What are YOUR list of tasks that you do daily, weekly, monthly, annually of anything home/cat related?
October 16, 2012 1:08 PM   Subscribe

I'm bad at cleaning up after myself and keeping things tidy/clean. Please help me change this. How often do YOU clean things?

I'm bad at cleaning up after myself and keeping things tidy/clean. Please help me change this.

Currently, I just do stuff, until one day I finally notice how messy/dirty everything is, then I spend a lot of time fixing that. This is maybe every two-three months. I want to change this and be more proactive by scheduling tasks into my calendar and set reminders. So I'm trying to compile a list of chores, and figuring out how often they need to be done.

I live by myself in an apartment. And want to get my first pet cat (this is part of the motivation for taking better care of my home.)

What are YOUR list of tasks that you do daily, weekly, monthly, annually of anything housework/cat related?

If you have any useful hacks/tips that has helped you, I'd appreciate that as well.
posted by cheemee to Home & Garden (38 answers total) 88 users marked this as a favorite
A lot of people I know are really into using the Unfuck Your Habitat site to help with this kind of stuff.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:09 PM on October 16, 2012 [15 favorites]

I try to clean something every time - or just about every time - I get up (from bed, from a chair where I'm working, from a couch when I'm watching a movie) and head somewhere else in the apartment.

Just little things - picking up a toy my son has dropped, washing a few dishes if I stop in the kitchen and there are some in the sink, grabbing the broom and sweeping quickly under the dining room table, etc. This is in conjunction w/regular, more time-consuming cleaning of the tub / toilet, mopping floors, cleaning out the fridge etc., but it goes a long, long way to keeping the mess under control.
posted by ryanshepard at 1:16 PM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Was coming in to suggest Unfuck your Habitat, so I'll second that.

There is also a great book, Home Comforts, by Cheryl Mendelson. She sets out guides for what to clean how frequently, and how to clean particular surfaces, and so forth.
posted by ambrosia at 1:19 PM on October 16, 2012

Seconding UfYH (including the app, which I love) - it focuses on a little at a time, making new habits. I think Flylady is similar in that approach. One thing that works for me is that when I get bored at work I think about all the other things I could be accomplishing, so I pick a little task or two to note down for later. Then I feel great that I got stuff done once I finish the tasks even though they only took a few moments.

The other thing that I've worked on is to do things NOW. I can put the whatever wrapper on the counter, or I can put it in the trash NOW. I can see that the sink is yucky, so I take a moment and wipe it down NOW. Obviously this takes practice to know what is quick and what will be more involved, but it helps keep the little stuff in check.
posted by brilliantine at 1:21 PM on October 16, 2012

When I worked in my college's cafeteria, we had a sign that said "Clean As You Go". It's a deceptively simple philosophy but it really is easier to spend a minute cleaning up after each subtask than it is to clean up after everything is done.
posted by tommasz at 1:21 PM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Put everything back where it belongs THE VERY MOMENT you're done with it.

Dirty dishes go in the dishwasher or are washed, to go into the dish rack.

Clothes go in the hamper or in the closet.

Trash goes in the basket.

Books go on shelves or in backpacks.

The less you leave behind just out of "I'll do it later," the more you'll be amazed how easy it is to keep things clean.
posted by xingcat at 1:21 PM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

I used to be a friggin slob. As I have gotten older, I can't take it in my kids and have changed completely myself. It can be done! I clean as I use. Really that simple. I never go to sleep with dishes in the sink. I schedule regular maintenance. I vacuum, clean the floors, dust and wash the bathrooms weekly on a schedule. I have a washer dryer so I do laundry whenever I have a load of whites or colors. If you just keep up with it, it is easy and can even feel rewarding. Strange as it sounds, I now enjoy washes the dishes because I get instantaneous feedback, see the product of my work and it is measurable. YMMV.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 1:22 PM on October 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

Do something every day. As soon as you get home, change out of your work clothes and immediately do one five-minute cleanup task -- vacuum on Monday, clean your bathroom on Tuesday, change your sheets on Wednesday, clean the kitchen on Thursday, pick up clutter on Friday. Just five minutes, before you settle in and start your evening. On the weekends, do laundry on Saturday and pick one room to clean as thoroughly as you can on Sunday (it won't take that long if you're keeping up on the other stuff), rotating rooms each week.

