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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

speed cleaning

I never dreamed I would become such a neat freak.  In college, on my own for the very first time, my living conditions were less than sanitary (to say the least).  The only time any of my roommates or I would clean the dishes was when all of the ones in the cabinet were finally dirty.  Our bad-neighborhood duplex, with it's 70's dark wood paneling, shabby carpet, and mis-matched garage-sale furniture didn't exactly inspire any of us to keep it neat and tidy.

Things finally turned around for me when I finished college, got a real job, and, for the first time, my very own apartment.   I painted the walls, hung pictures, and got stylish furniture that matched.  I finally had a home of my own, and I wanted to take care of it.

It was around that time that I read an article in Real Simple magazine about speed cleaning.  (The title, I believe, was "A Clean House in 20 Minutes a Day," or something to that effect)  I still remember it because I actually cut out the little boxes and taped them up in each room of my apartment.  The idea was fairly simple--it was a method of using convenience cleaning products for a few minutes every day to keep things neat and tidy all the time.

It was perfect for me, a single girl with a small apartment, and I implemented it with great success.

Then I got married and had kids.   And a real house.

20 minutes a day just wasn't going to cut it anymore.  The major flaw in the Real Simple system is that it doesn't account for people besides you, the cleaner, living in your home.  And let's face it:  Kids are messy!  The second you put one thing away, they are dragging out another (and we're not allowed to velcro them to the wall all day.)  So needless to say, my system has been modified somewhat.  These days I probably spend, on average, about an hour each morning making my house sparkle.  The trick is to staying on top of it.

I am a list kind-of girl, so I actually have a daily checklist that I use each day.   It is located on my "control center" wall where I have a dry-erase monthly calendar and where there is also a spot for a weekly meal plan and important phone numbers.  Since it is all in one place, I can easily check the calendar for any pressing activities or appointments.  This helps me prioritize my cleaning activities and to cut things out or add things as necessary.

My "Control Center:"

My supplies:

I don't use a wide variety of cleaning supplies, and I'm not that picky about brands.  The one thing I don't ever use is dusting spray because it will ruin wood furniture.  I prefer to use those swiffer dusters when I have them, or else just a water-dampened rag.  The one thing I also use frequently that is not pictured here is my Swiffer Wet Jet.  What a great invention!  It makes mopping so much faster & easier.

My system:

General Guidelines:
  • Start at one end of the house.  (I start in our Master Bedroom and work my way through the living room and kitchen to the girls' room and bathroom.)
  • Cleaning is much easier when everything has a home.  Work on creating organized storage for all of the things that end up being scattered around the house, like papers, mail, shoes, & toys.
  • Use a large laundry basket to collect items such as toys or clothing that need to be returned to a different room.  If you have multiple offenders, use multiple baskets.  After you have finished tidying every room, take 5 minutes to put away the collected items.  
  • Save sweeping/mopping and vacuuming until the end, then do it all at once.  We have mostly hard surface floors, so I use an industrial dry mop to wipe the floors each day.  It takes only a couple minutes to run it over all the floors and then shake it off outside.  About once a week, I do a really thorough sweep and then use a Swiffer WetJet to mop.  I vacuum the rugs about 3 times a week.
  • Likewise, save the glass cleaning for the end as well.  Once the house is completely clean, I will grab my windex and rag and run around doing spot checks on the glass doors and windows.  I wipe the bathroom mirrors as well as the fixtures and sink. 
  • Keep daily shower cleaner in the bath/shower and spray down after each use.  
Bedroom(s) (5-10 minutes each, depending on how much to pick up):
  • Always make the bed.  Even if there are other things laying around, the room will look much, much cleaner.  
  • Quickly pick up any clothes, toys, or dishes that are lying around.
  • Use a duster to quickly dust all surfaces, including the headboard and footboard.
Bathroom(s) (5 minutes each):
  • Squirt toilet bowl cleaner around the rim; let sit.
  • Use disinfectant wipes to quickly wipe down the sinks, tub, and shower.
  • Use toilet brush to quickly scrub toilet, rim, and seat.
  • Use disinfectant wipes to wipe down toilet & surrounding floor.
Living Room/Dining/Home Office Areas (10-15 minutes):

  • Quickly pick up any shoes, dishes, toys, or other items laying around.  (Put them in basket to put away later.)
  • Use duster to quickly dust all surfaces.
  • Use damp cloth to wipe down furniture (if leather), table(s), and dining chairs.
  • Tidy desk area and make sure all paperwork & mail is filed & sorted in its proper spots.
Kitchen (10-15 minutes, depending on how many dishes):
  • Quickly pick up any items that don't belong in kitchen and place them in basket(s).  Gather any dirty dishes and put them next to sink.
  • Quickly unload (if necessary) then load diswasher.
  • Hand wash dishes/pots/pans as needed
  • Spray all counters with disinfectant spray, then use soapy water and wet sponge to wipe them all down.
  • Wipe down stovetop.
  • Dry and put away any hand-washed dishes, then drain and rinse sink--the secret to a truly clean-looking kitchen is clutter-free counters and a nice clean sink.
Finishing Up:
  • Use a dry mop to clean hard floors.  Spot clean with a sponge if necessary.
  • Vacuum rugs/carpet.
  • Clean glass surfaces & mirrors as needed with glass cleaner and a lint-free rag.  Don't forget to spray & wipe the bathroom fixtures for extra shine!
  • Put away items collected in baskets while cleaning.

It may take a little getting used to, but before you know it you'll be so deep into the habit that just the thought of not cleaning your toilet every day will send you into panic mode.

Or maybe that's just me.

Happy cleaning!


  1. Great tips, Ruth! I've been pretty slack about cleaning the house lately, but once again, you've inspired me!

  2. Hi there! I found you on Welcome Wednesday's blog hop! Great blog and can't wait to read more!


  3. great tips! thanks for the follow. i am following you back too.

  4. I am a new follower and I would love a follow back!!

  5. I am following you now thanks to Blog Hop Thursday! It would be nice if you could share the love back on my blog;)
    And don't forget, for more easy HTML tutorials, or help increasing your blog's traffic, you know where to come!
    Plus today we talk about other amazing blog tips so make sure you don't miss any of it! Happy Thursday!

  6. These speedy hints would be even easier if someone did them for me.

    Hopping in, following you now. closertolucy.blogspot.com

  7. I loved the tips; I just moved into a new big house and the idea of cleaning this place is daunting so say the least so thanks for the tips, also can you tell me you got your "control center" board from; I need something just like that, I currently just have a white board that is looking quite messy right now. Michelle

  8. Michelle-I got both boards at Target for about $8 each. I also got the little magnetic pen holder there as well. I usually print 12-16 checklists at a time, then re-print when needed.

  9. Oh Ruth! You make it sound so easy! I wish I had more umph to actually do it cause you have it laid out perfectly! Great job! Love all your ideas and tips!!!

  10. Bookmarked. It takes me forever to clean as I ATTACK instead of cleaning. However if I attacked once then kept up with this list it could be easy and painless.


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