spick + span

I’m interrupting my regularly scheduled spiritual musings to share some cleaning tips today.

The seasons are starting to slowly change here in rainy Kansas. And while most people spring clean, I am a big advocate for fall cleaning. Before we hunker down to spend the next few months in the warm cozy embrace of our homes, let’s make sure they’re up to the challenge.

Especially after the hot months, sweat and dirt become regular tenants in your home. But refreshing everything for a cool transition into autumn won’t take more than a few hours.

Here are a few of my favorite ways to clean and freshen the most trafficked areas of the home.

Bedrooms

  • Mattress
    • 1 c. of baking soda + 10 drops of your favorite essential oil (lavender is good for sleeping!)
    • Sprinkle onto a stripped mattress and leave for at least an hour (more if you can)
    • Vacuum it up to lift out odors, stains, and grime
    • (This could be a good time to flip your mattress, too. Either end to end or over to the other side.)
  • Linens
    • Wash all linens. Sheets, pillowcases, blankets, pajamas, spare blankets, pillow shams, even more blankets.
    • Re-evaluate your pillows. If they are yellow or flat, consider new ones or toss them in the washer with tennis balls wrapped in tube socks (yes, I’m serious)
  • Closets
    • Take everything out of your closet. Ev.er.y.thing.
    • Vacuum the shelves and throw away broken hangers, tags, fasteners
    • Donate clothing that doesn’t fit
    • Fold and hang all the remaining clothes nicely

Bathroom

  • Bathtub
    • Run warm water + 1 squirt of dish soap to fill the tub
    • Leave for about an hour
    • Use a dish wand to scrub scrub scrub
    • Drain the tub
  • Medicine cabinet
    • Empty it, take inventory, toss out expired medicine (safely out of reach of children or pets), wipe it out and put the remaining items back in orderly fashion
  • Toilet tank
    • Drop a tablet in there to keep your commode operating fresh and healthy

Living Room

  • Couch
    • Remove cushions and vacuum out old cereal, doll shoes, bread ties, and popcorn kernels
    • Vacuum, fluff, flip, and replace the cushions
  • Entertainment center
    • Get behind your electronics to the hub of cords we know is tangled back there. If you can’t organize them, at least hit the area with a vacuum cord so you’re not mixing massive dust bunnies with electrical currents
  • Fireplace
    • You’re going to have to call in the pros for this one, but I just think it’s worth mentioning that if you have a fireplace, you should make sure it’s ready for winter–free of birds nests, ill-fated squirrels, unexpected flammables, or unsavory infestations.

Kitchen

  • Pantry
    • By now, you know where I’m going with this. Empty it out, toss out the expired stuff, donate things you don’t like anymore or won’t use or have a surplus of, wipe out the shelves and put back the remaining food in. an. orderly. fashion.
  • Critter traps
    • Creepy crawlies are going to start making their way inside you house, aka their vacation home, soon. I recommend starting with Pinterest to find a critter-catching solution that is safe for your family and whatever enemies you’re up against.

Floors

(How have I been lucky enough to clean nearly ever kind of floor? I don’t know. But I have. And I have tips for all of them.)

  • Tiles
    • Dry vacuum, don’t sweep
    • 1 c. of cleanser + 1 bucket of hot water (this is my favorite cleanser)
    • Use a ring-out mop in a wide figure-8 motion (and start at the back of the room, lest you mop yourself in a corner, Baby.)
  • Carpets (including stairs)
    • With stains: sprinkle 1 c. baking soda + 10 drops essential oil
    • Without stains: spray fabric refresh spray all over the area; heavy baking soda mixture on stains
    • Let sit for a few minutes
    • Vacuum, vacuum, vaccum
  • Linoleum
    • Sweep with a soft bristled broom
    • Spray degreaser and use a ring-out-mop in a figure-8 motion
    • Note: Degreaser! is! slippery! Clear the area and don’t let people walk on it until it’s dry.
  • Hardwood
    • Use a Microfiber push mop so you can pick up hair and dirt with the power of static instead of sweeping it in between your slats (sad)
    • Drizzle small areas with a hardwood-specific cleaner (my fave)
    • Ring-out-mop with a little water–just enough to keep it wet–in a figure-8 motion
  • Laminate
    • Dry vacuum, don’t sweep
    • Use a micro-fiber dust mop (see my recommendation above) and a spray bottle of homemade cleaner in strait striped motions–laminate floor can’t stay wet so spray only the area you’re just about to mop, then move on
    • 1 c. water + 1 c. vinegar + 1 c. rubbing alcohol + 3 drops of dish soap

