How to keep your house clean without working to death

(This post is the second in a three-part series on getting our houses clean for good.)

Earlier this week, I touched on the reasons why today’s homes are so filthy. Today I’m moving past the why and focusing on how we can fight back without breaking our backs or throwing our hands up in total exhaustion.


I’ve always made valiant efforts to keep my house looking spotless. When the hubs and I were first married, things were manageable. But add in an Irish terrier and kidlets No. 1 and 2 and … Bam! Game changer.

I watched helplessly as clutter started piling up, dust bunnies blew through the house like tumbleweeds, and my carpets began looking like petri dish specimens in a forensic science lab. I was getting beat at my own game.

To fight back, I read nearly every cleaning and organizing book on the market. I developed elaborate chore schedules that would weary the most hyperactive supermom. No system was sustainable. I finally got smart and figured if I was ever going to have company over again, I needed to devise a plan that worked with my personality, schedule and energy level. Here’s what I came up with:

Deep clean one room every one to two days.

I no longer need to embark on any insane spring or fall cleaning missions because my rooms are deep-cleaned on a regular basis. For example, I’ll start a cleaning rotation on my ground floor with the dirtiest room. I’ll spend about two days cleaning my kitchen. Each day will require about a half hour of my time. I’ll dust and wipe off all surfaces (including cabinet doors and drawers). I’ll clean out the microwave and refrigerator, sweep and mop the floor and take care of any piles on counter tops. Dishes are cleaned and put away.

After two days of cleaning the kitchen, I’ll move on to the next room on the ground floor. It takes me about two weeks to finish deep-cleaning a floor because sometimes I’ll poop out and skip a day. However, this is OK because I can just pick up where I left off. This allows all rooms in my home to get deep-cleaned about once a month. I work on one floor at a time, so I don’t have to lug a vacuum and cleaning supplies up and down stairs as often.

Note: I don’t always go through the same checklist of tasks when I’m deep-cleaning a room. For example, after getting through the basics, I might dust baseboards one time and the next time I get to that room, I might organize a drawer. The point is that, after awhile, the place starts looking well-maintained.

Delegate. A lot.

Anyone with kids and/or pets knows that cleaning one room every one to two days probably ain’t gonna cut the mustard. There’s regular crap (I’m using that term figuratively and literally) that needs to be done like dishes, laundry and picking up toys and debris. This is where I enlist the troops.

Because I have a fairly regular time of the day when I get into “deep-cleaning mode,” the fam has come to expect that this is when we’re gonna get down and dirty with the chores. We all pitch in at the same time, which minimizes whining and self-pity about who’s doing more than somebody else.

I focus on whatever room I’m deep-cleaning and I delegate whatever else I can to them. The hubs will do dishes, fold laundry and empty trash. Tiny will sweep a floor, tidy up her room and put away toys and other junk. You get the picture (and it’s a beautiful one;)).

At the end of the day, I get a room deep-cleaned and the rest of the fam helps me keep up with the everyday chores.

Note: I try to do one load of laundry every single day to keep it from burying me.

Keep it simple.

I use a portable cleaning caddy to store multi-purpose, non-toxic cleaners that can easily travel from room to room with me as I clean. I keep small trash bags, paper towels and wash rags in the caddy, so I don’t have to make a bunch of trips around the house for supplies.

I take the vacuum into whatever room I’m deep-cleaning, use it, then store it in the next room I’m about to work on. I don’t worry about taking it in or out of a storage closet. I don’t have any storage closets on my ground floor anyway.

Although I occasionally like to use fun gadgets like steam mops, I typically go for the products and tools that get the job done fast. For me, that usually means a white cloth diaper for dusting and cleaning windows, and a SweeperVac and an old-fashioned string mop for cleaning floors.

Over the years, I’ve gotten some great tips regarding efficient products and tools. But the most helpful tip I’ve ever gotten deals with the idea that you must de-clutter your home before you can ever hope to get it clean. We’re going to cover this topic of “Mount Vernon-izing” your home in the last post of this series. You won’t want to miss it!

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8 Responses

  1. Michelle says:

    Thanks Susuan….this will help me. As you know I am pretty OCD about my cleaning!!!!!:) I have started something like this but will adopt this cleaning method ASAP!

  2. Katherine says:

    Great ideas, I really need to get to doing this since I really dislike doing a big whole house deep cleaning. That is just way too overwhelming for me!

    I also wanted to thank you for your ebook, it was very inspirational to me and I really am thankful for your hard work writing it!

  3. Jerri says:

    Your cleaning schedule is so simple and makes so much sense that I literally face-palmed after reading this article!
    Thank you so much for this- can’t wait to read part 3.

  4. Michelle says:

    This sounds super doable! And I have 3 littles to enlist. Thanks!

  5. Carolyn Hines says:

    Just now got to read this blog, but I’m going to post this comment anyway! I have all wood/tile floors. I decided to get a SwifferWet (not WetJet), and now I do one floor a night. This gets the whole house done in about a week; we have a big sunroom, and I do that in two nights. We have pets, and this keeps the hair/fur down to a reasonable level, and the floors always look good. It’s always surprising how dirty the cleaning pad is, even though I cleaned the floor only a few days before. It feels good when I toss that dirt into the trash!

    • Susan says:

      Great idea, Carolyn. I’m dreaming of the day when I can replace my living room carpet with hardwood. Kids, a dog and carpet are not a good mix. Thanks for the feedback and for stopping by!

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