May 27, 2015 10:34 AM   Subscribe

Help me be a grown up, part 342342: What are the solutions that have made a household chore significantly more convenient or less annoying for you?

They could be specific products or just a new/different way of doing a task that makes it easier, faster, or just less of a chore. Examples:

— Lysol cleaning wipes! The kind that are pre-moistened in a canister. They make it SO easy to give, say, the bathroom a once-over while I'm brushing my teeth at night and damn if I've ever had cleaner (...or clean, period) mirrors and sinks.

— Rechargable electric lawnmowers, specifically the absurdly expensive but AMAZING one I just bought that does everything an awesome lawnmower should but quietly, with an easy start, and no maintenance or messing around with gas or oil.

— Laundry sacks (i.e., blue Ikea bags) instead of hampers; so much easier to lug around and up and down stairs.

— Better trash bags with that flexible texture so they're much less likely to leak or tear. Makes emptying the kitchen trash much less distasteful.

My parents were pretty bare-bones broom/vinegar/rags kind of housekeepers, and I can be charitably described as being...uh, indifferent when it comes to housework, so I never learned or cared to learn about how to do this stuff better/more efficiently. I'm mostly interested in making chores super-convenient, and less worried about saving money or doing it The Right Way. So disposable solutions, As Seen On TV gadgets, totally different approaches—as long as it WORKS, bring it on!

Relevant details: I live alone, in a billion-year-old tiny city house with significant yard/garden chores. I have a cat (OMG the Litter Genie, how I could I forget that one!). Hardwood floors and area rugs. No dishwasher, anyone have genius ideas for dish management? And yes, I own Home Comforts and thus know all the things I should be doing—but am way too lazy to do them the old-school way, either at all or as often as they should be done. I am not interested in hiring a cleaning service at this time.

Thanks AskMe!
posted by peachfuzz to Home & Garden (66 answers total) 176 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I am, to be frank, kind of a neat freak. But I'm also lazy, and those two do not mix. So here are a few of my "go to" rules for keeping things tidy:
- If it takes less than 5 minutes, do it now.
- Clean while you're cooking! Waiting for water to boil? Sweep the floor. Waiting for the microwave? Put away dishes.
- Swiffer! But don't buy the stupid refills - just stick a microfibre cloth on it.
- Clorox toilet cleaning stick - you throw the scrubby head away after each use, so it's not all gross.
- Bleach tablets for your toilet tank - keeps everything shinier.
- Put clothes in the washer as soon as you take them off - run washer when full. Wash everything on cold.
posted by dotgirl at 10:43 AM on May 27, 2015 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Floors: Have you considered a Roomba? I have an older model which runs 3x a week when I'm not home. It means less vacuuming and sweeping, obviously, but it also means less dusting. Also it's really friggin' cool to have a robot clean your house.

Dishes: do you you have one of these? You fill it with soap, which then bubbles out of the sponge when you press on your dish (I apologize if this is obvious; I had never seen one of these things until 2 years ago and it was a REVELATION). I can get through last night's dinner dishes while I make a pot of coffee in the morning without having to fill the sink or get out the soap or any of the other small annoyances that are impossible pre-coffee.
posted by AmandaA at 10:43 AM on May 27, 2015 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Sign up for the various options that let you opt out of preapproved credit card offers and junk mail. It won't stop everything, but it will significant cut down the volume, which means less to sort, shred (in the case of credit card offers), and otherwise dispose of.

Use your bathroom fan and kitchen exhaust hood religiously, if you have them. The exhaust hood will cut down on grease build-up on surfaces in your kitchen. The bathroom fan will reduce the moisture levels and make mold less likely to grow.

Pre-treated dust rags are far better at what they do than old rags/paper towels/feather dusters. The really good ones tend to be available only to the janitorial trade, but even a regular rag treated with a dusting solution will help.
posted by pie ninja at 10:44 AM on May 27, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I am incredibly lazy about doing laundry. A couple of things that make it less effort for me: have enough clothes that you can do a full load of just one or two types of things. For some reason it feels like a lot less effort to fold and put away just shirts and pants vs. 9 different types of things in one load.