On preview, I second "clean as you go." Finish dinner, put the dishes in the dishwasher. Get dressed, put the clothes in the hamper. Go through mail, throw away or file immediately.
posted by Etrigan at 1:24 PM on October 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

I am just like you. I have a maid service that comes in every two weeks (it used to be monthly), and that forces me to pick stuff up and put stuff back where it belongs so that they can focus on the things I REALLY don't want to have to do, like the toilets, and vacuuming and dusting. When they're gone, the thrill of having a spotless apartment usually keeps me neat for a week or so; the existential annoyance of knowing I am just going to have to clean up in a week anyway sometimes keeps me neat longer. Now that I have the maids every other week, the place really very seldom looks like a wreck.

I don't know what your finances are, but maid service is not as expensive as you might think. When I had it monthly, I paid $90/month, and that was for a house, not a 2 BR apartment.
posted by ubiquity at 1:24 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Vacuum - once a week
Dishes - once a day or every couple of days if using the dishwasher (when it's full)
Bathroom rugs - wash one a month
Floors - sweep once a week, more if there is visible stuff like flour dust, onion skins; mop every two weeks unless there is stickiness
Sheets - every 2 weeks, once a week if I've been getting busy
Mattress pad - once a month
Towels - once a week
Bathroom - once a week
Furniture - dust couple times a month

I should wash sheets more often but I hate making the bed.
posted by shoesietart at 1:24 PM on October 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

Also, some people have recommended to me FlyLady.net, but I have never taken it to that level.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 1:26 PM on October 16, 2012

Nthing everyone else. It's way easier to just never let your house get messy. Put stuff away when you're done with it and then every weekend spend an hour or so doing the vacuuming, dusting, and cleaning the bathrooms & kitchen.

Cat-specific: I clean the litter twice a day, when I wake up and right before bed. We only have one box for two cats and they use it without fail like perfect little angels and I think our strict cleaning schedule has a lot to do with that.
posted by something something at 1:26 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

once a week throughout is a minimum. In the old days, housewives had a schedule for getting through it all during the week, but you can't do that if you have a job. So you need to spend your time off doing laundry and cleaning the house. I've listed all the things needing to be done and hired someone for 4 hours a week - which is what I can afford. Everything they can't do I need to do myself. Sometimes I give up, and buy new socks for everyone in the family, because I can't keep up with the sock-situation.
Every day:
beds are made during the morning (everyone responsible for their own beds)
no one goes to bed if the kitchen isn't clean
laundry is placed in the laundry box
If anything is not in use, it goes in place
everybody helps doing laundry and ironing
my ideal is that everything is ready every week, but we have enough stuff that we can change all bedclothes weekly and everything else daily and live on for three weeks.
Windows are polished
Dental care for all, and hair-cuts and pedicure if necessary

Sometimes I do extra cleaning, to keep on top of things, but in real life, you don't need to
posted by mumimor at 1:31 PM on October 16, 2012

Is there a part of the day when you have more energy? I find myself more energetic in the mornings, and on days when I don't have a pressing assignment or have to be at work/school early, I spend a bit of time (10-20 min maybe) cleaning up. If you do this regularly, you get to a point where the whole place isn't perfect, but it's livable and wouldn't take much time to get it looking really good.

Now in terms of lists --

*scoop out dirty parts of litter box (flushable litter is really handy) -- this really is a daily task for a cat. I mean, do you want to poop into a toilet that has yesterday's poop in it?
*food and water, including washing food/water bowls
*dedicated playtime
*thorough kitty brushing (will help reduce cat hair around apartment) - can be more frequent depending on the cat
*vacuum kitty hair
*dump litter box, clean, replace with fresh litter (maybe biweekly? I haven't had a cat for a while.)

