When the economy tanked, Matt and I took on extra jobs and one of those jobs was working for my brother-in-law’s commercial cleaning business. I was amazed that after a few weeks of cleaning, we were cleaning twice as fast as when we started. I learned an important lesson: if you clean often enough, you become more efficient. So I thought I would tell you a little about how I keep our house clean. There are three major aspects of keeping a house clean. The first part is prepping your house, the second part is learning to clean well, and the final part is being consistent.
Prep Your House
One of the most important aspects of cleaning the house is getting the house ready to be cleaned. Make your house easy to clean in order to keep it clean. Every time you add a step to the cleaning process, you risk not having the time to clean. So follow these four tips to make your house easy to clean every time.
Tip #1 – Declutter
One of the most time consuming steps when cleaning the house is picking stuff up. If you want to speed up the cleaning process, the best thing you can do is declutter. Decluttering looks different for everyone, so do not judge people by what they keep and what they give away. Some people are sentimental; others can easily part with the past. Do what is best for you, but DO get rid of anything that has no sentimental value and that you do not need or will not use. Limit yourself to a certain number of storage boxes for sentimental items and toss out anything that is unimportant. Remind yourself that tossing or selling something will save you time and money in the long run.
Tip #2 – Organize
Once you have decluttered (it may take a few passes), you need to organize. Organizing does not happen over night. It is a multi-step project that requires you to catalog (mentally or physically) what you have, look at what is available for storage, then determine what would be best for your stuff. This will take at least a few weeks if not a few months. Once you have a system in place, it is easier to keep your house picked up, and that saves on cleaning time.
Tip #3 -Clear Surfaces
Dusting and Vacuuming are time consuming, and clearing the furniture and the floor takes additional time. I keep anything unnecessary off our floor. I leave a few cat scratching posts and some floor decor, but most decor is on the walls. I also try leave a vacuum-head-sized space around items that are near the wall. This saves on time and many items look nice (such as our two plants) about a foot from the wall. I treat my furniture decor the same way: I remove anything unnecessary and leaving only a few decorative items. Anything that makes it look cluttered gets removed.
Tip #4 – Consider Flooring
If you are planning to replace your flooring, consider ease of care when you pick out new flooring. Concrete and tile are fairly indestructible and easy to care for. Laminate is inexpensive, but can get ruined by any water that pools on the floor. Engineered and solid wood flooring takes some care, but it is easy to clean. I avoid carpet because it never really seems to get clean. Instead, I opt for hard flooring and add replaceable rugs where we need them. Once a rug is too old to clean, replace it. It is easier to replace a rug than to replace tacked carpet.
Clean Your House
The next aspect of house cleaning is the actual cleaning method. There are a few hints below that should get you on your way to more efficient cleaning. When you take less time to clean, you will dread it less and be more willing to clean the house in the future.
Tip #5 – Clean In Order
The pros know to clean in a specific order. Here is the order we follow:
- Pick Up the House. I often do this the night before I clean.
- Pick Decor Up From the Floor. Put it somewhere out of the way – I use the coffee table or fireplace hearth.
- Dust. Dust settles on lower surfaces as you go, so dust higher furniture first, then go lower. Dust decor then move the decor and dust under it. Do not forget picture frames and dusty trim. Spots that cannot be seen can be dusted less often.
- Vacuum. Get behind and around furniture. Go slowly enough to give the vacuum time to get everything. Vacuum the furniture periodically (our vacuum works wonders for pet hair on the sofa and chairs).
- Clean the Bathrooms and Kitchen. Cleaner tends to get on the floor when cleaning the bathrooms and kitchen. Mopping after cleaning get the excess up without effort.
- Mop Hard Surfaces. Start at one end of the house and end on the other, being sure to have an exit available.
Tip #6 – Get the House Clean
My mom always told us : Don’t clean the house → get the house clean. Do not go through the actions sloppily just to say you cleaned the house. If the house is still dirty after you finish, you have wasted your time. Take enough time to really get the house clean. Speed comes with creating a good system and sticking to it; being sloppy adds unnecessary time.
Tip #7 – Speed Things Up
We have a few tricks to get things cleaner faster.
Keep Supplies Together – I keep all cleaning supplies in a tote that I take with me around the house. It keeps everything corralled and at hand and is easy to put away when I am done.
