Cleaning, Organizing, Purging

I’ve Finally Discovered The Key To Keeping A Clean House

If you’ve been around my blog for much time at all, you know that I often confess that I’m a naturally messy person. I’ve always been like that, ever since I was a very young child. So as I got older, moved into my own apartment, got married, and bought a house, those messy tendencies have just stuck with me.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve put more emphasis on decluttering and organizing, and that felt really good. I long to be one of those people who has a place for everything, and keeps everything in its place. I’m not quite there yet, but as I declutter and organize each room and cabinet in our home, I’m getting closer to that goal.

But being organized and keeping a clean home are two very different things. One can have organized kitchen cabinets and and an organized and labeled refrigerator, and still leave behind a week’s worth of mess on the countertops. And that’s kind of where I was stuck for a while. That’s a huge problem, of course, because when someone comes to my front door, the first thing they see isn’t going to be the insides of my organized cabinets, or the inside of my organized and labeled refrigerator. Nope, they’re going to see the mess of dirty dishes piled on the countertop.

But I’ve finally found the key to keeping a clean house — having people in my home on a regular basis.

That’s it! That is what has finally gotten me out of my messy ways (my “pigpen mentality” as my mom used to call it 😀 ) and into a routine of keeping things picked up, put away, and clean.

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I kind of have a system now that I like to call my “30-minutes to a clean home” system. That doesn’t mean that I clean for 30 minutes every day, or anything like that. What it means is that I don’t let my house (and I’m talking about the main “public” areas of our house) get beyond what would take 30 minutes to clean it up if I got a call from a friend who was on her way over to the house.

Having that mindset has really helped me in the small things. Where I used to get ready in the mornings and just leave my makeup, hair dryer, brush, toothpaste, toothbrush, hairspray, etc., strewn out on the countertop (because, of course, I was always “too busy!” to put things away as I was done with them), I now think to myself, as soon as I have myself ready for the day, “Is this what I’d want to spend my 30 minutes on when I can just do it now?” Of course not! I can take care of those things as I get ready. As soon as I’m done with the hair dryer, I put it away. As soon as I’m done with my hairspray and brush, I put them away. Seems like common sense, right? Yeah…unfortunately, it’s not for all of us.

So that leaves just the most basic things in the bathroom, like putting away Cooper’s towel that he sleeps on that is on the side of the tub, and making sure that the mud that Cooper has left behind from his muddy paws gets vacuumed up by the Eufy as it makes its daily rounds. (This is the Eufy that I have. It has made life so much easier, and I wonder now how I ever lived without it!) So the bathroom part of my “30 minutes to a clean home” routine may take about five minutes.

(Side note: Before anyone gets onto me for making my dog sleep on a towel, let me assure you, that was his choice. Cooper is the quirkiest dog I’ve ever known. We bought him a thick $85 memory foam bed, and he hated it. He refused to sleep on it. I would wake up in the morning and find him on the hard tile floor, or curled up on anything that I had left on the floor, like a towel, or even a pair of jeans. But never on his bed. So I got him a fluffy bath mat. He loved that for a few months, and then he stopped using it and went back to the hard floor. So now I spread out a towel each night, and he uses it about half the time, and the hard tile floor the other half. He’s just a quirky boy.)

Anyway, the hallway stays clean, because how does one really mess up a hallway? Cooper dribbles water in the hallway (his water bowl is in there), but that gets taken care of when I vacuum and mop the floors each week.

The music room stays clean as well. I do try to do some dusting each week, along with the once a week vacuuming and mopping. But it doesn’t really get cluttered. The biggest thing in the music room is Matt’s Hoyer lift, which is what I use to get him from bed to his wheelchair. So after transferring him, the Hoyer lift generally stays in here until he’s ready to go to bed. But if someone were coming over, it would take me less than a minute to roll it into the bedroom.

This is kind of a first, seeing Matt’s recliner in the living room. When we have people over on Wednesday nights, I slide Matt’s recliner into the living room so that he can have his comfy place to sit and be a part of the group. Today, for the first time, he asked me not to put his recliner back into the sitting room because he wants to spend today in his wheelchair, and he wants to be able to watch TV in the sitting room while sitting in his wheelchair. So that’s why today, for the first time, Matt’s recliner has stayed in the living room. I’m hoping this won’t be a regular thing. 😀

The living room has become an often-used room, but it’s so easy to just pick up a few things and straighten up after people leave so that it’s ready for the next time people come over.

The kitchen, of course, is the most-used room in the home, and takes the most time to keep clean. This is the room where I would need to focus the most time during my “30 minutes to a clean home” routine, and it generally consists of washing dishes and cleaning the countertop and stove.

