How can I clean more pleasantly and efficiently?
July 30, 2021 12:25 PM   Subscribe

I have been making a lot of progress on mitigating the chaos of my mind/house/life since being diagnosed and medicated for ADHD. However, since I lived all of my adolescence and much of my adult life in a panicked fog, I think I missed some crucial lessons about how to adult and I still feel like I am objectively bad at cleaning, in the sense that I am wasting more time/energy/emotional stress than most people in order to do certain tasks.

This question inspired by going to someone else's house and spotting this Method Daily Shower Cleaner. Seeking tips/product recommendations for regular maintenance so I can avoid turning cleaning into a giant, stressful project.

For example: Last year I bought a very powerful Dyson cordless vacuum that actually sucks all the cat hair out of the carpet and is really easy to just pick up and use (no plugging in, carrying from room to room, etc). Life-changing! I now vacuum way more than I used to and the carpets are clean, hooray!

I need something like that for my other most stressful chores, notably the bathroom, the kitchen floor/stove, and just sort of general dust/dirt accumulation?The bathroom is small and, like the rest of my apartment, feels sometimes like I am cleaning dirt from 1947 instead of my own dirt. The sink and toilet are basically touching and 4" from the wall so really hard to clean between/around them and there is a weird crevice behind the faucet I can't reach with a paper towel/rag. And the daily shower spray! Does it work? If not, what does? There is a constant struggle with mold/mildew/soap scum even though the bathroom has a window, we open it when we shower, etc.

Kitchen floor is very shiny, very slick, very ... white. I would really like to improve my painfully complex mopping protocol, which is currently 1) sweep or vacuum entire floor 2) dry mop with MUJI dry mop head 3) wet mop with MUJI reusable Swiffer head and Mrs. Meyer's cleaning concentrate. When I skip dry mopping, wet mopping turns up previously invisible dirt that I'm just pushing around.

I think I tried to Swiffer the floor when I moved in with the disposable wet Swiffer head and the result was ... sticky? I like the idea of the MUJI system because I do not have room to store 8 brooms/mops but the process is currently extremely tedious (dry mopping/wringing/rinsing), doesn't do a good job getting stuck-on food off the floor, and also the handle just broke.

Also, I just generally have soot/dirt coming in my windows (due to truck traffic outside?) which is hard to remove from the sills plus what feels like a lot of dust and cat hair accumulating on various surfaces (books, lamps, shelves), especially considering how much cat hair I vacuum up off the carpet/floors daily. Send me your best advice, please! Absolutely willing to throw money/chemicals at this problem.
posted by sparkling to Home & Garden (27 answers total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
You familiar with Home Comforts?
posted by olopua at 1:02 PM on July 30, 2021 [4 favorites]

Absolutely willing to throw money/chemicals at this problem

Employ somebody skilled in the art to solve it for you every two weeks.
posted by flabdablet at 1:20 PM on July 30, 2021 [29 favorites]

Method shower spray works great!
Squeegee for glass shower and mirrors
Maybe get a mini power cleaner to banish 1947 dirt for good?
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:21 PM on July 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

Hi there! As a fellow dweller in a super old, not necessarily well maintained apartment, I feel all of your pains. There is an extent to which when you live in an old place, you're never going to get it brand-new-sparkling. Things are stained, you can't always unstain them, etc. So I think the first thing to make cleaning more pleasant is to figure out your practical end goal. I often recommend hiring a one-time housecleaner so that you can see the absolute cleanest baseline for your place.

As you've seen, the main key is just to do the cleaning often. Wipe down your windowsills once a week and they don't become overwhelming. Wipe down your counters and stovetop every day, and same. This isn't necessarily pleasant, but it is efficient. Podcasts, my dude! Put em on, tidy er up.

In terms of tools and techniques:
-if your windowsills are painted, use a Magic Eraser to take off the pollution/grime
-if your sills are finished wood, use a wet cloth and dry immediately after with another cloth
-Use a q-tip to clean that weird crevice behind the faucet--just spray your bathroom cleanser back there, wait a minute, and q-tip away.
-Yes, the daily shower spray works. Also, if you buy a squeegee and run it down your walls while they're wet, that really cuts down on the mildew.

How big is your kitchen? Honestly my mother has a shiny white tile floor and the only thing that *truly* works is:
-Vinegar and water mix with a rag, by hand.

