Quick & Effortless Tips for a Clean House
Cleaning doesn't have to be a chore!
I often receive compliments on how clean my house is, but really, I hate cleaning. So I've decided to compile some quick and easy tips for keeping a home clean without much effort.
The great thing about these tips is that once you make them a habit, it feels as though you hardly ever clean, but your house always looks great. Cleaning is not the most important thing in life (at least not in mine!) so use these tips to get it out of the way so quickly that you'll barely notice you're cleaning at all.
First I'll give some tips for getting your house organized, and then we'll move into the cleaning tips that may seem like work when you read them, but I promise that once you incorporate them into your life, you'll be amazed by how easy they really are, how little work they actually feel like, and how clean your home looks!
Before you can start with the easy and quick methods of keeping the house looking clean, your house must first be organized. Now, this organization can also be done in quick and easy steps, but it is, unfortunately, essential. I truly hate to organize my house, especially when I used to feel I had nowhere to put everything, and I've often asked myself, "Why bother?"
Well, the main reason for putting forth a little extra effort in the beginning is this: a clean house makes you feel better. When my home is clean and organized, I feel more relaxed and better able to enjoy the more important things in life.
So, first things first: organize your home. (Feel free to skip ahead if you've already managed to accomplish this, but keep in mind that these tips can also help you when someone suddenly creates a gigantic mess in the house that you must now, again, organize.) For me, someone who deals with a small touch of OCD, there is a simple solution for organizing a home: everything needs to have its own place.
That's right, just like the old adage, "a place for everything and everything in its place," but really, that's the best way for me to describe how I tackle (and avoid) the messes in my home. This works for me because if everything has its own place then I can quickly put it back when I notice it amiss, and the ease of this is important, because no matter how often you dust and scrub and mop, if there's clutter everywhere your home will still look dirty.
So how do you go about organizing your home? The first thing to understand is that it's not going to happen immediately. Take your time and don't get overly stressed. Do one room at a time. If everything is especially messy, limit yourself to only 15 or 30 minutes or maybe even an hour a day, so that you don't get overwhelmed and feel like quitting.
Then, walk through the house and remove anything from a room that doesn't belong there. Tools left in the kitchen from a repair job? Bring them back to the garage. Dishes left in a bedroom? Bring them back to the kitchen.
Next, go from room to room with three boxes. These boxes, or large plastic bins, should be labeled "Trash," "Donate," and "Sell," and you'll be filling them with everything that you don't need or use anymore. The labels are there so you can easily distinguish between what's going to go in the garbage, what's going to be donated to charity, and what you're going to sell at a yard sale or thrift store or online auction. (Though, if you really don't need the extra cash, you could just use the two boxes for Trash and Donate.) Go through your closets, too. If your closets are stuffed full of clothes, shoes, belts and ties that you haven't worn in a year or two or longer, then get rid of them. Once you've filled up these boxed, be sure to actually get rid of the items and not leave them sitting in your garage or - even worse - living room.
Now, organize what's left. Tackle one room at a time. Start with a bedroom, taking everything off the floor and tops of furniture and placing it all on top of the bed. Then, take one item at a time off the bed and put it where it belongs, or find a place for it. If it belongs in another room that you haven't started organizing yet, it's okay to just place it somewhere in the room and not put it away until you get to that room, but if you've already organized the room that the item belongs in, them make sure you put that item away or find a place for it! When you do the living areas, put all the clutter from the floors and furniture on the couch or coffee table or dining table while you sort through it, then put everything in its place or find a place for it. Remember: you don't want to overwhelm yourself, so start slow and don't tackle too much at once.
Move through your house, one room at a time until you've done this for every room. It's okay to do this over a course of days or even a few weeks, if necessary. The goal here is to get your home organized, not to "fake it" but randomly shoving things into closets so they're out of sight. You need to organize the closets, too!