You can see that there are still some snacks left out from last night, but that would be a breeze to clean up and put away. And I’ll do it today before I cook lunch.

And then our sitting room generally stays pretty tidy. At most, I might have a plate and cup that needs to be taken from the side table into the kitchen to be washed.

And as I mentioned earlier, Matt’s chair is missing from this room this morning. But that’s a first, and I’m hoping this won’t be a regular thing.

It feels really good to have a system in place, and one I can actually maintain. So my overall routine is this:

  • Vacuum and mop the floors once a week. (I have this mop, which is fantastic!)
  • Dust at least once room a week/dust as needed (For some reason, my living room mantel seems to need dusting more often than anything else.)
  • Clean the sink, toilet, and tub in the hallway bathroom once a week, or as needed.
  • Put things like hair dryer, brush, hairspray, makeup, etc., away after I’m through using them. (And no, that habit hasn’t even begun to touch my tools and DIY supplies yet. 😀 Maybe I’ll work on that next year, but for now, those messes are hidden behind closed doors.)
  • With the rest (mainly in the bathroom and kitchen), don’t let the mess get beyond what would take me 30 minutes to clean up.

I know for those of you who have spent your whole lives being tidy and clean, this sounds so simple, right? It just seems like common sense. You’ve been doing stuff like this all your lives, and you would never even dream of letting your house get and stay dirty and cluttered.

But for people like me, who have struggled with that “pigpen mentality” all of our lives, it doesn’t come naturally. It doesn’t feel like second nature. It doesn’t seem like common sense. It’s a real struggle to find a system that works.

I had gotten to a point where I had resigned myself to the thought that I’ll just never be one of those people who has a clean house. But I thought I had an excuse — my projects take up all my time, and my projects are very messy.

I love that I was wrong about that. There’s such a sense of peace in knowing that if someone comes to my front door unannounced, I won’t die of sheer embarrassment when I open the front door. I can open the door, let them in, and be proud of the way my house looks, even if there are a few dirty dishes on the kitchen countertop, or a few clumps of mud from Cooper’s paws on the bathroom floor. And that whole “not feeling embarrassed” thing is a relatively new thing for me, and it feels great.

So if you’re like me, what’s the first step? Invite people into your home. Do it regularly — once a week, or twice a week, every week. It really all comes back to accountability. If you have that accountability that people are going to be in your house once or twice a week, every week, you’ll get your house clean in quick order, and then you’ll find your own system to keep it that way.

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35 Comments

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  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Becky
    November 17, 2022 at 11:58 am

    Thank you for this post. I am like you… not a naturally tidy person. I, too, learned that having people over is the key to a neater home. It is a comfort to know I am not alone in my untidy ways, though!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Julie B.
    November 17, 2022 at 12:09 pm

    I just finished reading “Tiny Habits” by B. J. Fogg. I found it really helpful and my house is tidier. I am also not a neat person by nature.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Lauren
    November 17, 2022 at 12:11 pm

    I can keep things (relatively – we aren’t neat freaks and we have kids) tidy, it’s the cleaning that kills me!

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Kristi Linauer
      November 17, 2022 at 12:26 pm

      That was the hardest for me as well. It took knowing that people were coming to my house for me to get into the habit of making sure that the bathroom was being kept clean (for quick toilet cleaning, I love the gel bleach toilet bowl cleaners. When I’m in a hurry, I quirt some in there at the beginning of the day, and then when I come back later, I flush and it looks sparkly clean.) And getting into the habit of dusting regularly (even just a little here and there) and vacuuming/mopping once a week was huge for me. I’ve finally found my rhythm for the cleaning. I wouldn’t say that it’s 100% habit yet, but it’s definitely getting there.

      • Reply To This Comment ↓
        Kathy
        November 24, 2022 at 4:37 am

        Thanks for this post. I’ll share with my daughter/granddaughter. It’s an issue I’m sure they feel sometimes. I’m still working on organizing.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Phoebe
      November 17, 2022 at 2:23 pm

      Thank you for showing a picture of the Hoyer lift. I knew what it was but I always wondered where you kept it. So now, people, for those of you who think Kristi doesn’t work, THIS is what she uses to maneuver Matt around and does all of the remodeling on top of that. She never complains, she and Matt are a modern day love story. Thank you, Kristi, for making it real with that picture. Most of us are here to support you and your daily chronicles of your life. You GO girl.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Yvonne
    November 17, 2022 at 12:22 pm

