Not to toot my own horn or anything (such a funny expression!), but people often ask how I keep my house so clean – especially with an almost-one-year-old.
Even before Mila came along, this was a popular topic of discussion for anyone who stepped foot in our home. The conversation usually starts with, “Is your house always this clean?” and ends with me lamenting my obsessive-compulsive nature – the bane of my existence.
Truth be told, I’ve never really had to think about what I do – it’s sort of second-nature to me. But since it’s become a recurring topic of conversation, I figured I’d weave my answer into a blog post (as one does).
Let me preface by saying that I’ve always been a neat-freak. That probably explains why some of the habits I am about to mention come naturally to me but may not necessarily be for you – and that’s alright. I have no doubt you’ll find an approach that works for you and your personality.
Also, since I do blog about home decor for a living, it’s only natural that keeping the house clean is a higher priority for me than for most. Do keep that in mind as well, because I am by no means saying that your home must be clean and clutter-free 100 percent of the time.
Last but not least, our house is quite small by American standards – a little less than 1400 square feet. Obviously, 1400 sq. ft. is a lot easier to keep clean than, say, 3000 sq. ft. On the other hand, a 3000 sq. ft. house likely has more storage than ours – so there’s always pros and cons to any situation.
But enough with the disclaimers, let’s get to it – shall we?
Adopt a Less Materialistic Lifestyle.
I am not a minimalist by any stretch of the imagination. I can only wish! But I absolutely abhor clutter, which helps me maintain a less-is-more mindset.
For example, I only own the absolutely necessary kitchen items – and (almost) never multiples of the same items. Sure, there are exclusions (like my drinkware collection – I just can’t say no to pretty glasses!). However, typically if I buy a new kitchen item, it’s because I’m replacing an old one.
I must confess, though. There is, unfortunately, one drawer and one shelf in our kitchen of random, mismatched items (gifted mugs, incomplete tupperware sets, etc.) – and their existence is driving my brain insane.
MUST. GET. RID. OF. CLUTTER.
Or take appliances, for example. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, but we do not own a toaster – never have. On the off-chance that I want toast, I can just as quickly use the oven’s broiling option or a frying pan. The way I look at is: it’s one less gadget to clutter up my countertops (and to clean!).
Another great example of my minimalistic approach is Mila’s toys. She only has one 12×12″ box of assorted toys. When she gets tired of those, I switch them out with another equally small box. I’ve found that little ones are far more entertained by random objects around the house than fancy new toys, so there’s really no reason to have a trail of baby toys scattered throughout the house.
Besides, I’m a huge proponent of encouraging imaginative play and following the Montessori approach to child development, which encourages having few simple but intentional toys that don’t overstimulate children. But that’s a blog post for another day.
Back to maintaining a clean home. I’m also constantly decluttering – be it my closet, papers and documents, various decorating accessories around the house, what-have-you. I recently put away most of the decorative knickknacks from our living room – not that we had a lot to begin with, but you get the point. Initially, it was an attempt to baby-proof the room now that Mila is more mobile. But I quickly realized that less stuff means less cleaning – which means more time to spend on more important things. So, win-win!
I also just went through my entire closet and got rid of (literally) 75 percent of my clothes, which was so liberating that I’m ready to tackle the storage closet next. By the way, I’ve teased about it on Instagram, but our master closet is finally finished, and I’ll be sharing a tour on the blog next week, so stay tuned!
Organization is the Key to Your Sanity.
Once you’ve pared down your belongings to the basic necessities, it’s important to have a designated place for every item. I find it much easier to maintain a clutter-free home when everything has an assigned place. Otherwise, things have a higher chance of stockpiling.
I won’t bog you down with home organization ideas – there are plenty of articles on the Internet about that. But a few ideas I personally find useful are:
- Placing a mail tray in the entryway to contain mail as soon as it’s brought into the house.
- Next to the mail tray we have a bowl for loose change and another for car keys. All these items are corralled inside a pretty, gold tray, making the vignette look more intentional rather than a scattered mess. (Trays and baskets are great for containing those messes that have to be displayed!)
- I keep a small laundry basket in our master bathroom, because as I’ve learned, it’s less likely that someone-who-shall-remain-nameless will walk down the hall to the laundry room to deposit his dirty clothes. (Totally throwing shade at the husband, but truth be told, half the time it’s me refusing to take those six extra steps to the laundry room.) Regardless of who is to blame for the mess, more often than not, dirty clothes and used towels end up on the bathroom floor. So why not contain that mess in a pretty basket?