*clean dishes
*put away dishes
*make bed
*personal hygiene
*dirty clothes into a hamper
*wash, dry, fold/hang, put away laundry
*clean tub/sink/toilet
*vacuum OR sweep and mop, depending on your floors
*take out trash and recycling (I find living by myself that I only fill up a trashcan once a week)
*I'm sure there are more weekly/monthly things, but I live in a studio and I'm in school and I don't do them. I have a nice layer of dust on my bathroom sink...
posted by DoubleLune at 1:31 PM on October 16, 2012

Generally, I try to put things away when I'm done with them and try to minimize trips back and forth to deal with things. I like to say that I'm motivated by the prospect of future laziness.

So a general cleaning schedule for me is like this:

Morning: go make breakfast and while breakfast is cooking, put away dishes that were washed the night before and pack lunch. After breakfast is done, make bed and do a quick straightening up of the desk. This also helps with figuring out what needs to be done that day because I'll find bills that are ready to be mailed or other things that need to be dealt with. Before going to work, scoop cat box.

After getting home from work: change into play clothes and either hang up/hamperify work clothes. (Note: there has to be an actual hang up spot for that to work. The floor doesn't count.) While making dinner, wash breakfast and lunch dishes. Once dinner is done, wash those dishes and do a quick wipe up of kitchen. (This is generally just a once over of the counters and stove with some of those Lysol wipes.) Every 3 days, wash cat food dishes. (May be a bit less/more depending on the filthiness of your cat.)

After dinner but before screwing around: check to see if there is anything that needs to be attended to for the next day which includes stuff like putting things that need to go downstairs by the front door and whatnot. Also, do a quick putting away of shit that winds up where it doesn't belong. Recycling in the bin and papers shredded, etc.

Before bedtime: clean cat box.

Once a week, I'll do a moderate cleaning of the house. This includes spraying some Scrubbing Bubbles in the toilet and shower and scrubbing the toilet and the tub (separate brushes), swiffering the hardwood floors, doing a quick dustbustering of the bedroom carpet, and wiping down countertops and mirrors a bit more thoroughly. Generally this takes me about 30 minutes.

Once a month, check for deeper issues like dusting and reorganizing.

4 times a year, I do a serious deep cleaning--scrubbing the floors by hand, cleaning the windows, etc. Those cleanings take me a few hours, but a lot of that is really waiting for the floors to dry.

Another thing to try and do is start from the top and go down. So don't get your floors spotless if you still have to dust. Otherwise you'll get dust all over your nice floors and be seriously pissed.
posted by sperose at 1:31 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you'd like, I can send you the detailed reminders I put in Remember the Milk that I use to prompt myself to clean things. Otherwise, I am totes lost about when the last time is that I cleaned something.
posted by sperose at 1:33 PM on October 16, 2012

1. put it away now, don't leave it till tomorrow. Where "it" = anything I am not currently using or wearing.
2. clean the dishes now, don't leave them till tomorrow.
3. wipe that spill up now, don't leave it until tomorrow.
4. clean the cat vomit now, don't leave it till 20 minutes from now.
5. when I check the mail, it gets dropped immediately into the recycle bin, my bill cubby or the husband's bill cubby. There are no other options.

Cat boxes are scooped daily, scrubbed monthly. Cat food bowls are rinsed or washed after every meal (they eat wet food only); water bowls are washed weekly. Cat blankets are vacuumed and washed every couple of months. The walls of the litter box cubby are washed every couple of months. The floors under the litter box are vacuumed weekly, but the mat directly under the litter box is cleaned as needed. The cat tree gets vacuumed every couple of months. Cats get brushed randomly, but they get their claws clipped every week at a minimum.

Bathrooms, kitchens are scrubbed monthly. The rugs are vacuumed weekly (we use baking soda/deodorizer every couple of months) and the hardwood floors are swept weekly. Surfaces should be dusted weekly, but that never happens, it's more like monthly. Windows get cleaned probably four times a year, which may or may not be gross--I don't know. Curtains get cleaned once a year, but I will run the vacuum over them, if they are covered in cat fur. Which they are.

