How To Have A Perfectly Clean House All The Time … or something like that.

A Professional Organizers Cleaning Routine - How to Always Keep Your Home Clean Enough

I’ve already confessed to you that I didn’t know how to do my own laundry until I went to college, so you’ve probably figured out that I didn’t really know how to clean either. I always kept my own room spotless, so I kind of figured out vacuuming and dusting, but I had absolutely no idea how to load a dishwasher or clean a toilet when I moved out of my parents house. Still, what happened in my growing up years made me the way I am today, someone who teaches thousands of people (a day) how to clean and organize their homes –

My mom is the cleanest person I know, except for her mother. My mom vacuumed every single day, had a love affair with laundry, did the dishes after every meal, her counters were always cleared off and clean, and she had a ritual of cleaning out her purse every night. Until I went and stayed with my grandma one summer, I thought I knew what it was like to live with a very clean person. I remember my grandma and I walking by her kitchen sink together, when she paused to wipe a small little water stain on the sink with her finger that I never was able to see in the first place, and then we kept walking on as if that had been a totally normal thing to do. I started to notice then that these two women in my life were different than most. Neither of them ever really asked me to lift a finger, but I learned a lot from watching them – like what hard work looked like and especially that I really liked living in a clean house.

I have vivid childhood memories of walking home from the bus stop, my backpack feeling so heavy – the day feeling so heavy on my mind. As I opened my front door, the weight would lift. Windows were always open with light pouring in the house, bouncing across clean surfaces. Home felt good, like getting to breathe fresh air indoors.

I know there’s all that talk out there of “Please excuse the mess, my children are making memories” and that’s all good and fine when kids are really playing and making memories, but don’t let lesser priorities be an excuse that stops you from maintaining a clean enough home. (My least favorite mom-quote of all time is “Good moms have sticky floors and blah blah blah.” I can’t even finish that one it bothers me so much.)

And why do I say clean enough? Well, as much as I admire my mom and my grandma, I don’t have enough time to vacuum every day. I stressed myself out at the beginning of married/mom life trying to be perfect and I can tell you first-hand: that was no way to live a happy life. I developed this cleaning routine when my twins were babies in 2005 (they turn 11 soon – cue tiny violins!), long before I was a professional organizer or thought about what I could blog about. I actually developed this to limit how much I cleaned – specifically to calm those voices in my head that were saying “maybe you should be vacuuming instead of ___”. Remember the examples in my life of how much a homemaker was supposed to clean? I needed the routine as a a limit, but the cleaning routine works both ways, it can also help you clean enough, if you are prone to not cleaning very much.

{And just for the record, my mom is the awesome kind of mom that validates my feelings and says things like “I think moms today have it harder than I did – so much more is expected of you.” She would never dream of making me feel guilty for taking a shortcut or doing something out of convenience … she doesn’t believe that just because she did some things the harder way that everyone else should have to as well. I know, I’m lucky – everyone should have a sounding board like that! She has only ever encouraged me to do what works for me. She has never once suggested that I should vacuum every single day like her – but I do love how clean my floors are when she visits. }

Now, are you thinking GET TO THE CLEANING ROUTINE ALREADY, ENOUGH WITH CHIT-CHAT?!?!

Well, we’re almost ready to get to the routine. First, we need to go over some rules that make the cleaning routine work. Remember that we are doing this routine as part of living a maintenance lifestyle. We are giving up the life of constant catch-up! {Learn about The Art of Maintenance Living HERE.}

The Rules

9 out of 10 is good enough. Perfect is for people with endless amounts of time.

If you are going to embrace a cleaning routine, you are going to give up the idea of perfection. It is actually very easy to keep a home at a 9/10 cleanliness level, but to go from 9/10 to 10/10 takes sooooooo muuuuuch mooooore eeeefffoooorrrtttt. So we are agreeing to take it to the 9 and stop there and be happy because there are pursuits in our lives that are meaningful and those deserve our time too. We give cleaning the time it deserves and no more. Got it?

I usually laugh when someone comes to my home for the first time and is shocked by how something isn’t as perfectly clean as they thought it might be (usually these people only KNOW I’m a professional organizer and haven’t actually read anything I’ve written about balance). On any given day you may find grass brought in from the yard or a crushed Cheerio anywhere on my wood floor.

Stop wearing your glasses if necessary.

Make an agreement with yourself that if you follow through with your routine, you don’t have to worry in between unless something has true urgency.

