We've all been there.
The house is a mess and the thought of spending a whole day cleaning (because you'll need a whole day) is overwhelming.
The laundry is overflowing, dishes are piled in the sink, the floors haven't been swept in who knows how long. Everything is a disaster.
The house and clutter can get out of hand in a hurry. I used to live like that all the time. I'd avoid cleaning or doing chores until my house was a disaster. I'd spend about 4-5 hours on a Saturday morning getting it mostly clean, then be so exhausted that I would avoid all cleaning for another couple weeks until the disaster returned.
I am miserable in a messy house. Being in a clean space is calming to me.
Last year I decided to adopt a new routine when it comes to cleaning my house. I changed a few habits. But the biggest help was cutting back to just one chore a day.
Yup. You read that right. One chore a day.
(Well, except on Saturday, but even then it isn't a lot.)
I was skeptical at first, expecting myself to fail and my house to become a mess, but it works. My house has stayed cleaner and I am more relaxed with less to do.
One thing a day.
Put things away immediately after using them
This seems like a no-brainer, but when I actually started looking at my habits, I was surprised how often I wanted to go from one thing to another without picking anything up.
I'd get paints and craft supplies out in one room, finish my project and then go straight to another room to make a snack, leave everything on the counter and run off to another room to read a book.
At the end of the evening, the mess I'd have to clean up would be overwhelming and sometimes I'd leave it for the next day.
Or maybe the next week. Yikes!
I have to be very intentional about it, but taking about 5 extra minutes at the end of each project or meal to clean up after myself saves me a good bit of time and frustration later.
I do this most when I'm cooking. While my casserole or whatever I'm making is in the oven, I wash the dishes I dirtied. After dinner is eaten and put away, I wash more dishes.
The 5-Things rule
Every morning while I'm getting ready for the day, I go around the house and find 5 things. 5 Things to pick up, or throw away, or put in a donation box.
Just 5 things.
Sometimes it's 5 pieces of trash that didn't make it to the trash bin. Other times it's dog or cat toys that didn't get put up. Some days it's paper clutter that needs to be dealt with. There's always 5 things.
It takes about 5 or 10 minutes and makes a huge difference in the long run.
This is a good rule to have for each person in the house. If everyone, kids included, pick up 5 things at the end of the day (on top of putting things away right after using them), it'll really add up fast! And 5 is such a small number, there shouldn't be much grumbling about having to do it.
(To be fair, I don't have children. Maybe they would grumble? I guess it depends on the kid)
One chore each day
Now here is the magic part of my cleaning routine: I only do one chore a day (with the exception of saturday).
Most of the time they're small enough tasks I can work them into my morning routine and not have to do anything when I get home from work. It's wonderful. And even if I have to come home after work and clean? It's only one thing. No big deal, I can have it done in 15 minutes while dinner is in the oven.
Mondays - Outside
Anything outside. This can be sweeping the porch, cleaning out my car, raking leaves, any one thing that needs to be done in the yard. If there's more than one thing, just pick one and leave the rest for the next week.
Eventually you'll get all caught up.
Tuesdays - Dust
Tuesday I go through the house and wipe down all the furniture. Now, this doesn't take me very long because I don't actually have a lot of furniture (a nice perk to downsizing... cleaning takes less time).
I don't go crazy with it, I really only dust the surfaces I can see. Anything up high (think tall shelves, ceiling fans, etc) gets left until my "room of the week" cleaning, which I'll talk about later.
Wednesday - Fridge/pantry
This is my favorite cleaning day.
I also do my grocery shopping on Wednesday mornings. Since I've just gone through all the food that I have in the house, it's easier to make a list and know what I need to pick up. And when I get the groceries home, I know there's a place to put them.
I've also noticed this helps me a lot with meal planning. If I know something is going to be out of date in the next few weeks or in a month, I'll plan a meal to use it up so it won't go to waste.
Thursdays - Floors
To clarify, floor day is not for sweeping.
I usually have to sweep my floors several times a week because I have so many pets that shed. The three of them can have the living room floor covered in hair in about an hour.
