Keeping a spotlessly clean house isn't as difficult as it looks. How to do it has been the best kept secret of Susie Homemaker for years.
How to keep a clean house and free yourself from the chains of drudgery will give you the know how, skills and confidence to achieve a spotlessly clean house and a clear conscience.
Even in our modern day with both partners working women get the lions share of the work as well as the guilt. Women spend about 3 hours a day doing house work compared to an hour and a half for men. Two out of five men don't do laundry while only one out of twelve women don't do laundry. Society demands that homes be clean, tidy and organized and yet economics requires women to work out side of the home. The old stereotypes persist and women get stuck, emotionally and physically, with all the work. Yet if anyone is working 3 hours a day on housework they're doing it wrong.
The Four Unbreakable Rules
Never, ever, break these rules!
1. Everything has a home.
2. Use it or lose it.
3. Never ignore or pass anything that needs to find it's home.
4. Use "little minutes" every chance you get.
Time to talk
You will have to have a talk with your better half and let him know what you are trying to accomplish. He will have to be a part of it and support you in this. He'll have to pitch in as well. Let him know that this system will be easy to follow with clear direction and will result in a very satisfying feeling. It will make you happy and his goal should be to help you be happy.
I'm so buried I can't find the shovel to dig my way out!
A messy house has emotional and physical costs. It makes you feel tired, hopeless, out of control, depressed, frustrated and over stressed. It can lead to resentment and loss of self-esteem. If you can't find something, over and over, you can't relax because you worry about all the things you need to do. It can lower your immunity and resistance to illness. It's an energy drain and a time drain. Clutter eats up your time. Everything needs taking care of; even if you're finding it impossible to take care of it all you still know it needs taken care of. If you have 50 cups you need to take care of 50 cups. If you have 20 cups you only need to take care of 20 cups. By cutting the amount of things you have you can cut the time you need to take care of them, and worry about it, by more than half.
But, have hope! All is not lost. All you need is a plan. Stop beating yourself up, sit down, take a deep breath, and read on.
How to get started when it all feels so hopeless.
Don't start with a shovel. Start with a spoon. Or actually three boxes and one corner.
Now you can do one small corner can't you? Of course you can!
A good place to start is the living room and a good corner to start at is one of your two end tables.
Grab three boxes and label them with a marker or crayon. You'll find the crayons over in the sock drawer. How they got there no one knows. If they're not there try the silverware drawer. But if you can't find one within 3 minutes give it up and go buy one. You'll be able to find anything you need once you're done with your plan.
Now label them:
box 1 - Keep
box 2 - Toss
box 3 - Donate
For heaven's sake, don't get all boggled down with what box to use or delay because you haven't collected the boxes yet. Any containers will work. Laundry baskets, plastic bags, anything. It doesn't have to be perfect or done exact. If you think it does then you're a perfectionist and that very fact is holding you back. More on personality types later.
Take your three boxes to one corner of your house. Start picking things up and placing them in the correct boxes. Garbage goes in the TOSS box, things you don't want but wish to give away put in the DONATE box and things that need to go somewhere else in the house in the KEEP box.
You don't have to think much on this. Don't make any big decisions. Just toss things into the different boxes as fast as you can toss.
Work for 15 minutes then stop.
I said STOP! Do not work for more than 15 minutes.
Trust me on this one
Now take the garbage stuff to the garbage immediately and put the donate box in the trunk of your car so you can drop the items off at the Goodwill box today. Don't delay doing this or your trunk will fill up and be another clutter place. Take all the things that belong somewhere else to where ever they belong. Don't worry about where to put them. Just toss them. You'll get to that room later.
Stand back and look at your clean corner. Wow! You did it! This one small corner is where it will all start. Not only will the cleanliness start here but so will your habits and it's those habits that will help you keep control of your housework.
Now refer to the FOUR UNBREAKABLE RULES above and do not put anything in that corner that does not belong in that corner. If you walk past it and something is there that doesn't belong, move it. Use little minutes to dust it and keep it tidy. Never mess up what you've cleaned up. You've won the battle in one corner and soon you'll win the entire war!
