The simplest way to keep your home reliably clean? Stick to a schedule. It's not as daunting as it sounds.
In fact, when set up correctly, it's quite the opposite. "A whole-home cleaning schedule allows you to feel less stressed because you know that neat and tidy isn't ever too far out of reach," Aby Garvey, organizing and productivity expert at Simplify 101, says. "If you notice dusty bookcases on Tuesday, for example, and you know that Wednesday is your cleaning day, it's a lot less unsettling than if you have no idea when you'll get around to cleaning again."
The trick lies in creating a realistic schedule that truly works for you and your home. Read on for Garvey's simple step-by-step method to do just that, plus smart tips to set you up for stress-free cleaning success.
Step 1: Get Ready
First things first. You'll need to get a concrete idea of exactly what must happen for you to have a nice, clean home. Grab a writing instrument and a clipboard. Get ready to walk through your space, room by room, taking realistic inventory of the areas and tasks that will make up your schedule.
Step 2: Choose Your Rooms
List all the rooms and areas in your home that need regular cleanings, including hallways, stairways, and entryways. Leave areas that you don’t often use, such as the storage or guest room, off your regular cleaning schedule. Work them in seasonally, or as needed.
Step 3: Identify Tasks
Visit each room on your schedule, one by one. Look around. List all the cleaning tasks you need to perform regularly. Order items from top to bottom—ceiling to floors—the same order in which you’ll clean.
Step 4: Build on This List
Garvey offers this basic checklist to build on:
• Dust light fixtures/ceiling fan/corner cobwebs
• Clean door handles and dust doorframes
• Dust windowsills, blinds, picture frames, lampshades and furniture
• Dust knickknacks, books, etc.
• Shake out throw rugs
• Sweep or vacuum/mop floors
Add for Kitchen
• Clean and sanitize counters and sink
• Clean stove, oven, and range hood
• Clean microwave, inside and out
• Wipe down appliances and cabinet fronts
Add for Bathrooms
• Clean mirrors
• Clean and sanitize counters and sink
• Wipe down cabinet fronts
• Clean and sanitize toilet
• Clean and sanitize shower, shower door, and tub
Step 5. Select Frequency
Decide how often you want to clean each room. Most spaces probably need a weekly or biweekly cleaning, but do consider your lifestyle. If your family is away from home most weekdays, for example, you might not need to clean as often as someone who stays home with small children. You might also find that public spaces, such as the kitchen and guest bathroom, need cleaning more often than private spaces, such as bedrooms.
Step 6: Identify Your Cleaning Style
Now that you’ve identified both cleaning tasks and frequency, it’s time to decide how to clean.
Try one of the following three options:
1. One (or Two) and Done
Clean everything in one day. Or, if one very long block of cleaning feels like too much, split your list in half and tackle it over two days.
2. Timed Sessions
Decide which days you’ll clean and for how long, such as 30 minutes. Then, set a timer, and start at the top of your list. Clean until the timer dings. On your next scheduled cleaning day, pick up where you left off. Repeat.
3. A Room (or Two) a Day
Decide how many days you’ll clean. Then, assign specific areas to specific days. For example: Monday: kitchen, entry, and laundry room; Tuesday: living room and dining room; Wednesday: bathrooms; and Thursday: hallway and bedrooms.
Step 7: Practice Your Schedule
Schedule and start your first month’s cleanings. Consider it a trial run. To avoid overwhelming yourself, limit time spent in each room, simply picking up where you left off next time. Keep in mind that it will get easier. Like anything, it takes practice before a new home-cleaning schedule functions smoothly.
Step 8: Staying On Track
Especially during your practice month, use Garvey’s expert cleaning schedule tips to help set you up for success.
Print out your task list. Put it in a plastic sheet protector and stick it in your cleaning bucket so you always know exactly which tasks to tackle.
Schedule cleaning appointments. Mark them on your calendar until they become an automatic part of your routine.
Cut yourself slack. If you find you can’t finish your cleaning tasks on a scheduled day, don’t stress. Either complete an abbreviated, prioritized cleaning session, or reschedule.
Step 9: Reevaluate Your Schedule
After your practice month is over, analyze how things went. Identify what worked and what didn’t. Make this your mantra: "I did not fail the schedule; the schedule failed me." Replace the tactics that didn’t work with new ones for the following month. Continue reevaluating monthly until you hit upon a schedule you can keep.
Step 10: Make It a Habit
Garvey recommends setting these cleaning habits to enhance your whole-home cleaning schedule.
Create a Carrier
Load a cleaning caddy with your favorite cleaning supplies. Carry it with you from room to room to streamline the cleaning process.
Extend that fresh-cleaned feeling. Stock the bathroom and kitchen with dispensers of all-purpose cleaning wipes for quick spot cleanings when necessary.
If you aren't in the habit of putting things away daily, add "declutter" to your cleaning list. It's much easier to clean a home that's free of surface clutter.