Stop spending your weekends cleaning your home

The first time I appeared in print on the topic of uncluttering was years ago in an article for Parenting. In it, I offered up the following advice:

One day, one room: Dedicate half an hour to cleaning one room every day instead of cleaning the whole house on the weekend.

My husband and I still subscribe to this policy. In addition to picking up after ourselves throughout the day, we set aside 15 to 30 minutes for more intensive cleaning tasks like vacuuming, scrubbing toilets, and sweeping and mopping floors. Mondays we deep clean the dining room and kitchen, Tuesdays are foyer and living room, Wednesdays are bathrooms, Thursdays are bedroom, and Fridays are our shared office. We have created playlists that are 15 to 30 minutes long on our iPods with collections of fun songs to listen to while we clean. So, when the music stops, our cleaning tasks are usually coming to a close.

Check out the 2005 Parenting article for other tips on organized cleaning. Additionally, feel welcome to add some of your own in the comments section.

35 Comments for “Stop spending your weekends cleaning your home”

  1. posted by Stpehen on

    My one objection to this is that I would rather do all this junk in one shot. I really do not have time and the will power to be cleaning every night of the week.

  2. posted by Jacki Hollywood Brown on

    Our family has Sunday afternoon/evenings “pick-up and put away time”. This allows me Monday morning in 2 hours to quick clean the whole house (vacuum+bathrooms+mop kitchen floor). Once every week I do a deep clean in ONE room (dusting, mopping etc).
    It all depends on the age of the children and your timetable. You have to do what works for you and your family.

  3. posted by Marsha on

    I can see both sides of the argument. I find when my husband and I clean the whole house, it seems to take all day and perhaps go into the evening. At the end, we are happy our home is clean but then we feel as though our day has been wasted on cleaning rather than enjoying our weekend. On the other hand, taking one day to clean one room seems more practical but I don’t have the time (or the energy) to really stick to it. I suppose it would force you to get the task done and get on with your day. Either way – whatever advice I can get to live efficiently, I am all for.

    I think my husband would be happy if I just put things away as soon as I was done with it rather then leaving piles everywhere. Ha!

  4. posted by Erin @ Unclutterer on

    @Stephen — You raise a good point, especially for people with long work hours and long commutes. In that case, I like the idea of spending Friday nights as cleaning nights. This way, it gives you the whole weekend still to relax and re-engergize.

  5. posted by Tim on

    This is a great idea. Thanks for the tip.

  6. posted by amber on

    i actually enjoy cleaning, so i tend to do it all in one shot. i love the feeling when you’re done, and everything in your house is clean….at the same time! it’s really quite cathartic.

    though, i do not have children…so it’s not as if my cleaning day actually takes all day. more like 3 hours or so.

  7. posted by Anne on

    Instead of going room-by-room, how about doing one task every night? For example, vacuum on Mondays, mop floors on Tuesdays, clean sinks on Wednesdays, wash windows on Thursdays… I would think it’s more efficient to work that way than to drag out the vacuum cleaner every day, clean one room’s worth of windows every day, etc.

  8. posted by Kris on

    We are fortunate to have a cleaning service that comes in and really cleans the house every other week. With many animals and two small children, we seldom have time to do the cleaning ourselves on a daily basis. I find that I’ll tackle certain things daily and then do a massive ‘put everything away’ the day before the cleaning ladies come so they can get to everything to clean it. It’s amazing how organized you stay when someone else is coming in.

    When I am cleaning, I do the CD timed clean. I pick a favorite CD, make sure the speakers all over the house (wireless speakers are so wonderful) are on and rock out while cleaning up. Works well. Music makes everything better.

  9. posted by Jasi on

    Flylady has some ideas on how to make cleaning a small part of a daily routine rather than a long, drawn-out weekend chore. Check it out.

  10. posted by Angell on

    Of course, the size of your house/flat can make a difference. I live (on my own) in a tiny studio flat and it takes me half a day to do the whole thing!