Make the FOUR UNBREAKABLE RULES your habits. Say them over and over as you do them. When you pick up a toy and move it to where it belongs say to yourself "Everything has a home". When you pick up a magazine someone put on the end table say "Use it or lose it" and toss it away. When you're waiting for the coffee to drip grab a dust rag and head to your corner saying "Use little minutes". After a while you won't think it, you'll just do it.
Great items to help you get organized.
The Most Popular Purchase
The list above is random and pulled by Amazon and they're all great products but week after week, month after month "Organizing from the Inside Out" has been the most sought after and popular book.
Every Day Cleaning & Deep Cleaning
Now you're feeling pretty good about getting something done. It's not a very big win but it's a win. You can't win the war in just one battle. No one can. But you can, and will, if you build your win's one by one.
But now isn't the time to rest. Now you need two lists. The first list are things that need to be done every day just to keep things tidy. This includes washing dishes, picking up the stray jackets and papers, and taking the glasses back to the kitchen. The second list goes room by room and details all the small things that need to be cleaned to really clean the room.
Your first list will look a lot like this:
Wash off dinner table
Wipe stove and counter
Pick up & put away
Wipe bathroom sink & mirror.
Your second list will look a lot like this:
Clean out cupboard
Wipe off cupboard doors
Clean stove hood
Clean out refrigerator.
Wipe down walls
Wipe off light switches
Broom out cob webs
Wipe off mop boards
Dust & wash pictures
Clear out end tables
Dust & wash end tables & coffee table
Throw out newspapers & magazines
Wipe out cobwebs
Dust ceiling fan
Wipe off mop boards
And so on for every room in your house. Make sure you don't forget anything no mater how small. Everyone's house is different so your individual items may be just a little different.
Work an hour a day
That's all. Just an hour. And even that amount of time may shorten depending on how many people you have in your house. If you have a raft of kids there's not much anyone can do. They're messy and you will need the full hour just to keep even. But they'll grow up eventually and your nest, empty as it may be, will be spotless from the system you've followed.
Do you still have that paper? Are you ready to put it all together?
You have just one more thing left to do. - Your Wish List.
These are the goals you want to accomplish. Maybe you want to paint the front room, get those household papers organized, clean out that back closet or get chairs that match your dining table. Maybe you even want to start that exercising you've been saying you've got to start someday. Whatever your goals are make a list of them.
As the saying goes: "Fail to plan, Plan to fail". You need to decide when and how you will accomplish not only your cleaning goals but also your wish list goals. That's the next step.
Now you have a corner cleaned out. You've advanced. You have your list of every day cleaning and deep cleaning. You have your Unbreakable Rules and now you have a list of things you wish you could do.
Now is the time to plan.
Every day cleaning takes the longest. Select 1/2 hour a day to do everything on your Every Day Cleaning list. I know, you do these things anyway so why put them on a list? For one thing crossing a line off a list lets you know you are accomplishing something. For another, your not in this alone. The lists will help your other family members with the cleaning and they won't clean something that you've cleaned if you've crossed it off.
You also don't actually need to have a solid half hour. Remember Unbreakable Rule #4? Do your half hour Daily Cleaning in the little minutes of the day. Stack the dishwasher in the morning, Clean the toilet during lunch break, wipe down the mirrors right after your shower. You can actually accomplish this Every Day Cleaning without setting time aside for it.
Schedule one room per day for the Deep Cleaning. Your schedule might look like this:
If you have more rooms than I've listed go into the next week and have a two week rotating schedule. You can keep a house clean, no matter how many people you have, by following your Deep Cleaning schedule to hit each room just twice a month. Really, you can.
Make a lot of copies of your lists. These will be used one list for one time per month.
Don't schedule the weekend. That's play time, family time, hobby time, just plain goofing off time or accomplishing goals time.
Work just 15 minutes on the Deep Cleaning. Fifteen minutes and no more! You won't get everything on the list done. You don't have to get everything on the list done. Anything you missed you can do the next time the room comes up on the schedule. Don't re-clean something that you've cleaned a week ago. The goal is to get the things on the list done for each room within a months time.
Your Deep Cleaning will get things clean that are often missed and your daily cleaning will keep the house "picked up". Following the Unbreakable Rules will keep your house spotless at all times.
Do Not work more than the scheduled time!
When you've reached the allotted time - Stop!
That doesn't add up!
Even I can see that 1/2 hour of Daily Cleaning and 15 minutes of Deep Cleaning doesn't add up to an hour.