    I very much enjoy seeing the photos of your pretty, colorful home. They always make me smile. (And I really can barely wait to see that gorgeous master bathroom finished!)
    If you have found a system that works for you, I am happy for you. Though you may have what you call a ‘pigpen mentality’, you do at least care and notice when you need to tidy up. There are plenty of people who live in clutter and messiness but see nothing wrong and feel no need to clean up at all. You’re doing great, especially so with all you have on your plate and going on in your home.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kathy from Tennessee
    November 17, 2022 at 12:27 pm

    I became tidy after my husband came along. He is the tidiest person. He puts EVERYTHING back when he’s finished with it. This has helped me to do the same. He’s so tidy, he even rolls/folds up his dirty laundry as he places it in the hamper…that’s just over the top to me. HOWEVER, we are also updating/renovating our home…he NEVER puts his tools away, they are all over the place and it drives me nuts. By all over the place, I mean on the center island, stacked in the hallway, stacked against the backdoor wall…Please why, why, why??? But he’s doing all the hardwork on his own, so I try not to complain about that. 🙂

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    AE
    November 17, 2022 at 12:39 pm

    We learned long ago that having people over pushed us to keep things straightened! Hooray for finding a good mindset to use! I also appreciate your flexibility in not having everything perfect. The idea that we have to have everything perfect has kept so many people from sharing their lives with others. We often think people are visually scrutinizing our homes, when in reality they just want to enjoy time with us. They’re not counting the puppy-dribbles on the floor or the crumbs on the counter.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Cyndel
    November 17, 2022 at 12:58 pm

    Madam, I am astonished. I would never have imagined you having the pigpen mentality gene. I was certain that you were extraordinarily tidy by nature. May I say that it adds to your likeability? And makes me feel less hesitant about suggesting you reconsider a large bathroom rug? Between pet fur, human hair and multiple sets of messy feet, seems you could be washing a big rug way too often and putting a new burden on your washer and dryer. As for the bathroom feeling chilly, I can say with certainty, having lived in colder climes in the U.S., U.K. and Germany, that a good bathrobe and slippers will keep you comfortable AND be far easier to wash than a large rug. That’s not a “should have,” just a thought for simplifying the unending chore of keeping a house clean.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    RO
    November 17, 2022 at 1:06 pm

    I completely get this! I am the same way. I used to deliberately INVITE neighbors in so I would feel SHAME and then would use that as motivation to clean. Now I imagine if I have to ask someone to go to my home to let the dogs out if I was delayed, how would I want the house to look, and I keep it at that level. It helps a lot!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Nadine Garwitz
    November 17, 2022 at 1:09 pm

    I’m not one of those neat freaks either. But, I really don’t mind making sure the kitchen is most tidy before getting ready for bed at night. I’m definitely not a frequent duster. Funny thing is when my kids and/or grandkids call with plans to come over I get into high gear and get everything tidy that I can before they arrive.
    I really have to admit this though….I really do hate cooking. It’s one of those chores that is a must in order to live in good health. But I hate doing it.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      JJ
      November 18, 2022 at 7:51 am

      I’m with you, Nadine. Cooking -and everything it requires- does me in. Every day of my life, it does me in. It’s all about the fooooood. From shopping for it, getting it to the car to the house to the shelves and fridge, to having to cook it, serve it, clean up after it….. it takes up an absurd amount of what’s left of my time on this mortal coil. There has to be an easier way for people to get fed.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Dawn
    November 17, 2022 at 1:14 pm

    this is an ongoing struggle for me too. I discovered FLY Lady, (Finally Loving Yourself) who helped me break everything down in to a process that didn’t overwhelm. I realized I could do a lot in only 15 minutes and fell in love with my timer. Life changer! Thank you for being transparent and real with us. We love you!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Skt4me
    November 17, 2022 at 1:25 pm

    Islands and peninsulas are natural drop zones in kitchens, so I sympathize. We keep a pretty covered basket at the end of the kitchen counter closest to the garage door. It holds keys, sunglasses and all those other things that just seem to end up sitting around. Whenever anyone comes over they have no idea what’s inside…just the way I like it! No last minute cleaning there because I can hide the few extra items nearby in there. 😉

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Julie
    November 17, 2022 at 1:26 pm

    It’s funny I had recently recognized how guests influenced my own momentum with chores. In addition to keeping up better it simply puts a positive lilt to chores with hospitality the end bonus.
    Since my kids had grown had really slid with volume of guests. Going to pick up on entertaining.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kathy
    November 17, 2022 at 2:02 pm

    I’m so proud of you. You kept working till you found a plan that worked for you and the cleanliness that works for you. Awesome!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Jolene
    November 17, 2022 at 2:15 pm

    Kristi, I’m curious how your floors and kitchen counters are holding up. Mind sharing?

