Only YOU can prevent...housework?
June 16, 2021 2:46 PM   Subscribe

What are your best tips/gadgets/purchases for preventing things in your household from needing to be cleaned/maintained as much or as often? I don't mean how to make the cleaning easier or faster, but how to reduce the amount of cleaning that has to be done in the first place.

I'm thinking of things like
- glass-fronted bookcases and plastic or glass display cases reduce the amount of dust that can even get on your books and action figures
- internal blinds on a glass door or window mean those blinds don't have to be cleaned
- a hair-catcher over a bathtub drain slows buildup in the pipes
- paper plates mean no dishes (ideally, most solutions would be more eco-friendly than this one, though!)
- ???

What else is out there? Any level of cost, practicality, and/or convenience is fine.
posted by wintersweet to Home & Garden (31 answers total) 66 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know about any long term effects for health, but my air purifier definitely cuts WAY down on dusting in the room it lives. I got the Wirecutter recommended one.
posted by stormygrey at 2:49 PM on June 16, 2021 [7 favorites]

Having a robot vacuum on a schedule means I don't need to think about my floors, ever.
posted by aramaic at 2:52 PM on June 16, 2021 [8 favorites]

Roomba roomba roomba roomba roomba. I should have gotten one the day I got a dog. Game changer. I feel stupid I waited so long to get one.

Is it the best vacuum? No. But does it do like 70% of the maintenance work so I don't have to vacuum every day? Yes. It gets most of the way there and I get to spend less time thinking about vacuuming.

Also: take the trash out the second it smells even remotely slightly funky. Don't wait to fill up the bag, trash bags are cheap. Don't let a closed lid can mask the problem. Take the trash out immediately and keep your home from smelling like trash.
posted by phunniemee at 2:52 PM on June 16, 2021 [12 favorites]

The best, most effective tip is:
And what you *do* have, put away out of sight in drawers, if you’re lucky enough to have a lot of drawers. Knick-knacketery is not only visual clutter, it’s mental clutter, too. Don’t be a collector; of anything.
posted by BostonTerrier at 2:54 PM on June 16, 2021 [36 favorites]

Squeegee-ing and drying off the shower after each use prevents mold and residue buildup. Never have to actually scrub it.
posted by bluesky78987 at 2:55 PM on June 16, 2021 [14 favorites]

If you live in a dry dusty climate, I have found that running a humidifier tends to help keep dust somewhat at bay. If you have central heat/air, routinely changing your filter and using an appropriate filter for your system will also help with dust. If you live somewhere with wildfires, when there is an active one close enough to degrade air quality use slightly lower-quality (and cheaper) filters and change them weekly (and sometimes daily, if it's very close/bad) rather than monthly.

Fewer clothes means more frequent laundry but it can't really get out of hand the way a large wardrobe can. Same with sheets and towels.

I have open shelving in several areas of my house, but I generally choose to drape them with a nice sheet or shower curtain rather than leave them open. Fabric will get dusty eventually, but it takes far longer than shelves and their contents and washing the cover is way easier than dusting a bunch of things.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:11 PM on June 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

I mean my absolute best tip is to not let anyone else live in or even visit your home, but probably that is not what you were going for.

But I also second the answers above: air purifiers, drawers, robot vacuums, etc. Also, while having windows open can be nice, it does mean more dirt comes in from outside, so find a good balance there.

I re-wear a lot of clothing that isn't socks/underwear, which cuts down on laundry a lot.
posted by ktkt at 3:14 PM on June 16, 2021 [9 favorites]

The grossest dirt/dust/grease tends to show up in kitchens and bathrooms so keeping those as clutter free as possible (note from my kitchen: ha ha ha ha ha) helps a lot.

Good bathroom fans.

Mats at each door and shoes off are as a combination crazy effective.

Wood/tile:vinyl tile floors with area rugs are so much easier than carpet.

Echoing less stuff.
posted by warriorqueen at 3:28 PM on June 16, 2021 [7 favorites]

Don't allow shoes to be worn inside your home. This includes guests (almost everyone will be accomodating).

Use a daily shower spray like this one.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 3:44 PM on June 16, 2021 [13 favorites]

I eliminated one whole step and a bunch of walking from my dishwashing routine!

I live alone. There's nobody to hand-dry while I wash or vice versa. So I either had to let clean dishes pile up and then hand-dry them afterward, or put them on a drying rack and then put them away afterwards. Either way it's two steps.

I do have a dishwasher. So mostly I was hand-washing knives, cutting boards, pots and pans, and that sort of thing. What I did is, I got a rack put in right above my sink that I can hang my pots and pans on. I shelve cutting boards and colanders and stuff on top. If I used my big stockpot more often, I'd put it there too. I also got one of those magnetic knife blocks that leave the knife blade right out in the open, and I put it up within arm's reach of the sink.

