One-minute hacks for a cleaner home, according chronically tidy people

Need a better cleaning routine? Dedicate just five to 10 minutes throughout the day to upkeep and those weekend cleaning marathons will be a thing of the past.
A sink, water tap and dish soap in a kitchen.
Fill the sink with soap and warm water and drop pots and pans in to soak before dinner. You won't have as much sticky or greasy residue to scrub off when you load the dishwasher. Jonathan Kitchen / Getty Images
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By Nicole Spector

Twice a month my husband and I have a very unpleasant day where we are prone to bickering and getting in each other’s way. The source of the negativity? Cleaning our apartment.

We usually reserve this activity for a Saturday or Sunday, when we can devote our full energy to mundane tasks like laundry, scrubbing down the bathroom and kitchen and sweeping up all the dog hair that has amassed in virtually every nook and cranny over the past 14 days.

During these cleaning binges, we’re also returning stuff to where it belongs: the mail on the dining room table has to be moved into the office (or chucked into the recycle bin); the shoes that we chucked off after a workout or a night out go back into the closet, as do the coats and scarves we carelessly tossed on the futon.

Chronically tidy people tend to combine chores with things they like to do, or would otherwise do during their down time.

There’s got to be a better way to keep our place tidy, right? A way that doesn’t entail tackling it all in one day?

There most certainly is. If we dedicate just five to 10 minutes a day (ideally you’ll want to spread these minutes throughout) to upkeep, those weekend cleaning chores won’t be so daunting.

Here’s what cleaning and organizational experts recommend:

Have a super easy storage system so you can’t ‘make stuff go away’

First, you need an efficient storage system. If you have a place where every single type of thing goes, it will only take a few seconds to actually return items to that destination. This is especially helpful if you have kids.

“In order to quickly clean up most people use the out of sight out of mind method of throwing everything in the closet, drawers or the ‘make it go away’ areas in the basement or attic,” says Ben Soreff, a professional organizer at House to Home Organizing. “Instead create homes for everything. Set up a [storage] section for each child. A storage solution needs to be easy so all family members can learn the new habit.”

The key here is really reminding your kids to do this, and in leading by example. It sounds all too easy, but for me this tip borders on revelatory. I realized all I need is a coat rack and I’ve solved the problem of jackets piling on the futon.

Upload papers to cloud storage ASAP

Paper takes up space, and if you’re getting a lot of mail, or bringing home work documents, it can get all to easy to just plop it all down in your office (or like me, that infamous dining room table) and decide to deal with it later.

Miguel A. Suro, an attorney and lifestyle blogger at The Rich Miser, recommends to instead scan what you need and upload it to cloud storage right away. You can then shred the papers.

“As much as possible, go paperless,” says Suro. “Enroll in electronic statements from your bank and other businesses and institutions that send you mail. You might even get a discount [for doing so].”

This is a tip I’ve actually utilized with my receipts, and it’s saved a great deal of space and time come tax season.

Open your packages next to the recycling bin

Suro recommends this simple but quite brilliant tip of opening your packages next to the recycling bin.

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"Immediately flatten the [boxes] and put them in the bin,” says Suro.

Keep a hamper in the bedrooms and the bathroom

I’ve always kept just one hamper, in the bedroom, where all our dirty laundry goes. Suro suggests adding a second hamper to the bathroom. This is super handy not just for slovenly adults like me, but for kids that may not be so great about putting things where they belong.

Wipe the shower and bathroom mirror down with a microfiber cloth

You may not be able to avoid a regular deep-clean of the shower, but you can take some of the work off with this easy tip from Debra Johnson, Merry Maids’ home cleaning expert.

After every shower, wipe down shower walls and doors with a dry microfiber cloth to avoid mildew growth and getting rid of a lot of the build-up from soap scum. If you have a shower door, leave it open for optimal air circulation. You should also take a few seconds to wipe down your bathroom mirror with a microfiber cloth after or while you brush your teeth each morning or night.”

Fill the sink with warm water before dinner

“Filling your sink with warm water and a touch of soap or disinfectant will save you time throughout the evening,” says Allen Michael, editor of Home Viable. “As you’re cooking, drop dirty pots and utensils into the water. After dinner, if you can’t tackle the dishes right away, drop your dirty plates in. When you’re ready to load the dishwasher, you won’t have any sticky food or grease residue that you have to clean off.”

Use foil wherever you can in kitchen hotspots

Cleaning the kitchen will be a lot easier if you line places prone to a mess with foil.

“Find as many places in the kitchen that you can line with foil. The bottom of your oven? Now you won’t have to clean it out when something drips or spills. On a cookie sheet when you’re baking cookies? Now you just cut down on a lot of cleaning time,” says Michael.

Spend a few minutes tidying just one room

Some rooms need more intensive regular cleaning than others (namely, the bathroom and the kitchen), but your other living spaces probably don’t require such nitty-gritty scrub downs that often.

To shave some time off the weekend cleaning missions, spend a few minutes in the evening tidying up just one lower maintenance area.

“Everyone knows if you set out to do too many things at once, you will likely get overwhelmed and give up,” says Johnson. “Some [cleaning experts] deep clean one room per week, some tidy up and do a light sweep of one room per night.”

A nightly sweep of the living room won’t take long, and if you have furry pets, it will certainly help with the hair build-up.

Create a central command center for clutter

Consider setting up what Johnson calls “a central command center” for clutter.

“Preferably not on the kitchen counter, [this space is for] any necessary clutter (think: mail you need to keep, coupons, keys, etc.).”

The idea is to make a place for the placeless, so that when you do have a chance to go through it all, it’s not strewn throughout the house.

Have a bin in the back of your car for clutter

If your house is a mess, your car is probably also less than immaculate. To shave down the time you spend cleaning your vehicle, Michael recommends keeping a collapsible bin or two in your trunk where you can keep odds and ends.

“When the bin gets full, you can take it into the house and empty it out and your car stays tidy throughout the process,” he says.

What to keep on hand, for lightning-fast cleans:

If you’re running short on time and need to spruce the place up last minute, consider these quick tips from Kelly McManus, the brains behind the blog Travelling Mama.

  • A little spray bottle filled up with 50 percent water and 50 percent fabric conditioner to spray over the sofa (and/or the dog's bed).
  • A tub of bicarbonate of soda in the cupboard. “If I run out of cleaning products or dishwashing tablets, I use this mixed with lemon juice and water to clean absolutely anything,” says McManus.
  • Invest in some plastic drawers. “[They’re] an inexpensive and convenient way to tidy away all the little things in your home that don't really have a place (like small toys, crafty bits, coins, hair accessories, etc.).

Make it fun

Johnson adds that it’s important to try and make all cleaning missions as fun as possible. Listen to a podcast, call your mother (not fun, probably, but still a good thing), or put on an episode of a TV show that you don’t need to concentrate on to enjoy.

“Chronically tidy people tend to combine chores with things they like to do, or would otherwise do during their down time,” adds Johnson.

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