Here are some tried and true tips and hacks for efficiently keeping your home tidier and more organized:
Don’t be a perfectionist.
Did you know that perfectionism is actually counter-intuitive? When we set our aspirations too high, we end up overwhelmed and accomplish even less than if we had set a smaller, more attainable goal. Let’s use the task of straightening up before a guest is expected to stop by, as an example.
A friend is coming over, and you haven’t cleaned the house in about 5 days. You want your friend to feel relaxed and comfortable, in clean and organized surroundings. Instead of trying to do a whirlwind deep-cleaning marathon, it makes more sense to just tackle the easy jobs that you can do quickly but will still make a difference.
Vacuum ONLY the living room carpet and kitchen floor, because that’s where you’ll be spending most of your time with said friend. Wash dishes and throw out stinky kitchen garbage. Wipe up table surfaces. Run to the bathroom, pull out your easily accessible cleaning supplies, and do a quick squirt and wipe of the sink and mirror. While in the bathroom, replenish liquid soap, stock toilet paper, change out the dirty hand towel, and swish the bowl. You’re done in 30 minutes
The same principal can apply even when you’re not expecting company!
Stock supplies in strategic locations.
You know that you need specific cleaning products and tools in order to keep your home clean and tidy. These many include a broom and dustpan, upright vacuum, hand-held vacuum, bucket, mop, cleaning rags, paper towels, scrub brushes, toilet brush, glass cleaner, abrasive cleanser, floor cleaning mix, spray bottle with surface cleaner, and so forth. The trick to keeping a cleaner home is to buy duplicates of your most frequently used cleaning products or homemade mixes, and store them near the areas where you tend to use them most. Doing this reduces the steps necessary to get the job done – it also eliminates one more excuse to put off what could be a quick chore;)
For example, if you typically clean the upstairs bathrooms as well as the kitchen using an abrasive cleaner, then buy two cans – one for each floor of your home. Store one under a bathroom sink upstairs, and another under the kitchen sink downstairs. Also keep two bottles of glass cleaner in both locations. If you have a basement laundry area and/or slop sink, you’ll need stored cleansers in this location as well. Along with your cleaning products, be sure to also stock necessary supplies such as a sponge or bunch of cleaning rags, so that you can make a quick task of wiping up when necessary.
Storage bins are your friend.
Another aspect of keeping a home clean involves managing all the “stuff” that accumulates. Think of the sinking feeling you get after every Christmas, and the explosion of holiday gifts from well-meaning family and friends. What will you do with all of this extra clutter? It helps a lot to embrace that age-old cliche, “a place for everything, and everything in its place.”
Take the first step in organizing the stuff and things that take up valuable space in your home, and clutter your mind with their distracting presence. Go out and buy a bunch of storage bins. If you aren’t sure how many or what sizes you’ll need, start by taking a general mental inventory of what you need to store and then jot down a quick list. Think of all the categories of items that you own in your home. Depending on what time of year it is, a certain number of these items will either be in active use, or packed away for a different season. Some sample categories for storing things in bins: picture frames and knick knacks. Blankets. Outdoor sports equipment. Linens and towels. Christmas and holiday decor. Garden supplies. Old toys. Beach items. Pet supplies. Rarely used kitchen appliances.
Don’t forget to label your bins. Blank labels or masking tape will do for this purpose. Make sure that you keep your labels and markers in close proximity to your bins so you don’t have to go searching for them. Any time you have to hunt around for supplies, you lessen your chance of completing the organizational task that you set out to accomplish.
Out of sight, out of mind.
Your storage bins should not be in sight. The idea is things are in storage, so hide them away for greater peace of mind. You can clear a spot in your basement, attic, garage, guest room, or wherever you prefer to contain your clutter into an “out of sight, out of mind” area. It’s okay for all your stuff to not be on display, and may in fact be better for your mental health not to look at it.
Get rid of whatever you don’t use.
