Last Friday, I hosted a Favorite Things party for some girlfriends at my house. The party was scheduled to start at 7:00 pm and around 3:00, Justin walked in to the kitchen as I was catching up on a few things on my laptop. The kitchen table had papers, books, and other random things all over it. I was still unshowered and in sweatpants. I had spent exactly zero minutes of my day up to that point preparing our house for the party. Justin took in the scene and his exact words were “I can’t believe you’re not freaking out right now.”
Let’s back up quick. For the first few years of our marriage, I became a bit of a monster whenever people were coming to our house. Have you seen that video that periodically circulates with the guy pretending to be a crazy mom preparing for company in full-on panic mode: yelling at everyone and running around in a clean-up rage? Yeah, that was me. I would get snappy, I would rush around, I would be in a frenzied state of cleaning/straightening/putting away/perfecting every single room of our house (what if people ask for a tour!?) and I was honestly not a fun person to be around. It got to the point where Justin dreaded us hosting something because I became such a crazy person beforehand. Around two years ago, he finally said “why are we even doing this? This isn’t fun anymore.”
And you know what? He was right. It wasn’t fun.
At its core, I love hosting. I love having people over and want our home to be a cozy, comfortable space where people can gather together and have good fun, great conversations, and fulfilling fellowship. It is important to me to have meaningful relationships and be able to open up our home to others.
But the preparations were killing me.
It’s not fun to panic. It’s not fun to rush around. It’s not fun to yell at your husband to pleasedothisRIGHTNOWbecausepeoplearecomingoversoon! It’s not fun to spend the four hours before a party as a stressed-out hot mess who is frantically cleaning every surface of her house. Something had to give.
When I took a good look at each situation and where the primary stress was coming from, I realized I was mostly stressed about getting our house in order. Our home isn’t even very large but it seemed to take so much time to pick up and clean before guests come over. So about 18 months ago, I came up with a system to reduce stress in this area.
My system is simple: every day I have one cleaning task.
Y’all, I’ve seen all the Pinterest checklists and charts for cleaning and staying on top of your house. To be honest, even those can overwhelm me. Working full-time as a teacher left me with a limited amount of time to keep up with our house. Even now that I stay at home, I still don’t have a ton of time during the day to devote to cleaning. I needed to create a system where I could spend a maximum of 15-20 minutes each weekday cleaning. So I assigned ONE manageable task to each day and try my best to accomplish it. This system might not work for everyone, but it has worked absolute wonders for my sanity so I thought I would take you through what I do on an average day. I even timed how long it takes me to do each task so you can see exactly how much time I need to devote to maintaining a general sense of order (spoiler alert: it’s not much time!)
My Simplified Cleaning Routine
Monday: Dust every surface.
Let’s be honest. Who likes dusting? I’m guessing no one. I could probably get away with dusting less, but with two dogs in our house, I like knowing dog hair and other dust isn’t collecting on surfaces so I start my week off with this task. It also keeps me from cluttering up my shelves because I don’t want to have to dust a lot of knick-knacks. 🙂 I use this dusting mitt to quickly wipe down all surfaces. I live in a two-story house and it took me 7 minutes and 3 seconds to dust every surface downstairs and 4 minutes and 3 seconds to dust every surface upstairs (including the guest room, which took 45 seconds on it’s own but is often a room I can skip if it hasn’t been used). Total time: 11 minutes and 6 seconds
Tuesday: Clean the bathrooms.
Bathrooms are honestly my least favorite thing to clean so I choose products that make the task as simple and enjoyable as possible. I use this window cloth and a spray bottle with water to clean all mirrors. I’m a huge fan of the Better Life cleaning brand so I use their all-purpose cleaner and kitchen and bath scrubber for various surfaces. I keep all my bathroom cleaning essentials in a large bucket so I can carry it to whichever bathroom I’m cleaning and have exactly what I need:
Simple as that! We have 2.5 bathrooms but I often don’t have to clean the guest bathroom because it’s only used if we have guests. It takes me 3 minutes and 4 seconds to clean the half bath, 8 minutes and 14 seconds to clean our master bath, and 4 minutes and 48 seconds to clean our guest bath. Total (minus guest bath): 11 minutes and 18 seconds. Total (all three): 16 minutes and 6 seconds.
Wednesday: Clean the kitchen area.