Examples:

A few leaves brought in from the yard = not urgent.

A pile of pee from a potty-training toddler = urgent (don’t be jealous).

If it is no big deal to clean something up, then sure, do it right away – that just makes sense. What I’m saying here is don’t re-arrange your day or life to keep your home perfectly clean! Let yourself relax and feel at peace with the floor because next week you will vacuum again and if the leaves wait until then, it will be okay.

Catch-up goes on hamburgers only.

If you miss a day of dusting, wait until that day comes around the next week to dust. The cleaning tasks you miss each day don’t roll-over to the next day – the deadline expires until the same day next week. Rolling cleaning tasks over makes them build up to an insurmountable amount that makes me want to hide under the covers thinking about.

If you are new to a successful cleaning routine, please trust someone who has been there and done that to tell you – skipping a week of dusting will have much less of a long-term impact than overwhelming yourself with expectations of perfection will. This no-rollover method will actually result in your house being cleaner more of the time. And now you’re thinking … wait, what?!?! If you expect yourself to do it ALL perfectly every week, you will have so many weeks that you just can’t do it at all and you’ll start forming a mental block (this is how many people find themselves surrounded by a messy house when always had the intention of cleaning – and I know, because many of these people become my clients), versus the weeks where you allow yourself to skip things and do it imperfectly, where you will actually get a lot more cleaning done. It’s a head-game, as most things in life really are.

So, when life gets crazy, and despite your best efforts, you can’t vacuum the whole house, vacuum what you can and do the rest next week. Do what you can. Dust what you can. If you are sick or on vacation, or working on a huge project that is taking all of your focus, then maybe dusting or whatever chore isn’t going to happen at all today. And when the week comes where you can do a more thorough job, then do it. Shift your mindset from saving it all up for a big catch-up day, to doing what you can week by week. Most weeks you should be able to just do your chore, but don’t be blind-sided when it doesn’t go as planned and stop all good momentum.

Don’t twerk it, Tweak it.

Let’s say you are taking my advice above and not playing catch-up, so it’s been a month since you’ve vacuumed … THEN SOMETHING IS NOT WORKING.

Don’t get stuck in a rut, play with the routine and your schedule and move things around until it works. I suggest a routine to get started (below), but do not be afraid to adjust and adapt to fit your schedule.

And if you just can’t find anything that works, there is no shame in admitting that you need help. Hiring a housekeeper is a great way to delegate! I suggest using the same cleaning routine here to keep your home tidy in between your housekeeper’s visits, though you would modify to simply tidy an area and allow the housekeeper to deep clean. {Read Have a Housekeeper? How to Maintain Between Visits}

Delegate or Try to do everything for everyone and wonder why you feel grumpy all the time.

I have four kids and I let them help me clean, and I honor their effort and my time by not re-doing all of their chores for them. Do they hang the hand towels as perfectly as I would or arrange the pillows on the couch like I would? Absolutely not! But everything they do is one less thing I have to do. Can I get a hallelujah from every busy mom out there?!

And I am crossing my fingers that one day they will empty the dishwasher and put things away where they *actually* go. But oh well, the dishwasher is emptied without me doing it and I eventually find what I need when I’m cooking … it’s usually somewhere in the kitchen still!

Husbands/Spouses should also be sharing the workload, but it isn’t the same thing as with children, where you just tell them what to do. There should be discussions and agreements about shared responsibility ahead of time – not in the heat of the moment of wanting something done. I suggest starting these conversations with each adult saying their *favorite* and *least favorite* things to do, so that those things can be accommodated if possible, and everything else can be a compromise.

Use these chore lists! {Click HERE to read about Kids Chore Check Lists.}

Kids Chore Check Lists -s

Don’t ignore laundry.

Laundry is a separate beast than cleaning, except it kind of isn’t. You can’t ignore it, or just keep moving piles around. Now is the time to conquer it too. For more info on making sense of Laundry – Read Beyond Killing the Laundry Monster. I’ve added laundry to the cleaning routine because it really only makes sense to look at it as a unified package. I could separate it out … but then I’d just keep trying to look at two lists trying to put it back together again, wouldn’t you?

The Routine to Keep Your Home Clean Enough -s

The Routine

Monday

Tuesday

  • Daily Habits*
  • Laundry: Bedding
  • Chore: Dust

Wednesday

  • Daily Habits*
  • Laundry: Towels
  • Chore: Floors

Thursday

  • Daily Habits*
  • Laundry: Clothes
  • Chore: Bathrooms

Friday

The Weekend

I like to leave my weekends open for life to happen. I use my Saturdays for projects and yard-work, and I like to rest on Sundays. You are in charge of your routine – so adapt this suggested weekly schedule if it doesn’t fit your life.