The best part of sorting and categorizing items in your home is that it forces you to be realistic about what you use versus what you just think you use. As part of your organization agenda, you should be eliminating all unnecessary items. For example, let’s say you have a box of maternity clothes, but you’re of the age where it’s very unlikely that you’ll ever be pregnant again. You might be tempted to keep the box around “just in case.” But in all honesty, if you get pregnant by some slim chance there will probably be scores of family and friends ready to hand you everything you may need. So, now is your chance to help out a friend in need, and put those gently used maternity outfits in their own bin, then drive them over to the nearest Goodwill drop off.
Go by task.
Instead of cleaning one room at a time, tackle cleaning one task at a time. Your tasks can be broken down into wet cleaning and dry cleaning, sub-divided as necessary. You generally need to dry-clean first, to get rid of dust, crumbs and dirt, before you can sanitize. If you’re strapped for time, vacuuming is more important than dusting. So that’s one task for the entire house. Grab the vacuum. But wait! Before you vacuum, you must make sure there are no obstacles in the way of your cleaning path.
Pick up in-the-way items and stash in their proper locations or temporarily store on table tops. Inspect the floor for dropped change and small objects; stuff into your pocket or find a makeshift receptacle for odds and ends. Grab your vacuum and go from room to room, first on one floor, then up or down the stairs, then the next floor. Don’t get sidetracked by things you discover along the way. Just vacuum.
When you’re done with all levels of your home, put the vacuum away. Now, you can either begin whatever wet chores you were planning; or, if your schedule is putting demands on you, you can put your cleaning project on pause and come back to it later. Now, one feature of the entire home is clean – the carpets and floors no longer have dirt crumbs and dust. As a final step, return all the temporarily moved items to their proper locations. Now you’re officially done with vacuuming (for the time being). It’s a good time to take a break, have a drink of water, or put your feet up for 10 minutes. The most counter productive thing you can do it try to push on to “get it all done” without taking care of yourself first.
Dry chores first.
The best time to wipe down and sanitize the surfaces of your home, such as countertops, table tops, cabinets, sinks and floors, is after you’ve vacuumed and/or dusted. In today’s busy world, this isn’t always possible. So if you happen to be doing your chores in reverse, don’t sweat it.
Again, instead of cleaning one room at a time, aim for one chore at a time. Floor-washing for the entire house can be a single task. There’s no way around the fact that they should be swept or vacuumed first. Once you remove surface crumbs, dust and dirt, fill up your wash bucket with your favorite floor cleaner, and mop or Swiffer if you use one.
After you finish washing the floor of your kitchen and other downstairs areas, move onto the bathroom. It should be noted that if you have a tile or linoleum floor in some rooms of the house, and hardwood floors in others, these tasks must be handled differently and therefore should be considered separate jobs. A wood floor in your hallway may not need to be washed as frequently as linoleum floor in your kitchen. So if right now you’re cleaning tiles and linoleum, just keep focused on this task, and bring your wash bucket and scrubbing rags, brushes and/or mop around with you to clean the kitchen floor and then the bathrooms. You do the bathrooms last because that’s the dirtiest room in the house. When you’re done, put all used rags in their designated “dirty laundry” spot, to be washed and sanitized before using again.
By now you should be getting the idea that your home will look cleaner if you break it down by urgency of the matter at hand, and by chore, rather than by room. Look at it this way; you could spend all day perfecting the living room – sorting through old magazines, meticulously dusting every picture frame and knick knack on your mantelpiece, shining the furniture, scrubbing the baseboards, mopping the corners of the ceiling, wiping down window sills, steaming the drapes, and vacuuming – all in that one room. But when you’re done, you’ll have an immaculate living room but every other room of the house will remain a wreck. So, use common sense when you’re deciding what to clean, and when, according to how much time you have and which rooms will be in immediate use thereafter.
Take heart, getting and keeping your home organized is an ongoing project that does actually get easier with time and experience!