Total pain in the ass but her kitchen is like, 4X6 so it doesn't take that long.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 1:24 PM on July 30, 2021 [3 favorites]

Er I should specify, if your windowsills are finished wood, use a *damp* cloth, not sopping wet.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 1:26 PM on July 30, 2021

Change your air filter more often and get a higher grade filter. I live in an old lathe and plaster house and dust was a nightmare until I got into the routine of changing it monthly and with a using a 13 MERV filter. I still have to dust, but it's down to once every month or so once a week or more. A rubbermaid microfibre duster made dusting less of a chore for me too, if I'm feeling super lazy I just use my stick dyson and the dusting attachment to dust the whole house.

I have found a steam mop cuts back my mopping time considerably. Run the stick mop over floor, then steam mop.

Some of the grimy feel in the bathroom might be because of hard water. Vinegar is good for cleaning that I keep some in a spray bottle and spray it around when things start feeling not so shiny. Scrubbing brush head on my cordless drill also makes scrubbing things so much easier and fun.

These are just what works for me but if you have the money to throw at the problem, there is always the hire a cleaner and make it someone elses problem solution. Pay a fair amount, be a reasonable boss and have a clean house guilt free.
posted by wwax at 1:28 PM on July 30, 2021 [2 favorites]

In terms of general tips/new habits, this might be a good time to check out Unfuck Your Habitat, which is a site of articles, challenges and tips designed to break down cleaning into something manageable. The website isn't as reader friendly as it once was, but you might find the checklists and tips useful. There is a book but I haven't read it so can't speak to whether it's good.

In terms of your specific questions:

Your mopping method doesn't sound too bad to me, I do the same thing with my kitchen floors, though I just use a vacuum and then a few wet Swiffer wipes on their reusable mop thing. It's not great in terms of environmental friendliness, but it gets the job done and it's weirdly satisfying (and horrifying) to see the gross colour the wipes turn once the floor is clean.

I also get really frustrated by the constant layer of dust and hair that seems to accumulate (where is it coming from??) but getting a mini handheld vacuum and a big fluffy microfibre duster has helped. Now I can spot clean as and when I want to and it doesn't take too long.
posted by fight or flight at 1:29 PM on July 30, 2021 [2 favorites]

I love, love the O-Cedar spin mop that went viral on instagram/tiktok, with powdered Tide and hot water.
posted by mcgsa at 1:30 PM on July 30, 2021 [5 favorites]

Seconding bringing a pro in - just once, though, for a full-on big horkin' deep clean to bring you up to a new and better starting point. That will make it easier to stay on top of things from this point forward.

Also seconding the steam mop. Some are expensive, but even this simple one which I have works a treat - you just fill it with water and plug it in, give it 30 seconds to heat up, and then as you push it across the floor your pushing it pumps steam out through the mop head, which is AMAZING at lifting all kinds of gak and grode off the floor. The mop head has a fabric cover on it which you just pull off when you're done and then throw in the washing machine. The mop comes with two such covers but you can get even more as a backup so you don't have to wash the mop covers as much.

And all it takes is water and it works. I love that thing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:33 PM on July 30, 2021 [2 favorites]

Employ somebody skilled in the art to solve it for you every two weeks.

Even if you don't want to do this as an ongoing thing, having professional cleaners do a deep clean to get you to, like, "baseline" is pretty great, and can make it a lot easier to keep things clean going forward (helps you get over that "I am cleaning up after everyone who has ever lived in this G-D place" feeling).
posted by mskyle at 1:34 PM on July 30, 2021 [3 favorites]

Also addressing the "pleasant" bit - it may be fun to splurge on some of the fancy-pants cleaning stuff from places like Method or Mrs. Meyers just because it smells dang good. I honestly can't tell whether it cleans any better or worse than the cheap mass-produced stuff, but it smells way better and I actually enjoy it when making my bathroom clean smells like fresh-cut grass or lavender as opposed to synthetic lemons or whatever.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:39 PM on July 30, 2021 [2 favorites]

+many for podcasts! I also enjoy putting on soothing, low-stakes teevee I love, like GBBO, where I don’t need to see what’s happening on the screen at all moments. A tool that facilitâtes this is my pair of wireless, noise-canceling headphones. It’s also a great time to sing to myself, listen to foreign-language lessons, comedy records…

Organizing my cleaning things feels great: the Command broom clamps and hooks are a universe-send in small apartments. I’ve collected a bunch of flour-sack towels and grey washcloths that make wet cleaning much easier: rather than using a sponge to clean the back hinge of the toilet seat, spots on the bathroom floor, or the dust on the bathroom molding, I can wipe them all down with cleaning solution and a Nice Grey Rag and then throw it in the wash. I have a cube organizer by my door for shoes - one of the cubes is now the dedicated Non-Clothes Laundry basket, and so cleaning cloths, towels, and the like can go right in and not get mixed up in the things I want to wear.

