"clean all the things"
May 15, 2020 12:03 PM   Subscribe

Now that I'm home all the time, I'm either (a) cleaning constantly or (b) leaving messes to accumulate and then cleaning everything in an hours-long frenzy. Neither is ideal. What are some ways to make cleaning less onerous and keep my home at an acceptable level of cleanliness all the time?

Since pandemic-life started I have obviously been at home all the time, and my flat ends up getting dirty much faster. Prior to this a deep clean every couple of weeks kept the worst of the mess at bay. But now every couple of days my flat seems to need a clean, I have no idea why as all I do is work, or sit on the sofa or cook. It's just me and my flat is small. I am not untidy. I always put everything back after I've used it etc. Nevertheless, my flat gets dirty quickly. By which I mean, dust gathers on things - random bits of dirt appear on the carpet - crumbs get spilled when I'm cooking or moving food from kitchen to living room - etc.

Either I find myself constantly cleaning something (which is annoying because it means I can never fully relax); or I just let things accumulate for a week or so till I can't take it anymore and then I blast through the mess in a few hours, which ends up being very annoying, tiring and painful for my back (I have a hypermobile lower back).

What are some everyday things I can do to ensure that my flat is always at an acceptable level of cleanliness without constantly cleaning? What do you guys do? I'm in the UK so may not be able to find certain US-specific products.
posted by unicorn chaser to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Personally, I set a timer for 15 minutes every single day and pick up for the entire time, usually with a podcast on to make it more of a thing I look forward to. It doesn't seem like much time but it keeps my apartment very clean- in fact, I often run out of things to pick up, and start doing deep cleaning tasks. Also, if I'm walking from room A to room B, and I see something in room A that belongs in room B, I try to take it with me.
posted by quiet coyote at 12:18 PM on May 15 [17 favorites]

ALSO! I bought a Eufy robot vac for like $180 on Amazon and it's a total game changer. It runs on its own every day at a scheduled time for like 30 min and keeps my place much less dusty than it had been. I just have to empty it which takes <1 min. I wish I got one long ago!
posted by quiet coyote at 12:20 PM on May 15 [5 favorites]

Oh man, I feel this question so deeply. Every weekend for the last two months feels like I have to tidy up every room, clean the floors, deal with tumbleweeds of dust, on and on.

I'm new to this solution, but one of my ultra tidy friends has told me that his approach is to set up a daily hour--roughly the same time every day--to tackle some piecemeal component of keeping clean. It doesn't matter what you do in that hour, it's that it's a regular "what can I do today" moment that lets you make cleaning up a constant, small dribble of effort instead of it accumulating into a Saturday morning realization that, good god, I guess I need to spend all day doing... everything again?

Before lockdown, a daily hour would have sounded onerous to me. But now, it doesn't. I listen to music or hop on a phone call with a friend and pick a task. The upsides are apparent: there's the immediate satisfaction and boosted mood that comes with completing a task, and also the awareness that I'm saving time that I'd otherwise consider my sacrosanct weekend from being filled with interminable drudgery. Also: no fancy new products, expensive cleaning appliances, or major effort needed.

I tend to do this in the hour after I finish work on weekdays. Although I've only been doing this for the last five days, the effect is undeniable. I feel a lift from the process, and I'm one of those people whose moods tend darker and feel more in disarray when my surroundings are cluttered, dusty, or otherwise out of order. Waking up to a clean floor these days--I usually hate sweeping, but I've swept the entire place three days this week--feels like a gift from yesterday's me to today's me when I walk from the bedroom to the bathroom barefoot and don't feel anything sticking to my soles. I'm going to try to keep this in my new list of routines as long as possible.

As an aside, I've also been spending time getting rid of stuff. Last weekend, before I launched into this daily hour, I pulled a bunch of stuff I've rarely or never used out from the kitchen cupboards. This weekend, I want to give the same treatment to my closet. Paring down feels like a good response to spending so much more time with my stuff. I want less of it to maintain and clean.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 12:21 PM on May 15 [8 favorites]

I vacuum the floor every evening. This is easier with a cordless... even a not super expensive one. I feel it cuts down a lot on dust!
posted by pairofshades at 12:25 PM on May 15

It's no big mystery that your apartment is getting dirty more quickly with you being at home all the time -- empty apartments don't get dirty.