Dishwashers and dryers are emptied immediately. When it's done being cleaned, it gets put away. I make the bed every morning, but change it probably weekly.

Steps 1-5 are the most critical and really, they don't take much time. Basically, don't let things get dirty or untidy. When they are dirty (like dishes), you wash them right away. When you are not using a thing, you put it away. Those are the rules. When I don't follow them, it takes an entire weekend to get everything back in order.

If you don't know where something should be when you are not using it, re-evaluate whether you need to have the thing at all. If you do need to have it, find a place to put it, even if that means getting rid of something else. Don't kid yourself that when you finally move to a bigger place, or finally get your closets organized, or finally remodel the bathroom, you'll finally have a place for everything. Find a place for it now or get rid of it.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:36 PM on October 16, 2012

I do a walk through my apt before bed each night and spot clean each room as I pass through- effectively "putting each room to sleep".

In my kitchen, I do leave (filled with soapy water) dishes in the sink sometimes, but no obvious trash out- mostly because I don't want bugs. I wipe down the countertop, and put edible things in the fridge. (I'm pretty good at cleaning as I cook, but I get done in by late night snack mess)

In my living room, I drape all discarded clothes around myself as I pass through, and throw any odds and ends of dishes into the sink. (these are the ones I wash in the morning)

In my bedroom, I sort the clothing (now draped over me) into two piles- laundry pile (right into the bag for laundromatting) or into "can wear again" which gets hung on hooks (hangers are too much effort). In the morning, when I get out of bed, I shake out the duvet (no top sheet for me- too much work) and the bed looks made.

This keeps the apt more or less company ready, and I do the big deep cleans (swiffer dance party, junk mail shredding, bleaching the bathroom, bleaching kitchen floor) every 2 weeks.

Also, a place for everything, and more or less everything in it's place is a very good philosophy.
posted by larthegreat at 1:39 PM on October 16, 2012

Stuff that needs to get done every day at my house:
Wipe kitchen counters/kitchen table
Sweep kitchen floors (I have a toddler who scatters crumbs. Everywhere. Always.)
A load of laundry. (you may not need to do as much laundry as our 2-kid-kitchen-cloth-using-cloth-diapering-family needs to do)
Scoop cat box
Take out compost
Tidy away toys

Stuff that needs doing weekly:
Vacuum floors
Clean bathroom (toilet, sink, mirror, tub, sometimes floor)
Take out trash/recycling
Deal with paper clutter (bills, junk mail, etc)

Stuff that gets done way less frequently:
Dusting (I just do not care that much)
Deep cleaning like baseboards and windows (basically any kind of cleaning that requires me to move furniture just gets done a couple times a year)
posted by fancyoats at 1:46 PM on October 16, 2012

One thing that helps me is the idea to never walk out of a room with empty hands. Really helps keep the clutter down.
posted by bonehead at 1:50 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Feel free to make changes if something isn't working. Got a hamper that only holds ~5 days of clothes, so you start piles on the floor? No good. Get a bigger hamper. Start by identifying problems (in this case, clothes piles on the floor), and ask yourself WHY they are happening.

Another example: I had a ton of dishes that would just sit in the dish rack. WHY was this happening? Because I had so many that I would take out dishes from the cabinet rather than using ones that had just been cleaned. Putting half of my dishes into storage solved that problem from the start.

Having a place for everything is absolutely essential for me, and coupled with flat surfaces that I like to keep clear really makes me put things away. If I can't clean the table, why not? Oh, it's because the salt and pepper shaker is here instead of on the shelf. Boom, put it away.

