Taking care of a home is no joke.
Between cleaning spontaneous messes or built-up grime; repairing broken items or trying to prevent issues with regular maintenance; and decluttering and organizing to make the most of your space — it can be a huge drain on your time, money, and energy.
Not to say it isn’t worth it, of course. It is an absolute privilege to have a space to call your own, a shelter from the elements, a retreat at the end of a hard day, and a place for family and friends to gather! My home really is my favorite place in the world. It just takes a lot of work to keep it that way, and if we’re not careful, we can spend too much time taking care of it and not enough time enjoying all the ways it serves us!
We must be intentional in keeping our household work realistic and attainable. Not only will this free up precious time to focus on what really matters – it also makes us more likely to stay motivated and stick to our plan.
Whether you need a few quick tips or a complete overhaul in order to get there — this guide is for you 😃
Simplify & Streamline
One of the best ways to cut back on time and energy spent is to simplify– in all the ways you can.
Invest in products that simplify time-consuming tasks.
As my husband says – “It’s not about how good you are, it’s about how good your tools are.”
Normally, I’m too frugal to fork over money for fancy cleaning tools. But over time, I’ve definitely changed my tune if something really saves me time.
The best example is my Bissell Steam Mop (full review here). It has saved me so much time as an all-in-one tool that only uses water to clean, disinfect, and quickly lift dried-on or sticky messes.
For all my favorites, check out my post Amazon’s Best Products for Quick, Simple Cleaning & Organizing. (I use every one!)
Use time-saving techniques to streamline your cleaning processes.
I will admit, I am not a “cleaner” at heart. I LOVE clean and organized spaces, so I do it a lot, but I don’t like it. (Sorry, Monica Geller.)
So, I defer to the experts! There is no shortage of brilliant tips out there. I recommend finding a few that really make a difference in your cleaning routine, rather than feeling overwhelmed by implementing all of them at once.
- Good Housekeeping says ” Spray the bathroom cleaner on the tub and basin and leave it to work for 10 minutes before you rinse off. This will make all the difference in how effective it is!”
- Lovely Craft Home recommends using a dust mop to clean walls.
- One Good Thing suggests using a lint roller to clean furniture, lampshades, and more!
- Practically Functional explains how you can use vinegar & steam to clean your microwave (I use this all the time!)
And perhaps most importantly,
- Molly Maids says, “Clean as you go. This is a tried-and-true way to save time when cleaning, especially when it comes to your kitchen and bathroom. While cooking, be sure to wipe surfaces as you go and place prep utensils and bowls in the sink. Clean spills on your stovetop as they happen so you can prevent crusted-on stains. Similarly, be sure to wipe away any soap scum or toothpaste on your bathroom sink daily.”
Consolidate and/or limit your cleaning supplies.
One area of the house that can easily get out-of-control is cleaning supplies. Too many options and clutter can waste precious time getting started!
While specialized cleaners can certainly come in handy, I’ve been really happy with streamlining my main cleaners to homemade options using similar ingredients.
Also, grouping cleaners you often use together in easy-to-grab totes* – or even an apron! – takes all the thought out of it. I’ve gotten into the habit of storing all my cleaning rags in the tote, as well, so I always have them ready.
Scale back your expectations.
When it comes to simplifying your cleaning routine, many tips are practical, but the most important area to simplify may be your expectations.
When creating or selecting a cleaning schedule, it can be easy to get stuck in cleaning things more often because it would be “nice” or because you want to measure up to others’ standards.
Those are rarely realistic. And are often stressful, burdensome, and demotivating in day-to-day life.
Of course we’d love for every inch of our homes to be spotless – but there is a lot of freedom in letting go of perfection or idealism in favor of “good enough”. “Good enough” means what is necessary to let our home do what it is meant to do.
- Clean enough to be healthy and safe
- Tidy enough to allow us to work, play, and rest
Identify the minimum amount of cleaning that would make your home clean, tidy, and taken care of. I’ve found that this makes me more motivated and consistent, and it keeps the “why” in the forefront of my mind.
I try to remember:
Ask for Help & Delegate
If you step back and look at a comprehensive list of household tasks – cleaning, maintenance, decluttering included – it’s intimidating.
Even after making cleaning simpler and more efficient, you still may need a helping hand. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to alleviate those responsibilities as needed.
Assign an owner to each task.
If you live with a spouse, roommate, partner, etc. have an honest discussion to divide responsibilities. While you can certainly help each other, having an “owner” for every task prevents miscommunication and procrastination.
If you have children, you can also assign tasks to them! Check out this guide to kid-friendly chore assignments, as well as this brilliant chore system over at Lightly Frayed.
Enlist professionals – or non-professionals! – if your budget allows.
If you don’t have enough time to meet the needs of your home, perhaps you can adjust your budget to hire help. Consider the most “bang for your buck” in outsourcing.
- Consider dry-cleaning for especially difficult or time-consuming laundry.
- Identify specific home maintenance items – like heating & cooling or hot water heater needs – that would be best serviced by a professional.
- Ask around for recommendations for a handy-man who could handle other home projects.
- Hire a trustworthy high-school or college student to help with household chores or projects. Many are looking to make some extra money and can be great helping hands!
- If it best serves your lifestyle, you can even consider cleaning services to come weekly, bi-weekly, or even monthly to keep up with regular cleaning.
Everyone will have a unique balance of spending their own personal time and spending money for hired help. There’s no wrong way to do it! What matters is that you are doing what is necessary to take care of your home in the way that best fits your lifestyle and needs.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
I think we can all acknowledge that you can’t eliminate all the time involved, or all the money involved, in taking care of a home.
But the good news is you CAN eliminate something — the “mental work” and stress involved in keeping track of all the tasks. You know what I mean:
- remembering what you saw yesterday morning that needed to be cleaned
- writing sticky-notes upon sticky-notes of areas that need to be fixed
- trying to keep track of the last time you changed an HVAC filter
- fearing that something is always slipping through the cracks
The burden on our minds can be intense if we don’t have a system to do this “thinking” for us.
Utilize a comprehensive list to keep track of WHAT you need to do and WHEN you need to do it.
Regardless of your format – a printable schedule, an Excel spreadsheet, rotating tasks in your favorite to-do app – using a schedule that includes all your household tasks can completely eliminate the mental tracking involved.
Focus on incorporating as many tasks into routines and making those routines habits.
Group tasks based on how often they need to be done (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.) Regular routines helps to assign a deadline to these responsibilities and creates accountability.
As you practice these routines over and over, you begin to form a habit. It becomes more natural and automatic, which means you need less willpower and personal pep-talks to make yourself do it each time.
These last tips are much broader in scope than a “time-saving tip” but it has the most payout over time. That’s why I created Home, Clean Home – a personalized home cleaning system that:
- Generates a house cleaning schedule that works for you
- Groups these tasks into routines and guides you in implementing them slowly, naturally, and intentionally over time
- Promotes forming long-lasting habits by using research-based strategies