Bonus Tips

  • Vacuum out your vents, change your filters, and clip a car fresher on for good smell in the whole room
  • Wash windows (this is my favorite glass cleaner, which I use moderately because of the aerosol) and vacuum/wipe out the window sills
  • Dust and disinfect all surfaces
  • Clean baseboards and walls with your microfiber mop and a mild bucket of soapy water–just don’t soak it!

 

Got specific questions? Hit me with ’em!

Happy cleaning!

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simple chore schedule

In honor of spring finally rearing its beautiful head, I decided it was an opportune moment to share another post about my favorite past-time: cleaning! A lot of the questions I get revolve not around how best to clean something, but how often it needs to be done. I have the privilege of being an introverted single woman, so it’s pretty easy for me to clean at my leisure. But most of my friends are trying to juggle their homes and families, so I broke it down into small lists for the basics.

This could mean that once a month you have a perfect storm of all of these things at once . . . but I’m going to try and give you some tips to avoid that!

Download it:

PDF Chart | Chart Image

Daily

For my schedule, it works best to do this stuff at the end of the day (except make the bed, which I do every morning). I set aside roughly an hour for chore time after I get home from work and I try to stick to that routine. For you, it may look like sporadic accomplishments whenever you get pockets of time.

Pro tip: most of these make really good kid chores, too, so it doesn’t all have to fall to your shoulders. And if at the end of the day, the only surface wipe-down you did was to clean up a juice spill, that still counts. Go you!

Make the beds

Listen, you’re not at a five star resort. You don’t need to tuck the corners or fluff the pillows. Just pull the covers up, give them a tug so they are straight, and you’ve started your day with an instant victory. It only takes 60 seconds to spend the entire rest of the day knowing you get to slip comfortably between crisp sheets that night. It’s worth it. I promise. If I could give you a money-back guarantee, I would. That’s how sure I am.

Do the dishes

If you can get to a place where you wash dishes as soon as you’re done with them, then honestly you probably don’t need this blog . . . but hello anyway . . . For most of us, though, it will be one huge task at the end of the day, or the end of our rope–whichever comes first.

Wipe surfaces

You don’t need to see yourself in the reflection, Cinderella. Just gotta keep the crumbs and sticky messes at bay. Done? Done.

Sort the mail

My mailbox is in another building in my complex, so I sort it before I get it into the apartment. No piles of unopened mail welcome here. I immediately recycle junk mail, and then prioritize the rest (and honestly, after the junk is gone, there isn’t much left). I have two stacks on my desk; one stack of “actions” which I take care of promptly, and one stack “to file” which happens monthly on the Office Refresh day.

Load of laundry

  • Morning: Load 1 into washer
  • Afternoon: Load 1 into dryer; Load 2 into washer
  • Evening: Load 1 folded; Load 2 into dryer
  • Night: Load 2 folded; Loads 1 and 2 put away

Bada bing, bada boom! 2 loads done with minimal time invested.

Weekly

These weekly chores don’t have to be completed all at the same time–in fact, it’s better if they aren’t. Studies pretty clearly show that you get more done when you take on less, as counter intuitive as that sounds. Because less work means better focus. And focus means results! So maybe you don’t dedicate your entire Sunday to this list; maybe you just make “wash all linens” a Monday chore since Mondays already sort of stink. Tuesdays could be for vacuuming and you can save the big stuff (like bathrooms and fridges) for the weekend days. You get the picture.