When I say I’m cleaning the kitchen, I don’t mean I’m scrubbing out the oven or wiping out the refrigerator. This is most definitely not a deep clean, but a surface level cleaning just to maintain order. I wipe down all counters (again with the cleaner I love) and the stovetop and spray down and clean out the sink and microwave. The total time varies based on the state of the kitchen to begin with, because we have a combined kitchen/dinig room. The table is often a dump zone for mail and other random papers and items. So I timed how long it took me to just clean every surface of the kitchen and also how long it took if I put the extra time into clearing off the table. It took 4 minutes and 9 seconds to clean the kitchen and another 4 minutes and 47 seconds to clear off the table. Total time: 8 minutes and 57 seconds.
Oh and just for the record, I did time how long it took me if I went next-level and wiped down the front of the fridge/dishwasher/stove and it took an average of 30 seconds per appliance. I use a special stainless steel spray for those and maybe wipe them down once a month or whenever they look extra gross. Definitely not every week!
This task varies the most from week to week because it depends how much time I have and how the floors look. We have two dogs so you can imagine the state of our floors if we don’t regularly keep up. Honestly, once we had a baby crawling around, our standards for how clean the floors should be got much higher. For my 30th birthday, all I asked for was money towards a Roomba (if that’s not a sign of adulthood, I don’t know what is) and we were able to get a good deal on one. It has been a game changer with keeping up with dog hair throughout the week!
Even with the Roomba, I still spend time each week on the floors. Sometimes I will take our Bona across the first floor but I often don’t have time for that extra step so I will just vacuum all the floors. It takes me 14 minutes and 8 seconds to vacuum the first floor and 8 minutes and 43 seconds to vacuum the stairs and second floor. Total time: 22 minutes and 51 seconds.
Friday: Flex day to catch up on a missed day.
Guys. Life happens. One day LJ might be feeling sick or we might have a lot going on outside the home. Maybe I only had time to clean one bathroom earlier in the week or only vacuumed one floor. Each week is different but by building in this flex day, I keep from feeling guilty or overextending myself earlier in the week by knowing I can catch up on Friday. If all the cleaning got done earlier in the week, Friday becomes a day to throw in a load of laundry or clean a little deeper or just relax!
Maybe it sounds overly simplified, but honestly, this system has changed SO much in my life. By spending a tiny amount of time maintaining each day, I don’t freak out when guests come over. I wasn’t panicking last Friday before my party because I had done a little bit each day and my house was mostly clean and just was going to need a small bit of tidying. Justin and I both agree it has made a huge difference with our stress levels!
Beyond making life easier for hosting, this system has other benefits. Even if I only spent 3 minutes cleaning the half bath, I feel like I’ve accomplished something each day. If someone pops by without warning, maybe my kitchen is a mess but the bathrooms are clean! My house rarely feels like a complete disaster because at least one portion of it was addressed that day. I want my home to be a haven for our family and that doesn’t happen if it looks like a tornado came through so a little each day goes a long way towards keeping it clean and calm.
I know this post is already super long, but I have a few other small things to add:
Stay flexible. Some days I can’t get to my task. Other days I have extra time and can double up on tasks. Sometimes I can clean during LJ’s naptime. Other times he’s in his high chair eating a snack while I wipe down the kitchen. I honestly don’t stress out about an exact system. I just do what I can and I know things will eventually get done.
Tidy up before bed. I clean up LJ’s toys every night. I know he’ll just get them out again the next day but it helps me to start fresh each day. Plus, if you read my toy post, you know it only takes about 90 seconds to clean up the playroom.
Time yourself! It wasn’t until I thought about doing this post that I timed how long it took me to do each task but honestly I was shocked by how little time each task took. I dislike cleaning bathrooms but if I know it’s only going to take 3 minutes to get the half bath done, the work seems so much easier. Now it’s even a little bit of a nerdy game for me where I try to see how fast I can get the task done (I did time a few tasks again just to see the results: dusting took 11 minutes and 26 seconds total, half+master bath took 10 minutes and 57 seconds, vacuuming upstairs took 8 minutes and 29 seconds). I even started timing other random tasks (only 2 minutes and 33 seconds to unload the dishwasher!) – it just seems so much more manageable to know I can get so much accomplished in less than 15 minutes.
Stick to one task. Unless I truly have a lot of time on a particular day, I do not stress about more than the one task. There are days when my bathrooms are sparkling but my table is still covered in random stuff. If I can get to more than one thing in one day, great! But if I can’t, I refuse to feel bad about it. We live in this house. It looks lived in, like it’s supposed to. I know I am doing what I can and I’ll get to the rest another day.
What works best for you when keeping your house clean? Do you prefer doing a little each day or having one big cleaning day each week?