It's important to not leave "stuff" and clutter all over your floors and furniture. Especially the floor. Clutter makes a home feel hectic and smaller and this can lead to feelings of stress. Don't leave anything on the floor that doesn't belong there. If you don't have anywhere to put all of this stuff, invest in some pieces of storage furniture for your living areas or bedrooms or some heavy duty bins (that can be used to store items you only use occasionally) that stack on shelves in the garage or basement.
For bedrooms: dressers, chests, armoires and bookcases can all be used for storage. You can put wicker baskets on the bookshelves for kid's toys and low, plastic bins or fabric containers can be used to store extra clothes, bedding, purses and shoes under the bed. For living areas: make sure you have a designated piece of furniture for DVDs, put a buffet in the dining room to hold nice dishes and serving pieces to help open up room in your kitchen cabinets, and have a designated space for all children's toys, like baskets or bins that fit on a bookcase or under the coffee table.
We'll cover even more organization methods when we discuss tips for quick cleaning below!
Don't Take On Too Much At Once!
Big Ben photo courtesy of Storkk on Wikimedia Commons.
Don't Forget About Storage in the Dining Room and Kitchen! - Perfect for freeing up storage space in your kitchen cabinets and pantry.
As I've mentioned, I don't like to clean, but I enjoy having a clean house. I spent years struggling with the large chore of cleaning, even though it was only such a large chore because I would put it off until it became quite necessary. Then one day I came across a website called FlyLady and I was intrigued by their method that brings you from baby steps to a regular routine of simple cleaning steps and their philosophy about cleaning the clutter out of your home and your life. I was surprised by the idea that doing very simple things everyday would help me avoid the tiring, all-day cleaning sessions I hated so much. It was such a simple idea! Why didn't I think of that?
Well, I tried a few of their ideas, and then I started paying attention to the way people around me cleaned. I had watched my mother all my life, but suddenly many of the things she did that I used to think were crazy were now making sense! I watched others and started to see that the people who had clean homes all did certain things, but all of these simple things were habits that were incorporated into everyday life in a way that keeps the house clean while it seems that you are doing little or no work at all.
Everything that I've learned and observed is described in these easy-to-follow steps:
Keep your kitchen sink clean. This sets the mood for the entire kitchen, so it's important. Dishes piled in the sink, and even clean dishes overflowing in the dish drain, make the kitchen look cluttered. Always take care of dishes as quickly as possible, which is surprisingly easy if you have a dishwasher. A dishwasher means that both dirty and clean dishes can stay out of sight, but even if you don't have one, you'll notice that it's far easier to clean two or three dishes at a time then twenty. So, whenever you're done with some dishes or you walk through the kitchen and see there are dishes in the sink, wash them (or put them in the dishwasher) right away. When the dishes are clean, put them away right away. You can keep the sink smelling fresh by generously sprinkling baking soda over the drain openings and then washing it down with white vinegar.
Clean as you cook. You can significantly decrease the amount of after-dinner (or after-lunch or after-breakfast) cleanup by cleaning the kitchen as you prepare the meal. While you're waiting on dinner to finish cooking, wash (or put in the dishwasher) all the dishes you are done using. A minute left until whatever you're microwaving is finished? Take that time to wash dishes or wipe down all the counters you're done using ... if you've never tried it, you'll be amazed by how many dishes you can wash in 60 seconds. Done with the flour or olive oil? Put it back in the cabinet now so it's not still sitting there when you later clean up dinner. Don't leave the dinner dishes sitting in the sink - wash them when you get up from the dinner table. Even if it's family movie night, first get the family to help you carry all the dishes into the kitchen, then let someone else get the movie ready while you spend just a couple minutes filling the dishwasher and setting the pots and pans to soak - or wash them while waiting on the popcorn to pop. Don't want to wash the dishes just because you're too tired? You'll be even more tired later - so do them now.
