Clean As You Go
Want to keep your house neat and clean in a simple, stress-free way?
Just clean as you go.
Instead of letting the house get really dirty and messy, and then having to spend a lot of time and effort cleaning it, you just clean a little bit at a time on a daily basis.
Some clean as you go habits
When I use the bathroom in the morning, I give the toilet a quick clean. I spray the inside of the bowl with a 50/50 water and white vinegar solution, let it sit while I shower and do my hair, then brush and flush.
Before I leave the bathroom to get dressed, I wipe the mirror, counter, and sink with the hand towel, which I then replace with a clean one.
When I take off clothes, I either hang them up immediately or put them in the laundry hamper. Clothes don't end up on the floor.
If I spill something on the stove or floor while cooking, I wipe it up right away and sweep if necessary. I don't let it sit there to get hardened (and harder to remove) or tracked around!
When I cook, if something needs to brown or simmer for a few minutes, I wash used kitchen items as I wait, in between stirring the food. When I'm finished cooking, there's not such a big mess.
When I finish watching a DVD, I put it away. Before I go to bed, I put away my book or crochet project or save my writing in the appropriate file on my laptop, shut it down, and put it away. When I get up in the morning there aren't five little piles of things sitting around – I start the day with a "clean slate."
When I pick up the mail, I don't pile it on the kitchen table.
- Obvious junk goes straight into the recycle bin.
- Junk with personal information (like insurance offers from our credit union) gets shredded.
- Bills get paid.
- Important papers (like the newest statement from retirement investments) get filed.
- I no longer receive paper catalogs or magazines.
- "Real mail" (like a birthday card) is opened, read, and enjoyed, and perhaps displayed for a few days on my kitchen bulletin board.
None of my habits take more than a few minutes (some take only one!), but by doing them as I go, I spend very little effort and never have a really messy or dirty house. Of course, a deeper cleaning is still required at times, but not as often, and it's not as hard.
When my kids lived at home, I tried to instill these habits in them as well. My husband has lived with me for a long time, so they have become habits for him too. But if necessary, I'll pick up after him or ask him to please wipe the bathroom counter or whatever. Since the chore isn't very big or time-consuming, there's no reason to complain about doing it.
You can clean as you go in other areas of life as well:
- Email. Every time you go into your inbox, clear out a batch. Archive the ones you need to keep, delete the ones you don't need (or better yet, unsubscribe), then do some quick replies (five sentences or less, if possible). Put any that require longer tasks into a folder and add the tasks to your to-do list. Spend no more than 5 or 10 minutes, and then get out of the inbox. Repeat later.
- Finances. I put my savings and most of my bills on auto-pay, but I still have a few items to pay "on paper" (apartment rent, Visa card, gas/electricity, some charitable giving). I've made a habit of writing a check and putting a stamp on the envelope as soon as the bill arrives in the mail. I don't put it in a "to be paid" file, I just take care of it in a couple of minutes as it arrives. That way, I never forget a bill, and I never have a pile of bills to pay.
- Exercise. I aim to move more every day. I might do some core-strengthening exercises today, jumping jacks or a speed walk around the block tomorrow, go up and down a couple of flights of stairs the next day, and take a long leisurely walk with my husband the day after that. If I move more every day, I may prevent health problems later.
Of course I'm not perfect at any of this. But clean as you go is a principle that reduces stress, mess, and arguments while increasing weekend free time and the pleasures of a neat and clean home.
Updated August 2022
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