Do you envy those people with perfect homes that are always sparkling clean? As busy as life is these days, finding the time or energy to keep your home clean all the time can feel daunting. Luckily, it’s easier than you think. The secret to keeping a tidy home lies in these three fundamentals: minimizing clutter; maintaining a system for organization, and adopting simple, repeatable habits into your daily routine.
We’ve broken these down into three basic steps to help you take control of your space and create an environment that feels just like home should.
Step 1: Declutter
"Organized clutter is still clutter. Get rid of it.” — Corie Clark
Before you can clean or organize anything, you first need to clear out the clutter.
Go room by room and sort your belongings into Keep, Donate, and Toss piles. Don’t overwhelm yourself, however: This is not a one-day job, so plan to spread it out over a few days or possibly weeks.
Having trouble letting go? Ask yourself these questions:
Is it worn out, damaged, or expired? If yes, toss or recycle.
When was the last time you used it? If you haven’t used it in years and never will, let it go. If it only gets used for special occasions, and you’ll need it for that special occasion, keep it.
Do you have more than one? Do you really need three different sets of china or 10 different pairs of white sneakers? Simplify.
Is it something you cherish? Travel trinkets, old family photos, your college sweatshirt: Some items may carry special meaning, but if you’re sentimental about everything you own, it can lead to clutter. Try to detach emotionally from your things and decide what you can live without.
If you’re overwhelmed by all your stuff, here are some no-brainer items that should go:
Old, ratty linens and towels.
Pillows you’ve had for more than 2 years.
Expired spices, canned goods, and condiments.
Books and magazines you’ll never read again.
Clothing that doesn’t fit or never gets worn.
Be sure to deal with your Toss and Donate piles on the same day you made them. If you leave piles sitting around, it might feel even more cluttered than before you started!
Step 2: Organize
“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.” — A. A. Milne
A place for everything, and everything in its place. That’s important to remember as you move on to organizing. If you can’t find or make a home for it, then it doesn’t belong in your home. Here are some basics for keeping things organized and functional:
Put like with like. This seems like a no-brainer, until you realize you have 12 tubes of toothpaste.
Favorites up front. Things you use the most need to be the easiest to get to.
Label everything. If you’re not using clear containers, this is an especially crucial step, but even if you are, you can’t go wrong by labeling them. That way no one in your home will have an excuse for not putting things where they belong.
Break down storage spaces into even smaller units. Drawer dividers separate socks from underwear; under-sink shelves allow you to see your cleaning supplies and how much toilet paper you have left; a table or shelf in your entryway with baskets and bowls will ensure keys, purses, backpacks, and mail can all be found quickly and easily.
If at first you don’t succeed, use a hack
Well, some of these aren’t really hacks, but they are ways to maximize your storage, minimize your clutter, and help you get more organized so you can tackle other projects in your life.
Look up — and down. Under the bed, over the door, on the side of a cabinet, on the landing: These are all places where a box, hook, shelf, or storage unit can be stashed.
Store neatly. If you have an attic, basement, or garage, be sure you’re (neatly!) storing items there that you use infrequently but need to keep, such as holiday decorations or party supplies.
Think vertically. Cookie sheets don’t have to lie flat. Shelving doesn’t have to stop at eye level. Repurpose a hanging shoe organizer for seasonal clothes like sweaters and tank tops. Or an over-the-door organizer for toiletries, freeing up your linen closet shelves for … you got it! Linens!
Repurpose. A magazine holder full of pot lids. A spice rack full of beauty supplies. An old dresser drawer with wheels attached slipped under the bed. When you think creatively, you can switch storage meant for one item to a completely different purpose.
Step 3: Build the Habits
“The objective of cleaning is not just to clean, but to feel happiness living within that environment.” — Marie Kondo
Decluttering and organizing aren’t one-and-done events, but they are bigger projects that you should only need to revisit about once a year. So, how do you keep your home clean and organized in the meantime? By learning some new habits. Consider these your eight commandments for maintaining a clean home.
Make the bed right away, every day. Making the bed is a quick win that makes the whole room look instantly tidier. Bonus: People who make their beds every day are more likely to report sleeping well.
Move appliances off the kitchen counter. A clear counter is a joy to behold. Make room in a cupboard or pantry for the small appliances and utensils that normally live out in the open.
Wipe down the bathroom sink before bed. You’re in there anyway, finishing your nightly skincare routine, so you might as well keep a spray bottle of cleaner and a roll of paper towels under the sink. Even easier: Keep antibacterial wipes handy for a quick wipe-down.
Run the dishwasher every night. And then empty it each morning (while you’re waiting for your coffee to brew). No dirty dishes piling up in the sink; no running out of forks or glasses. Bonus: You actually save water and energy by running the dishwasher rather than washing by hand.
Have a dedicated spot for mail. Especially if several people in your household get letters, magazines, and packages. Place a basket on a table or hang an organizer with slots for mail near the front door, and instruct everyone to look through the pile and take what’s theirs to read or recycle when they come in.
Clean up as you cook. Any good cook will tell you to clean up as you go. It will make post-meal cleanup a breeze. Even better: If you are a multi-person household, use the “one cooks, the other cleans” theory of kitchen cleanup.
Tidy up before bed each night. This may be the most time-consuming task, so you may want to tackle it before you sit down to relax for the evening. Wipe the kitchen counter, put away any clothing or shoes left in common areas, and deal with any clutter that has accumulated throughout the day. After you’ve finished your evening lounge session, remember to fluff the throw pillows and fold the blanket on the sofa.
Do a deep cleaning chore once a week. These are the jobs that take lots of time if you do them all at once, so splitting them up makes tackling them easier. Projects like moving furniture to clean underneath, scrubbing out the oven, and dusting the blinds can be spread out to prevent you from feeling overwhelmed.