So now, when I do my hand-wash dishes, I can put them away without leaving the sink, and I can do it right away, while they're wet, and let them drip-dry and then air-dry. All one step. This is basically the coolest thing ever and it makes me 100% more likely to have my pots and pans actually put away and not just piled up on the counter.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:45 PM on June 16, 2021 [14 favorites]

I have a sandy dooryard, so I have in my entryway, a thirsty sort of doormat, like this.

Then beyond that, a runner rug, like this:

Both of those can easily be vacuumed, or taken outside and beaten, whatever your preference. But they catch a lot of the dirt and sand. Shoes can be taken off at each juncture. Snow and salt don't get past them, much. That way, I can keep the salt/sand, etc. to just that area around the door.

I also have furniture covers, as I have cats, and I will sometimes just pull hair off them using a velcro mitt, but often, I will just strip them off and wash them like blankets.

I do have a lot of stuff, and wish I had less, but these couple of things help me keep the bulk of the nasty stuff down to a minimum.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:53 PM on June 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

Easiest way to have less stuff to clean is by having less stuff, period. Downsize and consolidate and declutter whatever and wherever you can.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:59 PM on June 16, 2021

Have less stuff, use closed storage (I love my barrister bookcases!), have good cord-management tools to keep cords off the floor and, best of all, in closed boxes for surge protectors and cords. Cords collect and distribute dust, and they are hard to vacuum around. I keep a placemat over my printer -- it keeps dust out and hides the printer. Have as little stuff on the floor as possible, especially under the bed.
posted by jgirl at 4:14 PM on June 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

Shower in the evening before bed. Don't have to wash the sheets nearly as often.
posted by the Real Dan at 4:33 PM on June 16, 2021 [11 favorites]

I am old now and have lived in many homes, and I will say this: By far the most effective method I've found for reducing housework is to live in a smaller space. That's how you "reduce the amount of cleaning that has to be done in the first place".

I just sold a 1500-square-foot home. I'm currently renting a 1000-square-foot house. I once owned an 1800-square-foot condo. When I met my girlfriend, she lived in a 500-square-foot ADU. And I spent fifteen months on the road in a 250-square-foot RV. For me, there is a 100% direct correlation between the size of the living space and the amount of housework.

I realize this probably isn't the sort of answer you're looking for, but I feel like it's something that people often overlook. The "have less stuff" response you're getting are made easier by living in a smaller space. A smaller space forces you have to have less stuff. But more than that, a small space means fewer rooms and fewer surfaces.

But yeah: shoes off, less stuff, smaller home. Oh — and no pets. (I have three cats and a dog. They're like little hurricanes.)
posted by jdroth at 5:00 PM on June 16, 2021 [8 favorites]

hairless cat
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:51 PM on June 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

Tin foil. Use it to protect the toaster oven and the oven oven. Wrap leftovers instead of using plastic containers.
posted by AugustWest at 7:24 PM on June 16, 2021 [5 favorites]

Cling wrap over refrigerator shelves has been a boon and saves so much time -- just peel off when grubby, replace with new film and give thanks for not having to actually soak and wash the shelves.
posted by vers at 8:25 PM on June 16, 2021 [12 favorites]

Let's talk about grout! I wasted a lot of time scrubbing grout half-heartedly, wistfully side-eyeing its muddy grey hue. Instead, do a one-time deep clean and apply a opaque water-based grout sealant like Aqua Mix.

I'v done this once by myself (using a steam-cleaner and a copper scrub head) and also once by engaging the local "Tile & Grout King" tile specialist. It was fantastic.
posted by dum spiro spero at 8:28 PM on June 16, 2021 [5 favorites]

To clean the microwave, put some water in a microwave-safe dish, heat for a few minutes, let it sit in the steam for a few more - and then just wipe out the gunk real quick.

Buy socks that are all the same, or stop caring that they don't match. Wash, dry, throw in drawer. Never sort socks again.

If you have multiple people in the house, don't mix together people's clothes for washing. That just means you have to sort them back out. Same thing with towels.

Keep rolls of the correct size garbage bag in the bottom of the cans, under the in-use bag. No having to hunt for them.
posted by stormyteal at 10:13 PM on June 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

Pay someone -- if it takes 3 hours of their time but that's small change compared to the headspace you get back from hating a dirty home and hating having to clean a dirty home, that's a win. I had friends whose relationship was saved from sniping at each other over the mess by paying someone to clean for them.

If you can't pay someone, a change of perspective might help: We used to call it Chaos, but now we say that thermodynamics makes the cosmos messy and it just keeps getting messier.

So, if you can't prevent it, spend five mindful pottering minutes reducing the amount of housework waiting to be done. Don't waste energy negotiating with yourself to find a rationale for deferring the task -- because the amount of stuff still waiting to be done will later overwhelm you. It doesn't make sense spending more effort avoiding housework than it takes to do the work and have a nice home. (If housework is beneath you but you're entitled to a nice home, explore that with your therapist.)