For each colour of socks you need, buy a huge number of identical ones all at once. When they start to wear out, toss them all and buy another huge quantity of them. It's way easier to match them up in pairs when every black sock you own is identical to every other one. And cuts down on shopping effort, too!
posted by FishBike at 10:48 AM on May 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Get rid of all the extra mugs, glasses, takeout containers, and plastic forks that are probably cluttering up your cupboards. If you feel like going super-minimal, have just a handful of plates, bowls, etc., so you'll be inspired to rinse them right after eating and then the sink won't fill up with dirty dishes.
posted by vickyverky at 10:49 AM on May 27, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Laundry: Bleach, fabric softener, starch, or dryer sheets? NEVER. These things all break down/destroy the fibers in your clothes. I have 10 year old towels that look brand new, ditto some 20 year old shirts and etc.
posted by sexyrobot at 10:51 AM on May 27, 2015 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I only have two:

1) Give detergents time to work. For example, if cleaning a bath tub, apply your cleaning product, the go away and do something else for while. Come back later and rinse.

2) The best time to clean up after making cake is while the cake is baking.
posted by SemiSalt at 10:57 AM on May 27, 2015 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Clean up WHILE you're cooking. Done with that mixing bowl? Wash it and put it away. Finished dicing the carrots? Wash the knife and the cutting board and put them away. The idea is that by the time dinner is ready, all your kitchen surfaces are already clean again.
posted by monospace at 10:57 AM on May 27, 2015 [14 favorites]

Best answer: As soon as you've emptied a pan of its contents, soak it in soapy water. Cold water for starchy stuff, hot water for greasy stuff. Then when you do dishes after dinner those pans will be easier to clean.

But really, the secret to any housework is to crank up the radio and get baked off your ass before you begin.
posted by bondcliff at 11:02 AM on May 27, 2015 [27 favorites]

Best answer: Laundry detergent pods (no muss no fuss)

Cooking bacon or frying something on the stove? Put foil on the stove/counter on either side of the pan to catch the popping grease (a towel would obviously be more environmentally friendly, but also flammable. So I stick with foil and don't cook that stuff very often)
posted by cecic at 11:06 AM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you have two bathrooms, keep a set of cleaning products/sponges/etc. in each one. Carrying that stuff back and forth makes me lose interest in fully cleaning each bathroom.

Don't put bleach tablets in your toilet tank! They degrade all the rubber and plastic inside the tank and trust me, it's no fun replacing and fiddling around with all that stuff. Cleaning products that sit inside the bowl of the toilet are ok, though, and can keep your toilet cleaner between scrubs.
posted by MadamM at 11:11 AM on May 27, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Use good dish gloves and change your sponges/cloths often. Before you throw away a sponge/cloth, use it to clean the sink. When you cook, designate a garbage bowl for your scraps to help clean as you go. Line the bottom of your oven. Line your shelves and drawers with paper that's easy to wipe down. Safely store cleaner, gloves, and supplies where you will use them, and consider investing in multiple sets of those things. Set a timer for 10 minutes and clean something, anything. Or, previously, clean half the things!
posted by juliplease at 11:12 AM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: So we use those Ikea sacs for lugging laundry, but regular hampers for holding the laundry during the week. I don't have space for it anymore, but the best thing ever was having one of those split hampers (or multiple hampers). You don't have to think about sorting when you're getting ready to do a load - because it's already sorted! Then you dump everything from one hamper in an Ikea bag and you're good to go.

When we had a bigger place, I kept basic cleaning stuff in each bathroom. Takes much less (psychological) effort to clean when the supplies are right there. (on preview, what MadamM said)
posted by radioamy at 11:13 AM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Analogous to your lawnmower, I bought a ridiculously expensive professional-grade rechargeable hedge trimmer (though I got it as a dealer's display model for half price on eBay). I have a lot of hedges, and not needing to unspool and drag around a cord, or wait for an underpowered trimmer to do its thing, cuts the time required down to a fraction of what it used to be and makes it feasible to start and stop work when I feel like it. Its relative quietness also means I can do the trimming early in the cool mornings without disturbing neighbors, instead of sweating through it in the afternoon.