Keep cleaning supplies in every bathroom. You should keep a spray bottle of your favorite all-purpose cleaner and a roll of paper towels in every bathroom. They easily fit in most vanities or linen closets, but if you don't have either of those, you could always try to fit a small storage cabinet in the room, because storage is important in bathrooms anyway since cluttered bathrooms tend to look dirty. (No room for a storage cabinet? Put up shelves on the wall and line them with tiny baskets to hold your toiletries.) Plus, if space is limited, you can transfer the cleaning solution into a smaller, travel-sized spray bottle. Once the cleaner is stored in the bathroom, you'll be able to clean it regularly so no matter what surprises life brings you - the bathroom will at least be clean! For keeping your bathroom constantly clean, follow this tip: every day when you finish your morning routine, pull out the cleaner and paper towels and wipe down the mirror, countertop and toilet. This should take less than a minute, just make sure you use a product that cleans all surfaces, including the mirror. Notice a splashy mess of water all over the countertop or dried water spots on the faucet? Tissues are your friends (just not the lotion kind). If there's no time to clean, just grab a tissue and quickly dry the counter or wipe those water spots away.
Find time you didn't know you had. We've already discussed that you can wash dishes and clean the kitchen while cooking, even if you only have a minute or two at a time, but there are so many other things that can get cleaned as well! This works especially well if your laundry center is near the kitchen; for example, while waiting on the microwave to reheat your coffee, quickly wipe all the dust and lint off the washer and dryer and surrounding areas. If you're waiting for the oven to preheat, spend a minute or two cleaning out the refrigerator, either by tossing the things that went bad because you forgot about them (and the less clutter there is in the fridge, the less likely it is that this will happen!) or by quickly wiping all the shelves down with a mild cleaner. If you're walking through the living room on your way somewhere else (whether you've just put the baby down for a nap or are about to empty the dryer or any other reason that takes you through there) quickly stoop down to pick up whatever may be on the floor that doesn't belong there and put it away. Don't even stop walking, just grab it, toss it where it belongs, and keep moving.
Great Ways to Add Storage to your Home! - Beautiful and functional furniture pieces that add storage to your home and help you display your favorite accessories
Keep up with the laundry. Get into a habit of working in a load of laundry every day. Don't worry - I'm not asking you to do laundry every day forever, but once you find the best time in your own schedule to do laundry, you'll find you can bust out a couple of loads without thinking, and once you get into this habit, you'll eliminate the need to do it everyday. But finding the best time to fit it in your schedule is the point: make it a habit and you'll notice it less as well as avoid those all-day laundry marathons. If you're at work all day, this may be during dinner preparations, especially if your laundry room is near the kitchen. I tend to forget about the clothes I do in the evening, though, so for me mornings are best. I also hate to fill up my hamper with big items like towels and sheets, so, for example, when I decide to wash the sheets I strip the bed as soon as I roll out of it and immediately put them in the wash. That way, I have plenty of time to wash and dry them and make the bed before nighttime, just like how I wash towels as soon as I'm out of the shower and dressed. Another important laundry tip: put it away as soon as it's dry! Fold it as soon as it's out of the dryer and put it away before you do anything else. If you normally let clean laundry stack up, you may be pleasantly surprised that a single load takes very little time to put away.
Make your bed everyday. Yeah, it's something I had always hated, too, but now that I've worked it into my morning routine, it doesn't seem like a big deal. The bed is the biggest thing in the room and it draws the eye, so if it's unmade and messy, the whole room looks messy. Find a good time for it, like as soon as you get up or just after you've dressed for the day. Having a clean looking room makes being in the room more pleasant, plus if the bed is neat and made, the room will look clean and you'll want to keep it that way, which makes it less likely you'll leave piles of laundry sitting on it.
When you notice something is dirty, clean it. If you see a spot on the floor, don't say, "Oh, I'm going to mop tomorrow anyway," and just walk by - clean it now. Grab a few paper towels and your favorite all-purpose cleaner and wipe it up. Watch the kitchen floors while you cook for the same reason. When you see that someone's made a mess of the toilet or sprayed toothpaste all over the bathroom mirror, clean it up right away - after all, you never know when an unexpected guest will show up and need to use the facilities. Besides, messes are always easiest to clean soon after they happen, and are more difficult the longer they sit.