Wash all linens

Sheets, towels, rugs, pillow cases, blankets–grab them all up, sort them into like colors and fabrics, and start the handy laundry cycle from the daily list. You. Got. This.

Vacuum & Sweep

Okay this one is obvious. But just in case, here’s the answer you don’t want: yes, you do need to move items and vacuum/sweep underneath them. Unless it’s a massive couch or kitchen island, pick it up (chairs, toys, baskets, boxes, shoes, small tables), move it out, vacuum, and return it. And do. not. sweep. under. rugs. Use a dustpan,; you’re not an animal.

Bathroom Overhaul

My standard advice for bathrooms is to save them for the last thing you clean on any given day. Bathrooms have the grossest messes in the most places, so if you’re doing it right, there’s no way you won’t need a shower afterwards. So save it. Tackle it with gloves, Lysol, glass cleaner and a big rag. Just scrub everything. There’s no rhyme or reason here–just make it shine something similar to the color it was when you moved in. Then hop into the shower and scrub the walls before you scrub yourself. Done.

Dust and wet wipe all surfaces

This one will be easy because you have been prepping/preventing all week with daily spot checks. This time, just run intentional dust rags over your tchotchkes and books, and a Clorox or your preferred disinfectant over countertops and tables.

Clean out car

This one is so much easier than people realize. Take two things to your car: a laundry basket and a trash bag. Every single thing in your car will go into one of these two receptacles. When the trash bag is full, it goes . . . into the garbage bin. Shouldn’t even cross the threshold back into the house. When the laundry basket is full, it goes into the house and everything inside it gets put away. If that’s your job, do it in one fell swoop without getting distracted. Eye on the prize. If that’s your kids’ job, make it a game to get it done fastest!

Pro Tip: Hang a mesh bag from the headrests of the driver and passenger seat to store toys and other kids stuff easily. A car toy box, if you will.

Empty fridge/freezer

I know it sucks. But someone has to do it. And that someone is you. Throw out stuff with mold. Eat everything else. Repeat every week. And do it before you go grocery shopping for the week. That’s just good sense.

Monthly

Again, you don’t have to do all of this on one day of the month. You can spread the love across each weekend, or one day each week (cause that’s what Friday nights are for, right?)

Office refresh

Go through your files. Anything that can be shredded or tossed, or moved to more permanent storage? If you have a document that you need to keep for 7 – 10 years, it should be in another filing system. You need one for the regular everyday filing for bills and medical records you need quick access to. After you’ve cleared out the files, sort the new one you’ve been stacking on your desk daily.

Pro tip: Do this in your digital spaces too. Once a month, see if there are any apps you don’t use (your phone can help you figure out which apps get no love); emails you can unsubscribe from; or documents cluttering your folders that you don’t need.

Vents and baseboards

Grab the vacuum hose and run it along the edges of everything. Your lungs will thank you! Same money back guarantee as the bed making.

Kitchen overhaul

My suggestion: choose one piece of the kitchen each month. Because the kitchen is a beast. Don’t try to overhaul all of it every single month. One month, focus on cleaning out the pantry. One month, tackle the cabinets and see if there’s a new way to organize. One month, get under the sink and reorganize that mess! You get the gist.

Stuff detox

As I clean throughout the week and month, I notice a lot of stuff I don’t use. I keep a bin in my laundry room and I toss things I don’t think I need or want anymore in there all month long. At the end of the month, I’ll check in and if it’s something I forgot about, it stays in the bin and I take that bin right to the donation center.

Pro Tip: If you combine this day with the car clean-out, you can take the bin to the center, dump it out, and use it to collect car stuff afterwards.