- In our living room we have a console table with two drawers that house all electronic gadgets and power cords. (Technology – and its many, many cords and chargers and whatnot – is a huge contributing factor to a cluttered space!) Having a designated space for all that mess saves us time when we’re looking for headphones or the portable speaker or the laptop charger. Plus, it keeps those annoying cords out of sight.
- I keep sets of cleaning supplies and paper towels in various locations around the house for easier accessibility, i.e. under the kitchen sink, in the master bathroom, in the guest bathroom, in the laundry. When I need to quickly wipe down a surface, I don’t have to walk all the way to the laundry room every single time (or wherever it is that you keep cleaning supplies). Because the cleaning supplies are always within reach, it’s easier to keep that particular space clean.
Automate Whatever Tasks You Can.
I was recently asked on Instagram whether I have a maid.
…Wouldn’t that be nice?
Although a personal maid is not in the cards for me, we do have Martin.
Who is Martin, you ask? Martin is our robotic vacuum cleaner and floor mop. (Remind me to one day tell you why I named him Martin.)
I don’t think I need to explain what a time-saver Martin is. You can program him to vacuum at a specific time – say, while everyone sleeps or right before the husband comes home from work (ha!) – and it’s basically like having your own, personal maid around! Plus, he’s nearly nowhere as expensive as you might think (less than $200 – see for yourself!) Oh, and he’s gold, so basically a work of art (you know how I feel about metallics!).
The Neato Botvac D80 is another great alternative – although a little more costly and without the mopping feature.
Martin also serves as a great entertainer for Mila, who chases him around the house and bullies him into corners until he beeps his cry for mercy. It’s hilarious, really. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen it in my stories.
So, for a very small investment you can save yourself a ton of time in vacuuming and mopping.
Then for deep-cleaning (or for isolated messes), we use the Deik cordless vacuum cleaner – super convenient, super light and super affordable. A steam mop (we use this one) every other weekend gives a more detailed cleaning for our hardwood floors and tile (we have no carpeted rooms).
Before You Do Anything Else, Make Your Bed.
I find it much easier to keep the rest of the house clean on days when I make our bed. I’ve observed this fact time and time again.
Like the rest of our house, I keep our bed simple for everyday use – no extra pillows or throws. So making the bed is little more than a quick fluff of the pillows and a tug of the comforter. While it literally takes me seconds, the effect is undeniable. It’s the easiest way to make the room feel put-together in an instant.
Plus, something about that simple act of tidying up my sleeping quarters right after I wake up kick-starts my productivity for the rest of the day. Try it, you’ll see what I mean!
Clean as You Go During the Day.
Keeping a tidy house can feel overwhelming because we often let messes accumulate and get out of control.
If you remember only one thing from this list, let it be this tidbit of wisdom: It’s easier to keep up than to catch up.
Instead of waiting for the house to get really messy and then having to devote an entire day to clean it, just clean a little bit at a time as you go about your day. This sole piece of advice is probably the biggest factor in helping me maintain a clean and clutter-free home, and I do this without even thinking about it.
Here are a couple ways I apply the clean-as-you-go principle:
- At the end of the day, I rarely just throw my clothes on a chair or the floor. I either re-hang, re-fold them or put them in the laundry (or that basket in the bathroom I mentioned earlier).
- I rarely leave dirty dishes in the sink; instead, I make it a point to rinse and load them in the dishwasher after every meal. In the evening, I start the dishwasher even if it isn’t full. That way, I can wake up to a clean kitchen. It’s the best feeling! Then in the morning, one of the first things I do is unload the clean dishes. After breakfast I can load the dirty ones in there instead of letting them pile up in the sink.
- When I cook, I clean my cooking area as I work, in between stirring the food or while waiting for the water to boil, etc. That way when I’m done cooking, there’s not a big mess that requires yet another hour of cleaning. Over time, it’s become a habit, as will any of these behaviors if you keep at them.
- When I’m done brushing my teeth, I wipe the bathroom sink and counter. Having paper towels nearby makes this easier, which is why I keep multiple sets of cleaning supplies around the house.
- I always make it a point to put away whatever task is before me before beginning a new task. It’s so much easier to concentrate on the task at hand if the only items in front of you are related to that task. No distractions! This principle also applies to Mila’s toys. If she’s playing with toys and decides to walk in her walker instead, I encourage her to help me gather the toys back into the box before moving on to a different activity. It’s a great way to teach her self-discipline, and it helps messes from getting out of control.