Everyone loves a clean, tidy home, but cleaning sucks. Big cleans are a pain, and smaller cleaning sessions make sense, but who has time? Here are some ways to streamline the big cleans when you have to do them, and make the little ones even easier to do regularly.
#10 Make a Schedule (and Stick to It!)
If you're struggling to keep things tidy, the biggest thing you can do (and equally the smallest, aside from actually cleaning things) is to make a schedule for your big and small cleanings, and stick to it.
This sample schedule from Real Simple is broken into weekly, monthly, three-to-six month, and even yearly periods, and is a great one to get started with. Even if there isn't much to tidy on a day you've scheduled a big clean, do what you can and enjoy the results. With small cleans, do the same. As long as you make it a habit, the rest will come naturally. You don't even have to set aside a lot of time for it: even 20 minutes is more than enough.
#9 Get the Right Tools for the Job
As much as we love telling you all about how vinegar and baking soda can make just about anything go from grimy to glistening, sometimes they're just not the right tools for the job — or at least not the tools that will get the job done quickly. If you value your time as much as your money, you'll probably want to grab the tools that make cleaning as easy as possible. In other words, you might want to spring for more than a cheap cloth and empty spray bottle.
#8 Set Up Staging Areas for Clutter
One thing that stops a lot of people from cleaning is that you'll inevitably need a place to put the stuff you're cleaning while you clean under it, around it, and organise it. Needing clean space before you start cleaning isn't a catch-22; you just have to solve for the problem first.
Make a plan of attack, set up a few staging areas (or "clutter buckets") where you can move the items you're cleaning temporarily, and give yourself the freedom to use them. Once you have a space you can move your clutter to, you're free to clean freely without worrying "where's all this stuff going to go while I'm cleaning?"
#7 Do One Room at a Time
Part of forming that attack plan we mentioned is making sure that you only take on what you can handle in specific cleaning sessions. Don't overcommit and think you're going to do your whole apartment in one afternoon, or the whole house in a single day. You may be able to cover the distance, but you'll be tired, stressed, and nothing will be as clean as you'd really like it to be. Stick to one room or space in your home at a time and focus on it. Like any goal, you want housecleaning to be bite-sized and doable without being so monolithic you'll never actually do it.
This also lets you spend as much or as little time in any one area as you need to. You can clean your whole bedroom in 10 minutes if it comes down to it, you can do larger spaces in 20 minutes. If those things are possible for people who are probably already clean, imagine what you can do with just a few more minutes.
#6 Clean in Bursts
When you do get down to actually picking up the gear, putting on some gloves, plugging in the vaccuum, and getting things done, make sure you clean in short bursts — only a few minutes at a time. There's a reason why those "one room" guides are only 10 or 20 minutes. If you go on too long, you'll burn out, get tired, get sweaty and uncomfortable, and just give up on the whole thing. Even if you do power through, you'll never want to do it again.
Keeping things short and giving yourself plenty of breaks also lets you get things done without getting stressed out, and it also trains you to get a lot done in a short period of time, so you can feel accomplished while you sit down for a few minutes before you get up and tackle something else.
#5 Let Your Appliances Clean For You
Remember, getting things clean doesn't have to mean doing all the work yourself. We've talked about some great lazy ways to let other devices clean for you while you do the stuff you can't get away from doing manually. You can toss everything stove ventilation hood filters to light fixture covers and vacuum cleaner attachments into the dishwasher. Then turn around and let your washing machine refresh your pillows for you while you do other things, and then let it refresh your towels while it washes them when the pillows are done.
#4 Let Time Clean For You
Aside from the appliances you already have and the right gear for the job, time is you best friend when it comes to cleaning your house. Whenever possible, start some cleaning task in one place, then let it work on autopilot while you go do something else.
Normally multitasking isn't ideal, but since you don't need to focus on the shower head while you're vacuuming the floor, why not wrap it up in a cleaning solution and let it clean itself? Let the oven clean itself overnight with a pot of boiling water and some ammonia in it and you can wipe up the grime when it's done (just don't use the self-cleaning feature!) Do the same with your microwave — put in some lemon water, fire it up, and walk away while you clean something else in the kitchen. Spray down the shower and toilet with bleach or cleaning solution, then leave it alone while you wipe down the mirror and bathroom countertops.
#3 Fake It When You Have To
There's nothing wrong with doing the absolute minimum to give you some peace of mind if you don't have the time or the willpower to actually do a deep clean.
Quick brush-ups, tidy-ups, and well, just hiding everything that should be out of sight and covering up your clutter is just fine for those work weeks that are just out of control, or those days where you're sick or just dead tired. Cut yourself some slack when you need to and show some self-compassion. Not only is it good for you, it will help you rebound and tackle the job again when you have the time or energy.
#2 Get Help When You Need It
Don't be afraid to enlist the help of others when it comes to cleaning. If you're stuck thinking that you're the only one who can do all the housecleaning — especially if you live with a spouse or roomies, give yourself a break and get everyone else involved. We've even outlined some age-appropriate chores for kids to help out with.
For those big cleans, it makes the whole thing go by faster (not to mention it makes the small cleans easier later), and for the regular, smaller cleaning jobs it means you can be free of it entirely. Don't shoulder the whole burden yourself.
#1 Pay to Make the Problem Go Away
Sometimes money really can buy happiness — and when it can, you should spend it. In some cases, maybe it's just better to ignore the problem entirely, or just dedicate yourself to those small, periodic cleans, and let someone else come in and handle the big ones and deep cleans that you really don't have the time or willpower to do.
You've said in the past that a housecleaner is overwhelmingly worth the money, provided you have it to spend. After all, you have to value your time as well as your money, and that time and energy saved (not to mention the mental relief) can, in some cases, be priceless. If you can't get help, or that help isn't enough, and you can't do it yourself, never think you're stuck — someone out there is willing to do it for you if you're willing to part with the money to have it done.