Everyone knows how to clean the house. But why does it always look like a tornado went through a few days later? If you find yourself constantly getting the house spotless and promising yourself “this time, it will stay clean,” then you’re missing a few key steps that you need to learn ASAP. It’s not that you need to stick to a whole cleaning schedule or start blocking out hours a week to maintain this spotless state, it’s actually just a couple tiny changes and a mindset shift. Here are the three important things I do now that bridged that gap between promising myself a perma-clean house and actually having one:
First of all, you have too much stuff. You need to go through all of your possessions using the KonMari method. Just kidding, decluttering isn’t step one, but in all seriousness you should declutter. The less stuff you have, the less you have to clean.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the One Minute Rule. If any task will take less than a minute to do, DO NOT PROCRASTINATE. Do it now. If you follow this at all times, it’s a game-changer. I like to take it a little further and add on other less-than-a-minute tasks as you do them. For example, when you finish a snack, don’t just put your bowl to the side and continue watching Netflix. Immediately get up and don’t just put the bowl in the sink, but give it a quick wash and put it away back in the cabinet too. The goal is to leave no visible trace that the snack even happened. Now, I know how painful it would be to pause the show and get up to put that bowl away and how tempting it is to put it on the coffee table and say, “I’ll get it when I get up.” STOP. You know that you’re either going to forget once the movie’s over, or look at the bowl on your way to bed and say, “I’ll get it in the morning.”
THIS IS WHY YOUR HOUSE DOESN’T STAY CLEAN.
Because you don’t take the extra five or ten seconds to put stuff away IMMEDIATELY. Most things won’t even take a minute, they take five seconds. Time it and see for yourself. If you leave that bowl for later it will sit on the coffee table until a time when you “clean the house” and you have to gather up all the things you’ve left for later. Then you’ll pile it in the sink along with the other dishes and later you’ll have to set aside half an hour to do all the dishes. Can you see how this creates extra work for yourself in the long run? I’ve noticed a weird psychological phenomenon that happens when you leave even ONE little thing out of place or ONE thing on an otherwise clean surface. Next time you pass that area you’re more likely to put something else there and think, “Well, there’s already a mess so one more thing won’t hurt, I’ll get to that stuff later.” That one item will magnetically attract other items until there’s a pile and you will have no idea how it got there. This whole scenario could be avoided if you just suck it up and take the five seconds in the heat of the moment when you don’t want to, and just put that bowl away.
When you can’t decide what to wear and you’re trying on different outfits, don’t throw that shirt on the floor. Hang it up. I don’t care if you’re running late, it’s only five seconds. Remember that. If you tell yourself that you “don’t have time right now” I guarantee that you’ll have less time later to clean the whole house from scratch (remember that items will magnetically attract more). Would you rather come home to a messy closet with clothes all over the floor? Or would you rather take the one extra second and hang it up now and come home to spotless perfection? The catch is, everything hinges on you doing what you don’t want to do in that moment when you least want to do it. How badly do you want a beautiful, company-ready house? Suck it up. You’ll find that if you do the one-minute rule every time, it becomes so easy and you don’t even think about it. While you’re running out the door to work you’ll also grab those shoes that are on the floor and quickly put those back too. Always try to leave every area looking as good as, or even better, than how you found it.
Never leave or enter a room empty-handed. This means that when you leave the living room to go into the kitchen, grab something that needs to go in the kitchen anyway. Like that dish on the coffee table. When you enter the kitchen put the dish away. Or when you leave the bathroom to go into your bedroom, grab your dirty clothes that you just took off and put them in the hamper when you enter your bedroom. When you pass through the laundry room, start a load washing, and next time switch it to the dryer. Every time you’re going upstairs, take something that needs to go up there with you (bonus points if you can take more than one thing!) This tiny rule makes such a big difference. If you consistently do this, you’ll almost never have to do any tidying up. It’ll already be done.
This is where you need to shift your mindset about cleaning. “Cleaning” doesn’t have to be its own separate thing that you need to make time for. Use the tiny spaces in between what you’re already doing. Like, while your smoothie is blending, quickly wash a dish or two, or refill the ice trays, or clear off the counter. 30 seconds or even 10 seconds is enough time to put one item away or maybe more. And that doesn’t even count, right? Because you’re still just blending your smoothie. Change your mindset and tell yourself that you’re not even cleaning, you’re just putting one thing back. More examples: While you’re swishing your mouthwash around, put away all your makeup or skin products you used while getting ready. While your child is splashing in the bath, quickly wipe down the bathroom sink or do a quick clean of the toilet. Or while you’re already putting groceries away in the fridge, do a quick reorganization of the shelves and make everything look nice. Basically you’re just adding in one tiny thing to a task you’re already doing, therefore taking up no extra time at all. But during the day, when all these tiny things are adding up, you’ll realize you never need to pick up anymore. You’re already doing it in those in between moments, without ever feeling like you’re legit “cleaning.”
P.S. Now if you’ve read this whole article and you’re still thinking “I’m not going to actually do any of this,” the best solution I have for you is the age old advice of simply dedicating 10 or 15 minutes at the end of each day (or even two sessions per day) where you just speed clean and put away everything that has gotten messy throughout the day. This way still works to keep things maintained, but it will feel like you’re actually “cleaning.” If you’re consistent about this, your house will never get too out of hand. But let’s be real, if you don’t follow the above three steps to success, you will still be caught with a mess if someone unexpectedly stops by. Have fun with that.