Professional-caliber yard maintenance equipment in general makes a huge difference, but the 2-cycle gas powered stuff is smelly and tends to be high-maintenance and troublesome if you don't have a mechanical bent.
posted by jon1270 at 11:14 AM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If I am cooking or baking I clean up my mess as I go, so much so that by the time my meal has finished cooking/baking, the only thing left to clean is whatever dish or pan it's being served in. I wipe down counters whenever I'm in my kitchen or bathroom after washing my hands and use the slightly damp paper towel to do so, and I never use hand towels because they look messy after you use them.
posted by Hermione Granger at 11:14 AM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I just got a microfiber dust mop and it is a revelation. I would always get so pissed off when I'd sweep and sweet and sweep and still somehow have blackened feet from walking around indoors. Living in a city, it just seems like there's a film of super-fine dust that just spreads over everything. But the dust mop! THE DUST MOPS GRABS IT ALL.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:20 AM on May 27, 2015 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Are you me? I just discovered (after years of "oh, I should use towels so I'm not making as much garbage" which meant I wouldn't clean as often) the canister wipes too. It makes it so easy to have cleaning stuff anywhere, and I'm really short on time these days. I've started keeping rolls of garbage bags and wipes in multiple locations to make cleaning easier.

I have the Litter Genie (two of them) but a HUGE step up in my cat-litter game was getting a Litter Robot. Now I deal with litter once a week for two cats. Easy peasy. I got convinced by various other Metafilter reviews and it's been amazing.

Seconding Roomba or another robot vacuum as well. I've heard good things about the Neato. They show up on Woot fairly regularly. I have hardwood floors now so it's not as useful but I'm getting ready to set it back up because of dog/cat fur and other misc floor detritus.

Dishwashers with timers! I load up the dishwasher with what I have on-hand in terms of dirties and set the timer for it to run after I go to bed. I used to always wait to start it until I had every dirty dish in the house, which sometimes (often) I'd get distracted and not come back to. This way, it's ready to go and I'll get clean dishes the next morning whether I get the last plate/bowl or not.

For gardening, I have a Black and Decker Alligator lopper and LOVE it. It's replaced the regular loppers in my usage - it is a mini chainsaw that can eat anything. We lost a major limb of our pecan tree recently and using the alligator and our polesaw (chainsaw on a stick) we got it down to the bare limb in ~2 hours. It's stable and ready for chainsawing. I use the alligator for everything and it's very useful/versatile. If it ever dies I'm moving to the lithium ion version I linked (I have the NiCad) to reduce weight even further.

I also recently got a pair of pruners where the lower handle rotates as it cuts and it's been pretty awesome. Instead of having to squeeze, it's a more natural fist-making motion to cut stuff. I have wrist problems, so anything that reduces wear is great. I think mine were Fiskars - I picked them up in the hardware store by accident and loved it.
posted by bookdragoness at 11:22 AM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have a very low barrier to chores as well. If you have the space, buy multiples and stash things where they are used. I live in a 300 sq foot studio and somehow having to trek aaaaaaaall the way from the bathroom to the kitchen to get paper towels (about 20 feet) used to be a sticking point. Also, buying things in bulk is cheaper and means that when I get the urge to clean, I always have the supplies to jump on it.

Doing dishes: When you start, wash a big glass, fill it with hot soapy water, and stick your silverware in there after scrubbing. RINSE EN MASSE. omg saves so much time, pretty sure I found this tip on Also seconding cutting down the number of dishes you own. Basically I have dishes for two, more than that and I break out the disposables.

You have a Litter Genie so not applicable, but for others who scoop the poop, I bought rolls of dog poop bags because I was sick of hunting for plastic grocery bags without holes every time I cleaned the litter box.

I don't feel guilty outsourcing specific things I don't like to do. Mostly for me this means dropping off my laundry and letting the boyfriend do the dishes when he offers.
posted by yeahlikethat at 11:26 AM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: There are those who find a little recreational smoking helps with certain chores. If you happen to live in one of the states which have legalized such things. Which seems to be the case (CO).
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:29 AM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For cleaning cat litter: get a sturdy metal scoop. Nothing is as frustrating as sifting through a litter box with those flimsy plastic utensils.
posted by monospace at 11:35 AM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I hate sponge mops. I hate string mops. I have a steam mop. It is THE BEST THING. Works on sealed hardwood, works on shitty hard-to-clean vinyl, works as a dust mop. You can run it with just water or water and vinegar or your preferred cleaner. Mine is a Shark with a water compartment that lifts out and becomes a hand-held steamer that you can use to take wrinkles out of clothes or curtains.