    But then I do cheat by having one of those robotic vacum cleaners – the iRobot Roomba. Makes life so much easier.

  11. posted by devil on

    Whatever works for your family is the right answer, of course.

    What I don’t get is why people who make plenty of money spend precious time cleaning when it would be so much easier to hire a cleaning service. Shop around, they’re not very expensive.

    Life is short and it goes by so dang fast. I don’t want to look back on my life and realize that I spent too much time cleaning and not enough time living.

  12. posted by JC on

    We have a 1850 sq ft home. I have 5 rooms to clean and/or tidy on my second floor: master bedroom, full bath, small library/office/guest room/den/dumping ground for photos, and two kids’ rooms that kids keep tidy – I help clean.

    I have 5 spaces on first floor: living room we really live in, dining room we eat and work in, a small thoroughfare kitchen, lavatory plus mudroom we need to keep clear of crap – pun intended – to allow for steady flow of 5 people throughout each week, plus I’ll count the stairs as a space since we ALWAYS have items to go up or down).

    The unfinished but partially carpeted basement has 5 zones, four that I maintain (my teacher/husband is responsible for his corner office). We have a play area, workshop corner, 10×10′ storage loft, and, of course, the laundry zone.

    Outside? Let’s call our 1 vehicle a space in and of itself – constant decluttering required. Half the garage needs to be clear to pull in the car, especially in winter months. The other half stores bikes, lawn/garden equipment, & kids’ play stuff. We have a screened-in porch that needs needs seasonal maintenance. And the patio/yards/exterior of house need weekly and/or seasonal attention.

    I am a full time mom/homemaker/spouse. Well, that sounds ridiculous – “full time spouse.” But that shows how stupid the term “full-time mom” actually is.

    What I do is … take care of a home most of my 9 to 3 work day. I do the finances, the groceries, the cleaning, the laundry, some repairs – sometimes I hire experts, the decluttering, the research on all topics pretty much, the shopping for gifts, supplies, toiletries, clothes, etc..
    Then 3 ’til 9 I supervise homework, cook and clean up dinner, play with our kids (ages 6, 7.5, and 9), and get them into bed, brushed and well-read, by a decent hour.

    Weekends? Last thing I want to do is clean, but our kids have to learn the value and necessity of taking care of a home. So I usually have them clean their rooms (“You can’t have a friend over unless your room is tidy!”) They always are responsible for daily things like clearing the table, hanging up clothes/towels, emptying their lunch and book bags…

    My husband IS involved in this overwhelming picture. (empties dishwasher each morning, folds and carries up laundry, etc.) But when a parent works outside the home, he or she only has a few – ugh, forgive the cliché – quality hours to really BE with a kid Monday through Friday. And, I don’t want the weekend being spent with Mom and Dad nagging the kids to help sweep the garage, strip their beds, shelve the books, edit their overflowing school paper bins, sweep under the dining room table, blah, blah, blah…
    (He is the “funnest” dad in the world – mid June through mid-August!)
    I am teaching my kids how to do those chores – little by little, spill by spill, Saturday by Saturday. But I also know I have voluntarily chosen to maintain a clean, peaceful, and simple home for a family 9 – 3, Monday through Friday. It doesn’t pay well, but it’s worth it to me.

  13. posted by Greg on

    I never thought of putting together a 15-30 minutes podcast/mix… that’s much more interesting than just using the timer that beeps at the end. Thanks!

  14. posted by allen on

    I love the idea of breaking it up into manageable chunks. A lot of us (aka ME) hate cleaning, and hate the horrible feeling in our bellies when we see what state we’ve let our homes get to (that’s part of while i read this website, to try to break this cycle), and an idea like this is something i could actually do.

    @anne: good idea on the alternative of breaking it into tasks instead. Each their own, of course!

