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10 ways I keep my house neat…without spending all day cleaning

by Meagan Francis on February 10, 2011

10 ways I keep my house neat...without spending all day cleaning

Guess what? It turns out if you spend all week writing long posts about keeping your house clean, you don’t have as much time to, uh, clean your house.  So I hope you won’t mind if today I steal some tips from an old post of mine and skip out on fresh blogging…I’ve got laundry to tackle.

Here they are: 10 of my best tips for keeping the house “clean enough”:

  1. I am pretty much constantly in motion. If I’m on my feet, I’m tidying. I never leave a room without making it better than I found it (that can be as simple as taking an item that doesn’t belong in that room out and moving it CLOSER to the room it belongs in, LOL) I am on the computer a lot because of my job, but I build lots of little cleaning breaks into my day–five minutes here and five minutes there adds up to a much cleaner house, plus it gives my eyes and body a break from the computer.
  2. I try not to let let dishes pile up in the sink. The higher the stack gets the less I want to tackle it. I rinse/scrape small loads throughout the day and get them in the dishwasher, and run it as soon as it’s full. Then I make the boys unload, because I hate that job :)
  3. Likewise, I do laundry one load at a time, rather than letting it all pile up until “laundry day”.  Laundry, in and of itself, is an easy job. It’s when we let it become a monster mountain of dirty clothes–and then clean clothes that need to be folded and put away–that it seems so overwhelming.
  4. If you’re afraid of laundry, try doing it as soon as you have a full load. Forget about anal-retentive load separation policies. Unless you’re dealing with items that truly need special care or have to be washed separately from everything else because they’ll run, the world will not end if you put socks and jeans in the same load. Who cares if your socks are perfectly white, anyway? Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
  5. I wipe the toilet/sink down at least once a day. Make this as easy on yourself as possible–if you have to go track down paper towels and special cleaner, you may get distracted or never make it back to the bathroom. I have a vinegar/water/lavender oil mix in a bottle in my bathroom, so when I’m in there already I just give it a quick spritz and wipe-down with a bit of toilet paper and then flush the paper. That way it never gets really nasty, even when I go weeks without doing a “big” clean.
  6. I am really ruthless about getting rid of “stuff” or not allowing it in the house to begin with. Daily I gather up any papers that are laying about or mail that doesn’t seem to have a home and take care of it. I recycle paperwork right out of the boys’ backpacks. Sure, there are still toys scattered about (and, my personal pet peeve, hats/gloves/mittens/socks the kids take off and then fling) but those aren’t that hard to clean up quickly if company’s coming over.
  7. I have several areas that I try to keep clean and decluttered pretty much all the time–the dining room table, the kitchen counters, and the bathroom. Everybody has ‘trigger tasks’–those things that will cloud your mood and make your house feel disgusting if they don’t get done. What are yours? Identify them, and make those your first priorities every day. The better your home feels, the more motivated you’ll be to keep it that way.
  8. If I see something I don’t like, but hadn’t noticed before–like a dusty lampshade, say, or a dirty windowsill–I employ the power of Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project “Do It Now” commandment and just attack it. I don’t think “Oh, this weekend I’ve really got to dust all the lampshades!” because I guarantee you I would never get around to it. When I see something that needs doing, I do it.
  9. I get rid of things for fun. I gleefully recycle all but the kids’ most precious school papers. I ruthlessly relieve myself of clothing I will never wear again. I refuse to hold on to anything unless it is truly necessary or holds very dear sentimental value. Once a month or so I go through my house with a big black trash bag or two and fill it with things to give to charity. After giving away about 1/3 of our stuff in our last move (soooo satisfying) and doing regular “Goodwill sweeps” for over a year as well as rarely shopping it seems amazing that I would still be able to find things to give away, but I always can.It’s a little cringe-worthy knowing how many things I have bought or otherwise acquired (darn you, Freecycle!) over the years. I have never been rich enough to afford this kind of consumption, and yet my house stuffed with stuff is proof of how much I contributed to my own messy house (and struggling bank account) by not being mindful of what I purchased. But the purging effort is starting to slow down. Every time I do a sweep, I find fewer and fewer things to give away. So now the focus becomes not getting back to where I was before by reckless shopping. Which brings me to my last tip of the day:
  10. I make a big effort to shop consciously. This does not always mean choosing what seems, on the face, to be the “cheapest” option. I do my grocery shopping at the regular grocery in town, with supplementation from the farmer’s market and farm stands, rather than the big-box stores. Yes, I miss some of the deep discounts, but I’m not tempted by all the non-food stuff. And I don’t buy vast quantities of stuff as a general rule (more about that in another post) so the missed savings aren’t that great. I also find that just staying out of those stores keeps me from developing a “need” for things I didn’t “need” before.Now that I’m trying to decorate a new house that’s quite a big bigger than our old one, I’m relaxing the strict “no shopping for sport” rule I’ve been following for the last year or so, and have been hitting thrift and antique stores for fun. But I’ve made a rule for myself–if I don’t either LOVE something or have an immediate need and use for it, I don’t buy it. Period. End of story. And “loving” something has to mean that I can put it down, walk away, and even leave the store and still be thinking about it later. Next time you’re thinking of buying something you aren’t sure about, try a 48-hour waiting period. Chances are good that by the time those two days have passed, you’ll have forgotten all about the item you couldn’t live without.