I have no dishwasher and a lot of dishes for a single person. The single best change I've made for better dish management is to pretend I have a lot fewer dishes than I do. When there are two plates in the sink, or two glasses, or three spoons, or two pans, I have hit my pretend dish threshold and it's Time to Wash the Dishes, which is magically over in five or ten minutes because there aren't that many to do. If I fail at Time to Wash the Dishes and the sink fills up, no problem, it is now Urgently Time to Wash the Dishes, but I don't need to whine to myself about how much time that will take because I'm allowed to stop washing the dishes when my dish drainer is full, then come back later when the dishes are dry, empty the drainer, and repeat.
posted by clavicle at 11:37 AM on May 27, 2015 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Rather than cleaning tools/hacks, I've focused on making the chores rewarding, and slowly making them habitual - so that I eventually will do the tasks unconsciously. To make the doing various chores pleasurable, I started listening to audiobooks while doing them. Want to find out what happens in the next chapter? Start sorting laundry...

HabitRPG -- which was recommended in another post -- has been fantastic at helping me develop new habits. I'm doing the habit-building 1 at a time. It has been very good. Thanks to earning "gold" for getting tasks done, over the past 6 weeks the yard has been cleaned of poop nearly every single day, and for the past 10 days our kitchen has been spotless before going to bed.
posted by apennington at 11:38 AM on May 27, 2015

Best answer: Having TONS of storage. It's a _lot_ easier to keep things neat if you actually have a place for everything: everything you own now, and things you don't yet know you will own.

Get some more cabinets; this includes free-standing cabinets that sit on the floor. Shelves are nice, but the need dusting -- cabinets, drawers, and the fancy kind of shelves with doors in front _don't_ need dusting.

If you buy solid wood it will last longer and stand up to spills and stuff better, which is also a time savings in addition to being better in other ways (buying and installing _any_ kind of furniture takes a lot of time, even if you have someone else deliver and set it up). I just Googled [denver co solid wood furniture] and got some promising hits; if you go to an unfinished furniture place, you can see the construction, they typically have a big selection of simple solid stuff that will last well and work together (including catalogs, if you know exactly what you want), and they will finish the furniture for you if that's what you want.

2nd suggestion: buy knee pads at Home Depot or a similar hardware-type store. You won't need them that often, but when you do, they will make your life a _lot_ better.
posted by amtho at 11:44 AM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Orange cleaner -- the real stuff -- has been life-changing in the laundry department for me. I am spiller and always seem to get greasy stains on my tops. I put a few drops of orange cleaner and a bit of dish soap on stains before I pop them in the wash. Works almost every time.
posted by Lescha at 11:47 AM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Sometimes I time myself at tasks (like washing the dishes.) I almost always notice that even though I was dreading it and seeing it as a big deal, the task takes very little time, which helps me convince myself to do the thing more readily next time it comes up. 7 minutes to have the kitchen/kitchen sink look cleaner and more inviting? Totally worth it.
posted by needs more cowbell at 11:53 AM on May 27, 2015 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Every time you walk into a room, put away something that's out of place. Just one thing. Really adds up over time.
posted by futureisunwritten at 12:01 PM on May 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: For us it's very much about having the thing you need to do the cleaning near the thing that needs to be cleaned. So: cordless hand vac near the litter box, cleaning supplies in all the bathrooms. When we buy a house, I am seriously thinking of having upstairs and downstairs vacuums. If you get dust/grit, consider a HEPA air filter, which will reduce your dust a lot.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 12:06 PM on May 27, 2015

Best answer:
  1. Go to an Asian store (looks like Denver has two H-Marts) and buy your dishwashing gloves there. They have the type that goes all the way up to your elbows, and they're cheaper than the worst gloves at Target. (Do not buy gloves at Target.)
  2. Use parchment paper or aluminum foil to line sheet pans when you're cooking in the oven.
  3. Buy good pots and pans. This may seem weird, but if your pots are good they are a lot easier to clean due to better handles, better balance, and lack of bolts that make hard-to-clean spots on the inside...
  4. Bar Keeper's Friend. Know it, love it.

posted by sonic meat machine at 12:07 PM on May 27, 2015 [5 favorites]

Best answer: If I'm going to do any cleaning that takes more than 5 minutes, I put on a podcast. Wayyyy more enjoyable.
posted by radioamy at 12:07 PM on May 27, 2015 [12 favorites]

Best answer: Every time you walk into a room, put away something that's out of place. Just one thing. Really adds up over time.
posted by futureisunwritten at 12:01 PM on May 27 [+] [!]