Download the short version:

PDF Chart | Chart Image

 

Got your own tips? Share in the comments! Happy cleaning, gang. PS, if you have specific questions about how to clean something, or how often, I am happy to chat–just hit the contact button.

10 Practical Tips for Staying Organized

I am not an athletic person. I couldn’t carry a tune if it had a handle. Basic math evades me. But I am great at organizing. It is a skill I have finely honed for many years. A lot of people ask how I stay on top of it, so I thought I’d share a few practical tips.

Set goals . . .

The power of goal-setting cannot be disputed. I challenge people to spend time really thinking about what they want out of an organized life. I love this as a starting point because, like all good things, getting organized has to start with intent and focus. We need to take time to reflect on what our goals really are. The principle is the same as sales–insurance companies aren’t selling policies; they are selling peace of mind. Organization is not about more shelf-space. It’s about using the space you have more effectively so that you can display items that you love and feel joy when you see them.

When you shift your mindset, tasks like “clean off the countertops” become a positive, hopeful goal like “create more space for Christmas cookie baking.”

All of a sudden, you know what you’re aiming for. And the payoff seems a whole lot sweeter.

. . . and write them down.

Setting goals is a necessary first step, but possibly no more vital than actually writing them down. Use a real pen and paper, and post them in a place you’ll see regularly. I have a personal board on the wall next to my dresser, and another, separate list with separate goals next to my desk at work.

When you know what you’re aiming for, it makes it easier to achieve. Dozens of studies on the power of recording your goals will back me up on that. This method works for big and small goals. You can write down your big organizational goals, like making more cookie space, but take time to record your weekly goals, too, which do tend to be more task-oriented. Check out my goals for this week:

Pro tip: I use check-boxes instead of bullet points to remind myself that an action must be taken.

A place for everything (and everything in its place)

Most of the advice my dad has given me since I was a kid meets two criteria: (1) it came from his dad and (2) it is circular. Take all you want, but eat all you take. Plan your work, and work your plan. This piece of advice–a place for everything, and everything in its place–is no different.

In Dave Rasmey’s financial philosophy, he preaches the importance of assigning every dollar a job. It’s your job to tell your money where it belongs, or else it will own you. The same is true for your things.

If you don’t own your possessions, they will own you.

Do you step over stuff on the floor? Do you push things off the seats of your car when you give someone a ride? Is your day ever put on hold because you cannot find something? I hate to break it to you, but if those situations sound familiar, then your stuff is calling the shots. But don’t get discouraged! Because you have something that your stuff doesn’t have: willpower and intellect. Tell your stuff where to go. Be the boss.

At first, it will take time to assign each item its own home, but once you accomplish it, your life will change and owning your stuff will become very, very easy. And if you can’t find a home for all your stuff–you have too much. Downsize. (I’ll write a blog about that soon! It’s not nearly as scary as it sounds; I promise.)

Baskets! With labels!

You’ve bought into the whole “A place for everything” schtick–yay! But since we don’t live in the kindergarten classroom version of the world, where we are surrounded by beautifully labeled cubbies, it’s not as simple as one-item-per-one-home. That’s where baskets (with labels!) become your saving grace. You can use baskets literally everywhere in your home. Use them in drawers to separate your socks and undies. Use them in your pantry to catalog spices, snacks, canned goods, and seasoning packets. Use them in the laundry room for all of your cleaning supplies. Under your bed, on top of your cabinets, beside your couch–baskets make it insanely simple to contain any mess.

Pro Tip: The dollar store has tons of baskets in all shapes, sizes, materials, and varieties. I bought a bunch of plastic bins and spray painted them a lovely gold for my pantry at my last apartment. #gorgeous

As a matter of fact, I even stamp my approval on a “catch all” basket–a place where you can throw everything in there that you don’t have time to put away right this minute (we do live in the real world, after-all). But the rules for the catch-all basket are unflinchingly rigid:

  • It must be only one designated basket
  • You must empty it and put everything inside of it in their assigned homes once a week.