I have become much less attached to holding on to things that are not important. Junk mail is immediately pitched. MOST mail is immediately pitched. Free shit is put in the donate bag. Old containers, even if cute, are recycled without 'saving' them for some future use. In this way, it makes my home someplace that only holds my most vital items and thus makes it more of a motivation to keep it looking nice.
posted by amicamentis at 1:51 PM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

If I am getting up and something is out of place, I take that thing with me to its destination or nearer its destination. Each time I leave a room, I scan it: dish? To the sink. Shoes? to the shoe rack. Stuff for the basement? Drop it off at the basement door. One or two items per trip.
posted by zippy at 2:04 PM on October 16, 2012

I grew up with an obsessively neat mother (justifiable if you knew her background) but never wanted to be that way myself. So I think I've somehow settled in the "clean but far from obsessive" realm. Clean as you go along. I think the worst thing to do is leave things for months until you can no longer stand it, as that just seems to breed more of that. You don't have to go crazy - just keep things neat, change sheets regularly, clean dishes and surfaces, vacuum. I have two cats and live alone and you will HAVE to keep on top of (their messes) if you get one (well, unless you want to go all "Animal Hoarders"*). I find that tiring, but worth it ultimately. My cats have never gone outside of the box, and I do not clean the box every day, but your cat's mileage may vary. Some are fussier than others. They do throw up, a fair amount, and that has to be cleaned as soon as possible. Also, vacuuming regularly is a necessity. You may not be bothered by the tumbleweeds, but at the very least your guests will be, so just keep clean as if guests are coming over.

*Actually, watching "Hoarders" always motivates me to clean, and I've heard other people say the same thing. Maybe check out a few episodes [shudder].
posted by FlyByDay at 2:06 PM on October 16, 2012

All great suggestions so far. One that also works for me is having people over regularly. Shame is a big motivator for me. I know I'm a slob, but I don't want my friends/family knowing it too. Living alone is very enabling for a chronic slob.
posted by cecic at 2:08 PM on October 16, 2012 [6 favorites]

A useful hack that has helped me: invite more people over!
Whether it is dinner, board games, overnights, or... whatever, I invite a bunch of people over. Choose some who you would not want to show your sloppiness to. Choose an activity that won't end in more mess than you started with. Invite enough people so you need to clean to have room for everyone.
posted by whatzit at 2:09 PM on October 16, 2012 [7 favorites]

Don't hesitate to throw stuff out or at least give it away. The less stuff you have the less you have to clean and the less you have to maintain. You don't have to be a zen monk to benefit from this. Just think-how many shoes do you have? do you need that many shoes? how much bedding? this is the easy minor stuff that has some functionality. The big stuff that will make room in your life so cleaning and maintaining doesn't take over is the all the old stuff you don't need but might have some value or you paid a lot for. Like old computers, like old college textbooks that aren't useful to you, ever, old games (like xbox and such, not cool stuff like cataan or whatever you enjoy and stores easy with little maintenance required). Old electronics and unread books are the two single biggest pieces of clutter in my house followed by clothes (we finally, finally got the well off wife's mother to stop buying her clothes all the time that she didn't like and wouldn't wear but felt really, really guilty about getting rid of-all her drawers and closets were spring loaded and would spew clothes when opened-you can't even enjoy the stuff the stuff you do like when this happens). Be ruthless, be honest and de clutter. What you can't de clutter organize. I like building stuff and working on cars. This means I have lots of tools. So i buy the stuff to keep it all organized and always, always put back whatever i used last session either at the end of the work session or it is part of the beginning of the next session. Never start a new project with a cluttered work space, clean it up, put it away and if it has no place to be put either make one or throw it out. My moms is horrified at the amount of old rusty bolts, nuts and screws, leftover parts and miscellania that be useful someday after the apocalypse I throw out. But you no what? that shit is useless, its clutter and heave ho, if I have to I will fight the zombies for it when the apocalypse shows up. This is also how to keep a kitchen neat and clean and functional. It is not a Kitchen(as in to be decorated to make a statement about who you are as a cook), it is the workspace you make food in-which admittedly is a statement in itself. after a while the new habits take over and you discover living neat, clean, organized and minimally is much easier and happier than NOT living that way. Good luck.
posted by bartonlong at 2:32 PM on October 16, 2012

Everyone else has excellent timelines for daily/weekly cleaning, but one thing that really helps is having proper places to put things. If you eliminate clutter, you're 90% there. Once there are no piles of laundry, books, mail and dishes littering everything, the cleaning/dusting/vacuuming part should only take 15-30 min. So - come up with systems and places for stuff. In our house that means a couple of huge laundry hampers. Great for stuffing full of clothes for tidying. Bins and shelves for mail, keys, paperwork. Lots and lots of bookshelves - can hold anything, not just books. Even a couple of rubbermaid bins in the corner look tidier than crap all over the place.