Yes, this is great advice and really helps. I'm amazed at how much stuff gets shifted around my apartment and I'm constantly putting things back (then again I have a spouse and toddler so I'm really cleaning for three people). The old adage, "a place for everything and everything in its place" really comes into play. There's no possible way to neaten a home if you don't have designated places to put things.

I see lots of people recommending Roombas, and I agree the idea is really neat. They may even work for some people; we tried one though and between having area rugs and places I didn't want it to go, it just became too burdensome.

Instead I highly recommend an Electrolux lightweight, upright cordless vacuum. They are super easy to use and do a good job on hardwoods. It takes two minutes a day to run it and my floor has never been cleaner. So much easier than my heavier vacuum that needs to be plugged in with the cord dragging everywhere. They come in pretty colors, too!
posted by JenMarie at 12:09 PM on May 27, 2015 [8 favorites]

Best answer: If you need to clean oven shelves the easiest way is to take a large garbage bag, place shelves within, spray with oven cleaner inside the bag and step away and do something else. Having allowed the oven cleaner to do its magic carefully remove from bag and scrub whatever needs scrubbing and rinse. No mess, much less scrubbing. And yes, Roomba!!!
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:11 PM on May 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Cleaning the microwave: thoroughly wet a cloth/sponge and heat it for a minute or so. Leave the door closed while you wait for it to get cool enough to handle, then marvel at how easily all the accumulated food splatters wipe away.

Also, Mr. Clean Magic Erasers work exactly as described (i.e., magic).
posted by teremala at 12:16 PM on May 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Bar Keeper's Friend is wonderful stuff. Swiffers are still turning up at garage sales; you can stash them all over the place. Stick any rag on it, spray the floor with vinegar and water or alcohol and water from an old spray bottle, swiffer up dirt and grime. Magic Erasers--I use the orange-box Biglots knockoffs. You can launder those a time or two. I re-use them until they disintegrate.

I like to come up with little routines. Like: Stand at the threshold of a room and survey it briefly. What is the worst eyesore? Take care of that. Now go to the next room in the house. Repeat for all other rooms and continue until everything sparkles or you get sick of it. I like this for the motivational yelling and the tips and rules and all the before and after pictures.
posted by Don Pepino at 12:23 PM on May 27, 2015 [7 favorites]

Best answer: A million laundry baskets. With two grown ups and two little kids in this house we are always shedding clothes everywhere. Anywhere you notice you are always finding random socks/sweatshirts/dish towels, put a small laundry basket. Then on laundry day make a quick circuit with your IKEA bag and collect them all.

Also, we keep our broom hanging in plain sight next to our dining table, since that's where are floors get grossest. Would you rather surprise guests see a cleaning tool or a filthy floor?
posted by that's how you get ants at 12:53 PM on May 27, 2015

Best answer: Swiffer with surgical or bar towel. Make some dishwater. Wet the clean towel in the new dishwater. Spray the floor with windex. Squeeze out the towel, apply it to the swiffer. Put your dishes in to soak. Mop a minute, turn the towel over to the clean side, finish up. Wash the now soaked dishes. Rinse out the mop towel and put it to dry, until laundry day. They used to make old fashioned cleaning cloth swivel out racks for the under sink door, 'member those?
posted by Oyéah at 12:54 PM on May 27, 2015

Best answer: Also, Mr. Clean Magic Erasers work exactly as described (i.e., magic).

HOT TIP: Magic Erasers are massively hella expensive for basically being just melamine foam. A 4 pack of Magic Erasers is like $3.50, but if you google "melamine foam sponge" you can buy like 60 of the things for $15. Or you can sometimes find them in multipacks at the dollar store.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:56 PM on May 27, 2015 [11 favorites]

Best answer: anyone have genius ideas for dish management?
Cleaned and put away every night, without fail. Even that gross pan. Once it's habituated, you'll have a hard time believing you ever did it any other way.
posted by j_curiouser at 1:01 PM on May 27, 2015

Best answer: Keeping a squeegee in my shower has worked wonders for me. This really only applies if you have glass shower doors. But if you do, it's great. I find it fun to squeegee off the water droplets after I shower, and it greatly reduces the water deposits that I have to clean off later (which, by the way, can be removed with vinegar).
posted by neushoorn at 1:07 PM on May 27, 2015

Best answer: Oh, and if you DON'T have glass shower doors - straighten your shower curtain every time you get out of the shower, so that it's not all folded up on itself while wet. It will keep it mildew-free for longer.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:09 PM on May 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Also, Mr. Clean Magic Erasers work exactly as described (i.e., magic).