You still have 15 minutes left over.
This is for your goals. Well, for the ones that don't require continuous hours to accomplish. Cleaning out that back closet is a good example. The extra 15 minutes in your cleaning schedule is the time to schedule your goals that can be done a little at a time. The back closet can be done by working on it only 15 minutes a day. Maybe you want to get that exercising in or organize your paperwork.
If none of your major goals will fit in 15 minutes a day do some of the smaller goals. Read that book you've been wanting to read. Sort out your recipes, knit that sweater or sort through those old photographs.
What about the major goals?
Well, you've just freed up your entire weekends and most of your evenings!
Remember! Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail.
Look at your list of goals and decide what you want to accomplish first then schedule when you want to do them. Write it on the calendar or on your lists. Many of them can be done in that extra 15 minutes. Most might have to be done on the weekend or your days off. Painting the front room can't be done 15 minutes at a time but organizing your household papers can.
Your Personality Affects Your House.
You need to know yourself well enough to know your weaknesses to over come them. Most of us are a bit of many of these personality types. I know I am. And I know that my best time is in the morning. I can't do anything after, say, 10 a.m. so I do my work while the coffees making in the morning. I'm also a perfectionist and I have to be careful not to get too picky. I'm also a bit of an Independent and get upset when someone comes along and puts dishes in the wrong order. I want things my way. Knowing this I've lossened up a bit and decided "put away" really is "put away" even if it's not the way I'd have it done. I've chilled out a bit and kept my eyes focused on the end result more.
Here are some personality types and a few suggestions:
The Administrator is a systematic team player. You will love these lists and their ability to be used by everyone in your family. One problem you may have is you want to get it all done at once. Slow down and realize that it will be done as you work a bit at a time.
The Creative person will balk at the lists and think they're boring. Or you might get bogged down with making them decorative and pretty. Be careful of wasting time doing things to nicely. Get it organized, get it clean then get creative.
The Impulsive person REALLY needs this list and schedule! You are fun and full of energy and love to do things on the spur of the moment. This schedule will actually free up more of your time to do just that. Just be sure to keep your nose to the grinder 1 hour a day and follow the schedule you've created. Add some music to the cleaning and dance. Make your work fun.
The Independent person needs to focus a bit on organizing with other members of your family. If you think the pots and pans should be in one area and others think they should go somewhere else you'll run into conflicts. You also need to remember to share the work and share the responsibilities.
The Insightful person is driven by their mood. If your not in the mood to clean you'll find it very difficult to follow the schedule. Remind yourself that it's just an hour a day and reward yourself for your accomplishments. Just thinking about your reward might bring your spirits up.
The Perfectionist is my personal favorite. You'll spend a lot of time making sure the Nick-Knacks are just right on the shelf but ignore the dust. Be very careful of trying to do things "To Right" when you charge through your schedule. Use those last 15 minutes to satisfy your perfectionist nature but don't be too picky when you're doing the cleaning its self. Do it quick. Don't worry. If you miss something you'll catch it next time. Really, you will.
The Procrastinators. Well. What can I say about the procrastinators? There are a lot of reasons people procrastinate. They might even be perfectionists who don't want to start because they're sure there's not enough time to do it right. Or maybe impulsive people who have better things to do. In any case, if your a procrastinator you'll find the schedule you've created to be invaluable. If you find yourself procrastinating put up signs at the most obvious places in your house, like your computer. You just need three simple words "JUST DO IT" on your sign.
Result-Oriented people are made for these schedules! Crossing off the items one by one is perfect! Just make sure you don't go over the time. The goal isn't to do everything at once.
Social people are, well, social. They're a bit of a cross between the creative and the impulsive. If your a social person you might be distracted easily. Remember to turn off your cell phone during your cleaning hour!
And finally, the Undisciplined person is bored by details and can't seem to stay on track. Hopefully, if your an undisciplined type, you've been able to make it through the list making phase of your schedule. You need to rein yourself in with accountability. Plan a party for when you've finished 1 month of your schedule.
For all personalities: We need to remember that we are not 'cleaning', we are preparing. We didn't clean the bathroom. We prepared it for a nice feeling every time we need to go in. Who likes a dirty bathroom? We are freeing our time up, and clearing our conscious of negative feelings and wasted efforts. We need to change the way we see cleaning. It's not a job. It is something we do to accomplish our goal. Keep the goal in mind, envision the end result and the rest will come easy.