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Mary Ellen
    November 17, 2022 at 2:27 pm

    When I clean/organize, going room-to-room, I use this utility cart from Home Depot: H Wilson E Series 18 in. W x 35 in. L 2-Tub Shelf Utility Cart, Black. (I spray painted the chrome black) It’s also for moving groceries into the kitchen. After using the cart, I make sure both shelves are empty!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Melody
    November 17, 2022 at 2:33 pm

    You are a genius!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Sandra
    November 17, 2022 at 2:40 pm

    I used to mainly tidy up just for company until I asked myself, “Are OTHER people more important than my family?” That’s when I started working on habits to keep things nice for the people who live with me and matter the most. In doing so, I’ve been better able to train my children to be tidy and more self-disciplined.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Cyd
    November 17, 2022 at 2:57 pm

    Everyone needs that lightbulb moment when they realize that it’s ultimately easier to put things away after using them rather than letting things pile up and become overwhelming. I think having your drawers and spaces organized and intentional really helped you with that. I liken it to the paper clutter philosophy: touch it once, meaning deal with it immediately. Having visitors certainly helps me get it together but I also know I can’t wait for perfection before asking people over.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Skt4me
    November 17, 2022 at 3:34 pm

    FYI your Eufy will be on sale at Walmart for $119 for Cyber Monday

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Becky
    November 17, 2022 at 3:46 pm

    You found the same solution that we did. I like your 30-minutes-to-clean plan though! That narrows the window of mess down.
    I just this week realized that I use my home projects as my excuse to not maintain tidiness. There’s an element of truth, cuz I can only use those hours for one thing, and if I’m scrubbing floors and dusting shelves, I can’t be installing floors, or building shelves, and I DO need to get those things done! And when they are done, I will naturally have a beautiful, neat, orderly home! Right? 😎 No?! 😭 Phooey. I’ve cracked down on this problem.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kate S
    November 17, 2022 at 8:52 pm

    Great post. Isn’t it interesting that you use the living room so often… good thing you scrapped the dining room idea 😊👍🏻
    I had eight kids… was forced to “clean as you go” or the Health Department (or maybe CPS) would have shut down my operation 😂😂.

    One day at a time… or one hour or one minute.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Dottie
    November 18, 2022 at 9:05 am

    I am not much of a cleaner myself, so I learned some similar lessons. Your new bathroom tidying is similar to my way of preparing meals, baking cookies, etc. After using several ingredients, I sweep them into my arms and cart them back to the pantry or refrigerator. After I use a tool, I rinse it off and put it on the counter over the dishwasher. I rinse out bowls, rather than filling them with water and leaving them to “soak” in the sink. (That practice just resulted in avoidance of scummy cleaning later.) So in the kitchen, I clean as I go. My husband does not, and it only takes having to clean up his mess once in a while to be reminded that my way is much more pleasant. I’ve already got the bathroom covered with similar procedures: Wind up the blow drier cord and stick the whole thing in a drawer, that kind of thing. But HEY! Your article made me think! I don’t this in the two rooms I use for my art studio. And why not? I could definitely use the strategy there and avoid having to clean up piles of tools and materials prior to starting any creative session. This often stalls me out. I end up cleaning and sorting, and by then my creative juices have slowed to a trickle.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Jennifer
    November 18, 2022 at 12:15 pm

    I really think this could be life changing for people that are not naturally tidy.
    This could be a Youtube series with tips on how to have a 30 minute tidy home.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Bonnie
    November 23, 2022 at 9:07 am

    I just found your blog and look forward to seeing more!
    I use caddies to hold bathroom supplies, toiletries, makeup, etc. Everyone in our family has one and it makes cleaning SO much easier!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Judy Van Ooyen
    November 23, 2022 at 9:32 am

    I LOVE your house!! So colorful!! I have an addiction to thrift stores, so my house is messy…I sell things too.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Anne
    November 23, 2022 at 11:30 am

    Buy a second recliner so you don’t have to move the one you have.
    I did this when my husband was I’ll before he passed away. Matt will thank you!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Holly Robertson
    November 24, 2022 at 5:56 am

    Thankyou so much for your honest and candid look at our messy selves lol! YOU described me to a tee,what great ideas. I always thought that what we lack In One area we are masters at something else.
    Graciously,Holly

    .

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Michele
    November 24, 2022 at 2:37 pm

    If you have a dishwasher you will never have dirty dishes on your counter that’s one way of always having a tidy kitchen

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Silvia
    November 24, 2022 at 4:28 pm

    👍

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    GM
    November 25, 2022 at 1:20 am

    Beautiful home! Amazing work! Thanks for sharing!