How to Keep Your House Clean and Organized When You Hate Tidying Up
I’ll tell you a secret: I’m a bit of a slob.
Actually, more than a bit. I’m embarrassed to say this but if you look close enough you probably can find all sorts of food bits on my clothes. I just looked down at my shirt, it’s barely 2 hours since I changed into it and already I’ve got a streak of grape juice down the front. Great.
I know, sexy right?
They say that your home is an extension of yourself. And for most of my life, my house was an extension of my messy self—clothes and shoes bursting through the closet, books and papers everywhere. And dust so thick you could write your name in it.
I could tell you I was too busy, too sick, or too tired to keep the house clean. But the truth is I hated cleaning—still do. Unlike the impeccably put-together organization guru Marie Kondo who had an innate love for tidying up since her childhood, I’ve always enjoyed creating mess more than cleaning up.
So nobody, not even myself, believed I could keep my own house clean and tidy after I got married.
But I proved everyone—and myself—wrong.
My house, for the first time in my life, has been clean and clutter-free for almost a year since we moved in last summer. It may not seem like a big deal, but for someone who used to have to sift through a pile of clothes on a desk chair every morning for her outfit and eat her breakfast on a table covered with so much paper you couldn’t see its surface—believe me, this is definitely an accomplishment worthy of a glass of champagne.
How did I do it, you ask? How did someone like me finally manage to keep their house clean and organized?
What really happened was I found a few simple and yet powerful strategies that helped me get my house in order and keep it that way. And today, I’m going to share these strategies with you.
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5 Simple Steps to Keeping Your House Clean and Organized
1. Simplify the Process As Much As You Can
Cleaning and organizing used to overwhelm me.
And you know what? I brought it on to myself. A big part of the reason why cleaning used to wear me out before I even began was because I made the process way too complicated.
I used to have different leaning liquids, brushes, sponges, and towels for each different part of the house. You’d think a whole cabinet of cleaning supplies would make me want to clean more often, right? But it had the opposite effect.
According to psychology, the more decisions we have to make in a process, the more we lose our willpower. Yep, decision fatigue is a real thing.
I knew if I was going to make cleaning a long-term habit, something needed to change.
So I completely stripped down my cleaning process, including supplies. Now it’s just rice water (or diluted dishwashing detergent for grease), a sturdy and absorbent microfiber towel, and on the rare occasion a pinch of baking soda for those tough stains.
I would wipe down the surface with the rice water, wipe one more time with plain water, and that’s it. It’s that simple. Rice water is a gentle, natural and safe way to clean surfaces and it’s super easy to make! Just swirl some uncooked rice in water to get a milky solution and soak your cleaning towel in the solution and away you go! For more information on how to use rice water for cleaning, check out this article by Apartment Therapy where I shared my tips on using rice water for cleaning.
I don’t have to dig through all the different tools and figure out what I need to use and how I should use it. And the best part is I don’t have to remember to replenish all the various supplies. By simplifying the process and the tools, I was able to speed up my cleaning routine and make it a part of my daily life.
When you don’t enjoy cleaning, the best thing you can do to make the process less painful is to simplify everything as much as you can. Remove unnecessary tools and steps and focus on the basics. Figure out the few things you can use for most of the cleaning tasks and keep them in a place you can easily reach at all times. That way you really have no excuse to not clean.
2. Tackle a Few Small Tasks a Day, Every Day
Can’t find the time to clean? Too tired after a long day to tackle that mess?
Here’s a method that will help you keep your house clean and organized even when your schedule is a chaos:
Break tasks down and only do a few of them a day.
If I tried to wipe down the entire kitchen in one setting I know I’m going to bang my head against the wall and not touch that cleaning rag for weeks. It’s just too much all at once. And when you only clean intermittently, the dirt and clutter piles up until it becomes a bigger job than it needs to be.
So instead of spending a whole day on the weekend cleaning everything, I break the cleaning chores down into bite-sized tasks and I tackle a few each day.
On Mondays after I wash the dishes from dinner, I’ll spend 2 minutes giving the kitchen cabinets a wipe. Then I’ll spend a couple more minutes vacuuming the sofa. The next day I’ll wipe the kitchen backwash and organize the coffee table. Anyways, you get the idea.
So if you hate cleaning, try breaking the tasks down as much as you can. Then knock off a few a day from your list but make sure you do this every single day. It takes no more than 15 minutes a day to do these tasks and when you do them enough, you become faster and better at them. They become your tiny habits.
Once you develop these tiny cleaning habits, you’ll notice how easy cleaning becomes.
And when you do repeat these small tasks regularly, even on those occasions when you need to do a deep cleaning (which you will need to do periodically, let’s just face it), it’s not going to suck all the time and energy out of your day.
Try to vary the tasks so that you’re spending some time on different areas of the house each day. That way, it keeps things interesting for you and every part of the home gets a bit of attention on a regular basis—a win-win!
Remember your focus is on consistency, so start with whatever routine you can stick to and go from there.
3. Adopt the Mindset of a Good Tetris Player
You ever played Tetris when you were little? That’s the game where you try to piece together blocks of various shapes in a short amount of time to prevent them from piling up to the top of the screen.
If you want to keep your house clean and organized, you have to adopt the mindset of a good Tetris player.
A good Tetris player will tell you that the most reliable strategy is to clear the blocks line by line and try to eliminate them as quickly as possible. It’s the easiest, most stress-free way of playing the game.
And that’s the strategy you need to use for cleaning and organizing.