Dust – Quality feather dusters are surprisingly good at dusting. A disposable swiffer duster works well and can be used for quite a few cleanings before replacing the head. Avoid sprays as they leave a film on the furniture and dust clings to it.
Vacuum – Invest in a high quality vacuum. We have gone through multiple vacuums, but nothing gets the dirt up like our Dyson Canister Vacuum. I like the canister as I can get the head behind and around just about everything on the floor. If you are unsure about the cost, compare the cost of a good vacuum to the cost of a housekeeper and you will realize it is a good deal. We got our best deal by calling Dyson up ourselves, but you can also look for them around Black Friday. When vacuuming, go slowly enough to get the dirt up in one try. Also, note the length of the cord. Our vacuum can easily reach over half of the house without moving the cord. We vacuum everything within reach of the cord on one side of the house, then move it and vacuum the other side.
Clean the Bathroom – The best ways to clean the bathroom is to invest in good bathroom cleaners. My recommendations are Scrubbing Bubbles Mega Shower Foamer for the shower, Clorox Cling Toilet Bowl Cleaner for the toilet bowl, Method All Purpose Cleaner for the toilet and sink, and microfiber cloths for wiping everything down). First use the toilet bowl cleaner in the toilet bowl. Then spray the shower/tub with Scrubbing Bubbles. Next, let the toilet bowl cleaner shower spray sit while you clean the toilet and sink with Method. Finally, wipe up the shower and scrub the toilet. Move to the next bathroom and repeat)
Clean the Kitchen – I am notorious for not keeping the kitchen as clean as I should. The best way to speed up the kitchen cleaning is to keep up with it on a regular (i.e. daily) basis.
Mop – Do not underestimate the power of a good mop. We inherited the Hurricane Spin Mop with our house and mopping has never been easier or faster. It takes me less than 20 minutes to mop the entire house. Start at one entrance and end at another. You need to leave without walking through the area you just mopped. I start in the mudroom and end in the office, where I exit through our back porch. Experiment to find the best system then use it every time.
Tip #8 – Create a Cleaning Habit
The most important tip for cleaning is to create a system and make it a habit – find the fastest and easiest way to clean and do it the same way every time. When you create a habit you remove decision making. Removing decision making speeds up the entire process. It will take you a few sessions to find the system that is best for you, but once you have it, clean that way every time.
Half of your effort in cleaning is spent on just getting through the process. Some people hate cleaning because they feel they could be accomplishing something else. Others hate it because they are bored. Tackle these two mindsets to get into the right mentality.
Tip #9 – Use a Timer
If you really hate cleaning, start by using a timer. Set the time for thirty minutes to an hour and clean as much as you can in that time. You might not get the house into spectacular shape, but it is a great start. Next time try to finish more cleaning in the same time or extend the time. You will find that as you get faster you will not hate cleaning as much.
Tip #10 – Consider the Benefits
One of the biggest irritations about house cleaning is that it feels purposeless. This is compounded if you have children who will immediately mess it up after you finish cleaning. Cleaning the house is important because dust and pet hair accumulates quickly and the house will be very difficult to clean after months of neglect. Even if you feel like you are in a losing battle, remind yourself that regular cleaning will save time in the long run. We clean our house about every other week. You may need to clean it once a week or just once a month. However often you decide to clean, put it on your calendar and stick to it.
Tip #11 – Enlist Help
One reason I wish I had children? Because my sister’s kids have been helping her clean the house since they were quite young. If your kids are not already helping, start now. It will take some extra supervision in the beginning (which can initially slow things down), but once they form good habits they will get faster. Give small jobs to the young ones and increase their responsibility as they get older. It may be as easy as dusting the bedroom or putting the dishes away. Get them involved as soon as possible and you will have a clean house for years. If you do not have children, enlist the help of your spouse or roommate.
Tip #12 – Entertain Yourself
My final recommendation is to entertain yourself while cleaning! I listen to audiobooks while cleaning. Maybe you have a favorite podcast or even a TV show or movie. Put some entertainment on in the background. If you can prevent yourself from becoming bored while you are cleaning, you are more likely to clean the house again in the future. And if you are a busy parent with little time to clean, you may even start looking forward to that time as “me time” when you can listen to something you do not have time for during the week.