Now, to the laundry! Check back tomorrow for a Q&A with my friend, master de-clutter-er and frugal-living guru Leah Ingram, author of Toss, Keep, Sell! The Suddenly Frugal Guide To Cleaning Out The Clutter and Cashing In and author of the Suddenly Frugal blog.

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Photo: Boa Franc, via Flickr Creative Commons

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Alaina Frederick February 10, 2011 at 5:37 pm

Even though these are “recycled” tips they are great! I love the vinegar/lavender bottle with toilet paper wiping tip. I’m one that needs to keep the toilet clean with three young boys in the house it seems never ending.

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Maman A Droit February 10, 2011 at 5:50 pm

What’s your “recipe” for the toilet cleaner? And where does one acquire lavender oil? Lol.

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Meagan Francis February 10, 2011 at 6:41 pm

Maman, I’m not too scientific about it, but I do about 1 part water to 1 part white vinegar, and then 5-10 drops of lavender essential oil (make sure it’s real essential oil…”fragrance” oil won’t have the same disinfectant properties and it also won’t smell as good!) A little essential oil goes a long way.

You can often find essential oils in pharmacies, especially the more popular ones like tea tree, eucalyptus, and lavender. Health food and natural remedy stores are another good place to look. Lorann Oils is the brand I usually look for: https://www.lorannoils.com/

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Lindsey February 10, 2011 at 7:10 pm

Oh, kindred spirits we are … I deal with stuff immediately – junk mail, kids’ art (and oh my how throwing things away is my hobby!) … make the bed every day, do laundry as soon as I have a full load (ignoring that pesky darks/whites distinction – I throw it all in) …Don’t ever go up or down the stairs without something that needs putting away. These small things make such a HUGE difference!! This is a really, really wise post full of useful details. Thank you! xox

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Susan February 11, 2011 at 5:00 am

just caught up on your cleaning posts…you have some great tips…and now I’m looking at a double sink full of dishes, just from last night’s dinner, (The kitchen was spotless at about 3pm yesterday!) a load of clothes that’s been in the the washer for two days, unmade beds…hmmmm where to start. Straightening is my issue, by the time it’s all put away, there’s no more time to clean and it’s starting to get pulled out again. Getting everyone to help is hard around here.

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Olivia February 11, 2011 at 7:12 am

These are great tips. I still like designating a laundry day, but with only two adults and one toddler, it isn’t too overwhelming yet. I think I need to work on the “Do it now” and “Do a little every day”. It really doens’t take that long to wipe down the bathroom so I don’t know why I put it off, and there are some things I’ve been saying I’ll tackle for weeks but never remember to do later when I say I will.

