Cleaning for the uninclined?
July 10, 2014 4:41 AM   Subscribe

At the grand old age of 26, I am moving into my first place, away from home (living by myself). I need tips for keeping my place clean.

I don't have problems keeping things tidy but I'm generally oblivious to smells, dirt accumulation, etc. i do well with routines and schedules, I have very little ability to look at something dirty and think this needs a good cleaning. Right now I mostly take care of the kitchen but I'm not as good with other rooms.

I've searched online but I'm looking for cleaning calendars that are specific and also general tips for people who don't like cleaning, things that makee the job easier and save money (I'll be a poor graduate student).
posted by Aranquis to Home & Garden (25 answers total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
Unfuck Your Habitat is a great resource for cleaning reminders and tips, many of which are budget-conscious. And the before/after photos that people submit are very inspirational!
posted by neushoorn at 4:53 AM on July 10, 2014 [10 favorites]

Yep, UFYH is great and has printable daily/weekly cleaning calendars.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 4:57 AM on July 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Join the FlyLady email list and you'll get emails telling you what to do when.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:04 AM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

A couple of spray bottles and a big bottle of white vinegar will stand you in good stead; a 50/50 mix of vinegar/water will clean up a lot of surfaces, and is much less expensive than other cleaning agents.

A hanging dryer like this will come in handy for delicates you don't want to put in the dryer.

Microfiber cleaning cloths are effective and reusable.

Don't forget to sterilize sponges (a minute in the microwave).

Read Cheryl Mendelson's "Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House ." It's packed with practical information and lots of cleaning solutions.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:26 AM on July 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

Read Clean Like a Man (regardless of your gender). I'd start with that before Home Comforts, which I love.

Don't have lots of stuff and have "a place for everything and everything in its place."

From me, previously.
posted by jgirl at 6:03 AM on July 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

The world seems to fall into two groups - people who prefer Unfuck Your Habitat and people who prefer FlyLady. I'm in the former. Check out both and see what you like.

I love Cheryl Mendelson's book, but it can be a little overwhelming when you're in a "wtf do I even do with Windex" stage/phase. I keep it next to my big etiquette books and cooking tomes - nice references when I want to know the absolute correct way to do something, but not how I handle my everyday life, mostly.

I really strongly recommend Jolie Kerr's "My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag...And Other Things You Can't Ask Martha." She also ran a cleaning column on The Hairpin for a few years, and now runs it in Deadspin and Jezebel. The fun bonus with Jolie is that she's a big fan of using a few multipurpose basics for everything, so if you have some spray bottles, some white vinegar, and maybe some bleach or ammonia (but NEVER BOTH SIMULTANEOUSLY), and a bucket and some rags/sponges to use it with, you'll be set and it's definitely not an expensive undertaking.

Also, do you have carpet in your new place? I realize broke grad student is a hurdle, but if you can acquire the not-absolute-cheapest vacuum in the store, it will make dealing with the floor so much less onerous. You don't want a $500 vacuum (OK, I REALLY want a vacuum robot, let's be honest), but you also don't want to put yourself through the hassle of cleaning all the floors with a $25 dustbuster. Especially if you have long hair.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 6:07 AM on July 10, 2014 [6 favorites]

I have a container with a handle that holds all my cleaning supplies, including wipes and sprays and the dustpan and paper towels. Some people like to do one chore per day (Wednesday = dusting, for instance), but I like to take one day, go from room to room, and clean each room as I go, using all the stuff in that container. Having it all together lessens the chance that I'll forget something that I need to clean (no paper towels = no clean mirrors), and having all of it with me means I'll be reminded of all the things to do. ("Oh, hey! Pledge! I'll dust!")
posted by xingcat at 6:07 AM on July 10, 2014

There is also Home Ec 101. They have a printable weekly chore schedule, as well as cleaning tips and other household hints.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:08 AM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I just sent you a PM.
posted by jgirl at 6:09 AM on July 10, 2014

Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. If you can't stick to a weekly chore schedule, make it biweekly or monthly. A casual clean is better than no clean. I'm pretty good about vacuuming a couple times a week (having cordless vacuum helps SO MUCH) and cleaning my floors regularly but I don't bother to get into the corners until either a) they get obviously grody or b) I'm having guests over who would notice.
posted by mskyle at 6:27 AM on July 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

"Don't have lots of stuff..."

That's the best tip so far!

Also, if you're really oblivious to crud, have friends in frequently to point things out to you.

"Aranquis, I can't believe you think it's okay to leave orange juice rings on the counter, and toothpaste globs in the sink! Whatsamattawhitchew?"