The Daily Habits will make the biggest difference in making your home feel clean day to day. If you have to choose between these or your Cleaning Routine on any given day, do these first. These are the foundation to making everything else work.

*Read: 6 Daily Habits to Keep A Clean Home.

Variations – Printables

I have two variations of the routine in Full Resolution 8×10 Printables available in my shop. These are great to go up in a command center area! *See the Images in the shop HERE.

These printables are also part of the Spring Cleaning Printable Pack. During this year’s Spring Cleaning Challenge, the focus is to not just do some deep cleaning, but Jump-Start Maintenance and Reset Your Cleaning Routine. *See the Spring Cleaning Challenge Pack is HERE.

Mary ORGANIZES - Clean Routine

This list specifically fits if you have kids.
Mary ORGANIZES Clean Routine-with Kids

But whew! Can you imagine if you really just started doing this today and never looked back? Your home and life would never be the same … in a very good way.

MO-signature

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You may have gotten to this blog post from one of these pictures … you are in the right place! This post has been updated from the original post from 2013.

How to have a perfeclty clean house all the time or maybe not

I loved this line:

“With this system, my house is pretty clean all the time, but never perfectly clean. I traded in the perfect home for a happy family, peace of mind, and a life full of satisfying non-housework-related pursuits.”

My Cleaning Routine Mondays - Clean Bathrooms Tuesdays - Clean Kitchen Wednesday - Dust Thursday - Vacuum and Mop Friday - Sweep Porches Saturday - *Clean other things like windows and baseboards as needed.

“It might be hard at first, allowing people into our homes when they aren’t perfect, but the sense of freedom you get when you stop caring is overwhelmingly wonderful.”

finally a cleaning routine that works in real life

“And don’t forget … regular light housekeeping avoids time-consuming deep-cleaning. Light housekeeping is not to be confused with lighthouse keeping. Here is a handy reminder so you don’t forget.”

light housekeeping versus lighthouse keeping

63 thoughts on “How To Have A Perfectly Clean House All The Time … or something like that.

  1. I’ve tried to implement a similar schedule; however, I have not been consistent. What about the laundry? How do you do all this if you have little ones? I have three under age 4. I wish I could hire you! I need a system that works to do everything in my life.

    1. My twins were one when my third daughter was born, so I know a lot about what you are going through right now. Make sure you are following the non-accumulating method, because it can be very motivating. :) I spread my laundry schedule out like I spread my cleaning. Let me know if you’d like to work with me and I’d be happy to help you create a custom plan for your needs right now. Good luck! The time passes quicker than you think!

    2. Hi Oslyn, I read your concern. It’s really a hard time cleaning when you have little kids. If you really find it difficult to work on cleaning routines you can also have a choice of hiring domestic cleaners that can do it for you. You can also add some tasks like laundry, washing dishes and anything you like on a regular basis. I hope I have given you another idea.

  2. How do you make time for this and paperwork when things like cooking dinner, running earns & kids attention, homework & husband & personal time. It’s hard to find for those & cleaning. Then if you live in an apt without laundry inside that can’t happen just anytime. How to find balance

    1. Hi Liz! It is certainly difficult to juggle all the pulls on our time. This method is what I’ve found to be the least painful way of getting the cleaning done, and really it takes less time for me this way than other ways. When you are cleaning every week, nothing gets too terrible. If you really don’t have time, something else in your schedule has to shift to make room. And if that doesn’t work, hire a maid. :)

  3. This is a fantastic post & a needed reality check. I don’t clean on a schedule & I truly believe I need one! I’m going to implement yours immediately & hopefully it will work for me. If not, I’ll juggle it around a bit. Thank you for linking up!! :)

  4. Mary, great post! I have tried so many times to get on a cleaning routine. My house is a disaster. Working full time and having a toddler makes it so hard. We usually end up spending half the weekend cleaning and that is never fun. In the evenings I am busy making dinner and playing with my son before bedtime. The last thing I want to do at 8 pm at night is start cleaning :( Any suggestions?