When you come home from work, quickly tidy. Dishes get done, empty counters get wiped, furniture gets quickly dusted, floors get quickly swept. If you have a cat, litterbox gets cleaned. This will take care of most of stuff. Laundry goes in the big hampers to stay out of sight. Once a week, deep clean the kitchen, bathroom, laundry, bedding as needed, and all the floors. That system is pretty quick, basic and easy to maintain.
posted by tatiana131 at 2:32 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I also find that inviting people over on a regular basis helps keep things under control. My kids' piano teacher comes every Tuesday and this lights a fire under us and we vacuum, dust, mop, the whole bit.

I have gotten really good about clearing and cleaning the kitchen every night after dinner. There is nothing more depressing than waking up to a dirty kitchen. Each night after dinner, I wash every dish and pot. Wipe down surfaces and put out new dishtowels if needed.

Cleaning up after yourself becomes a habit if you practice, practice, practice. I think a lot of people who don't clean and tidy up on a regular basis think that the task will take too long, or it's too hard. Surprisingly most household tasks do not take long at all. Time yourself the next time you load the dishwasher or wash a day's worth of dishes. It takes under five minutes to load a dishwasher.

Make things easier by:

1. Having a good doormat outside and an indoor mat inside your entry to cut down on sand and dirt entering your place.

2. Get rid of clutter and junk. It's so much easier to clean when you don't have crap piled up. Get rid of stuff you don't use. It's liberating.

3. Cook one skillet meals so you won't have a lot of dishes to clean. Use the same glass throughout the day.

4. Use a shower spray meant for daily use to prevent mildew in your shower or bath.

5. Keep a canister of Clorox Wipes in every room and put a garbage can in every room with a liner. A lot of people think wipes are wasteful (they are) but when you're living in squalor you've gotta do what you gotta do. I keep them in my bathrooms and kitchen to wipe down counters and such. I have a garbage can in every bedroom of the house, even bedrooms. The bedroom cans are not the tiny designer ones but a tall kitchen trash can lined with a white garbage bag. These are helpful because you can get rid of old magazines, kleenex, trash, clothing tags, packaging, etc. instead of piling that stuff up on dressers and such.
posted by Fairchild at 2:42 PM on October 16, 2012

Here is my kitchen cleaning and keeping clean secret process that my much messier wife regards with the suspicion of a medieval peasant faced with a witch but it does work, I promise.

So, get the food going.

While you're waiting for water to boil or things to bake or whatever, begin unloading the dishwasher and putting things away. Then load up the dirty dishes you have. If the dishwasher is full, start it RIGHT THEN and put everything dirty in the sink, then do a followup load after dinner. As you finish preparing the food for cooking, put all your prep stuff directly into the dishwasher as soon as you finish with it and know you won't need it anymore.

By the time the food is finished, the only dirty dishes not in the dishwasher should be the cooking utensils you need to finish and serve and the pots and pans themselves.

Now it shouldn't take 30 minutes to an hour to unload and reload a dishwasher, so in the time you have left, begin cleaning all the countertops you will not need to use to serve.

By the time the food is finished, the only dirty things left in the kitchen are the pots and pans, the serving utensils, and the one countertop you are using to serve the food. When you turn off the oven and stove, serve onto the plates and put the leftovers away in Rubbermaid containers--obviously it's helpful if you know about how much you eat every night but it also cuts down on overeating and snacking so is good for that, too, and if they're truly hungry, getting a rubbermaid container out of the fridge isn't a huge deal.

Now, you know how you get a plate of food for dinner and it's ridiculously hot and you can't eat for a few minutes until things cool down? Use that time to toss the dirty pots and pans and utensils in the dishwasher and wipe down the sole remaining dirty countertop (the one you served onto).