That's what you need to hear on a regular basis.
posted by BostonTerrier at 6:30 AM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. If you can't stick to a weekly chore schedule, make it biweekly or monthly. A casual clean is better than no clean.

Oh yeah to this. Do you know the 80/20 rule? 80% of your problem can be solved with 20% of your effort. So I say 80% clean is better than no clean. 100% clean is, honestly, just not gonna happen in my house.
posted by shiny blue object at 6:35 AM on July 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yes definitely read Jolie Kerr's book. She's my hero. And it's hilarious!
posted by radioamy at 6:48 AM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Pick up and clean the little things as they happen.

Dribble a bit of food on the counter? Wipe it up now. Dried, crusted stuff is way harder to clean off a surface than when it was still liquid.

Dishes with dried-on food are way harder to wash, too. If you have a dishwasher, at least scrape off any food remnants into the trash so they don't clog your dishwasher drain.

And seconding the "place for everything, and everything in its place". This used to be a big point of contention between me and my wife. I called it the "Where are the scissors?" game. She was guilty of taking the scissors upstairs to cut tags off of clothing and then leaving them in the closet or on the dresser, etc. After years of me crabbing at her about it, she finally developed the habit of putting them back where she got them.
posted by Fleebnork at 6:53 AM on July 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you're good with routines and schedules, you need to make up a chart like this:

Monday: clean bathroom
Tuesday: clean vanity
Wednesday: mop all laminated floors (Swiffer to the rescue!), clean all flat surfaces (TV, tabletops, dresser tops, desks)
Thursday: take out trash and recycling, clean hamster cage*, Windex
Friday: hoover all apartment carpets
Sat and Sun: off!

*or whatever pet you might have - obv. cat litter would be every day

Type it up, keep it handy, or do what I do: write each day what you need to clean on a chalkboard (or a whiteboard -you can get these cheap, sometimes they have them at the Dollar Spot at Target).

Work with your natural inclination to follow routines and schedules and you'll be all right. Enjoy your new apartment!
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:30 AM on July 10, 2014

As much as I hated it when I worked retail, the "If you have time to lean, you have time to clean" mantra is actually pretty good for keeping the place clean. For example, when cooking, I usually use pauses (waiting for water to boil, etc.) to clean countertops and get things in the dishwasher. If the shower's taking a while to warm up, that's time enough to wet a sponge and wipe something down.

The biggest problem I see is people let cleaning become this MOMENTOUS TASK where THE ENTIRE HOUSE MUST BE SPOTLESS so of course they put it off because it's a MOMENTOUS TASK, but if you do small things and keep things basically clean with a few minutes of work here and there, your full-house-cleaning days are minimal and much less of a momentous task when they do occur.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:58 AM on July 10, 2014 [6 favorites]

And seconding the "place for everything, and everything in its place". This used to be a big point of contention between me and my wife. I called it the "Where are the scissors?" game. She was guilty of taking the scissors upstairs to cut tags off of clothing and then leaving them in the closet or on the dresser, etc. After years of me crabbing at her about it, she finally developed the habit of putting them back where she got them.

This is a really good illustration of the value of the exercise in my "previously" link. Under that rubric, you'd have scissors for the closet/dresser area, or at least a pair per floor.
posted by jgirl at 8:13 AM on July 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh yeah, little bursts of cleaning is a huge help too. Like Ghostride the Whip I do various kitchen tasks while waiting for water to boil. You can make these little bursts easier if you keep cleaning products handy to where they're needed. Like, if you've got a squirt bottle of all-purpose cleaner and some rags or paper towels under the bathroom sink you can quickly wipe out the sink if you notice it's getting gross. Likewise you can keep Pledge in an end table in the living room - commercials come on TV, you can spend a couple minutes wiping stuff down or vacuum the rug. I actually leave my cleaning products out a lot of the time, because it reminds me to clean and it's a lot easier to quickly tuck them away than it is to go crazy doing a marathon cleaning.
posted by mskyle at 8:22 AM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Training yourself to clean as you go is so worth it. For example, every time you shower, just wipe down the walls and floor with a sponge. It takes a few seconds, and it means you will never have to do a laborious scrub-down. Ditto with the toilet -- after you use it, give it a spritz with cleaner, quick wipe of the seat and rim with some TP, and flush the TP down. After a messy poop, wipe down the bowl/rim with a toilet brush and cleaner. After you brush your teeth or shave, wipe down the sink.

It sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn't, and once it becomes second nature, you'll love that your bathroom is always clean.

