In one’s attempt to get their life together, so to speak, one will inevitably feel pressured to buy into gimmicks. That’s how The Container Store makes you feel like you’re just one $300 receipt from the Mariah Carey closet of your dreams, and why The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up has sold five million copies worldwide. But the truth of keeping a clean home is so much simpler than that.
To prove it, we rounded up more than one hundred responses from Apartment Therapy readers to discover what homekeeping advice actually makes a difference in their very real lives. And guess what? Not one person mentioned a spin mop or chore chart.
Do a Little Bit Every Day
This was by far the number one piece of advice cited by our readers. Cleaning your home is a much more manageable and, dare I say it, pleasurable experience when you ditch marathon weekend cleans in favor of biting it off a few minutes at a time, all the time.
“Spend just a few minutes cleaning and tidying a different room each day.”
“Do something every day. I never let things build up (well except for my desk sometimes). I am always trying to clean something out or clean something up so that when someone comes over my house is always pretty clean.”
“Always clean a bit as you go about your business in your home so things do not pile up and cleaning is not always left as one big undertaking.”
Make Tidying a Part of Your Routine
In the same vein of “do a little every day,” many readers suggested that cleaning gets easier when you work it into your normal routine. Make tidying up is as natural and normal as brushing your teeth.
“Make your bed every morning, and do 10 minutes of cleaning or dusting every day. My friends always ask what my secret is to keeping such a clean room, and honestly that is it. Even if my hamper is literally overflowing with laundry (which it always is), my room and apartment still has a put together and tidy feel due to this housekeeping trick.”
“Do your dishes and take out the trash every night. Makes for a clean and smell-free kitchen in the morning!”
“If you have a task that you struggle with, make it a point to work on it every time you do something else that is a daily task. For me, it’s the litter box. I keep the box by the toilet now, and I have a pact with myself that every time I use the bathroom, I scoop the box. It works wonders.”
Make Sure You Don’t Half Ass It
The only thing worse than not cleaning, to many of our readers, is cleaning halfway. Many of you touted the benefits of making sure the job isn’t just done, but done well.
“Clean things well and often.”
“The lazy person works twice as hard, this is probably hands down the best advice I have heard for anything. but essentially, do things right and take the extra time to do it right so you don’t have to go back and redo your work later.”
“From my grandmother: ‘One thing at a time and that done well is a very good rule as many can tell.'”
Own Less So You Have Less to Clean
Decluttering is not just a trend meant to sell books. Many of you suggested that being a bit of a minimalist actually makes keeping a clean home easier.
“Conquer the clutter for easier cleaning.”
“Don’t let your emotions get in the way of getting rid of stuff you don’t need—you’ll feel much lighter.”
“Less stuff means less stuff you need to clean.”
Make Use of Natural Solutions
Many of our readers have espoused the world of green cleaning, sharing that their most life-changing moments were when they decided to simplify their homekeeping toolbox to a few homemade and natural solutions.
“You can clean almost anything with vinegar and baking soda.”
“Hot water with ammonia will clean windows and anything glass, and make it shiny. I have found that it’s great on stainless steel too. Thanks Mom!”
“Vinegar cleans everything. Pour some in a spray bottle with a solid few squeezes of dish soap to make the best bathroom cleaner you’ll ever use. A cupful in the washing machine will get out any weird smells from anything that’s machine washable. And 100% non-toxic.”
Keep the One-Touch Rule Sacred
When you think about it, a mess is really just a collection of things that have found their way out of place. Many readers recommended that a swift, focused one-touch technique can make a huge difference at home.
“One-touch rule: don’t set something down and leave it for later. Put things away as you use them and there will be a lot less clutter to clean up later.”
“When cleaning, don’t walk around empty-handed — take stuff to its place the first time instead of making an extra trip.”
“If you put things away when you use them and clean as you go, you save lots of trouble down the road. You also save yourself lots of anxiety.”
Ensure Everything Has a Place
Back to that “putting stuff away” idea: Step one is making sure that everything has a place, as many of our readers reminded us.
“An organized home is better than a clean home. It took me a long time to realize that my problem was that I had a lot of things without ‘places.’ Once I started looking at my home from more of a functional perspective, I was able to put things in places that made sense, and as a result, kept everything cleaner.”
“Build organizing solutions around where the stuff ends up, not where you think it’s supposed to go.”
“Put your items back to their rightful place each time! If you throw it in the entry when you get home it will take forever to find it’s way to its correct home, and it will attract more clutter in the meantime! I am the worst with hanging up clothes.”
Above All Else: Just Do It
The hardest part of cleaning is sometimes just getting started. That’s why so many of our readers’ best cleaning advice was focused on finding (and keeping!) the motivation to get going.
“Just do it. Use your time wisely. If you have a free moment and think ‘I need to do this, this and this,’ just do one of those things. It takes less time to do it than the ten minutes you take thinking about it. So just wipe the fridge and stove, take out the recycling, put stuff away.”
“Don’t lay in bed waiting for things to get done. My grandma’s favorite saying: ‘The bed (or couch) is a coffin!'”
“Do something right away. Do some quick housekeeping or tidying task right away in the morning while waiting for coffee. And right away when you get home; DO NOT SIT ON THE COUCH! Do some housekeeping task, like a 10 minute sweep of surfaces. More times than not this helps set a tone of productivity, and I will continue for about an hour going through the list. But even if that’s all I get done, it’s less work for me to do tomorrow.”
When in Doubt, Outsource
A few of you said your best cleaning tip was passing on the duties to somebody else, if you can swing your budget to include professional housekeeping.
“If at all possible, hire someone to clean.”
“Hire a housekeeper. I lost mine a year ago and cannot find a suitable replacement!”
Remember What’s Important
I was so touched that when we asked our readers to share homekeeping tips, many of you leaned in to kindness, offering advice that suggested forgiving yourself for whatever state your home might be in and remembering that messes are a sign of a life well-lived.
“Distract from the dust with fresh flowers.”
“People always come before things.”
I like FlyLady’s advice to think of cleaning as ‘blessing your home’ and as doing something nice for your future self, rather than as a chore or a punishment for being messy
“Don’t ever neglect your family. The dust will still be there tomorrow.”
It’s not too late to chime in! Hop into the comments and let’s keep the conversation going: What’s your best advice for keeping a clean and tidy home?