I keep my house clean and organized by a) tidying and wiping up spills as I go and b) having a regular housekeeping schedule: Mondays I dust and clean the bathroom; Tuesdays I vacuum; Wednesdays and Thursdays I do whatever "extra things" there are to do (i.e., things that don't need to be done every week, such as cleaning out a closet, scrubbing the kitchen floor, or weeding the garden); Fridays I go grocery shopping; Saturday I cook for the week and do the laundry; and Sunday is my day to work on *me*, when I do things like doing my nails, treating my roots, polishing my shoes, etc.

Having a routine helps a lot. Instead of my attitude being "oh damn, it's time to do that again, when will I have time to do that," it's, "it's time to do that, and this is my designated time to do it". You'll likely need to set up your own routine that serves your own needs. I'd make a list of everything that needs to be done weekly and then figure out what day/time you will be doing it, and make sure to leave room for the extra/occasional tasks that will come up.
posted by orange swan at 12:43 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]

Roomba-alikes do a lot to cut down on dust and cleaning time. If you usually keep things off the floor I think they're worth it.

Honestly, I try to keep in mind that there's a difference between "clean" and "spotless." Things are only spotless immediately after you clean them, so if you try to keep them spotless you'll be cleaning all the time. I find that 15-30 minutes a day is enough to keep most things clean. I just pick something that has to be done. Occasional larger tasks like cleaning the tub/shower might take longer but do not have to happen that often.

I end up dusting every few days, wiping down my desk every few days, etc. It's perfectly fine and even my mom thinks my apartment is clean.

Now that we're under stay-at-home, I don't really schedule it. I tend to just do it at some point when I feel like I need to move around or do something that doesn't involve a screen. I listen to music or TV in the background.

Honestly, I suspect that because you're home so much more you just have much more time to notice when things aren't spotless. And since you're trapped, it could bother you more. I would bet that in addition to creating more dirt, you're also noticing more dirt.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:44 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]

Fly Lady is still a thing. (Sadly, so is Comic Sans.) It's a good system to learn about cleaning like the functional adult many of us aspire to be.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:50 PM on May 15 [7 favorites]

Same as in a pro kitchen: clean as you go. Lights out only after the 'dishes are done' and the 'room swept'.
posted by j_curiouser at 1:05 PM on May 15

During this new time at home one of my jobs is main bathroom cleaning. I find it to be something that doesn't work well in a "little at a time" daily mode. So I set aside a 2 hour period (following my exercise when I'm sweaty anyway) where I:
- set-up the Bluetooth speaker for tunes
- take everything else out of the bathroom
- bring the cleaning tools and chemicals in
- wear flip-flops
- start with the toilet and work to the shower, doing the mirror and shower glass doors together
- take a shower to feel human again
- turn off music, put the tools/chemicals away and put the normal bath accessories back.
For what it's worth.
posted by forthright at 1:33 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]

Do you have a lot of conference calls? I find I actually listen better when I'm away from my computer, so I use some calling time to fold laundry, sweep, declutter counters, etc.
posted by slidell at 1:34 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]

I'm also doing a short time every day devoted to cleaning up. I call it PICK UP HOUR (Yes, I say it in caps) and I try to just pick one thing to focus on that day. I do it immediately after work and right before starting dinner. It's been working for me because then I don't feel overwhelmed by having to tackle everything, and when I notice something else that needs doing I don't need to stress about when I'm going to get to work on it.
This doesn't include non-negotiables like litter boxes, which I do in the morning before work.
posted by bleep at 2:24 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]

Keeping the floor clean makes a huge difference! I know myself and know I will never vacuum daily. We had a Eufy robot vac that was great but the bin filled up really quickly and got stuck a lot in our house with three pets and rugs, so I just broke down and bought a ridiculously pricey Roomba that empties its own bin and is a lot more powerful.

It’s made a dent in my anxiety level to have this robot clean the floors daily. I don’t know that I would recommend the expense of the one we bought since it was about 4.5x more than Eufy and it sounds like our house might have more surface area and tons more per fur than yours. If you can buy from a place that has a hassle free return then I would recommend getting whatever reasonable priced robovac with okay reviews that you can.

Both my partner and I have worked from home for years and barely leave the house, but for some reason the two months of quarantine have led me to feel like you do. How does the house get SO dirty? In addition to adding our robot friend, I also decided to make cleaning simpler by doing certain tasks on certain days. This is so much easier to do than trying to keep up with things every couple days. Automate your brain the same way I recommend automating your floor cleaning.

