• Washington Post

8 Easy Ways to Get a Cleaner House

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Resolving to get a cleaner house in 2024? Experts say it’s best to take baby steps to become neater and more organized.

“New year’s is a great time to get a fresh start on spots in your home that are bugging you, whether that’s an overflowing entryway closet or a messy kitchen,” says Amelia Pleasant Kennedy, a Detroit-based personal organizer and life coach. “But too many people take on too much – a whole house organization, giant cleaning projects – and find themselves spinning their wheels.”

By splitting up tidying and scrubbing duties into what Kennedy calls “micro moments,” you can make tangible progress toward a more sparkling, orderly home without getting overwhelmed. Here’s what she and other experts recommend.

1. Practice the full hands rule

“When I was waiting tables, we were instructed to never walk anywhere in the restaurant without something in our hands, whether that was a guest’s entree or a dirty glass,” says Melissa Maker, whose Clean My Space YouTube channel has 2.1 million subscribers. “Now I do the same thing at home, picking up things that are out of place and putting them away. It really helps keep the clutter from building up.”

“My rule of thumb? Whenever I cross a threshold, I don’t leave that room until I do a quick scan and see if anything needs to move to another room,” says Scott Roewer of the Washington, D.C.-based Organizing Agency. He also advises that people who live in two-story houses keep a basket on each level to fill up with items that belong on the other floor, saving multiple trips up and down stairs to return things to their rightful places.

2. When cleaning, think high

Even diligent tidiers may neglect things that are above or below eye level. “Corners of ceilings, tops of door frames and high bookshelves get forgotten,” Maker says. To avoid a cobwebby haunted house look – and stop dust from migrating downward from the ceiling fan or sky-high shelving – invest in a telescoping dusting wand and a good stepladder.

If something hasn’t been dusted in eons, place a drop cloth or old sheet underneath it, then dust or wipe down, letting the debris fall onto the covering. Then either throw the dust cloth into the washing machine or shake it out outside.

3. To bust clutter, start small

Organizing queen Marie Kondo has convinced many wannabe neatniks to embark on all-or-nothing cleanups. But that’s a great way to spark disappointment, says Atlanta-based organizer Naeemah Ford Goldson of Restore Order Now.

“It takes a long time to accumulate clutter, so purging it takes a long time too,” she says. “Do things in bite-sized pieces – maybe sort out your linen closet or overflowing junk drawer before your disaster-area garage.”

And set up systems – storage bins, labels indicating what goes where – to be sure you succeed in keeping things in order after your initial clean up. Seeing progress in a small space can motivate you for bigger efforts later on.

4. Take your shoes off at the door

Studies show that about one third of indoor dirt and dust – including, eek, E. coli and microplastics – comes into your house from outside, often on the bottoms of your shoes. So, do as cultures from Asia to the Middle East do, and shed sneakers and boots by the door. “Buy yourself a shoe rack or one of those simple trays,” says New York City personal organizer Caroline Solomon. “And I keep a vacuum hidden by the door and frequently use it to pick up dirt, leaves or whatever.” If you have a dog, store a towel in your entryway for wiping paws after walks or romps in the yard.

5. Keep a giveaway bin in your closet

If you try on those peak pandemic lockdown pants and they don’t fit or flatter you anymore, don’t put them back on the closet shelf or the hanger. “Toss things that you don’t love anymore in a bag or other container that you keep right in your closet,” Solomon says. “When it’s full, then take it to a charity or consignment shop. This is a great way to purge without really thinking about it.” The bye-bye bin should also help you enforce the classic one-in, one-out rule, which decrees that a new item should only be added to a wardrobe when an old one departs.

6. Spiff up your shower or tub

Buy a simple squeegee for every tub or shower in your home, Maker says. “If you want your glass to look immaculate and prevent soap scum and hard water stains, the best method is to squeegee off your shower stall or tub walls every time you use them.” To keep things drier still – and prevent mold – open up your shower curtain or door and, Maker says, “run the bathroom fan for at least 30 minutes after you shower.”

7. Sort your mail every day

If you aren’t diligent, the catalogues, holiday cards and random real estate flyers in your mailbox will pile up in your space. “It’s like snow – if you shovel it when it comes in, you keep it under control, but if you neglect it, it’ll become an avalanche,” Roewer says. “That’s why I at least file my mail by category every day. Then I might sit and open it while I watch TV, keeping a trash can nearby.” Roewer initially puts his mail in folders; an accordion file would work, too.

8. Clean up your cleaning supplies

You’ll be more likely to attack tasks like scrubbing the toilet or Windex-ing your mirrors if you keep your supplies in one closet or, better yet, a portable container. “A cleaning caddie or kit means you can haul products from room to room around your house,” Solomon says. “It’ll make your life easier.” Stock it with a limited lineup of products – Solomon says too many potions and gadgets can overwhelm your intentions.