    1. Hailey – if you guys are gone that much, your home shouldn’t be getting too dirty, so you might find that you only need to deep clean these different areas every two weeks. Once you get caught up (you might just have to power through a weekend or something), maintenance shouldn’t be too time-consuming. I clean all four of our bathrooms in well under an hour and that is my most time consuming chore along with vacuuming and mopping. Let me know if you need more help. I’d be happy to work with you in developing a custom plan for you. One size doesn’t fit all, but I try to write these posts as a guideline that will be able to help as many people as possible. When I work with individual clients, I cater things to their lives and needs. :)

      1. Hi there! Love your helpful tips! My only question is this, do you think this is a better process than trying to do it all in one day? I know it sounds crazy but I do and dive cleaning every Saturday or Sunday. It takes me several hours to do but I hit every room in the house & during the week I’m always tidying things up. It still seems like I’m always cleaning! Thanks for any input:))

        1. Well, you may have answered your own question — “It still seems like I’m always cleaning!” My system is where you do your chore each day and then move on, maybe occasionally having bigger projects to do on the weekends, like clean the windows or baseboards, but on a regular basis, you do your chores every day and there is no hours at a time on the weekend necessary.

          I’ve done it the all at once method many times and if I didn’t have any young children at home that make my schedule so erratic, I might try it again. But the spread out method works for any situation, so I might just stick with it forever. :)

  5. Mary, this is the second time I’ve come to your blog to look up this exact post. I think this time just might be the time I’ll actually put it into action. Thanks!

  6. Shouldn’t we do the dusting and vacuuming & mopping in different order? First vacuuming & mopping and then dusting on the second day? So that all the dust that comes from vacuuming, has landed. ;)

  7. Hi Mary,
    I just stumbled upon your list through Pinterest, and the first thing that came to mind when reading the title, “How to have a perfectly clean house all the time”, was: find a genie and make it your wish, second, hire a live-in housecleaner, and then I finally resorted to defeat and assumed it was a joke! lol
    So I am glad I took a look, because it really is simple and realistic. I think a lot of us put too much pressure on ourselves to have a spotless home (life) and part of your advice is to let go of that pressure and enjoy living!
    This is especially important for me, because I suffer from fibromyalgia and chronic pain due to a back injury. I simply cannot clean like I used to! Its very hard to not be able to do more than one or two rooms or tasks on a cleaning day! And because I am also very perfectionistic, if I cant do something properly or enough, its very frustrating and defeating. I really appreciate that part of your advice is to give yourself a break! Thank you so much for sharing with us all!
    Cheers!

  8. Thank you Mary for your post. You hit the nail on the head for me. I have to have perfectly spotless and deep cleaned home before I allow anyone to visit. I love the weekly schedule too! It totally makes sense. I try to schedule a cleaning day and it has ended up being on the weekend (I would rather have family time). I am going to try your schedule because I think it will be easier to accomplish being a homeschool mom. Thank you!

  9. Totally agree with the remark about someone judging you based on the lone Cheerio on the floor. Those people wouldn’t make good friends anyway!

    1. Most people judge out of their own securities. It is sad. Of course, we are allowed to have boundaries and not force friendships with people who make us feel bad about ourselves about less-than-perfect houses.

  10. I’ve been ‘pinning’ decluttering tips all last night and this’ll morning (the only time I have for myself while the babies are sleeping).. And I must say this is by far the BEST post I’ve found!! Thank you!!! Going to start today ;) it’s just hard to start without a clean slate. I think that’s why I’ve failed in the past. .. I try to do it all In one day and end up chasing my tail. .. I think your plan is the winner!!!!!! I’ll feature you in an upcoming blog post and on my Facebook fan page ;)

  11. This is something I think I could really stick to! I’m feeling so disorganized and I need help getting my life together! Thanks for coming along when you did!! :-)

  12. decllutter your home in 91 days. I would like to read about that. I’m starting to put 3 tubs in a room for keep, give away, and throw away. So far, I have one room completely done. I am so proud of my self.

  13. Thank you for this! I am a chronically disorganized person who dreams of having a clean house all of the time. After massive build-up, I am a oh-my-gosh-i-can’t-take-this-anymore cleaner and don’t stop until it’s all spotless. The all or nothing cleaning frenzies are just not healthy. I am a stay-at-home mom with a 9 year old and teenager, so no baby is keeping me from doing it. I think I just may spend sooooo much time in the home that I walk past everything. But, I hate that I allow it to build up. I find it rather odd that a clean, organized home with clean bed sheets and windows is like a dream come true— but I’m not even capable of attaining it regularly. I’m sick of the extreme– and maybe a little at a time might just work. I will print this and post it on the fridge. Now remembering to look at the fridge and start the program is the next challenge!