Aim for Inbox Zero

I am stupidly passionate about Inbox Zero. It’s so simple. Keep your inbox empty. To those of you with 100+ unread emails, this may seem vastly unreasonable at this moment, which is why this tip is just to “aim” for it. Make small changes. Try to unsubscribe from 10 emails you get that you delete every time. That’s your only goal this week. (Coming soon: a detailed blog about how I stay on top of all 3 of my inboxes.)

Keep lists.

Have you heard of Bullet Journaling? It’s a very cool way to stay on top of your life, both professionally and personally. I don’t follow it exactly–I adapted it to what works for me–but the premise is that every bullet requires an action. It can either be completed, canceled, or moved. But it cannot disappear. Once you move a task from your Monday list to your Tuesday list to your Wednesday list . . . suddenly you’re like, “Okay, Vacuuming-Out-My-Car, you’re getting done today if it means taking 15 minutes of my lunch break to do it!”

Remember: task lists and goals are not the same thing.

Regular maintenance.

Nothing works unless you do. Implementing systems and structure won’t work if you’re constantly finding a way out of it. I’m that way when it comes to diets. I’m constantly saying, “I mean, it’s celebratory ice cream. I actually didn’t think I would make it until 5:00 today so I earned this chocolate concrete with brownie pieces.” When it comes to me and frozen custard, there’s no excuse I won’t (and haven’t) used. And for a lot of people, cleaning up is their frozen custard. Here are some of the excuses you’ll hear yourself make:

  • The mess will still be there tomorrow.
  • Why clean it when it will just get messy again?
  • I have 25,000 unread messages. It’s obvious that I will never catch up on this inbox. Why even bother?
  • It’s been a long day of cleaning up other people’s messes; I don’t want to focus on mine now.

And so many others. You need to make regular maintenance (aka chores) a committed part of your routine. It needs to be as regular as brushing your teeth. Because I promise, if you work a little on implementing systems on a small scale, it will make a big impact.

Pro Tip: Only you know your personal brand of chaos. Everyone’s chaos is different because everyone’s story is different. That means what matters most to you when it comes to getting organized will be different, too. And that’s okay. Find what works for your unique mess. And own it!

One bite at a time.

Recently my mom found a receipt for a clock radio she bought. In 1986. Before she married my dad. Before I was born. That clock radio died long, long ago. Followed soon after by its memory (I mean, it was a clock radio). But its receipt lived on in my parents’ files. From her parents’ house, to my parents’ first house, second house, and now in their third–150 miles from the second–it still had a place. (In case you were wondering, yes, this story was told with full permission.)

The point is: you didn’t create this chaos overnight. It won’t disappear overnight either. So while it may seem like a great idea to dedicate an entire Saturday to “cleaning up my whole life!”, the reality is that by Sunday morning, you’ll just be surrounded by garbage bags and not sure where any of the stuff you actually wanted to keep ended up after the fray.

Set goals. Write them down. And chip them away the same way you’d eat an elephant. One bite at a time.

Clean the kitchen sink

The most practical way I stay on top of my life? I keep the kitchen sink clean. No joke. When I was very young, my mother read a book by the FlyLady and her first step was to make sure the kitchen sink sparkled. If you could achieve that, you could achieve anything. It stuck with me, and it works. Each night, the last thing I do before I tuck myself under the covers is clean out the kitchen sink. I don’t allow myself to go to bed until it’s done. Even on the longest days, I take 10 minutes to get it done. And I never regret it. Because every morning, I wake up to a clean sink, and I remember what I have the power to accomplish when I focus.

Grace not perfection

One of my inspirations in how I set out to live my life is Emily Ley. She has done what I would do in my wildest dream–created an empire helping people organize their lives. Her book Grace Not Perfection helped reality-check me from a person who was hyper-focused on every toothpick having its own special home to someone who is okay with the fact that since it’s already after 9:00, I’m probably not going to accomplish my “read a chapter of a book” goal tonight. And I’m okay with that.