Vacuum Often. Should you vacuum everyday? I don't. Then again, you may want to if you've got three dogs running around in the same rooms where your two toddlers play. I vacuum the living areas every couple or few days and the bedrooms about once a week. Vacuums, unfortunately, are not always easy to conveniently store because of their size, but try to keep them handy. If you don't have a central vacuum system and if you've got two or three stories in your home, put your main vacuum (the big, expensive one) on the main living level and get a couple extra vacuums (some small, cheap ones) for the other levels, like the bedrooms and basement levels. This way you're not lugging the heavy vacuum up and down the stairs all the time, and only a couple times a month for a deeper carpet cleaning than the little vacuums provide ... unless you want to invest in two or three full-size vacuums.
Create a place to organize the mail. Whether it's on one of your kitchen counters or on a desk in a designated office, you need to have a system for organizing your mail. Your bills need a home - both before and after they're paid. Get a simple desk/office organizer and designate spaces for unread mail and unpaid bills (then don't forget to pay them!). Get a filing system where you can file away all the paid bills and bank statements and other important papers. You can file these items by month or by type: mortgage paperwork, car insurance, cell phone bills, etc. When you bring the mail into the house, go through it - don't just set it down on the table and walk away. Sort it immediately, throwing out (or recycling or shredding) the junk mail and filing the important things in their designated spots. If the kids bring home a lot of papers and flyers from school, put up a corkboard in or near the kitchen and announce that this is where those papers go, not all over the 'fridge (which makes the entire kitchen look messy) or all over the table or counters.
Great Ways to Organize All Your Mail and Bills! - Keep your mail from cluttering the table or countertops with these convenient storage and organization product
Don't display every collectable you own. We all tend to collect things: figurines or posters or candles or vases, etc. that we like to look at or that remind us of happy memories. But after awhile, all those wonderful collectables become clutter. They gather dust and can make a room look busy. Instead, pick out some of your favorites and pack the rest away - for now. Minimize the amount of decoration in a room. There needs to be some personality in every space, but to keep the space calm, clutter-free and easy-to-clean, only set a few items of decoration here and there. Group things in odd numbers, like 3 or 5. Place lamps and fresh flowers or live plants in the living areas, but not too much stuff. Then, every few months (like when the seasons change) swap out the collectables you have displayed with some of the collectables you had packed away. Those collectables that were packed away will seem like new and now you've got a fresh decorating scheme!
When you're not using it, put it away. This seems like a simple idea, but we sometimes become complacent and don't notice that things are out of place. The best way to keep up with putting things back where they belong is to have a place for everything, like we discussed earlier. To do this, you will need to have useful storage around the house, especially in the living room. For example, the magazine or book you were reading on the couch should have a place to go when you're not reading it, and that place should be out of sight. The same goes for kid's toys, DVD rentals, etc. You can accomplish this by having useful storage in the living areas. One way to create storage is to get furniture that works with storage: coffee tables / giant ottomans that have drawers, coffee and side tables with a shelf underneath that can hold baskets, and matching furniture to hold all your electronic accessories. All my Wii remotes are in a large wicker basket with tall sides that sits next to a couch and nicely keeps all the ugly wires, electronics and clutter invisible. We have many, many dozens of DVDs, but they're stored within a cabinet that closes and keeps them out of sight. So find a place to keep everything and when you're not using it, it'll be easy to quickly put away to keep your house clutter free.
Remember that nobody's perfect. Messes happen. There will always be something to clean and since nobody's perfect, nobody's house can look perfect all the time. So relax. Someone is sure to mess up the home that you've cleaned, or maybe you'll get sick or go out of town and things will get cluttered and messy. That's okay. Don't stress about it, just don't let the mess linger too long! You don't want to forget all those good habits you've formed. But the point of forming these habits is to make your life easier, so don't let the cleaning get you anxious. Get organized and start forming these easy cleaning habits, then follow these easy cleaning habits every day ... but don't forget to take some time for yourself to sit back, relax, and enjoy your clean, organized, healthy, sparkling, gorgeous home!