For my house, here’s what works: Sundays I clean the bathroom. Doesn’t have to be a full clean but I get the surfaces clean at least and that helps Monday morning feel a little nicer. Wednesday: I break down recycling that may have accumulated, throw away any items from the fridge that are too far gone, and take out the other trash. On Friday I do laundry since it usually takes me a day or two to complete it.

Dishes and kitchen surfaces are done daily since they get used the most but I don’t stress if I can’t handle it one day. I declutter whenever I am procrastinating at work which is...often.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 2:39 PM on May 15

I've been trying a podcast and a cleaning "hour" twice a week. Levar Burton Reads is mostly closer to 45 minutes, so I don't actually commit to an hour.
posted by advicepig at 2:45 PM on May 15

I must have lower standards than everyone cleaning for a whole hour a day!

I'm a big fan of doing 'just six things'. When I walk past a corner/counter/table that's got things piling up, and I feel myself buckling at the knees and thinking: "It's such a mess I just can't tidy it all," instead I pick up just six things and put them away. It's achieveable, and enough to make it look a bit different and make me feel somewhat effective. If you do that a few times through the day, the space is usually pretty clear by the end. And sometimes I get enough of a start that I'll do a second six things right away. Or even finish the whole thing. But it's important not to go into it expecting that to happen, or you'll just be too intimidated and not even do six.

Just six things.

Note: This is more about tidying than cleaning, but clear surfaces are easier to clean, too, I guess...
posted by penguin pie at 2:56 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]

I've been enjoying following Unfuck Your Habitat and seeing what she suggests daily.
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:06 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]

Robot vacuum for floors (if possible).

For everything else, try to get in a habit of cleaning every time you are waiting for something.

For me, it's waiting for the kettle to boil. I make tea about 12 times a day, and now that I'm home, that means about half an hour cumulative of waiting time. My kitchen has never been so clean! I've found it takes me less than one kettle boil to unload or load the dishwasher. 1-2 boils to wash the dishes that can't go in the dishwasher. 1 boil is enough for wiping down the counters and the table. 1 boil is enough to wipe down and sterilise the sink. 1 boil is enough to clean one windowpane too. Or to spot mop the floor. Or to wipe out the microwaves. To scrub down 2-3 cabinet doors...

Maybe you don't make tea and coffee. Maybe there's something else (waiting for the microwave? during adverts if you watch free-to-air TV?) But if you can find pockets like this and get used to just doing a little bit of cleaning during them, I think it will make a difference.

But floors, yeah. Robots are the way to go.
posted by lollusc at 6:57 PM on May 15 [5 favorites]

Cordless hand vac for soft raised surfaces, not a super expensive one. Keep it where you can easily grab it every day, and just zip it along the couch. Also good for a quick clean if there's a bigger mess on a hard raised surface (kitchen counter flour explosion or lots of crumbs).

Static duster (Swiffer). A regular quick run with these over any hard raised surfaces (don't forget the windowsills). If you do it regularly you don't have to put any effort into it.

Robot vac for all the non-raised surfaces, as others have said.

Change your filter in your HVAC, and if you're rolling in cash maybe get one of those air purifier things.
posted by anaelith at 5:02 AM on May 16

More hours in your home means more dust from your skin cells. It'll mean more cleaning.

Nth-ing previous comments about small immediate cleaning tasks, especially lollusc's words about cleaning/tidying while waiting for the kettle to boil.

Motivation and mental state matter. I like the lens of small batches versus big batches. Deferring work until there's a big batch (you can hate your way through doing) is one approach, but small batches done more frequently that buy you a cleaner home sooner (less hate, more happiness with your environs) take only a tiny bit more time overall -- if there's a constant cost for prep/finish up time. I prefer small batches, and, when the place is close to perfect cleanliness (the all-love-no-hate option), one-shot cycles of start/use/clean/clear-down/put-away.
posted by k3ninho at 5:42 AM on May 16 [2 favorites]

My household uses the app Tody (there is a free trial) which lets you track when different chores were last completed and how long until they need to be completed again, this works amazingly for us because we know what's coming up, what's been taken care of and can plan for/schedule our bursts of cleaning before they become annoying. It's prevented so many arguments, I can't even begin to tell you.
posted by AnneShirley at 8:13 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]

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