  14. I always try and be a cleaning service for a day. I think your plan of going through the jobs one per day would work better. My kids would like that better too!

  15. I’m 53 years old. From the time I was a child I loved to clean. There was ALWAYS something I could clean. No matter how clean my house was though it wasn’t clean enough. Now all of a sudden over the past 8 years it seems as though I’ve forgotten HOW to clean. I don’t know where to start or even what to do.
    Any ideas?

  16. I have cleaned this way for a very long time. People think my house is always clean, but it is just always maintained. I also have a “yearly” cleaning schedule and rotate the big jobs several times a year, such as cleaning the tops of my cabinets, etc. I have found that by doing one of these big jobs on a rotating schedule, they take very little time and everything is acceptably clean.

    I will vouch for you on this Mary. This is hands down the absolute best May to keep a clean home, and you are right, if you miss a week or a chore, just wait til next time to do it. It is so much less stressful to keep your home up and people will truly wonder how you do it.

  17. I want to implement this! I’ve been laid up so long I have forgotten how to clean. I will start planning today so I’ll be ready for tomorrow.

    1. A great way to get into it is to just step through the schedule and by the end of the week, you’ll have a fresh start for the week ahead. Maintaining only gets easier as time goes on. :)

  18. Hire a neighborhood teen to come and do some things during the week. They are a lot less than merry maids. I pay $8 an hour for 2-3 hours a week. It is very helpful.

  19. Great cleaning routine! I promised myself that I will separate my duties. It is the best option if you don`t want to be overwhelmed by cleaning. Thank you for sharing your post! Best regards!

  20. Just signed up for the challenge. Having a hard time getting rid of “family” things that no one else wants. I am determined to “downsize”. I will try the cleaning schedule too. Currently planning the “deep clean” at one of our vacation rental homes. Alot of work but easy as there are no personal things to clean around. Thank You

    1. Sentimental items can be the hardest to declutter, but try to remind yourself that stuff is stuff, and that you get to keep your memories no matter what. You can do this!

  21. Thanks for sharing this. The advice about rating tasks with how urgent it is to clean them up, and about how there isn’t roll over or “catch up” days when it comes to cleaning is especially useful. I’m guilty of procrastinating on things then trying to do it all at once on the weekends!

  22. hello, my english is not good because i am a braziliam off course hi hi hi, i only come to tell you, thank you! i think now i can have a house enough clean and time for my kids and my craft projects! thank you for share your time and your talent with us here on Pinterest, it is wonderful for woman like me have people like you around here!

  23. I’m 19, living with my fiancè in a TINY apartment. I work 8-5 monday through friday and he is 7-4 and then 4:30-8:30 (has 2 jobs). We both have a lot of stuff and not enough space, especially when it comes to clothes. Every time I come home I’m exhausted but there is stuff that needs to done. Like dishes, or trash needs to be taken out or laundry needs to be done, or clothes put up. I also try to fit in about an hour and a half at the gym because I’m trying to lose weight for the wedding. I’m just having a really hard time maintaining a clean apartment whenever we don’t have the space to put everything in it’s place nor do I have the time to devote to finding it a spot. I barely even get dinner cranked out in enough time before he comes home from work for the night. And by the time I finally get dishes washed and clothes semi-put up he’s already asleep and I’ve barely spoke to him. This is starting to cause a lot of problems in the relationship because I’m always three steps behind what I should be. I just need some advice on how to keep a clean home, grocery shop, find time to work out, and spend time with my S.O and get at least 6 hours of sleep. Plus, I just don’t like cleaning because I feel like it’s NEVER ending and I can’t stand that.

    1. Well, honestly, I’m not sure what to really do for the combo of zero time & zero desire. :)

      But here is some advice anyway. It is impossible to organize clutter. If your apartment is over-stuffed, there isn’t really going to be a place for everything. Before you worry about cleaning up, start with decluttering! Just do one little area at a time and have the goal of fitting WITHIN the apartment. You will feel SO MUCH BETTER … and it will be so much easier to keep everything clean if the excess stuff was gone. This might need to be weekend projects while you’re working until it’s done. I know you’re busy and have other things going on, but if this is important, you need to make time for this or it will continue to be a huge stress for you and him. Search Declutter on the blog, I write A LOT about decluttering. :)

      Good luck!

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