Now your food has cooled to an edible temperature and you can sit and eat in peace without worrying about what a huge hassle you're going to face in the wrecked kitchen later that night. When everyone's finished eating, gather up the dishes and glasses, add them to the dishwasher, turn it on.

Voila, you made dinner and the kitchen is cleaner than it was when you went in.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:59 PM on October 16, 2012 [8 favorites]

Especially since I have a kid, my car needs to be tidied every day. When we leave in the morning, I have her school stuff in a big cloth shopping bag, so when we return home later I clean everything out of the car and bring in the house: papers, trash, etc. When we come in the door I empty the bag out and put everything away, not in a pile. I throw 99% of my mail away immediately and put what is important in my purse to deal with it at work the next day. In fact, any bills, or folowup stuff I need to take care of goes into my purse for attention at work :) My biggest challenge is keeping the kitchen clean, so I cook less during the week. Rather than thinking about all the stuff that needs to be done in the kitchen to clean it after dinner, I only focus on the sink being clean and shiny. Whatever it takes to do that will get done, so that's a no brainer. I also bought a good quality cordless vac and I use it every day in the kitchen and bathroom, especially to clean up loose hair (i hate that!) on the floor and in the sink and shower. Every day, but it only takes a few minutes. Also, to cut down on laundry time and to keep my clothes nicer, I wash and then immediately hang everything (excpet undergarments, socks, towels). I even hang t shirts. After they are dry, they go straight into the closet. This way, I don't need to take an extra step to put them in the dryer, in the basket, fold them and put them away. It's really simpler and the hard work gets done early, which is putting them on the hanger. I never have laundry baskets of cloths sitting around, which pleases me :)
posted by waving at 3:42 PM on October 16, 2012

More than once a day, as I'm about to leave a room, I look around and see if there's something that needs to be done. Just really stopping and looking to see what's out of place, or not as clean as it could be. Anything involving food, trash or a spill has to be dealt with in some fashion before I leave the room (e.g. leaving a pot or two to soak is okay, leaving crusty dishes in the sink is not). Clothes and towels have to at least be off the floor. Other stuff potentially can wait, but if, for instance, I'm leaving the kitchen and spot a book that should be on a shelf in the living room, I put it away then.

Ideally, weekly the bathroom gets cleaned, laundry gets done, stove top gets scrubbed and kitchen floor gets mopped. I can let those go for another week or so sometimes, but I don't have kids or pets.

I don't worry about making my bed most days, and I can let dust go unattended for a really long time, but developing the habit of noticing what things need to be tidied or cleaned on a daily basis and doing about 2 hours of cleaning on a weekly basis (usually a Saturday morning) generally means that my place is in the sort of shape where it's not a showpiece, but I'm not embarrassed if someone drops by unexpectedly. It also helps that, as bartonlong and tatiana131 suggest, I declutter around 2-3 times a year and make sure that I have a place for everything.
posted by EvaDestruction at 4:23 PM on October 16, 2012

I am a messy person and the biggest thing that has helped me to be neater is to get rid of everything I don't need anymore. For instance, laundry used to pile up when dirty and never get put away when clean. I put out a box for the thrift store next to my dryer. Every time I did laundry, I'd put anything that didn't fit right, was faded, was a too much of a hassle to wash/iron/etc or that I didn't feel good wearing into that box. Within one month I got rid of 50% of my clothing and I realized that it really cut down on the amount of clutter (my closet was my problem area). What was left was all my favorite outfits.

I did the same in every other part of my house (cupboards, office, cabinets) and the result is that I can find things easier, there's less stuff to clutter up my house and the only things I do have are things that are either useful or beautiful or dog toys.

There's a great show on BBC called How Clean is Your House that I love to watch. You can find clips on Youtube. Trust me, one episode and your skin will be crawling and you'll suddenly be possessed with the urge to clean everything!

For me, calendaring tasks was really unhelpful. What helps me are visual cues (counter spray is out in an area that is always needing it), making mental connections (when I see hair on the floor, the first thing I think of now is the dustbuster or when I get the mail, I walk to the recycle bin and immediately deposit the junk mail) and making it easier to be cleaner by getting rid of things. If you have a problem area, take a look at it and figure out a cue or a hack to help you address that problem.

