As Clean as Possible in as Little Time as Possible

This is a post on what I’ve been up to lately.  This is for all of you who, like me, don’t have a cleaning day or a cleaning half day every week or two, and probably never will.  For those of you who love to clean for hours and savor doing so, this is not for you, though you are welcome to keep reading in case you’re curious how the less-organized and together people in the world live.  This is for those of you who want to clean as quickly as possible.

I must credit the Totally Together Journal blog, which I love, as well as House Selling for Dummies book for good suggestions.  Also credit due my mom, who made sure we participated in cleaning day every week during my childhood.  She herself is a meticulous housekeeper, which I’m certain I’ll never be but I did pick up a few things over the years.

Since our house is on the market, I’ve had to reform my once-slovenly housekeeping skills.  But with a seven month old, working 20-25 hours a week, evacuating the house almost every day for multitudes of house-lookers, some laziness and a deep love of multitasking on my side, I had to contrive ways to keep the house looking show-perfect for what has now been three weeks.  This is the collection of what I do, and any ideas or insight on how to do this better and/or faster appreciated!  There is maintenance stuff  and do-with-the-twenty-minutes-warning-before-a-house-looker-comes stuff.  The Last 20 Minutes stuff is largely inspired by a Totally Together post on being “company clean”.  Hopefully it can help you in those crisis-someone-is-coming-over-soon-unexpectedly moments.  My “Last 20 Minutes” work is about a minute per room (that’s all I get, if I want to nurse the babe too within my warning time).

Let’s get started.  First things first–if you really want your house to be clean, you have to suck it up and do a deep clean to start things off.  Especially if your house–like mine–hadn’t really had that in a while.  At $25/hr, we decided it was worth hiring someone for the deep clean jobs that I really really didn’t want to do (oven, fridge, bathtub being highlights of the list here).  Corinne Wiesnew did a fantastic job of the deep clean items I didn’t want to do.  Once the big deep clean was out of the way, the Clean as Possible work begins.


Maintenance: no dishes in the sink.  This means unless your dish really needs a scrub, put it straight in the dishwasher.  Fight the habit of sink-dropping, it’s so worth it.  This means someone does dishes immediately after a meal, and dishes are done as they are made during cooking.  This is key to preventing smell buildup.  Last 20 minutes: for that glass on the counter, just put it back in the cupboard.  Glasses up==in use, glasses down==clean.


Maintenance: all laundry immediately in hamper/closet/drawer upon taking off or getting out of dryer.  Pretty much, this one is the worst.  Doing laundry does not work with houselookers.  Do it at the in-laws or parents’ on weekends.  Last 20 minutes: put it all in the hampers.  Have two hampers, and put clean clothes that there’s no time to put away in one, and dirty in the other.  Note: immediately upon return to the house, take care of the laundry you hid because your husband has no idea your weird laundry-hiding habits and is almost assuredly going to put his dirty socks on the clean laundry.


Maintenance: Best ever tip here, to which I must credit Totally Together: after showering, take a piece of dirty laundry and wipe down the edge of the tub, sink, top of toilet, floor.  If you do this every day there’s not a whole lot else to do, and it is SO EASY and FAST!  My personal tip is to take the scrubber with you into the shower every couple days and just do a quick scrub.  Easy, quick, you’re already there.  Scrub while your conditioner soaks in.  Note: this is hard to do while massively pregnant.  Our tub didn’t get scrubbed between July or August and September 16th.  Last 20 minutes: dart in with cloth or paper towel and windex-like-product, give the mirror a quick scrub, then use the cloth to wipe all other surfaces and polish fixtures.