Whatever your chaos, whatever your mess, whatever your goals–remind yourself every single day who you are and whose you are. Because anything and everything else that matters springs from that exceptionally vital understanding.

 

How to Fold a Fitted Sheet

Folding a fitted sheet is an art. And now, you’re going to be an artist.

On the one hand, you may wonder why it matters to fold a fitted sheet “correctly.” However, when it’s done right, it can be incredibly space saving!

Step 1

Lay the sheet down the direction of the bed.

Step 2

Fold in half horizontally, tucking the bottom corners into the top corners.

 

Step 3

Straighten the line at the fold you’ve just made, and bring the top half of the sheet down to meet the fold.

 

Step 4

Fold from the outside toward the middle once, then twice–then you’re done!

All done!

It’s really that easy. What do you think? Is folding a fitted sheet worth it? Share in the comments 🙂

Deep Cleaning Tips

As a serial renter, I’ve moved around to many houses and apartment of varying levels of cleanliness, so I’ve learned on the job about how to scrub, scrub, scrub my way to a comfortable, livable home. But even if you’re not a renter, messes–and big ones!–just happen sometimes. Here are a couple of the mess-attracting-est places and how to get them glistening.

Linoleum Floors

What You’ll Need

  • De-greaser in a spray bottle (any off brand will suffice)
  • Bucket of warm water
  • A mop (I use the Libman Wonder Mop for almost everything)
  • A wet floor sign (or something to let the fam know that the floor you’re about to clean is off limits–warning: it gets slick)

How to Do It

  1. Square off sections of the kitchen, bathroom, or whatever space you’re in. This applies to all mopping–start in one corner and work your way one direction in the room. Preferably, plan it around your exit strategy so you don’t mop your way into a corner where you are forced to watch the floor dry. Especially because–and I can’t stress this enough–de-greaser is slippery.
  2. Spray a generous amount of de-greaser on the floor and give it just a few seconds to let the grime suffer in its own filth.
  3. Wet the mop head in the bucket just enough to give it some life; you don’t need the water and you don’t want to wash away the de-greaeser, but the de-greaser isn’t wet enough for the mop to really do its job.
  4. Mop over the area you’ve de-greased and give just a tiny amount of pressure to the mop. To be honest, the stuff is so powerful that you may not need elbow grease at all.
  5. Repeat as you go about the room

Follow Up Advice

  • De-greaser is great for cutting through that residue, but it sometimes leaves a different residue of its own, almost like a clean coat of protection. But that can be sticky, so I usually hit the floor with a multipurpose cleaner again after the initial deep clean is done.
  • I’m going to say it one more time: de-greaser is slippery. Don’t walk on it or you will fall and it will hurt.

Bathtubs

What You’ll Need

  • A gross bathtub
  • Dish soap
  • Scrub brush with a handle (here’s the one I use)
  • A towel

How to Do It

  1. Start running the tub to fill it up.
  2. Once you get the water going, pour one or two big squeezes of dishsoap in right at the faucet. This will ensure maximum bubbles and will carry the soap around the rest of the tub instead of having those weird pockets of lots of soap or no soap.
  3. Fill the tub up about halfway, including bubbles. Do not go higher than halfway.
  4. Let it sit. If you’re deep cleaning anything, one of the common factors is time. Cleaning products (even chemicals, which I try to use sparingly) take a fair amount of time to get the job done. Come back in an hour or two.
  5. Fold the towel at the base of the tub, on the outside. You’re going to kneel on this.
  6. Take your brush and just start scrubbin’ away. Start inside the water and scrub the bottom of the tub; there is no rhyme or reason on how to scrub so just go ahead and let frenzy kick in; take out your stress in this useful cleaning act.
  7. After you’ve made a dent in the base of the tub, your brush will be all soapy and malleable. Using the tub as a bucket, now you can scrub up the rest of the tub and the walls. Then use a shower head or wet rag to wipe the soap residue off.
  8. Drain the tub and watch it sparkle.

