On top of everything else you do during the day, keeping your home clean can be a challenge. You may let cleaning fall to the wayside or spend extra money to have someone do it for you.
But it doesn’t have to be a major ordeal. Here are three guides to help you keep your home looking and feeling clean:
GUIDE 1: Organize More Effectively
Organization is the first line of defense against a messy home. How do you arrange and store your belongings so you can easily find what you’re looking for when you need it? Here are some tips:
Focus on closet organization. You may feel as though you’re always running out of room in your closets. The problem may not be the amount of space you have, but rather how you’re using that space. How you organize each closet in your home will depend on how you use it. For example, you may need cubbyholes for storing pants or sweaters in your bedroom closet and larger shelves for storing boxes in your office. A home improvement or storage container store can give you ideas for how to design your closet space most effectively.
Put baskets in strategic locations. The beauty of baskets is that not only are they decorative, but they can be used as “catchalls” for clutter—whether it’s mail, kids’ toys or anything you don’t have a regular storage place for. Put an appropriately sized basket anywhere in your home where clutter tends to form. Of course, baskets can become overfilled and start to look messy themselves. So it’s important to sort through them regularly to organize or toss the contents.
Find creative storage units. Things you may be tempted to just throw into closets, drawers or baskets can often be more systematically organized for easier retrieval—especially if you have more than a couple of them. Have an empty tissue box? Stuff it with your extra plastic bags. Have a pool noodle? Cut it down and insert the pieces into your boots to keep them upright in your closet.
Install hooks in prime locations. Hooks are small and easy to install and yet can add practical storage to rooms or spaces where you need to hang things—whether in bathrooms, kitchens or closets. Consider whether you have enough hooks in each room and where you can strategically install some more.
Put power cords in a freezer bin. Most people dislike having a tangle of power cords underneath their office desk. Have an old plastic or wire freezer bin? You can drill holes in the underside of your desk and install hooks to attach the bin. You can then keep your power strip and cords in that bin.
Use shoe bags for behind-the-door storage. Maximize space and organization by using the shoe storage bags that hang on the backs of doors. You can use them to store hats and mittens in your front closet or office supplies in your office closet.
Try color-coding. Especially when organizing file cabinets or shelves with several different types of content, color-coding can be an easy way to keep them visually organized and help you find items in a closet or a drawer quickly.
Downsize regularly. Designate at least one day each year to go through your clothes, personal files, and other belongings to determine what you can donate or throw away. It’s natural to feel sentimental and want to keep things, but minimizing what you own is the easiest way to maintain a clutter-free home.
GUIDE 2: Learn Cleaning Shortcuts
Keeping your furniture, floors and fixtures clear of dust and dirt is an ongoing battle—and one that can take up a lot of time. Here are some tips to make cleaning less of a drag.
Keep a lint roller handy. Lint rollers aren’t just for clothing. They can be faster and more effective than vacuums at getting pet hair and other debris off upholstery, tablecloths and lamp shades.
Remove marker stains with various household products. Kid drew on the wall? Accidentally marked up the dining room table? You can remove permanent marker stains with rubbing alcohol, hairspray, and other household products, depending on what type of surface the stain is on.
Put dish soap on grease stains. Rather than scrubbing out grease stains on clothes, simply put a drop of dish soap on the stain and gently rub it in before throwing the item in the wash.
Unclog drains with baking soda and vinegar. Have a slow or clogged drain? You can unclog it by first filling it with a half-cup of baking soda and then adding a half-cup of vinegar. Cover the drain with a wet cloth and wait five minutes. After that, pour a kettle of boiling water into the drain to wash away any remaining gunk.
Wash narrow-mouthed bottles with rice. Bottles and vases with narrow mouths can be hard to wash. Pour a small amount—say, a tablespoon—of uncooked rice into the bottle and add a couple drops of dish soap. Fill the bottle two-thirds full with hot water and then close and shake it. The rice will scour the inside of the bottle for you.
Remove sticky residue with peanut butter. If you need to remove sticky residue left—say, from a label—on dishware or other household items, here’s a trick: First, rub the residue with canola oil and let it sit for a few minutes. Then, spread a thin layer of peanut butter over it and use a paper towel to completely rub off the residue.
Dust window blinds with tongs. Wrap a dust cloth around each end of a pair of cooking tongs and use rubber bands to fasten it in place. Then, clasp your tongs on one of the blinds’ slats, sliding the tongs along the length of the slat to clean both sides at once.
GUIDE 3: Speed Up the Cleaning Process
How do you make cleaning faster and less of a “chore”? People whose homes are immaculate—even without having to hire house cleaners—know some tricks:
Reserve 30 minutes a day (at least). Set aside a specific—and realistic—time frame for cleaning every day. It might be the first thing you do in the morning or the last thing you do before bed.
Make a to-do list. Have a list of what you need to clean each day. Don’t make it so long that it will be impossible to complete, though. Stick with a few of the most important cleaning chores that you can realistically finish in the time you have allotted.
Make it fun. Make cleaning more fun by setting a timer and racing to get everything done before the timer goes off. Kids might be especially enticed to clean if they feel like it’s a game rather than hard work.
Do certain chores right away. Did the dryer load just finish? Get those clothes folded or hung ASAP. Completing certain chores immediately, such as putting away newly dried laundry or washing pans you just cooked with, can save you time in the long run. The laundry may require more ironing, for example, if you wait hours to hang or fold it, and food debris may become caked to your pots and pans if you wait too long to wash them.
Putting some thought into how and when you clean your home can help you keep your space tidier—without feeling overwhelmed by your chores.