I use a dust mop for my sweeping and it's wonderful. I do a quick round through each room, typically in the mornings while my coffee brews, and then shake it out outside.
But once a week I'll mop and vacuum and maybe do some spot cleaning to make sure the floors are extra clean.
Fridays - Sinks/toilets
Just give them a good wipe down. It doesn't take very long if you're doing it every week, it doesn't have the chance to get really gross.
Well, it does at my house, but again, I have shedding animals.
Saturdays - Laundry/Room of the Week
I told you I do a little bit more on Saturdays. That's because I'm usually home all day with no other commitments.
How intensely you want to clean the room of the week is up to you. If you don't want to do it all on Saturday morning, you could always split up those chores to do throughout the week. You'd still only be doing 2-3 chores a day, which really isn't a lot.
Sundays - Rest
Rest and enjoy having a clean house.
Room of the Week
Every Saturday I spend a little time doing a more thorough cleaning of my room of the week. It only takes me 30 minutes to an hour to get everything done, which isn't too much time to spend cleaning, so it doesn't feel like I'm doing a lot.
The key here is to feel like you're doing minimal work while still keeping your house clean. Because less work means less stress.
Week 1 - Kitchen
The first week of the month I work on the kitchen.
This includes cleaning the microwave, the oven ,wiping down cabinet doors, wiping baseboards, anything and everything you can think of. My kitchen cleaning usually take the longest, mostly because I drop so much food on my stove burners and it takes a lot of scrubbing to get it all clean.
Week 2 - Bedrooms
The second week of the month I focus on my bedroom.
I sweep the ceiling for cobwebs, wipe down baseboards, wash the sheets, organize my closet, etc. Again, it's just anything you can think to make that space clean. I have a ceiling fan in the bedroom as well and try to remember to dust it once a month.
If your room is already fairly clean, don't just shrug off this time to do something else, grab a drawer or night stand and clean it out or organize it. Spend time improving that room.
Week 3 - Bathrooms
Week three is for the bathroom, my least favorite Saturday of the month.
Because you'll have just cleaned the toilet and sinks the day before (remember, Friday is sinks and toilets), this room shouldn't be so bad. I clean and mop the floor again, scrub the shower until I cry (I hate, hate, hate cleaning showers/tubs), clean the mirrors, wipe down the walls and cabinets, organize the closet, etc.
Week 4 - Living room
The fourth week of the month is for the living room. Chores include dusting the ceiling fan, wiping down baseboards, sweeping cobwebs off the ceiling, vacuuming chairs/couches, organizing any mail/paper clutter that's accumulated by the front door, washing mirrors, etc.
Week 5 (if there happens to be one) - Car/Yard/Garage/Whatever else
If there happens to be a 5th Saturday during the month, it'll be tempting to just have an extra day to rest, but probably don't do that.
I mean, you can if you want, I'm not your boss. But you probably have some other rooms or areas that need cleaning that weren't address in weeks 1-4.
5th Saturdays are good for cleaning up your yard, cleaning out your car really well, working on cleaning your garage (if you have one), or cleaning whatever other room you have in your house.
I use my 5th Saturdays to deep clean and organize my home office/art studio. I do all the same wiping down walls and typical chores I do for the other rooms.
That's all there is too it!
It's a big change and it gets harder the more people or animals you have living in the house. But it is doable. If you have kids or roommates, you could assign chores based on the room of the week, give them one of the daily chores, or just keep it simple with the "5 things" rule.
There's a lot of options for splitting up the work if you want to do it that way.
But most importantly, do what works for you!
This is just an example of what I do and what works for me. If you need to mix up all the daily chores to different days, do that! I used to do laundry on Thursdays and floors on Saturdays, but then after a couple weeks I realized that didn't work well.
Play around with it until you find a rhythm you're comfortable with.
That being said, the schedule and what days you do things isn't important. What's important is the habits you're trying to create. If you get into the habit of cleaning up as you go and doing a little bit each day, that's what's going to keep your house clean more than anything.
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