Before I adopted the Tetris strategy, I would do this all the time:
I’ll put a dirty plate in the sink and think to myself “I’ll come back to it later.” And guess what? A few plates, bowls, cups, spoons and a whole bunch of chopsticks later, I’d have myself a sink full of dirty dishes.
Then this is where I really start to feel the weight of the chore. Because now, instead of just one dirty plate that would have taken me less than 30 seconds to wash, it’s at least 10 minutes of work.
That’s the moment in Tetris where you’ve let blocks build up so high to a point where you feel like you might as well end the game.
So the key is to not let anything pile up in the first place.
Here are a few ways you can keep the mess down to a minimum:
- Wash your dishes right away after you finish eating.
- Rinse the shower stall every time you use it.
- Put books back on the shelf as soon as you finish reading for the day.
- Wipe the kitchen counter immediately when spatter gets on it. Health and hygiene in the kitchen always come first!
- Never walk out of a room empty-handed (always take a piece of garbage out with you).
Think like a good Tetris player and eliminate those “lines” as soon as they show up.
4. Tame the Biggest Fear That Leads to Clutter
What is the biggest fear that leads to clutter?
The fear of missing out. Yes, that’s right—FOMO.
One of the biggest reasons why we have so much clutter in our homes is because we’re afraid of missing out—missing out on memories, missing out on fabulous things that other people have, or missing out on that awesome, you’d-be-crazy-to-miss-it sale.
If you don’t tame your FOMO, you’ll cling onto material things long after they stop making you happy. Even if they’re just sitting in a dark, damp corner of your home, you can’t bring yourself to let them go.
If you don’t tame your FOMO, you’ll buy one thing after another because your friend, co-worker, or neighbour raved about it and therefore you must have it too. Your FOMO will cloud your judgement time after time and convince you that you absolutely must have something that doesn’t fit your needs. After a few weeks or months at best, you’ll forget about it and let it become another sad addition to the clutter in your house.
And if you don’t tame your FOMO, you will stock up on things on sale like it’s the apocalypse. Trust me I know what that’s like. I once bought enough toothpaste it lasted me 2 years, until I found the tube I was using had expired.
This is why I refuse to get a membership at a large wholesale chain despite the lure of bulk savings. I know the FOMO would get to me and eventually my house will drown in clutter.
So if you truly want to keep your house clean, tidy, and clutter-free, you have to tame that FOMO. To do that, try the following:
- Set a limit on the number of sentimental items you keep in your home. I have a bin for sentimental items and I’m very selective on what I include in that bin.
- Stop and seriously assess whether that new cool thing someone told you about really suits your needs. You didn’t think you needed it until you saw someone else have it, so what does that tell you?
- Tear yourself away from the sales section! We think we’re saving money but we end up wasting money buying things we don’t need, or we end up with more quantities than we can consume. They take up space in our homes and contribute to the mess!
5. Get Other People in Your House on Board
If you live by yourself, then follow the previous 4 steps on a consistent basis and you will have a cleaner, more organized home.
But if you live with other people, it’s crucial that you get them on board. You need to rally them behind you and work as a team in order to keep your house clean and tidy.
Because if you don’t, it’s going to be an endless uphill battle for you to keep the house clean. It’s like trying to build a sandcastle for hours only to have a big wave wash it away in seconds.
After a few attempts, you’ll just give up trying. You won’t want to spend all your time chasing after the mess. And why should you? You’re nobody’s maid.
So do yourself a favour and get other people in your house on board.
First, create a vision around the final goal: a clean and tidy house that stays that way. Then show them the benefits of reaching that goal and why you all need work together to make it happen.
To help you create a vision and communicate the benefits to those you live with, ask yourself the following questions:
- What does a clean home look like to you and why does it matter?
- How do you think a clean and tidy house will benefit you all, and why?
- What’s the current state of your house and how does it impact you or those who live with you?
Then it’s time to set some expectations and boundaries.
Everyone has to chip in. Ok, maybe not your 2-year-old. But anyone who’s old enough to wipe spaghetti sauce off of their own face with a napkin should put in some effort. Or at the very least, not contribute to the mess.
You need to be loud and clear that everyone, including you, has a role to play in keeping the house clean and tidy. This is not a one-person job.
You’re going to hold yourself accountable to one another. How? By encouraging each other to stick to the good habits and calling each other out on the bad ones.
And that’s exactly what my husband and I did when we moved into the new house—we created a vision of what a clean and tidy home would look like, discussed why this was important to us, and divided roles and responsibilities.
We both have a history with clutter and uncleanliness. And because of that, we knew we both needed to change our habits and take ownership for keeping the house clean and clutter-free.
So far, it’s working out. We thank each other for the things we do to keep our house clean, and we call each other out on the mess we make. For example, he reminded me this morning that I had left a few dirty dishes in the sink last night. Although I did think he was annoying at the time (it was early in the morning), I made a mental note to not do it next time.Hate cleaning? Here are 5 simple tips to help you keep your house clean and organized without pulling your hair out!
Remember There Are No Secrets to Keeping a Clean House
I used to marvel at the beautiful homes I see on social media.
How do they do it? I used to wonder. How do they keep their house so tidy?
Do they have some kind of secret cleaning hack I don’t know about?
The truth—as I learned—is that there are no secrets to keeping a clean house. If you truly want to maintain a clean and tidy home, you have to be willing to do the work.
Hopefully, I’ve shown you that the work doesn’t have to be tiring, complicated, or time-consuming. It all boils down to these 2 points:
- Create simple, tiny habits around cleaning that you can stick to consistently.
- Being mindful of the things you bring in to your home.
Do you have any suggestions on how to maintain a clean and tidy home? I would love to hear them! Drop me a line in the comment below.