START SMALLIf you begin and end each day with a little picking up, you’ll never get swamped with housework again. Keeping a clean house begins with good habits like making your bed every morning and cleaning the dishes while you cook. Nobody wants to navigate through a minefield of yesterday’s mess to make coffee, so never allow yourself to fall asleep with dirty dishes or a disheveled living room.
Before you start work in the morning, take one to two minutes to tidy up. That way, you can look forward to ending your workday with a clean and stress-free house.
ENJOY YOURSELFEven the most reviled of household chores can be enjoyable if you have some headphones or a portable speaker. Truth be told, cleaning the house is a hidden source of me-time that you’ll eventually learn to love.
For example, if you hate vacuuming, listen to an energetic playlist of your favorite songs. If you haven’t had much time to read lately, listen to audiobooks and podcasts while you do the dishes. If you’re a parent and miss watching movies and shows without singing princesses, prop up your phone or tablet and use some wireless headphones to do a little binge-watching.
SIMPLIFY YOUR CHORE LISTRather than making a never-ending list of unattainable projects, break it up into manageable, bite-sized pieces.
Get a blank sheet of paper and make four columns: daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. Everyday chores like making the bed, picking up the house, and doing the dishes can go in the daily column. Chores like vacuuming and dusting can go in either the weekly or monthly column, depending on what’s realistic for your lifestyle. Reserve the yearly column for big projects like cleaning the oven, shampooing the carpet, and wiping down the fan blades.
Even if you fall behind on your chore list, seeing it all laid out on one page will reduce your anxiety and make procrastination a thing of the past.
STOCK YOUR CLEANING CADDYInstead of using one caddy to store all your cleaning supplies, only fill it with what you’ll use on a weekly basis: spray bottles of all-purpose cleaner and window cleaner, paper towels, a rag, dusting cloth, scrub brush, heavy-duty sponge, and an old toothbrush for hard-to-reach places.
To ensure that you’ll actually use the caddy, keep it in your bathroom so it’s easily accessible. Store specialty kitchen cleaning products (stainless steel and cooktop cleaners) in the kitchen, and keep big bottles of bleach, vinegar, and floor cleaner in the garage. And of course, keep any cleaning products out of the reach of young children.
MULTITASKIf your sink is caked with toothpaste, soap scum, and beard stubble — and you still haven’t found the time to clean your bathroom lately — here’s a tip: You can wipe the sink while you get ready in the morning. Keep a roll of paper towels underneath the sink so you can wipe the countertop and basin whenever you brush your teeth.
To keep the shower clean, fill a hollow dish scrubber with a mixture of half dish soap and half vinegar, keep it in the shower and scrub the tiles a little every time you shower.
To spot clean the kitchen floor and put off mopping another week, save any damp paper towels whenever you clean the kitchen counters. Before throwing them out, use them to clean up messes on the floor.
AIM FOR FINISHED, NOT PERFECTNobody’s going to go over your cleaning job with a fine-tooth comb, so don’t bother sweating the small stuff. The goal is to make cleaning an attainable habit that fits in nicely with your busy lifestyle; worrying about not doing a good enough job will only make you procrastinate more.
Another problem is biting off more than you can chew. If mopping the whole house at once seems too daunting a task for one afternoon, settle for the kitchen floor for now. You can always move on to another room if you feel the urge.