odds and ends from a life under construction

31 Days, Day 4: How to clean your house quickly

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I’m a horrible housekeeper. My husband knows it, and he married me anyway – probably because he’s not much better. Between the two of us, if we put in some effort, we can manage to keep the house tidy for a few consecutive days. But with an almost-2-year old dumping out his toy bins almost as quickly as he fills them up*, sometimes it’s hard to keep things straight. When you invite people over to your house almost entirely because it will force you to clean things up… you might have a problem.

Real Simple to the rescue! For many years they’ve been my go-to publication for basic, simple (see what they did there?) advice and instructions for every topic under the sun, from crafts to fashion to auto maintenance. And as a designer, I don’t mind their pared-down art style. Their holiday gift guide each year is a must-purchase issue. Anyway – back to cleaning.

Real Simple has a handy printable checklist of quick things to do each day to keep your house clean without having to participate in a marathon session on the weekend. I don’t know about you, but I always leave “cleaning weekends” with a persistent cough from all the dust and dried-out hands from scrubbing every surface I can find. I should really wear gloves. And a mask. And hire someone else to clean.

Most of Real Simple’s list is pretty straightforward stuff that you’d think of on your own to do (even if, like us, you have trouble actually doing it). And here’s a handy tip: online list tool Remember the Milk lets you share tasks with others (like your husband, if you tag-team the housework like we do, or your kids) and get them checked off. Here’s a copy-and-paste-able list formatted with each task on its own line to make things even real simpler (yuk yuk) if you want to use RTM to manage your tasks. The list items also include formatting that adds the tasks to a list called “cleaning,” asks each task to repeat daily, and passes along the estimated time each task should take (where Real Simple estimated in seconds, I rounded up to the nearest minute). Copy and paste at will!

Clear out and wipe down the kitchen sink #cleaning *daily =5min
Wipe down kitchen countertops and stove #cleaning *daily =1min
Wipe problem spots on the kitchen floor #cleaning *daily =2min
Fold or hang dish towels. #cleaning *daily =1min
Wipe out the bathroom sink. #cleaning *daily =1min
Clean splatters off the bathroom mirror. #cleaning *daily =1min
Wipe the toilet seat and rim. #cleaning *daily =1min
Swoosh the toilet bowl with a brush. #cleaning *daily =1min
Squeegee the shower door. #cleaning *daily =1min
Spray the shower and curtain liner with a shower mist. #cleaning *daily =1min
Make your bed. #cleaning *daily =2min
Fold or hang clothes and put away jewelry. #cleaning *daily =4min
Straighten out the night-table surface. #cleaning *daily =1min
Tidy the sofa. #cleaning *daily =2min
Pick up crumbs with a handheld vacuum. #cleaning *daily =1min
Wipe tables and spot-clean cabinets where you see fingerprints. #cleaning *daily =1min
Straighten coffee table books and magazines. #cleaning *daily =2min
Clear major clutter. #cleaning *daily =5min

Real Simple has a ton of great resources for budding housekeepers, including an assortment of cleaning tips and tricks submitted by readers. And as an added bonus, here’s a handy chart from Brightnest about making your own household cleaners.


So, attack that filth and grime, and let me know if you succeed in keeping your house neat and clean!

*Yes, he really does pick up his own toys. We’ll tell him it’s time to clean up, and then we say, “Clean up! Clean up!” in a sing-songy voice until he catches on and starts to put things away. It’s not long now before we’ll feel comfortable teaching him to operate the vacuum and load the dishwasher correctly.

One Comment

  • showmeashley says:

    So I am a horrible housekeeper as well. I do the ADD cleaning, a little here, ” oh look ” a little over there, repeat. It turns into a tiny bit of each task is kinda started, all over. nothing really completed. Real simple is my favorite magazine, I just have trouble keeping focused on finishing!

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