Maintenance: this is the one place I maintained pretty well before I built these new OCD houseselling habits.  If you keep the dishes under control you’re halfway there, really.  Every night after dinner cleanup is done, just give everything a squirt and and a wipe.  My mom taught me this one, it was like a ritual in our growing up years–you knew the day was done and the day’s eating was officially over when Mom did the daily kitchen wipe down.  Note: if you use a cloth or sponge, please please put it in the laundry/dishwasher every few days.  Don’t spread mildew and mildew stink all over your kitchen.  And DO get the top of that stove!  If you get it quick every day you won’t burn nasties all over the oven burner tops.  Like I did with my last set.  I have a new set now and I’m trying to keep them looking new.  Last 20 minutes: bust out that cloth/paper towel, windex-like-product, and hit the front of the microwave, counters, sink, oven burner tops, fridge front/handle.  If there are dishes left out, toss them in dishwasher or put them in the cupboard and just use them again later and save some water.


Maintenance:  just take it out.  Often.  Your house will smell so much better.  If you are a vigilent trash taker outer, keep all trash in covered containers, and you don’t let dishes collect, your house will smell pretty decent just about all the time, and your house-lookers, friends, neighbors, family, whoever will be oh so impressed and you’ll be spending a minimum of time on smell-control.


Maintenance: this one MUST be maintained when selling a home.  Not easy with a baby and three men, not to mention my stinky self (though we’re down to two men, and soon one).  Dishes and trash are the key–vigilence there will take care of most of it.  Opening a bunch of windows for as much time as weather will allow each day, even if it’s just a few minutes, also helps immensely.  Light a match in the bathroom after #2, that’s key just to keep roommates/spouses on good terms in general.  The house-selling don’t cook list is long: fish, bacon, sausage, eggs (I do it anyhow, just clean up lightning fast and eliminate all evidence), anything greasy, anything really meaty unless it’s got lovely spices and all the windows are open.  Last 20 minutes: To add a slight air of deliciousness, I make a batch of cookie dough each week, and throw a couple cookies on the pan to bake while I run around doing my last 20 minutes work.  Note: set timer on cookies.  Burned cookies does not a good smell make.  Then I throw open a few windows a little bit for my final smell work before leaving the house.  If there’s a real smell emergency, I use a very little of a tastefully-smelling natural-ish air freshening spray.


Maintenance: make that bed the second you get out of it.  It must be done.  Your mother told you to and she was right.  Don’t put your laundry on the floor, if it goes straight from your body to the hamper or closet then you’re pretty good on the bedroom.  Open curtains.  Last 20 minutes: Any last minute things get stuffed well out of sight under the bed (i.e. baby’s humidifer and her Baby Bjorn plastic potty go under her crib.  No one wants to see a potty in the middle of the floor of a house they are thinking of ever living in.)

Living room~

Maintenance: don’t leave stuff lying around.  For the “musts”, i.e. purse, carseat, leave a tidy pile by the door to be grabbed upon leaving.  Last 20 minutes: throw all random objects into the food pantry or in the car.  Tis true.  You can only keep so much in a state of perfection.


Maintenance: Mop the floors every few days or so by grabbing the mop, getting wet, and mop yourself into the bathroom.  Then take a shower.   Or mop yourself out the front door, and throw the mop in the garage before taking off from the house.  Last 20 minutes: run through house with DustBuster and suck up all the little things on the floors.  For stuff that won’t get, have a damp paper towel in the other hand.

There you go.  Have fun!  Would love to know any ideas for making this better/faster/easier/more fun.

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4 Responses to As Clean as Possible in as Little Time as Possible

  1. Elisabeth says:

    I like your bathroom wipe down post shower tip. If I did that I wouldn’t almost lose my arm every few weeks (let’s be honest, months) scrubbing the mildew off the tile . . .

    We here at the Haggard Haus really should follow suit and start flushing our toilets more often, too. But, our guests seem to be forgiving about that 🙂

  2. Michelle says:

    I have a good solution to housecleaning – househelp. Having a maid two days a week also preserves the roommate relationship. 🙂 The only catch is that you need to live in a developing country to make this financially practical.

  3. Acacia says:

    Thanks so much for this! My friend Kathryn Adeney passed this post along to me because we are about to put our house on the market and I am particularly nervous about the cleanup. This is very helpful!

  4. Sarah says:

    Hi Alyssa! I just stumbled on your blog and I love this post! We’re not homeowners, but just moved into a rental home. This will be a huge help for keeping it looking nice at all time! Thanks!

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