Does your bathroom have a fan? If not, a little clip-on desk fan running on low might help dry things more quickly and help prevent mildew.

For ovens, prevention has been my friend: a spatter screen for my deep sautée pan, a spoon rest, remembering to put the lid back on and turn the heat down when I’m making sauces and soups, and quick wipedowns, including the walls/surfaces nearby, sometimes even during cooking because I’m there and I remember it.

On the emotional side, similarly to advice above, working on a schedule helps me relax my grip on perfection. I mop in my kitchen mayyyyybe once every two months, and spot clean in between. (In my experience, mopping will *never* get food off of the floor - that will always be a [relatively quick!] spot-cleaning job with a rag and hot, soapy water.) I wipe the soot off of the windowsills maybe five times a year. It helps me let normal dirt be normal. If I had those bathroom crevices you mention between the toilet/wall and toilet/sink, I’d clean them once à year and leave them otherwise.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 2:13 PM on July 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

Mrs. Meyer's all-purpose cleaner is very, very concentrated and will last a long time. I also dilute their dishwashing liquid, with no loss of cleaning power. My pick is geranium. The labels are very easy to peel off the bottles for a nicer look.

In addition to UFYH, you might want to see if your library can get you a copy of Clean Like a Man. It's a short, fun, and informative read, whether one is a man or not.

The sink and toilet are basically touching and 4" from the wall so really hard to clean between/around them and there is a weird crevice behind the faucet I can't reach with a paper towel/rag.

You might need to use a separate toilet brush to reach back there. You could also get an extendable cleaner. I have that one, although I didn't pay that much.
posted by jgirl at 2:13 PM on July 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

After a shower, open the shower door (or draw back the shower curtain), and leave the bathroom fan on for at least 15 minutes.

Often deep cleaning can be counter-productive. Abrasive products (like Magic Eraser, Ajax, etc) achieve the clean at the expense of roughening up the surface. The rough surface makes it harder and harder to get it clean again.

So, whenever possible, restore the shiny dirt-repellant surface. What does this mean? For walls, a fresh coat of semi-gloss paint. For tile, a sealant. For sinks and tubs, a fresh bead of caulk. For glass, a water-repellant treatment like Rain-X or Invisible Shield. (Note that this is the multi-layer, several hour, foundation treatment, not the once a day spray.)

These treatments makes more sense if you own, but can also be worth it in a long-term rental, since they involve a higher up-front investment of time & money. The payoff is that cleaning is less frequent, easier, and more enjoyable going forward. In a way, it leverages your ADHD to get that one big burst of work done up front, and not have to constantly think about it later.
posted by dum spiro spero at 2:41 PM on July 30, 2021 [3 favorites]

I've also noticed the same effect from a quality lightweight vacuum you did, And I also have found it really useful to have rags or microfiber cleaning cloths stashed under every sink. I also keep glass cleaner but I suspect plain water works 98% as well. If I need to clean a mirror or wipe off sink fixtures, I can just grab one of those cloths and go top-down to get the mirror, the sink fixtures, the counter, any accumulated dust or drips on the tops of cabinets / drawers, and whatever else I see that needs cleaning up. And then I can just drop it in the laundry. It's much easier and lower mental effort than pulling paper towels off a roll (and I feel better about it because I know I'm not wasting anything, it just goes in the laundry with everything else).
posted by Lady Li at 2:49 PM on July 30, 2021

A cordless vacuum/mop Is so great. You literally don’t need to vacuum prior to using this and it’s great at mopping because it sprays clean water out of one tank and sucks it up into a different, waste tank. So no dirty water spreading around on the floor. I love this as much as I love my cordless Dyson, which I use all over the house. Not cheap tho. A corded one is much cheaper and also great.
posted by waving at 3:31 PM on July 30, 2021 [2 favorites]

One bathroom trick that helps a lot for me is Scrubbing Bubbles, the foam kind. If it’s bad for the planet I don’t want to know, because it’s a foam that gets in all the weird toilet crevices and disinfects them. Also: foam!
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 3:33 PM on July 30, 2021 [2 favorites]

A few months back someone here recommended the Tody app and it has been a game changer for me. I have a very hard time tackling what feels to me like a vague/big task like "clean the bathroom every Thursday" and often let the perfect be the enemy of the good (I don't have time to clean the whole bathroom so I won't do it all). I set up my Tody tasks and many take me less than 10 minutes to complete - I can dust the living room while I'm taking a break from work and check it off my list, then clean the toilet on my next break. I can also trust that a task will be coming back up in the rotation in X days, so if I half-ass it this week, I might do better next week.

