You Want a Clean and Tidy Home. Now What?
If you’ve longed for a cleaning routine and a little more structure in your homekeeping, you’re not alone. Most of us crave some type of structure and sometimes it’s just nice to know that bathrooms will get cleaned each week. Or maybe you’ve tried a handful of cleaning routines and none of them worked when life happened and someone got sick, or you were at work all day and just didn’t feel like cleaning, or you were going to clean the fridge when you got home from work but another mess took priority. Maybe you fell off the cleaning bandwagon, felt defeated, and ended up going back to cleaning on Saturdays or just when you couldn’t stand the mess anymore.
So are you doomed to avoid cleaning routines forever? I can most definitely give you a resounding NO. Sometimes a fresh start and a renewed perspective can lead to a different mindset. Don’t be afraid to try this approach. It’s a new way of cleaning and caring for your home. Give it some time and you’ll quickly find that it’s more about the plan than the work itself. Stick with me, follow along, and the little bit of work you put in will be worth it. I pinky-swear promise. Okay, maybe that’s a little lame, but trust me, the Simply Clean method works and you’ll be so glad you gave it a whirl!
WHY OTHER CLEANING METHODS DON’T WORK, BUT SIMPLY CLEAN DOES
Here’s what I think about cleaning, routines, clutter, and mess: they’re part of life. You create the mess (or someone you love does) and it needs to be cleaned up. Cause and effect. The difference with the Simply Clean method is that it requires only a few simple actions that make sense every day. After a few weeks, maybe with a reminder on your phone or calendar, it’s committed to memory and that action starts to become a habit. That habit quietly turns into something that you “just do” and then, once you’re doing it, it is simply clean. The bedroom, the kitchen, the bathroom—they practically clean themselves. So how do you get there?
WHERE TO START, PLUS HOW TO AVOID “OVERWHELM”
It’s important to just start somewhere. Starting the process and doing something, anything, is more helpful than doing everything. Doing everything merely leads to burnout and cleaning fatigue. Think of it like deciding to eliminate coffee from your diet in one fell swoop: The first day you do it, you endure the headache and wake up the second day ready to continue this new habit. You almost make it all the way through day two, until the splitting headache wins and you give in to the caffeine and the coffee drive-thru lures you in and you decide that you’re just going to keep drinking coffee and forget about curbing your caffeine addiction. In retrospect, quitting coffee might have been easier if you broke down the process into more manageable steps. Instead of quitting cold turkey, going from two cups a day down to one cup a day may have been an easier transition. Starting a new cleaning routine is very similar: you start strong but get busy, someone gets sick, or you just plain don’t feel like folding another load of laundry and that one tiny load piles up to a mountain of four. Let’s keep this easy, seamless, and doable—a cleaning routine that runs itself with just a couple steps every day. And the best part? If you miss a day or a task, you can make it up or not—it’s up to you.
The most effective part of the Simply Clean method is that you will not feel overwhelmed by the routine. You’ll feel like it’s helping you get your home to a manageable place where just about any real-life circumstance can be thrown at you and you can still get the bathrooms clean. Every day of the week has a task, and if you don’t get to that task, guess what? You skip it and move on to the next day. No guilt, no making it up, just move on.
For a perfectionist, this is a really difficult concept to embrace. Most weeks I don’t get to everything on my list. This can feel defeating unless you have a plan and expect that not everything will get done. Accept it, set goals, and don’t worry about the completion of that list. Simply do your best and do what you can—it’s that easy. How can you just move on without cleaning the bathrooms or dusting or vacuuming? Because every single Friday is a day to catch up on any uncompleted tasks. If you don’t get to the task on Friday because the week was crazy or Friday you were working out of town or something else came up, you table the task until its day appears on the calendar the following week. This is the magic of the Simply Clean method and why I believe it really works for so many households with different schedules and circumstances.
EMBRACE A LITTLE MESS NOW AND THEN
Your home will most likely never be show-ready all the time. Life is messy. Just when I feel like I’ve reached the brink of what I can handle with Legos and blocks strewn from one end of the house to the other, I take a deep breath and remember that these annoying toys will soon be replaced with other things like sports and activity equipment and then car keys and cell phones. My little ones won’t be little for very long; and while some days the mess gets the best of me, I know it’s a good thing.