Don't waste energy hating the action, and do thank yourself when you're happy with the outcome.
posted by k3ninho at 11:35 PM on June 16, 2021 [7 favorites]

Are you on tik tok? I use it only for viewing, not posting. There is a whole #cleantok community dedicated to cleaning and house hacks. A lot of it is hacks for actual cleaning, but there is also a lot of the kind of stuff you would be interested in - cheap time and energy saving things that after seeing seem so obvious.
posted by archimago at 4:13 AM on June 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

If you do get a Roomba, get the newer ones that self-empty into a bin and map your house. The added functionality is super worth it, and without the bin emptier you basically have to empty it every time!
posted by bbqturtle at 4:53 AM on June 17, 2021 [7 favorites]

Like dum spiro spero, we hired a tile and grout specialist, who cleaned, recaulked where necessary, and sealed our floor and wall tiles. He recommended for future cleaning that we use a tile cleaner (Miracle something that you can get at home improvement stores). For every day, he said the most effective things are to squeegee the shower walls and to replace our bath/shower bar soap with liquid soap.

I've made the change to liquid soap, and using the squeegee, and it has made a world of difference when it comes time to clean the shower and tub.
posted by happy_cat at 6:00 AM on June 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

Combine your display cabinet with your coffee table (e.g. Ikea's glass-topped Liatorp table). You can enjoy your collectables up close, while minimising dusting. Similarly, I like lamps with built-in display space in their bases.
posted by brushtailedphascogale at 6:41 AM on June 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

Hose down the steps into your home's entrances. When construction makes my neighborhood especially dusty I also hose down the sidewalk. This old merchant's trick to keep dirt out of their stores is unexpectedly effective at reducing the amount of environmental dirt tracked inside.
posted by citygirl at 9:06 AM on June 17, 2021 [4 favorites]

I always use one of those plastic domes (example here) when I heat things in the microwave. No splatter, no cleaning corners, no stuck on stuff to scrape out. The dome is easy to clean because I can bring it to the sink or pop it into the dishwasher.
posted by AMyNameIs at 10:02 AM on June 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

Replaced a wooden garage door with vinyl -- no more painting the thing, ever.

Gutter covers: no more digging leaves and rot out.
posted by humbug at 6:36 PM on June 17, 2021

Cooking grease is pervasive and difficult to clean. These are my two suggestions:

1. Do not cook meat inside the house. Use a propane grill outside.

2. Frying pans on the stove spray a fine mist of oil with occasional large splatters. Use a splatter screen cover or a splatter shild guard to contain the oil. (Amazon)

If your over-the-stove fan does not vent to the outside, you shouldn't use it. Greasy air will spread around the house mixing with dust.

If the over-the-stove fan vents to the outside, clean the filter as often as possible. Stainless stell mesh filter can go in the dishwasher.
posted by ohshenandoah at 8:03 AM on June 21, 2021

There's a metal filter in your stove vent fan. Take it out, soak in water + Dawn or water + ammonia, then run thru the dishwasher.
Have places where stuff goes. Most households have a ton of batteries, make a place for them, also lightbulbs, fortunately you need fewer after converting to LEDs.
Buy 10-12 smaller storage containers, 5-6 large-ish, all the same. Never worry about having matching lids again. I use yogurt and cottage cheese/deli containers with standard lids. anything non-standard goes in the recycling. When the freezers full of homemade soup, I might run short, otherwise this works well. I admit that I also have a stash of mayo jars for homemade broth & stock.
Lots of things can be cleaned in a dishwasher, like plastic toys. I learned a terrible habit from my sister - some pans get a 2nd(4th?) free ride if they aren't clean. I feel No Shame.
Scrubbing Bubbles every few months cleans the shower tile well.
Vinyl shower curtains are washable in warm to hot water, with some towels. Hang back up in the shower to dry, pull into shape. I now use cloth shower curtains. Current one is polyester, works well, so easy to wash.
If you eat outside a kitchen or dining table, pout an attractive blanket or something on the couch. Something easy to wash.
If you have to do a fair bit of housework, blast some dance music; show tunes are excellent.

Honestly, I stopped caring about dusting much, or having a minimalist house. Or dog hair. /shrug
posted by theora55 at 6:30 PM on June 21, 2021

Make Your House Do the Housework. The more curves, indents and notches a piece of furniture or decoration has, the more likely it'll accumulate dirt and grime. Redoing a bathroom? Tiles accumulate yuckiness in the in-between, one piecers may not look as fancy but you save tons of time cleaning. Single lever faucets are easier to maintain and clean. Install sinks that are deep rather than shallow to eliminate spills. Use hand soap dispensers rather than the having to deal with a gross bar of soap. When buying furniture, the following features mean more work: carvings or engravings, fretwork, tufting, elaborate hardware, exposed legs, loose pillows, solid colors, extremely light or dark colors, very heavy textures, wicker and cane, cross bars on lower legs...and so on. Aslett goes through each room in the house and gives you the best recommendations for keeping maintenance down. ymmv of course depending on taste but at least you know what you're getting into.

The basic principle for household stuff: is it easy to clean and/or is it easy to hide the dirt?
posted by storybored at 12:49 PM on June 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

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