  15. posted by The Wulf on

    I do something similar, but instead of assigning a tast to each day, I assign a block of time. I list all the chores that need to be done for the week, and then on the day I draw one at random (I made cards for each) and do that task during the appointed time.
    And after a week, if if I have completed all my weekly chores, I give myself a reward.

  16. posted by Zora on

    I use the Above and Beyond computer scheduling program and I’ve got all my household cleaning and maintenance tasks, from daily to every few months, programmed into it. When I keep up with things, that’s an hour or so every day to keep the house running smoothly. But when I get behind, it all piles up on me.

    Still, I’m much more organized than I was.

  17. posted by samu on

    This sounds like a good way of avoiding my not-infrequent situation, when my fear of death is due primarily to the fact that it’d stop me tidying my flat before anyone else could see it.

  18. posted by Ava on

    I feel the same way as Stephen. I say just get up early one day and do it all in one shot. Even if it takes you two hours to clean the whole house, you can still get up on Saturday time (around 10:00) and still be done by twelve. I couldn’t imagine cleaning up every day.

  19. posted by Aisha on

    Is there anyone else here who lives in a dusty enough place that cleaning once a week is not an option? How do people deal with houses that HAVE to be cleaned every single day, or every other day, at most?

  20. posted by Kath on

    I love to clean…LOVE IT! I also clean as I go. Given that, when I do clean once a week it takes a little under 90 minutes. I have 1856 sq feet, 2 story, 3 bed, 3 bath.

    And if I don’t have plans for Friday night, that is my night of choice to clean everything all at once.

  21. posted by Cailin on

    I am a working mom and as it is I feel like I don’t get to spend enough time with my daughter so I opt for having a cleaning service once a week. It is more expensive than DIY but I see it as an investment in my quality time with my family.

  22. posted by Melissa A. on

    I’m really going to have to start doing this. I know once I get into it, it will be easy. Right now I tend to just chores when I feel like it. Growing up, Monday was always laundry day.

  23. posted by Michele on

    As a single mom and full-time law student, I wait for the weekend — so that my daughter can help! She’s with me four nights per week and most of the weekend. We do the bulk of our housework on Sunday mornings. Then whatever tasks we don’t get to, I’ll finish up at odd times during the week.

    Erin, I gotta say that your suggestion of spending Friday night cleaning sent chills up my spine. A Friday night spent at home is a Friday night wasted, as far as I’m concerned. :)

  24. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @Michele — My Friday night cleaning usually starts at 5:30 and is finished by 6:00 … you still have time to take a disco nap, get ready, have dinner, and hit the town by 10:00. :)

  25. posted by Diane on

    I try to keep the number of items in each room to a minimum and find containers for remotes, etc. I’ve pared down furniture and accessories to that hotel room look. Takes less time to clean and I can finally find my “stuff.”

  26. posted by Mom of 4 on

    I do something similar, except that rather than breaking it down by room, I break it down by job. For example, I only get out the vacuum cleaner once/week to do the whole house. Monday is my day to do a major pick-up, dust, and vacuum. Tuesdays and Saturdays are laundry days. I spritz down the bathrooms Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. And so on. Generally, I have about an hour’s worth of housework per day, which isn’t bad for a four-bedroom/four-bathroom house and four kids’ worth of laundry/meals/clutter.

  27. posted by Anna on

    I loath and despise cleaning, so instead I tidy each morning – about 15 minutes work including picking up random dust-bunnies, cat hair, and bits of fluff with a hand-held vacuum.

    Then on Friday night’s when I get home from work I give myself a 1 hour limit to clean the house. This is usually just enough time to give everything a good dust, straighten up, and vacuum (with the real vacuum cleaner), and then deep-clean one room.

    I refuse to mop or clean windows or ovens, ugh, unless it’s really necessary. Instead I put money aside to have my house cleaned professionally two or three times a year.