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Jen in MN February 11, 2011 at 9:35 am

Wow, I really relate to almost all of these, and especially #1-4. That is how I roll in my house; keeps me (mostly) sane and happy with a toddler around the place. This is a great list – please “recycle” it any time! (-:

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Craig February 11, 2011 at 11:13 am

I love number one and it will be instituted immediately. I still however will not do the laundry until it begins tapping me on the shoulder. Ahhhh, #9 … and here is the good thing about owning very little – no need for Goodwill sweeps. Blessings from the most surprising of places.

I’m really glad I read you today Meagan Francis :)

God Bless and Keep you and yours

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Ilana @ mommyshorts February 11, 2011 at 9:43 pm

I am definitely going to take some of your tips to heart. I used to be very particular about the state of my apartment before the baby but every day since the day she was born, our home falls apart just a bit more. The baby’s mess has somehow made it acceptable for my husband and I to be messy too. It’s becoming a problem. I’m gonna treat your post like my own personal intervention.

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Allison @ Alli n Son February 12, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Cleaning the bathroom really struck home with me. I was just thinking that I need to do daily maintenance instead of big cleans. Because those big cleans get pushed off far longer than they should be.

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KateH. January 19, 2012 at 5:07 pm

My hat’s off to you for accomplishing all that you have! I feel like a piker next to you – my husband and I have only one cat, no children, so our condo should always be clean, right? But even though everyone’s situation is different, your 10 ways to keep you house neat, without spending all day cleaning, will occupy a place of honor in my heart, now that I know about it! Thanks again and keep up the good work! You’re an inspiration to everyone!
KateH.

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Kim June 1, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Thanks for these tips! I never learned how to clean as a kid because dear mother was a perfectionist. Some of the most obvious things sometimes escape me. As I was reading this I kept thinking, ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ She’s right, ‘I don’t have to sort so much.’ So, thanks.

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SimplyMe June 8, 2012 at 7:12 pm

Thanks for these tips. Do-it-now rule is my favorite! I can do that.

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Rakesh Lal May 17, 2013 at 7:32 am

Hey! You are really good, i am surprised to know that i can clean my house from dust without spending any extra time. Thanks a lot, please keep posting and inform me when you add any updates in this Article.

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Estee May 5, 2014 at 6:10 am

Love your website and these tips!
I was going crazy with laundry constantly piling up, until I built a laundry schedule and hung it over the washing machine. We now do 6 loads on three specific days, and that usually covers our needs (2 lights, 1 dark, 1 bedding, 1 towels, 1 rags, mats etc). The difference it’s made is awesome. No more overwhelming laundry drama!
I’m pretty good with clutter, the house looks neat and uncluttered most of the time.
My weak points are the forests-worth of papers (bills, letters, bank statements…) that I keep planning to sort and never get to, and also the floor, which is tiled and needs to be washed ALL the time. Ughhhh!!!

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Anna James October 28, 2014 at 9:15 am

If we make a plan before start cleaning then we can save a lot of time and also do effective cleaning. I think we should start cleaning from guest room and then kitchen and use natural products for cleaning.
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SADIYA November 4, 2014 at 2:20 am

HAI

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SADIYA November 4, 2014 at 2:17 am

THANKS TO ALL FOR GIVING ME TIPS ……………………

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Marsha Wolfe December 15, 2014 at 10:25 am

Oh i do love your posts! You have a really great routine there, it has inspired me to give it a go..your post came at just the right time as i’ve been finding it hard to keep on top of the household chores whilst on maternity leave, my little boy is 4 months and i never seem to have enough minutes in the day to keep on top of everything..your post i think will certainly help! Thanks

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Faith Grant December 16, 2014 at 7:19 am

Really good article, full of informative tips for those of us who are challenged by the job of cleaning our homes. Than you for sharing!

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