We will be working less and doing more.
Your Personality and How to Work With Yourself to Get Things Done.
Understanding yourself is key to being able work with yourself to achieve your goals. It's not essential that you become a psych major or expert on yourself. Following the suggestions in this article without detailed self study will still result in a cleaner house but knowing yourself can give you a "heads up" on areas that will require more effort. Sometimes knowing yourself will let you out smart yourself. These books may help you not only understand yourself but others as well.
A little Organization Goes A Long Way.
Now you have your cleaning schedule and you're doing well with it. Good for you! You've freed up much of your time. You don't have to concentrate so much on everyday tasks and you have a lot more energy left. Now you might want to free up even more of your time.
It's time to organize!
Organize your paperwork, your file system, your meals and even your food shopping to free up much more of your time.
It might seem silly to create a two week menu and shopping list. Who does that any more? But the more you can ease your "to do" list and relieve your mind of things you have to remember the less stress you'll have. And think of this. If you had a two week menu planned and a shopping list ready made anyone can go to the store to pick up what you need for the next two weeks. Just grab the card and drop it in your purse or slip it into your husbands wallet. You'll have everything you need to make dinner. You don't even have to think of what to have or go through that "What do you want for dinner?" "Oh, I don't know. What do you want?" "I don't know. I asked you first". If you make three 2-week menus you'll rotate through enough dinners that it won't be boring and you'll never be out of something that you need.
I hope this article helped free you from the Chains of Drudgery and gave you some useful tips to free your life from clutter and/or others expectations and reach your goals. Is there anything you'd like to see added or have you a little trick that's worked for you or a problem that you've solved?
Anna Esfandiary on April 30, 2017:
Thank you I'm going to try all your tips. I'll get back to you on success.
Cathryn on June 22, 2016:
day two- spent 2hrs, 5 minutes washing dishes, putting away dishes, wiping down surfaces and watering plants. If I only did 1/2 hr of dishes a day, the sink would overflow quickly. hm.
I like the idea of the daily list and weekly list- going to print mine up with check-off boxes- should anyone else pitch in, they can initial it. maybe. right now, i'm noting how many minutes for each quick "little minutes".
A lot of this is similiar to what i read in "The Messies Manual", years ago when my kids were little.
Julie on May 19, 2016:
This is a great method for getting things organized and clean. I easily distract so having 1/2 hour and 1/4 hour goals sounds awesome, I am also going to try this with my garden and yard work. Thanks so much for the tips.
Amie on April 09, 2016:
We started out our married life sharing the housework but over the years I allowed my husband to cut back to the point where he does nothing and when asked, does a purposefully poor job that needs to be redone. Hey, if you prove you can't, no one will expect you too. But he does have 3 loads of laundry for me to do every day.
TheMaidsofTucson from Tucson, Arizona on March 23, 2016:
These are great tips!It can be overwhelming to think " I need to clean the entire house." We've also got tips for things you can clean in 5 minutes. http://maidsoftucson.com/how-to-keep-your-home-cle...
C on January 27, 2016:
Magic of tidying picture is misleading. Contents of article does not use the concept of Marie Kondo.
Randelions on November 01, 2015:
I wish this list had taken laundry into account.
Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on October 16, 2015:
Great article! It's an especially good idea to start in one corner. I've been working on decluttering and cleaning for months. It's overwhelming! Gotta start small. Baby steps!
Janet on September 30, 2015:
Thank you you open my mind now I can get break and time
Glen Rix from UK on July 26, 2015:
Thank you for your tips.I was drawn to your hub because I am so disorganised! I'll try to do better. Or maybe I should hire a cleaner.
Juls on June 13, 2015:
Thank you so much for this article. As an avid not doer of anything for various reasons, yes I am a little of most of your personality types I have found this one of the best and most practical ways of getting beyond my ways and getting my house clean. I will be doing up my lists tonight when the kids go to bed. Feeling inspired!
Marilyn Forbes on April 28, 2015:
It's dining room not dining room.