I have “clutter” written on my daily to-do list. Every. Single. Day. Papers, magazines, books, toys, clothes—those things that pile up and make me (maybe you, too?) feel a little bit crazy. You’ll learn how to deal with those quickly and efficiently every day. Those little messes will never pile up to become big, unmanageable messes because you are dealing with them daily, and that daily contact is all that’s needed to curb and contain the stress and anxiety that come with trying to manage a home. The Simply Clean method will give you the space to embrace your messy life and not be overwhelmed by it.
PRIORITIZING AND HONEST GOAL SETTING (BECAUSE IT’S OKAY TO NOT DO IT ALL!)
What made you decide to read this book in the first place? What do you need in your life to feel like your home isn’t swirling in chaos? What are some things that have been annoying you when you walk in the door every evening? You know you have to do them but you’ve been putting them off for far too long. Maybe you want to stop doing all the laundry over the weekends or you want to clear out that junk drawer. Take a minute to be honest with yourself and write down three goals you’d like to accomplish in the next couple months. Clean and organize the whole house are not the kind of goals I want you to set. Make the goals things that are quick, simple, attainable. You’re going to be making huge strides over the course of this book, but consistency is going to be the key to overcoming any prior misconceptions about how difficult it is to keep a clean house. It’s easy and your goals should be, too. Make the bed almost every day or stay on top of the laundry. Simple, actionable goals that can be completed with a little time and effort are all you need to write down.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, forget everything you thought you knew about keeping a clean house.
The secret to cleaning less and having a cleaner home is simple: have a plan. You might be thinking, I bought this book for someone to tell me that I need a plan? Or maybe you’re thinking, I’ve tried that and it lasted for three days. Don’t worry, the secret to a cleaner home in less time is more than just a plan, it’s the Simply Clean method. Not only does it work, it will most likely revolutionize how you see your home and your cleaning routine.
CLEANING ROUTINES: WHY YOU NEED ONE
A cleaning routine may sound complicated and rigid, and many are, but the Simply Clean method actually works because it’s flexible and workable with just about every schedule.
What’s different about the Simply Clean method? There’s grace built right in to the routine to ensure success. Even if you think that you can’t be helped by a cleaning routine or that you don’t need one, think back to a particularly stressful time in your life. What was the first thing that you stopped doing? I’m going to go out on a limb and say cleaning. I’ll be the first one to tell you that that’s normal and expected. But I also want to tell you that when you let go of things like washing dishes and you let the laundry pile up, those piles might have contributed to your stress. I’m here to encourage you to let go of some things when things get crazy, but not everything. Have your own personal musts list and do those or half of those, or even one of those. A little order goes a long way to keeping the sanity.
QUICK TIP: Feeling overwhelmed or stressed over the state of a room or your whole house? Choose one surface and completely clear it, clean it, and put what was on that surface where it belongs. Relax, take a deep breath, and move on.
JUST START SOMEWHERE: EVERY DAY A LITTLE SOMETHING
My cleaning mantra is “Every day a little something.” It’s a great reminder to do something every single day. Embrace that mindset, and you’ll be halfway to making a cleaning routine work for you and your schedule. Have you ever looked around your home, looked at a room in complete disarray, a cluttered counter, a mountain of laundry, or an unfinished project and felt so defeated that you were practically paralyzed? That defeated feeling is what keeps you from managing your cleaning tasks like a professional. Instead of looking around at all that you have to do, simply choose something from the daily tasks and get to work. Set a timer and work for 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes in the evening or just 10 minutes all at once. Or if you’re home during the day, split that time up in 5-minute increments around mealtimes to keep it really easy. Those simple daily tasks? Chances are you’re already doing them. Let’s put them into motion and give them a little automation for success in your home.
DAILY CLEANING TASKS IN JUST 10–15 MINUTES A DAY
Chances are you know that folding and putting that laundry away would be a good idea and dealing with that stack of mail instead of letting it pile up is probably the right choice, right? But do you know why you aren’t putting those tasks into motion? I’m guessing it’s because you haven’t really thought about it or you’re just too busy to care. Does that sound harsh? I hope not, I hope it sounds realistic and honest. I created this cleaning routine because I figured there has to be a way to keep a house clean most of the time with minimal effort. Trust me here and get ready to jump in to the simplest and most effective cleaning routine you can imagine.
