Quick-Cleaning the House (Really!)

I’m pretty average. And I do the same thing you probably do: look at my neighbors’ houses from the outside and assume that everything is perfect on the inside. I’m famous for believing that I’m the only one wondering how in the world I’m going to get everything done.

Even though in reality I know that’s not the truth, I still needed a life-changer, and I found it in a chore chart referenced on one of my favorite blogs. Now, before you get flashbacks of chore-laden Saturday mornings with your own Mom and start to wriggle in your seat, let me just tell you, this is the chore chart from heaven. It’s easy. It has made my house clean on a consistent basis, and it has taken the guilt out of the things on my to-do list that I can’t get to right this second. It gives everything a time and a place, and it makes sure it all gets done in a way that feels effortless.

Here’s how it works. There are a handful of things to do every day. Simple, quick things: make the bed every morning, and wipe down the bathroom counter, including sinks. By the way, a made bed makes a huge difference in the way I look at my day. It makes me feel put-together and orderly. Plus, I got tired of my bedroom always being the LAST thing to get clean! (No fair, right?)

Next, unload the dishwasher. This adds just five itty-bitty extra minutes to breakfast time. Now throw in the chore of the day, and that’s it for the morning.

Chore of the day gives place to all the things that need to be done on a weekly basis, like toilets or floors. I do the same chore on the same day of every week except for Friday, which is swing day so I get a monthly chore. One Friday I might clean out the fridge and scrub it down, while another Friday I might be wiping walls and baseboards.

At night, make sure the dishwasher is loaded. I run mine every night even if it’s not quite full because then I can unload it in the morning and have no excuse to ever leave a dish in the sink. Then I quick-sweep the kitchen floor and spot-clean it if it’s got any spills.

Now for the magic of pickup baskets. This brilliant idea is also simple: a basket in each area of the house (or just one big basket). In the evening, throw in everything that’s out of place, then go around the house and put those things away. This seriously takes 10 minutes. And the other brilliant thing about pickup baskets is, if someone is coming over and you have to quickly clean, toss everything in there, set it in its corner of the room, and voila! Your house is de-cluttered!


Since I needed to tweak the original chart to make it fit my life, I made my own at using colors that match my kitchen and a style that matches my personality. I needed something that looks good because this poster is a permanent fixture in my house. Plus, I still don’t always have chore of the day memorized, so I refer to it a lot.

One of my tweaks, by the way, is laundry day. I couldn’t dedicate Saturday to that, or I’d never get a weekend because six people live here, and we dirty a lot of clothes and towels. I do much better just adding one load of laundry to chore of the day so that it never gets ahead of me. And here’s what I love. It frees up my Saturday to be a catch-up day or a yardwork day if I need it, and a 100 percent play day if I don’t. Isn’t that what Saturdays are made for?

I love this system because it takes the guilt out of not doing absolutely everything absolutely every day. If I notice on a Tuesday that a toilet could use a wipedown, I can do it if it’s really bugging me, or I can just think, Oh, no big deal. Tomorrow’s toilet day.

There’s something empowering about knowing when something’s going to happen, even if it’s not this very moment. (Clean freaks, this is for you, too. Follow this plan, and you can free up emotional space and find time in your day for other things.)

When I stick to my schedule, cleaning never feels like a chore, whereas it used to ALL the time. Now the house never has a chance to get out of control.

Listen to the girl who is easily overwhelmed, who is apt to look at a mountain of laundry plus an unmopped floor and an unmade bed and a pile of toys and think, Geez, even if I start, it’s not going to make a dent. No one will even notice.

Not now. My life has changed, and so has my house. I’m liberated. Try it.