Decluttering always sounded good to me in the past, but I interpreted that by buying tons of bins and boxes to put things in. What I really needed to do was to get rid of non-essential items and create a system for storing important things. I always play a game with myself--if I was moving to France, what would I take with me? What objects would be important enough for me to pack and what could I live without? Last year, I got rid of more than 50% of my possessions while moving. I feel so much better now.

Other things that have helped me:
I keep a tub of cleaning wipes in each bathroom and in the kitchen and wipe surfaces once a day or every other day. I put them out where I notice them and it provides a visual cue to use them.

I bought a dust mop which is easy to push around the house quickly to do quick floor clean. When I see a dust bunny, I trained myself to head to my dust mop or dustbuster.

I have long hair that always ends up all over the bathroom floors. I bought a dustbuster that lives in the bathroom. When I see that hair on the floor, I grab the hand vacuum and do a 10 second cleanup.

I also bought a good vacuum that is a pleasure to use and also have a Roomba that I bought for fun.

When you do get your kitty, you have to be just as methodical about cleaning the litterbox or else kitty will use the carpet, your pile of laundry or your bed instead! If you feel like it will be a challenge for you, try one of those littermaid type machines (robotic litterbox that scoops for you)!

I also agree that there's nothing wrong with hiring a maid if you need it and can afford it!

GOOD LUCK! You can do it! :)
posted by dottiechang at 8:12 PM on October 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

I divided my house into "zones" so that I can only focus on that zone when I'm cleaning. All of it at once is overwhelming. Each zone only takes 30 minutes max, and if I feel like it, I can clean another zone now, too.

Even though it's a small place there are twelve zones, so everything usually comes around within two weeks. The kitchen is clean-as-you-go.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 2:41 AM on October 17, 2012

This is a tip not strictly about housework. But it is, nevertheless, a cool hack for something one has to do like clockwork.

You are entitled to get a free credit report every year. Instead of getting three from all three credit reporting agencies at the same time, get your report from one agency every 4 months. Get your first report from Experian today, your second from Equifax in 4 months, etc.
posted by thaths at 10:47 AM on October 17, 2012

nthing Unfuck your Habitat. It is the best. I read it for about a month without doing anything it said to do, and I still haven't made my bed or swept my floor (ever). But! Over the past month or two I've been developing a system. Here are a few things that have been working for me:

- I wash the dishes while I'm cooking. If not, wash them Really Soon after. Definitely before anything else gets cooked.
- take some time out of my day sometimes (20 minutes) and clean Something.
- if I have a party and it ends at half-past-midnight, spend 20 minutes cleaning almost everything anyway. Wake up to a clean house. Win.
- I have a sponge under my bathroom sink so I can spend 2 minutes cleaning it if it looks gross
- always, always, always put dirty clothes in the laundry basket. No clothes on the floor ever. It takes zero time and is amazing.
- reading Unfuck your habitat on my phone and seeing peoples' clean houses/cleaning tips all the time really motivates me to clean, somehow. Your mileage may vary.
- I got a no flyers sticker for my mailbox, and now I don't have to throw out junk mail anymore

I have recently successfully had people over without cleaning for more than 10 minutes. I have not scheduled any chores ever so far.
posted by oranger at 8:32 PM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I taught myself to be more tidy using Real Simple's Periodic Table of Cleaning. It doesn't seem to be on their website any longer, but there are lots of copies floating around online. It was great for getting a handle on what stuff needs to be done often. I kept printed copies and checked tasks off until I had a solid routine going.
posted by donnagirl at 9:53 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Making the bed for me literally just takes 1 second. I have a fitted sheet on the bed (which therefore never moves) and a duvet on top of that which is very easy to shake flat. It's a very warm duvet and so no other sheet is necessary.

I have never understood why people have lots of sheets on their beds and waste time doing hospital corners etc.
posted by inbetweener at 11:46 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oops, I meant to answer a related question :-P
posted by inbetweener at 12:47 AM on October 20, 2012

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