    As a result our house is always neat and tidy and clean enough, and I have to deal less with the angst that comes from just having perfectly cleaned your kitchen only to have the cat walk on the benchtops, or having mopped the floor only to have your husband stomp through with mud on his boots ;)

  28. posted by Katelyn on

    I can see both sides. I usually leave the big cleaning for the weekend but I frequently vacuum during the week. Ever since I purchased my Miele Dog and Cat Canister Vacuum from http://www.galaxyvacuum.com, keeping the pet hair off my furniture and carpeting is made easy and convenient.

    I do like the cleaning to music idea though! I’ll have to use that tip.

  29. posted by Chloe on

    Shannon Lush, the Australian cleaning goddess has written an great instruction book on exactly this subject.

    “Speed Cleaning – A Spotless House in Just 15 Minutes A Day”

    By Shannon Lush and Jennifer Fleming

    It gives a room by room plan on how to speedily and efficiently tackle cleaning a room per day.
    Not all the tips worked for me, but my favourite tip is rather than putting all clutter away an item at a time, just pick it all up and put it in a bucket just outside the door so you can actually clean the room without walking backwards and forwards all over the house for 10 minutes putting things away before you even start.

  30. posted by Jeff on

    One way to cut down on the number of times you have to vacuum is to use a robotic vacuum cleaener. Like the ones at http://www.totalvac.com/roomba.htm. A Roomba vacuum will not get every spot in the house, but it can get a good amount of dirt, especially under furniture. Not so, great on thick carpet. It works best on bare floors.

  31. posted by Janet on

    We are a home schooling family, so there are numerous bodies around 24/7. The clutter never ends, no matter how hard I try. So I devised a ‘must do’ list–using a table chart. It covers the bare minimum of cleaning and delegates the jobs to the appropriate member of the family. This enables me to ‘let go’ of cleaning issues, knowing that if it isn’t cleaned this week, it will be cleaned the next (probably). I even include laundry into the schedule so I am only doing it on Monday, Wednesdays, & Fridays. Deep cleaning is usually pushed off while home schooling is on a break.

  32. posted by Leah on

    I’ve found that our rule of “no shoes in the house” has made our house much easier to clean. The floors stay WAY cleaner, and it only takes me 30 minutes at most to walk through with a damp mop and pick up dust bunnies.

    We borrowed the idea from Asian households that we know, and it’s much cleaner. Keeps the allergens down too, since we’re not tracking in pollen, dust, or who knows what else. We have a pair of inside shoes apiece, and slip them on when we get home. Once you’re in the habit, you don’t even think about it.

  33. posted by Tammy on

    Here’s the cleaning schedule we tried to do:

    Every day–clean cat litter box, run the dishwasher
    Every other day–run vacuum cleaner in the whole house
    Monday–sheet & towel laundry
    Tuesday–clean bathrooms
    Wednesday–dust
    Thursday–clothes laundry
    Friday–odds and ends

    Well, it started out ok and worked for a while, but when you both work full time and have kids, sometimes the cleaning just doesn’t happen. Then it all gets pushed to the weekend and everybody’s cranky. So if we get lazy and it doesn’t happen until the weekend, hubby cleans the downstairs rooms and the kitchen, and I do the bedrooms and the laundry.

    Our kids are still to little to really pitch in, but I am counting the days until they can help!

  34. posted by My STANDARDS Explained at The Little Room on

    [...] (15 mins) – This is a nice life hack I picked up sometime ago from Unclutterer. It keeps the place clean and is another easy way to get the day [...]

  35. posted by The Four-Day Housework Week « Modus Vivendi by Maia on

    [...] The Four-Day Housework Week April 7, 2010 by modusvivendibymaia In my house, housework is part of everyday life – at least from Monday through Thursday. Weekends however, are sacred. This way of organizing things has turned out to be genius in this household –  by freeing the weekend and attaching different task to each of the four weekdays, we always know what to do, and an unexpected visit never triggers a panic attack. Also, the big clean-ups are more and more rare, as everything is taken care of on-the-go. I was inspired to organize things this way by a fabulous blog called Unclutterer. [...]

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