pick it up on our next errand trip. We find that doing things this way helps eliminate those emergency trips to the store when we’ve run out of something important, too.
Play That Funky Music
For me, music makes everything more fun. There’s nothing that makes hard tasks more bearable than some upbeat music. So, play that funky music and dance a little while you’re dusting. Try out different types of music, too. I find that classic rock is a great “scrubbing” soundtrack. Girl power music is great for vacuuming/sweeping. For some reason, indie and country music are my picks for doing the dishes. There’s music for every mood. Sing along at the top of your lungs. The joy of belting out notes (even if you’re not quite on tune) totally puts me in a good mood no matter what I’m doing.
Racing to the Finish Line
Another great way to make cleaning a little more fun is to make things a competition. Make cleaning a race! Or, see who can get their respective room the cleanest. However you decide to make it a competition, people are naturally competitive. It’s a great way to get your house clean while having a little fun with your family.
I find this especially useful for yard work. We used to see who could make the biggest leaf piles, stack the most wood, pick up the most sticks, or weed the biggest patch in the garden. Of course, if you’re working with kids there should be some guidelines put in place, so they don’t accidentally go overboard and make more work for you in the end. I think it took my parents a long time before they got that one with me. 😉
What do you do to make your cleaning routine more fun and efficient? Share in the comments below!
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