Magic Erasers are dark magic that probably wasn't meant to be used by humans - do not use them on anything shiny (say, my white enamel-ish kitchen sink) unless you want them never to look clean ever again without more application of the dark magic. And continued use will probably result in wearing holes in the thing you're cleaning.

I'm saving the last Magic Eraser for the final clean before moving out, and until then I'm just gonna have to live with the sink looking filthy all the time. Same with the mugs that looked clean for one shining moment after Magic Eraser, and now hold ever-worse coffee and tea stains forever and ever until the end of time.

Back to actual tips instead of doom prophecies, though: down comforter + duvet cover + bottom sheet is the best way to sleep since it's more comfortable not to have a bunch of sheets tangling everything up, and all you have to do to make your bed neatly is just yank on a corner and everything falls into place.
posted by asperity at 1:34 PM on May 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I recently got this Karcher WV 2 Plus Window Vacuum as a housewarming gift. It is the best cleaning product ever! Now window cleaning takes only a fraction of the time, and I even bought an extension set to reach our high-up windows that I was planning to get cleaned by a professional. I also got this "holster" and think it makes the work go even faster because you don't have to set down the spray bottle or the vacuum on the floor, you just put them into the holster, which also has loops to hold a cloth for drying the corners.

The window vacuum also works on glass shower doors, mirrors etc., by the way. (And no, I don't get compensated by them, I just really like the product.)

Seconding listening to podcasts or audiobooks while cleaning - it only took me two episodes of the MetaFilter Podcast to clean all the windows in my house!
posted by amf at 1:38 PM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When we moved in to our new house two years ago, my partner picked up one of those plastic pan scrapers for a buck at the kitchen store. It was the best dollar either of us had ever spent. Not hard enough to scratch non-stick or enameled surfaces (at least not accidentally), but super-efficient at dislodging, say, dried-out lasagna noodles from the baking dish.

Before we got those we'd spend two minutes with a brass brush grinding burnt-on bits off the stainless steel pan; the little scraper takes them off in twenty seconds. I also use it to scoop grease off of the surfaces of pots, which makes for much less gunk getting stuck in my sponge, and just less grossness overall.

Definitely one of those "how did I get to age 40 without knowing about this?" sorts of things.
posted by five toed sloth at 1:52 PM on May 27, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Oh, do I feel your pain! I used to dread the biweekly housecleaning. Even though MrDrGail does the bathrooms and the vacuuming, doing the dusting and cleaning the mirrors were the bane of my existence because nothing ever got them done correctly, until I came across these two beloved products.

First, Stoner Invisible Glass. I learned about it on AskMeFi and now can't live without it. So much better than Windex. And for mirrors, spot-cleaning is where it's at. Spray some Invisible Glass on a paper towel, rub the spot then buff with a clean paper towel until all the streaks are gone.

The other product that has made a huge difference for me is these Baby Soft Dusting Cloths. They leave NO dust behind, and polish everything as I go. Both knick-knacks and furniture look immeasurably better, and they work best dry. After cleaning, I just throw them in the washer and dryer (without any fabric softener) and reuse them over and over again.
posted by DrGail at 1:57 PM on May 27, 2015 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Same deal as putting laundry hampers everywhere: put little (or big) trash cans everywhere. I am the worst when it comes to dropping food labels or junk mail or old cough drops from the bottom of my purse wherever they happen to be... and then leaving them there. But I can put them in the trash now! Imagine that!
posted by St. Hubbins at 2:02 PM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Since we went to using only liquid soap (body wash) in the shower, we have experienced little to no soap scum.
posted by lakeroon at 2:36 PM on May 27, 2015

Best answer: My city requires recycling, so I have 2 large (kitchen-sized, 13-gallon) trashcans in each of two locations: kitchen and desk, which is where I generate the majority of my trash. I have two more small ones in each my bedroom and bathroom. The kitchen pair is by the front door, so junk mail gets recycled before I put it down on anything.