Follow Up Advice

  • If you aren’t keen on taking a bristled scrub brush to your tub, a dish sponge will work just as well. May just require a little more elbow grease on your part

Ovens and Stove Tops

What You’ll Need

  • Baking soda
  • Dish soap
  • Dish towel
  • Water
  • Spray bottle
  • Scrub brush

How to Do It

Oven

  1. Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda on the inside of your oven.
  2. Spray it with water to create a paste.
  3. Let it sit overnight.

Stove Top

  1. Sprinkle baking soda onto the glass stove top.
  2. Wet the towels and lather them up with soap. Lay them on top of the stove.
  3. Let it sit overnight

In the morning

  1. Wipe down the stove top and watch it sparkle!
  2. Use the scrub brush to break down residue inside the oven.
  3. Using the soapy towels from the stove top, wipe out the inside of the oven.

Follow Up Advice

These tips apply to glass stove tops. Leave a comment if you want to see a post about electric burners!

 

Have other stuff you need to deep clean? Drop a comment and I’d love to give more advice!

How to Clean your Make-up Brushes

Make-up brushes are pretty gross. They collect grime and bacteria that I don’t even want to think about, let alone smear all over my face. And after many years spent pouring money down the drain buying new brushes, I thought, there’s gotta be a better way. So I started researching the best way to clean them. Obviously, there were a lot of name brand sprays, shampoos, and costly sponges. But the winning solution was actually a combination of household items.

Full disclosure: I wash my brushes every two weeks–each of these “before” pictures is just from two weeks of daily use. (Ew.)

Step 1: Prep

What You’ll Need:

  • Dish soap (this is the cleanser)
  • Olive Oil (this keeps the bristles soft and shapely)
  • Plate
  • Towel (not pictured)
  • A bunch of gross make-up brushes

Step 2: Make your solution

On the plate, pour a good amount of dish soap with a very small  amount of olive oil (no more than the size of a quarter in diameter).

Step 3: Clean those brushes!

Dip your brush or sponge into the solution and swirl it around in circular motions in the palm of your hand. Then just rinse and wring out. Repeat as many times as you need per brush until it’s nice and clean. Use your hands and a towel to gently reshape the bristles.

 

Step 4: Drying

Fold the towel and set your brushes up with the bristles facing down. Extra water will drain out as they dry; if you leave the bristles skyward, it will seep into the handle and eventually ruin your brushes. Yikes!

Finally, your brushes are clean and your skin will thank you!

The Essential Saturday Chores

I am one of an elite few who looks forward to Saturdays for the cleaning time. All week, I watch eagerly as the mess around me gets worse and worse because it’s just a greater before-after picture for me come Saturday. My affection for cleaning is common knowledge for the people around me, so I am privy to the lamentations of those who do not share this strange love. And the one complaint that rises above the rest (well almost, right under “I just don’t want to”) is this one:

I don’t know where to start.

Almost every person I have talked to about cleaning or organizing their work, car, home, or even life, has said the same thing. They want the job to be done, they just don’t know how to get there. And the answer is the same as to the age-old question, how do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

(I use this phrase a lot. Get used to seeing it.)

So instead of going on and on about the importance of cleaning and the healing powers of taking care of your life, I’m going to give you a practical list of Saturday chores–in a specific order that, when all is said and done, won’t take more than the morning or afternoon to accomplish.

Ready?

Linens and Laundry

Always start with laundry because the entire day, laundry should be cycling through while you do everything else. The first load should be bed linens–as soon as you’re out of bed, strip it (barring no one else is in it) and toss in pillow cases, sheets, blankets. The purpose is two-fold: (1) you won’t waste any time trying to collect a load of laundry because it’s all right there in front of you and (2) it completely eliminates the temptation to give up on cleaning and crawl back into bed.

