How to Keep a Clean House Long Term (3 Easy Tricks)
It's hard to get your house clean for a special event (guests coming over, the queen coming to visit, etc.). Especially with kids, it's dang near impossible to keep your house clean on a long term basis. Here's how to do it.
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Houses take a LOT of work. There's the basic maintenance (drippy faucets, beeping smoke alarm batteries, and more!), then there's keeping things clean (mopping, dusting, and other Cinderella impersonations), and as if that isn't enough you have to organize all the things.
(Why do we have so many things? No one knows. But they probably shouldn't be spread across the floor like that...)
Even if you're living by yourself it takes work to keep the house in order. Add a spouse, kids, pets, and goodness knows what else we have going on in our chaotic lives...
No wonder we're going prematurely grey.
Our Personal Brand of Chaos
I've been the primary "household manager" in our family for a while now. That's a five bedroom house, two adults, two kids (a messy teen and a toddlernado), two large dogs (over 200 cumulative pounds of dog between them), and a rabbit the size of a housecat. You want chaos? Come on over.
It was really overwhelming for me at first. The number of times I would clean something, turn around for a second, and then it would somehow be dirty again was simply astounding!
Not to mention our house was a short sale and the previous owners had switched from "maintenance" to "duct tape it" about a year before they left the house. To say we had some work ahead of us would be a draconian understatement.
Circumventing the Dustbunny Apocalypse...in Three Tricks
In my time as a professional dirt-wrangler, toy-sorter, and all around windex afficionado, I have learned a few things that have really helped me keep our house clean and organized.
Because everything is better in list form, I've distilled these things into the three biggest house cleaning "tricks" in my mom arsenal.
Spoiler Alert: At the end of the article I have a free present for you as well. It's the only way I keep my house from looking like a war zone met a hazmat accident.
#1 Write it Down
Chances are you do way more than you actually cognize doing.
Somewhere between the #mombrain and the sleep deprivation, we begin to become more and more Roomba-like. (That is, we just walk around cleaning whatever's in our path until we bump into a wall or run out of batteries.)
However, if you take the few minutes it takes to actually jot down what needs cleaning, it's way more likely to get done. Seriously, it has been proven that writing things down has serious benefits when it comes to motivation, organization, and the likelihood of taking action.
If you write down the things that really need cleaning that day, they're more likely to actually get done!
This is one of those things you really have to see to believe, but take a few minutes each morning to jot down what your planned cleaning tasks are for the day and you'll be shocked the difference it makes.
Your Practical Action Step #1: Start jotting down 1-3 cleaning priorities each day. This is small stuff like "vacuum stairs" or "wipe kitchen counters". Just doing a few, preplanned items will make a huge difference.
#2 Find the "Right" Frequencies for Cleaning
Once you've started writing things down, you'll notice that patterns start to emerge.
The dust bunnies start peeking their heads out from under the table about two days after the last vacuuming. The toilets begin to get that nasty ring after a week or so. The laundry bins can only hold three to four days worth of clothes.
Very few household tasks only happen once. Most happen once every _____.
Whether that blank is two days, one week, or three months, once you know the frequency for your tasks, you have the most important piece of the puzzle in place.
Once you have your cleaning items sorted into metaphorical "buckets" for how often they need to be done, you can construct a cleaning plan that makes sure things get cleaned before they start to get noticeably nasty.
Your Practical Action Step #2: Make a list of your recurring tasks (hint: use your present at the end of this blog) and figure out how often each needs to happen.
#3 Leverage Your Daily Routine
Once you have determined the frequencies for your cleaning-related tasks, you can build a routine that's actually doable.
It has been well documented that The Power of Habit is a force to be reckoned with. You will get more done and with less effort if we bundle up individual recurring tasks and put them into one, consolidated routine.
In fact, our habits and thoughts on a daily basis can even go as far as creating improvements in our brains themselves. (Thanks, neuroplasticity.)
Think about your morning routine. Chances are you have the same order for brushing your teeth, washing your face, fixing your hair, and (gasp) sometimes even putting on makeup so you don't look like an extra from The Walking Dead. You get all your morning things in without much thought because you've turned 18 separate tasks into one routine you could do in your sleep.
It's the same with house cleaning. Once you find the tasks that really need to be done every day (or every week or month) and create a daily routine that incorporates them, you'll start to notice your house looking cleaner and more organized with less effort or stress.
My Morning Routine
For me, the main things I have to do each day are vacuum the downstairs living areas, wipe my kitchen counter, tidy the toddler toys (from...everywhere), and clean the dog drool off our walls.
Yes, you read that right. We have a Great Dane. He has more lips than any dog should ever have, so when he drinks water it looks like this:
I wish I was kidding. I'm not. I literally walk around the house with a magic eraser scrubbing drool swipes off the ceiling.
Anyway, now that that's cleared up, back to my routine...
I know those four tasks are my "big ones" when it comes to what's going to make the biggest difference, so I've put them into my routine. I wipe the kitchen counter while the kids are getting their backpacks together so when I come back from carpool drop off I walk in to a clean-looking kitchen.
(I don't know why, but this really helps my mood.)
I vacuum right before the toddler naps each afternoon because the double wammy of the noise and the movement gets her very zzzzzz-ready.
The dog drool patrol gets done right before we go pick up "big sis" from school because the little one thinks it's fun to "help". (Help means I give her a spray bottle of water and a rag and she pretends to clean stuff that isn't there while I do the real grunt work. Slacker.)
Finally, the toy swoop happens last thing at night right before we go up. Every night. Like clockwork.
By putting my daily tasks into our routine and tying them into existing, non-negotiable events like carpool, naptime, or bedtime, I not only give myself time to get them done, but make sure they're going to happen every day.
Your Practical Action Step #3: Find the tasks that need to happen on the daily and tie them in with other events in your daily routine.
The Free Gift I Promised You
It's hard to keep all this organized.
You don't want to have to keep a "housekeeping journal" to figure out task frequencies, track cleaning to dos, and create plans. Just the phrase "housekeeping journal" makes me want to weep.
Instead, I created a free, online housekeeping task organizer. Just click the link at the end (or beginning) of this blog to use our quick and easy web tool to keep track of your cleaning hit list.
Here's a quick tour for how it works:
Once you start tracking your tasks, it'll be so much easier to get your house clean and to keep it that way for the long term.
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About the Author
Founder | Contributor
Liz (or Dr. Mommy, as her toddler started calling her after learning what a PhD was) is the happily sleep-deprived mom of a baby boy (and professional raccoon noise impersonator), a sparkle-clad toddlernado, a teenage stepdaughter, the canine embodiments of Pinky and The Brain, and a rabbit of unusual size. During nights and naptimes, she uses her PhD in business psychology as an author, speaker, and consultant. She also serves as an executive and principal for three companies, two of which she co-founded with her very patient (and equally exhausted) husband.
My Motto: All I can control is how hard I work.
Motto: All I can control is how hard I work.
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