After trying a dozen different kinds of scrapers, I now use an actual paint scraper, which uses a metal razor blade, to get the soap scum off my tub when it starts to accumulate. It will, of course, slice through the vinyl shower liner and scrape off the caulk that seals the lot in place, so I don't use it near those things. It's an ancestor of this model.
posted by Sunburnt at 2:42 PM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Never leave a room empty handed, and absolutely never, EVER go up or down a set of stairs empty handed.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 4:11 PM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For dishes I have one of these. When I dirty a dish or a glass or a fork, I turn the water on, wash the dish with the soap that comes out, rinse and put it in the drain tray. I don't let dishes build up, ever. I started using one because I don't like putting my hands in dishwater. I kept using it because the dishes don't build up.
posted by TORunner at 4:14 PM on May 27, 2015

Best answer: Cat wipes.

Giant lint rollers.

A bagless, lightweight vacuum.

This duster mitt thingy.

Drain catchers.

I really, really love my humidifier/mister aromatherapy thingy. So easy and makes the whole room smell great.

WHITE TOWELS. Take a lesson from hotels. Bleach is your friend.

Cover stuff up like a grandma. Put washable and somewhat stylish looking towels/pieces of fabric on EVERYTHING a cat can throw up on.

A gigantic litter mat and the best litter box ever invented.

A stylish tray to dump keys and random detritus from car/pockets/purse/mailbox in.

This stuff, the ultimate in lazy shower cleaning.
posted by quincunx at 4:25 PM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Maybe this is gross but I'll put tons of Ajax in the tub at night and spray a bit of water in and mix it up with the scrub brush into a paste. When I'm ready to shower in the morning I start the water and give it another pass with the scrub brush. Then, while I'm in the shower I can scrub the spots I might have missed.
posted by bendy at 7:19 PM on May 27, 2015

Best answer: When the bath mat starts to look scungy, use spray and wipe on the bathroom floor, and the use your feet to walk the bathmat round the floor to wipe up the spray. Then wash bath mat.

I use spray and wipe and toilet paper to wipe the toilet (everything except the bowl - that gets a good brushing with toilet cleaner). No need for special wipes or cloths.

Nthing let the chemicals do their thing by ignoring them for awhile. Let 'em soak.

One of the best ways I've found to do the unpleasant things is a) plan ahead (like you're doing), but then b) don't think about it too much. Ruminating on the thing makes it less likely to get done.
posted by kjs4 at 7:57 PM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I simplified my laundry process to the bare bones so I could get my son doing his own as early as posssible.

First, this requires instant vigilance on stains. Spill something, etc - rinse it and pre-treat it with a stain stick. Toss in hamper.

Wash everything but towels in cold water. I don't sort my clothes, and as long as I don't over-fill the washer, everything comes out clean. If not, the next step...

Air dry everything except socks and boxers and towels. (That way if you missed a stain, it's not set in and you can go to work on it again.) I wear only dresses so as soon as my wash is done, i hang the dresses on hangers to dry; my son puts all his shirts, even t shirts, on hangers to dry. Pants go on a drying rack, he puts them on hangers when they're done. This means a minimum of folding - all that needs to be folded is underclothes and towels. With the side benefit of my clothes basically lasting til I'm sick of them.

Another thing - I used to use one of those dishwand things, and then I saw a suggestion to take a spray bottle; you put in about 1/10th the volume in dish soap and the rest in water. Then when you want to wash one or two dishes, you just spray them with that. The wands can get clogged or grody pretty quickly, I've had a lot better luck with the spray bottle of sudsy water. It's handy for when there's stuff stuck to the counter or stove, too, i can just spray it on, let it soak while I wash dishes, and then it's much easier to scrub off.
posted by lemniskate at 8:29 PM on May 27, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: As soon as you spill something on the stovetop, wipe it up (unless blisteringly hot, in which case wait until not blisteringly hot). It is amazing how this one simple thing means you save hours of scrubbing fruitlessly at baked-on gunk and scratching the hell out of the surface in the process.
posted by Athanassiel at 10:57 PM on May 27, 2015

Best answer: When the seasons change is the perfect time to do a big house clean. Break it down into days and get rid of lots of stuff. Donate items, and note down new things you need.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 2:16 AM on May 28, 2015

Response by poster: Outta the park, guys - tons of new ideas and things to try; I especially appreciate the yard tool advice. thanks!
posted by peachfuzz at 7:41 AM on May 28, 2015

Best answer: And for mirrors, spot-cleaning is where it's at. Spray some Invisible Glass on a paper towel, rub the spot then buff with a clean paper towel until all the streaks are gone.