Isell houses on March 04, 2015:
I love these ideas! Do you have any suggestions for a hubby who not only will not help but creates a mess everywhere he goes? I get a room picked up and he will have it messed it up by the time I go in it again! He also drags "stuff" home all the time and doesn't want to get rid of anything. I have a teenager and a nine year old still at home. They can be pretty messy too but will at least do some chores when asked. I also have a demanding sales job because my husband said I needed to "do something with my life." Any ideas for getting his cooperation?
happymama on December 23, 2014:
Great article. Really gave me hope when I thought all was lost concerning keeping my house clean. But these were practical solutions to what seemed like an impossible feat. Thanks for sharing your wisdom!!!
rachel on November 01, 2014:
I haven't finished reading this whole thing yet, but I am almost in tears. It is so hard for me to keep a clean house (like hopelessly, horribly difficult) with two kids and a full time job. This gives me hope. Thank you.
Johnk979 on October 08, 2014:
certainly like your website however you have to check the spelling on several of your posts. Many of them are rife with spelling problems and I to find it very troublesome to inform the truth nevertheless I will surely come back again. gfebaadefcef
Mary Ann Lambert on September 16, 2014:
I keep up my house clean
jen09 writes on June 09, 2014:
Great lens! Reminds me a lot of the fly lady
TapIn2U on June 02, 2014:
I absolutely love the keep, toss, donate idea! Now to share it with the family. Thanks for these amazing tips! Fantastic lens! Sundae ;-)
Tanya Jones from Texas USA on February 16, 2014:
I needed something like this. I'm really an organized person and a good cleaner. However, once I have a bit of clutter, it seems to propagate like wabbits. This is very helpful and I have some plans in mind to better manage and maintain my domestic needs.
londonremovals24 on February 13, 2014:
I see myself while reading this lens.
Giovanna from UK on February 03, 2014:
Great stuff. My mum would have been proud of you! You're right though keeping the house nice is blooming hard drudgery!! So it's best to keep on top of things.
KateMaleski on January 17, 2014:
I've just reread this, because I was on the bandwagon for a while and it was working great! Then the holidays came, and my system went out the window. I've now printed my lists, complete with check boxes, and laminated them. Now our family (Me) can use a dry-erase marker to check what we've done and just wipe it off for the next day. These are posted on my fridge. Wish me luck!
tonyleather on November 10, 2013:
What a helpful and well set out lens. Thanks.
nonya222 on November 06, 2013:
Love it! Thanks!
VictoriaHolt on October 24, 2013:
Great great stuff on here. I will have to come back soon.
estherdanmeri on March 02, 2013:
Love this lens, I was laughing so hard where you say 15 mins then STOP, yes STOP! Going to enjoy learning how to put this into practice. Thanks for so much practical advice and your generous sharing of time in writing the lens.
laurenrich on January 13, 2013:
This lens is very helpful. It is very informative and easy to do. Thanks for sharing.
ArtzeeChris LM on January 04, 2013:
Wow this is really jam packed with a lot of great information. I'm a mom with two boys who are on the Autism Spectrum and needless to say these boys can do a number on the home, our house is always in need of help. I'm going to sit down when I have more time and put a plan together here. Thanks so much for all the work you did on this Lens.
Margot_C on December 25, 2012:
This is a great lens with some great tips! I love the "everything must have a home" rule. Just looking around m office now I see that I violate it in numerous ways and just finding a home for everything will go a long way towards making the room seem less cluttered. And it's funny, I was just having a conversation about the term "Front Room". I think it might be a regional thing (like "pop" vs "soda").
emily-sasha-39 on December 19, 2012:
I read your article so many times and i am speechless what to say about it. its really impressive entry I could never be able to make such stuff on Squidoo
Diva2Mom on September 28, 2012:
Great lens, reminds me of one of mine, after my diva days! God bless!
keithmelynda-ezell on September 18, 2012:
I have followed flylady.net for years but I kept getting behind. I do not doubt their ability to help because I made huge improvements but I like how much simpler your list is! One question:
How do I teach my child this? Stupid, I know. But what I mean is how can I incorporate this into her learning without it seeming like I'm making her "clean house" also? There were 8 people in my family as a child, 4 of which were boys with special needs, and I grew up HATING to clean at all. How can I prevent this from happening to my little girl?