While your linens are washin’ away, grab a white laundry basket and a black one (or two colors that signify dark and light) and go to every room of the house collecting laundry. If you’ve got kids, their first chore is to separate their laundry into two piles for you so you can grab it on the go.

Line your baskets of waiting laundry up at the washer and set timers for yourself to swap out the cycles. Step one: complete!

Tackling the stuff.

I’ll do another post later on the huge undertaking that is the stuff. Especially if you’ve got kids (which I don’t, but all my friends do and I was a nanny to 3 for six years) there’s just stuff everywhere. But for a quick clean sweep, all you need to do is collect and reallocate. Since you have at least one load of laundry going, I can safely assume you have at least one empty laundry basket–grab it and start making the rounds. Anything you see in a room that doesn’t belong, grab it and put it in the basket.

Here’s the most important part: Do not stop to clean anything else. Don’t run an item really quickly back to where it belongs; don’t pick it up and set it somewhere in the room that it could live; as a matter of fact, don’t even set the laundry basket down! The key here isn’t just to get the job done–it’s the strategy so you can get it done as quickly as possible and get to your Saturday.

Once you’ve made the round to collect it all, pick an open space and dump it all out. Organize it by the room it belongs to, and then return the pile to that room–whether you want to just get it to the room or actually put it away is up to you now.

Start at the top

Now we’re getting to the nitty gritty of cleaning. Start with a microfiber cloth or kitchen towel and wipe surfaces from the top down. Start at the ceiling fans, then shelves, then counter tops, then table tops. Why does it matter what order you go in? Because this way, you can just push everything onto the level below it, until you eventually hit floor. Once it’s on the floor, you’re going to get it with a broom or vacuum; let them do the heavy lifting.

Take out the trash

At this point, all of the dust and other trash items from counters should be on the floors. Grab a trash bag! We’re going trash hunting! Start by picking up anything on the floor that a vacuum couldn’t get. Then walk through every room in the house and grab any big visible pieces of trash, empty trashcans, and then wrap up by taking out the kitchen garbage. Toss it all in the can or dumpster and head back into the kitchen!

Everything and the kitchen sink

Since your hands are all filthy from trash duty, what better way to clean them than in a sudsy sink? Knock out all of the dishes in one fell swoop. Empty the dishwasher if it needs to be, then load it again and run it, leaving only handwash items in the sink so nothing is in the way of your victory over dirty dishes. Set those out to dry and bada-bing-bada-boom–you are the proud owner of a kitchen full of clean dishes!

Floors

This part is pretty self explanatory–sweep the tile floors and vacuum the carpets. If you’re feeling particularly chore-happy, you can even mop with a microfiber push mop and basic floor cleaner. But for quick chores, it’s not necessary.

Bathroom

Your dishes are done, your floors are spotless, your home is dustless, and your trash is at the curb. The only thing standing between you and your Saturday is a shower to get all the grime of a well-spent chore binge off of you. This is why I clean the bathroom last. I scrub and scrub because bathrooms are the grossest part of cleaning. But once I’m in the bathroom, I’m not leaving until I shower, so I can clean with power and intention, knowing I’ll be hopping into a steamy, cleansing shower in a matter of minutes. Wipe of counter tops with a Clorox wipe, use a glass cleaner to hit the mirrors, and scrub out the toilet. Ew. But it’s done now!

Last step: shower! You’ve earned it. Now off to your Saturday!

There is a basic principle of physics that objects in motion tend to stay in motion, while objects at rest tend to stay at rest. So for me, this is the list and order that works best because every minute of cleaning is accounted for. If I can stay focused and in the zone of cleaning, I’ll get done faster and can do something else. Happy Saturday and happy cleaning!

Have your own tried and true methods? Share them in the comments!