Let’s get started with the daily tasks—they’re the secret to keeping your home clean most of the time. The five daily tasks are things that you might be doing already but if you feel overwhelmed by them, start gradually and add one a week until you’ve added all five in.
1. Make beds. Quickly pull up your bedding and fluff those pillows as soon as you can in the morning. This will help set your mind for the day—your bed is made, hooray! If you have children, teach them at an early age how to make their own beds. Don’t go back and correct their work, just let it be. I’ve found that using just a bottom sheet and a washable duvet cover or quilt is the easiest way to make a bed. Just quickly pull the duvet or quilt up, toss the pillows on top, and it’s an instantly made bed!
QUICK TIP: If it’s hard to wrap your mind around not using a top sheet, I get it! But I’ve found that washable duvet covers are a major time-saver in our house. Making the bed is easier for everyone, especially children, and it saves time when changing sheets.
2. Check floors. This is simple—just sweep or vacuum as needed. In my house, it seems like the broom comes out after every meal, but it’s a quick sweep under the kitchen table and it’s put away. If the day is a busy one, I might look past the floor until after dinner and just drag out the broom once. If you have pets, you might need to grab that vacuum cleaner or broom a little more often, especially if it’s shedding season. Any sweeping or vacuuming that’s done on a daily basis is merely for touch-up purposes; no thorough vacuuming is necessary.
QUICK TIP: If you have little ones, get a small broom and dustpan and let them clean up their own food messes. Not only are you teaching them to clean but you are also giving them a responsibility. Keep the broom accessible and you’ll probably find them reaching for it all by themselves.
3. Wipe counters. Wipe down your kitchen counters after meals if needed, and at least once a day, after dinner. Check the bathroom counters to make sure that they are clean and cleared off daily. If you’re in the habit of keeping makeup and beauty supplies out on your counters, consider putting them in a basket or drawer to keep the counters clear and easy to clean. A quick walk through the bathroom(s) in your home with a cleaning wipe or microfiber cloth and your favorite cleaner is all you need to do. Look for those little messes like toothpaste in the sink and any grunge on the counters. Keeping the counters wiped down daily makes it easier to maintain a clean home, and who doesn’t love clear counters?
QUICK TIP: If you aren’t home during the day, simply wipe down counters as needed before leaving the house and/or at the end of the day if necessary.
4. Declutter. Pick up clutter during the day as you see it. This also includes dealing with mail on a daily basis as well as keeping counters and floors picked up. It doesn’t take much for clutter to creep in and invade your home. I find that dealing with it daily is the only way to avoid the overwhelming feeling that comes from a pile of papers on the kitchen counter or a pile of shoes at the door. Teach other family members how to deal with clutter by putting systems in place to manage the incoming papers, keys, shoes, clothes and anything else that adds to your clutter quotient. Simple items like a basket where the clothes pile up, a dish where keys get set, and a tray for incoming and outgoing mail and papers will go a long way to keep the inevitable clutter in its proper place. Having these systems in place will turn visual noise into visual serenity.
5. Do laundry. Do one load of laundry from start to folded and put away every single day. I think you’ll be surprised at how manageable it is. Simplify your laundry routine by using just the basics. No need for an arsenal of laundry supplies—pare it down to a couple favorites and keep those stocked. My best tip for laundry? Delegate! Teach your family members how to do laundry and you’ll be cutting your laundry time in half in no time. If you don’t have a washer and dryer and use a Laundromat or communal laundry room, this is most likely not feasible. But you can easily do a larger amount of laundry by running multiple machines at the same time. Use this to your advantage and plan it out. Keep a divided hamper or multiple baskets for your laundry storage so you can quickly toss your linens in the machines and get your loads running. Fold your laundry right away and put it away as soon as you return to home to avoid the laundry basket stare down.
QUICK TIP: Stop buying multiple types of socks! Choose a favorite white sock for most days and have at least seven pairs of that sock. No need to fold; if you’d like to skip that step, simply put them all in a basket or small container that fits in a dresser drawer.