Frischy from Kentucky, USA on September 09, 2012:
I like your recommendations, especially your four unbreakable rules. I am putting those little minutes to work starting today! Thank you!
vhenry (author) on August 25, 2012:
@Gypzeerose: Thank you and good luck! It will work. Just remember how one eats an elephant.
You know how you eat an elephant right? --- One bite at a time ;)
Rose Jones on August 25, 2012:
This is really helpful wonderful stuff - I certainly can use it! I like the starting simple approach. I will put these in action today.
vhenry (author) on August 20, 2012:
@Surfie LM: I use the "Use it or Lose It" rule all the time! I had a pitcher and bowl from my 'old country' design phase. It was cracked but I loved it. I couldn't just have it sitting in my new contemporary house any more but hated to toss it. I put it on the back patio with an ivy in it. That was years ago and it's been very happy in it's new home ever since.
Surfie LM on August 09, 2012:
Great lens! I especially like the four rules. Hopefully I'll be able to put some of this into action!
kelseyjoxo on July 27, 2012:
Great lens, thank you! :) I have been kind of doing this (two rooms a day-deep cleaning) & have gotten totally overwhelmed after just a week, so thank you!)
smithlights on July 06, 2012:
Great lens! I am a Squidooer, but I found you on Pinterest!
laura-lineberry-9 on June 28, 2012:
A really good plan - thanks!
vhenry (author) on May 22, 2012:
@mar-a-fernanda-estradas-ollinger: Way to go! Hang in there and remember the saying "slow and steady won the race".
mar-a-fernanda-estradas-ollinger on May 15, 2012:
I just did my room according to these four rules and got rid of two bags full of trash... i feel lighter but I really need to concentrate on not getting everything done at once...
Top Option Broker on May 13, 2012:
If you haven't used it in 1 year, give it away to someone who will use it!
gradientcat on May 02, 2012:
Great suggestions, sounds like a wonderful plan.
Itaya Lightbourne from Topeka, KS on May 02, 2012:
Wonderful article! I have made it my goal to declutter and put away a little bit more each day. So far it's working great. :)
squid-pinkchic18 on April 26, 2012:
Oh man, we could definitely benefit from these rules at our house. Thanks!
erik-hans-rasmussen on April 14, 2012:
I actually found this article via my Springpad! All of the sudden, I was very intrigued by Springpad's functionality as a social sharing service. It's ingenious, actually. I'm going to invite all my friends to use it. Additionally, this article really rocks. I haven't found such an in your face guide to staying clean in a long time.
Chocolatealchemy from London, United Kingdom on March 22, 2012:
Wow, awesome Lens, love the advice and lists - it's really useful stuff - so thank you so much.
PurplePansy LM on February 18, 2012:
Wonderful lens and great ideas! I found the part about searching for a crayon very funny. I can so relate to that.
Gayle from McLaughlin on January 28, 2012:
Realizing I can use short periods of time--to empty dishwasher or to put up laundry--has helped me keep more order in my house!
jadehorseshoe on December 26, 2011:
VERY Useful Lens.
lifeloveliving on November 08, 2011:
Some great tips, I get a friend to help with the big housekeeping jobs and I help her too, we ut music on loud, drink gallons of tea and gossip, it makes it so much more fun. See my lens on it http://www.squidoo.com/beat-the-house-work-get-a-c...
Johanna Eisler on November 07, 2011:
I get a great feeling of satisfaction if I have the washing machine and the dishwasher going while I tackle a housecleaning job. *grin* Talk about your multi-tasking!
TravelingRae on June 28, 2011:
Great tips in this lens! I make coffee with a French press, takes about ten minutes total from the time I set the kettle to boil to the coffee being done steeping. I've discovered that this is the perfect time to put away the previous day's dishes that have been drying overnight or clean the microwave or clean the fridge or spot clean the floor...
vhenry (author) on May 16, 2011:
@paperfacets: Thank you for stopping by my lens. There is only one plan here. One can't stand without the other so they both need to be in the same place. If you follow the plan your house will be clean and stay clean with a lot less time spent on it. If you explore the additional suggestions, such as discovering your personality type, working the plan will be easier for you. Good luck with your new life!
Sherry Venegas from La Verne, CA on May 05, 2011:
I like your 15 minute declutter. I think you may have two lenses here. One for The clutter plan and one for the cleaning plan. You can link them together in Squidoo and then give them both backlinks.