One thing my mom taught me about cleaning mirrors and windows: use a spray cleaner and wipe with a coffee filter instead of a rag or paper towels. Coffee filters don't leave lint behind.
posted by JenMarie at 9:05 AM on May 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh, and I see lots of mentions of laundry baskets: make sure you buy 2-3 (or how many you need) of the same kind. Then you can stack them when one or more are empty. That was a revelation to me, I had four at one point, all of different shapes and sizes, and they were just all over the place taking up space and adding to the clutter. Stackable is a spacesaver and visually nicer. I like these because they are pretty compact too.
posted by JenMarie at 9:11 AM on May 28, 2015

Best answer: Also in the pro-grade yard equipment category are Silky brand pruning saws like this one. They're cheaper, safer and lower-maintenance than powered chain saws, and very effective for lighter-duty cutting.
posted by jon1270 at 5:30 PM on May 28, 2015

Best answer: Outside: get a composting bin. Pull up weeds when you see them and put them in the composting bin. Grab a handful of fallen leaves or twigs now and then and put them in the composting bin.

Inside: Chances are, you don't need most of the stuff you own. The less stuff you have, the easier it is to take care of it. Purge ruthlessly! List some stuff online and maybe make a couple of bucks while you're at it, or donate stuff that will actually be useful to a charity that needs it and feel good about yourself. Palm stuff off on family and friends. Do whatever it takes to declutter your life.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:32 PM on May 28, 2015

Oh and baking soda and white vinegar clean just about everything.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:32 PM on May 28, 2015

Response by poster: WHOA. Pan scraper. What the hell. I actually already owned one sacred to cast iron duty, but I just did a dinner party's worth of dishes and pans by scraping them all first, crusty or not. Sponge stayed way cleaner, everything washed up in like half the time. WHAT. This thread was worth it for that tip alone.

(I love all the tips! Dish-related ones are just the first ones I tried. I have people over CONSTANTLY and so I'll hang on to my service for 12, but im definitely going to to pretend I only have two plates/bowls/spoons when it's just guys are the smartest!)
posted by peachfuzz at 9:01 PM on May 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Just a couple notes on tools in general:

There is a huge range of quality in tools from things too cheap to work up through professional quality. My rule, for a one-time use, I go with a cheap tool, otherwise I get up to mid-range. You don't need pro quality for most things. Example: I bought a $50 circular saw decades ago. It's not capable of precision work, and wouldn't last for a pro, but I've used it less in 30 years than a pro would use one in an afternoon building a deck. An exception to these guidelines is tools with newer technology, like the rechargeables.

Also, when faced with a difficult task, ask yourself if there is a tool that would make it easy. Better to spend $25 on a basin wrench or a hole saw than spend 3 hours on what should be a 2 minute task.
posted by SemiSalt at 10:51 AM on May 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

Dish brushes also work well for pre-cleaning before sponges. They're like toothbrushes, but bigger.
posted by aniola at 5:17 PM on May 29, 2015

I lived with someone who had some blue net fabric scraps that she used to clean dishes. It was nylon or plastic, some such thing. That stuff lasts forever! Wish I knew what it was called.
posted by aniola at 5:18 PM on May 29, 2015

I use regular rubbing alcohol for cleaning all glass surfaces. Way cheaper than glass cleaner and doesn't leave streaks.

This may or may not truly answer your question but I'll throw it out there; one of the best things we did when we remodeled was get fixtures/surfaces that don't show dirt. All of our floor tiles and countertops are of a sort of mottled design, so that it's really hard to see individual spots or stay hair on the floor or counter. I mean, it doesn't keep you from having to clean up on a regular basis, but if I honestly didn't sweep my kitchen floor for a month you could come to my house and never know it.

The other thing we did was declutter. I don't have bookshelves with all kinds of travel souvenir chotchkes collecting dust anymore. We decorate with photos and art and that's it. So pretty much all we have to do is vacuum and make a quick swipe over the picture frames with a microfiber dustcloth, and boom, done. I can clean my entire 1600sqft house, including the kitchen and two bathrooms, in 2 hours. I highly highly recommend decluttering.
posted by vignettist at 10:43 PM on May 30, 2015

aniola, do you mean nylon pot scrubbers? Everyone I know with them just makes them out of scraps of netting, which you can get from a DIY shop or is the supermarket packing for fruit, scrunched up with an elastic band. Then you can chuck it when it gets grotty.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 5:40 PM on June 3, 2015

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