My house hasn't been this clean since I moved in 12 years ago.
posted by Preserver at 4:01 PM on July 30, 2021 [12 favorites]

I have a Cuban mop and I really like it. Since the mop head is essentially a rag (I use terrycloth bar mop towels), It's easy to quickly take it off and rub any spots that need extra attention.

When I'm doing the kitchen, I make a bucket of soapy water, then use the cloth to wipe down the fronts of all the cabinets and the backsplashes. Then I use the cloth to clean any spots on the floor, then put the cloth on the mop and clean the rest of the floor. If there is additional dust that the mop doesn't pick up, I can take the cloth off the mop head and wipe it up.

When I'm done, the bar mop gets rinsed and wrung out and washed with the rags, so it's clean for next time.
posted by Lycaste at 5:47 PM on July 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

I must respectfully disagree with the recommendation for Cheryl Mendelsohn’s Home Comforts book. It’s good for people who want to read a 500 page tome so they can discover the most minute details about the history of housekeeping, learn the most precise and labour intensive cleaning methods, and spend a LOT of their free time doing housework in a very specific and painstaking way. I’m not getting that vibe from your question and I think the book would overwhelm you. It gave me nothing but anxiety, when what I wanted was a book that would give me tips on how to clean more efficiently.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:13 PM on July 30, 2021 [10 favorites]

Addressing the pleasantness: someone once told me they made up a whole persona they take on for cleaning. Something like, now I’m Mariella, I wear colorful clothes and a bandana, listen to loud 70s disco music while cleaning and sing along loudly and slightly off-key. I do what’s on my list, finish on the dot of the allotted time, and don’t take nonsense from anybody.

Or you could just listen to ABBA while cleaning.
posted by meijusa at 12:01 AM on July 31, 2021 [10 favorites]

Meijusa above reminds me that I once got a special t-shirt from the blog Hyperbole and a Half to wear when cleaning. It feels just slightly silly - not so silly that you feel like "why do I need to wear this, oh god" but more like it makes you a tiny bit prone to giggling, which keeps you in a good mood.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:56 AM on July 31, 2021 [3 favorites]

Headphones and podcasts/music/audiobooks.

Flylady for routines (this was magic for me and my ADHD, and even when I don't hew closely to it anymore I still see the benefit)

Robot vacuum with mop. OMG.
posted by Salamandrous at 8:32 AM on July 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

So once a month or so I down a couple of tequila shots, turn on some music, and clean. The alcohol makes it feel much less onerous and I catch up on whatever I've been neglecting most. YMMV based on your health.
posted by metasarah at 9:25 AM on July 31, 2021 [3 favorites]

Seconding the cordless vacuum and mop. Some of them clean, vacuum AND dry. Uncertain whether it's in your area, but the Vax pwr glide does this. (Note pwr, not power.)
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 2:54 AM on August 1, 2021

I really like KC Davis' Tok Tok for this sort of thing. She has all kinds of systems, wrote a book on the subject and recently learned she is ADHD which explains some of why her stuff works so well for me.

Edit: Oh, she has a website, too:
posted by cCranium at 11:20 AM on August 3, 2021

The best tip I've learned about cleaning is to spray your cleaning solution, wait a minute, then wipe with a dry rag. This is apparently what hotel housekeepers do. Scrubbing and then rinsing is double the work for no benefit.

It's a maintenance cleaning tip because I don't worry about cleaning the whole room at once, I just spray and wipe the worst surfaces whenever I notice them looking dirty.

When I've let the tub get too grimy, I love to use a sponge with the green scrubby side with some shampoo or soap. I just stay in the shower after bathing, scrub a minute, then turn the water back on to rinse the tub and myself.
posted by Frenchy67 at 9:59 AM on September 10, 2021

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