I do dishes as I go (constantly), and have a rule that before I leave the house for any reason, the sink and counters are clean. Since I don't let any dishes stack up, it takes a minute, tops, to wipe things down and go.

These little rules have transformed me from a slovenly person to a tidy one. I'd rather spend 5 minutes a day staying on top of these things by integrating them into my routine, rather than have to block out an hour on a precious weekend to do drudgery. No calendar necessary, except for weekly one-offs like vacuuming and dusting.

Bonus is that the place is always presentable, in case you have someone you want to invite over on the spur of the moment.
posted by nacho fries at 8:28 AM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Honestly, the best hack for this is to live in the smallest space possible.

It takes an hour to deep clean my entire apartment, including running a load or two of laundry.

I also try to clean as I go, for tasks that create messes.

My day to day maintenance:

- Dirty clothes in the hamper.

- Wash dishes nightly.

- Take out trash.


- Do laundry.

- Change sheets.

- Take out recycling.

I also do a bi-weekly or monthly deep cleaning of the kitchen and bathroom, which includes:

- scrub down all surfaces

- sinks, toilet, shower

- sweep and mop floors

I hate dusting and basically never do it until it becomes an actual problem in my life.

For that biweekly/monthly deep clean and weekly laundry/sheets situation, it literally takes me an hour to do the whole thing. Less if it happens to not be a deep cleaning week.

I imagine all this would become much more onerous if I lived in a two bedroom/two bath apartment rather than a studio.
posted by Sara C. at 10:56 AM on July 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think I probably read this tip on another AskMe, but as someone prone to clutter I really like it: never leave a room without something in your hands. There is just about always something that should be put away in another room, and I'm heading there anyway!
posted by jess at 11:55 AM on July 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ask for a Neato for xmas. It's a robot vacuum and its amazing.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:45 PM on July 10, 2014

I need tips for keeping my place clean.

Motivation counts for everything. The surest way to keep a place clean is to invite real live people -- people to whom you'd be ashamed to reveal your true filthy self -- into your home every damned week for drinks or tv night or a board game or whatever so you're absolutely forced to straighten up, sweep the floors, and clean the toilet once a week. You are the weekly host of the something or other, so people will be there to gag at your filthy underwear and nasty toilet if you don't clean up first.

And the best tip other than that is to put things back where they belong immediately:
  • Keep clutter up on shelves and tables and desks. Put shoes in a rack or wherever you keep shoes. Put dirty clothes straight into a basket or the washing machine. Put still-clean-enough clothes back up somewhere, not left on the floor where you peeled them off. It doesn't matter if it's just a heap, as long as it's a heap in a drawer or closet you can close. Then you might actually sweep and mop now and then.
  • Same goes for bathroom and kitchen tables and counters. Put things out of the way in cupboards and drawers when you're done with them so you can wipe kitchen surfaces clean.
  • If you have a dishwasher, empty it as soon as it finishes running so you can start throwing dirty stuff directly into it, not into the sink. And run it even if it's not full. Run it every night, even though you live alone. Find a fast, nasty cycle for small loads. Don't let the old food dry into a permanent crust. Never use the sink for anything that fits in the dishwasher. This is the laziest and easiest method of washing dishes.

posted by pracowity at 2:47 AM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

First, if you make a mess (i.e. spilling some food on the counter), wipe it up right away. Then your harder cleaning won't be as hard.

Second, for the bigger cleaning bits, I really like this idea. Basically, it's a flip book with chores for every day of the month. You have a few chores assigned each day, so once you've set up your system, you never have to think too hard about prioritizing. You just do your handful of things.

A quote from the blog which really resonates for me:
This idea, for which I wish I could take credit, is from a book called The Messies Manual by Sandra Felton. Felton divides the world into two kinds of people, Cleanies and Messies. Cleanies are tidy because they like to be, because they see something that needs doing and DO IT, because it gives them satisfaction and it is easier to do now than later. Cleanies do not understand why one would NEED an instructional manual on housekeeping. Messies, on the other hand, are not slobs, but are perhaps easily overwhelmed by the scope of the job. Maybe a bit perfectionist. "I need to clean the bathroom, to do that I have to gather the cleaning supplies from the basement, oh the basement is a mess I need to completely organize and purge, if I'm doing a purge I have to have a day when I can take all day and purge the closets too..." and the bathroom never gets so much as spiffed. A bit like If You Give a Mouse a Cookie...
posted by ktkt at 4:03 AM on July 11, 2014

Just remembered another blog I follow: A Slob Comes Clean. Some of her posts veer into mommyblogger territory, but it's got good bones.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 12:55 PM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

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