Establishing routines

One of the best ways, in my experience, to stay ahead of the game and keep your home from being overrun with clutter is to establish routines. Every household works differently, so develop a set of routines that is practical and effective for your living space.

Here are some ideas for routines that you can develop for your home:

Car — Each time you leave your car do a quick check to see if there is anything that doesn’t belong in your car. Then, once a week, do a check under the seats for dropped wrappers, coins, etc. I do the full check on Saturday mornings before I run errands.

Laundry — You’ll want to have a weekly schedule for washing bedroom sheets and bathroom towels (I do these on Thursdays). Additionally, you’ll want to plan for doing the laundry once a week if you’re single, twice a week if there are two or three people in your home, every other day if there are four people, and everyday if five or more people occupy your house. I suggest putting the load of laundry in to wash before work, putting it into the dryer after work, and folding it and putting it away after dinner.

Home Office — You should have routines in place for filing, clearing off your work space, and addressing to-do items. I promote filing items as they need to be filed instead of collecting a pile to file all at once (piles = clutter). Every Friday, I make sure to clean off my desk and review my next week’s goals.

Banking — One day in your schedule needs an hour dedicated to paying bills, organizing receipts, depositing checks and taking care of your finances. Once a month, add in balancing your accounts to your hour of banking responsibilities. I do this on Fridays because my bank has extended hours on this day if I need to contact them.

Deep Cleaning — The best way that I’ve found to tackle cleaning is to give each room a day of the week (Monday is living room, Tuesday is family room, Wednesday is bedroom, Thursday is bathrooms, Friday is kitchen, etc.). I’ll dust, clean the floors, and do other chores for 15 minutes to half an hour everyday per room instead of a five-hour, full-house, cleaning session all on one day.

Yard — During the warmer months, walk through your yard looking for children’s toys, fallen branches, and any other clutter that can find its way into your yard at least twice a week. If you mow your lawn, do this walk before you mow. If you have someone else mow your lawn, do this check the evening before the lawn maintenance people arrive. During the winter, you can probably reduce this check to once a week or once every other week.

Closets — As discussed in previous posts, go through your closets every six months to purge items that shouldn’t be in it any longer. Do this for linens and other storage closets, in addition to your clothing closets.

There are dozens (maybe hundreds) of other routines that you can establish in your home to keep it clutter free. Think about your home and create a schedule that you and your family can work with to keep clutter reduced. Remember, too, that even though it feels like you are doing work on your home everyday, when routines are in place you spend less time overall on organization. Plus, your home will always be in a state of order, which will cause you less stress and will be presentable if an unexpected guest decides to drop by for a visit.

If you have effective routines established in your home, feel welcome to share these in the comments. The Unclutterer team loves to hear about innovative ways people are keeping their homes clutter free.


This post has been updated since its original publication in 2007.

20 Comments for “Establishing routines”

  1. posted by Dr. Ragan, on

    This post is a perfect example of why I used you as my first Website Wednesday feature! I hope my readers visit you site and come to look forward to your posts as much as I do.

  2. posted by Spike on

    I don’t have a big routine for cleaning and de-cluttering my home. I’ve tried many times to implement deep routines for things but It’s never worked out. If I feel something needs doing, whether it be hoover the floor, dust the hallway, de-clutter under the bed etc I will book aside some time to do it as soon as poss. This approach works better for me, than, for example, booking aside every Tuesday for deep-cleaning.

    Organize IT

  3. posted by Sean on

    Ok, a little warning about putting in laundry and then leaving. Make sure your machines are balanced and secure.

    We once ran a load and left. The washing machine shook so much (off balance) that it knocked the dryer over, and then snapped the 3/4″ gas pipe that fed the dryer. When we came home, we got about 30 feet from the house before we could smell the gas.

    Everyone was ok and the cats survived, but there was very nearly an explosion that, according to the gas people, would have completely destroyed our home as well as the closest 3.

    There was a reason Mom always said not to run the laundry while you were out.

  4. posted by Felis on

    For some people, it just isn’t that easy to know what needs to be done when. I like your site and info alot, but I think is worth a mention if you feel that you’re hopelessly lost in your home. It’s all about establishing small routines and building on them til you get to the stage when everything is automatic. It’s a bit… ah… ‘cute’ but the messages are good and heartfelt. (and free!) And no, I’m not affiliated… just trying to find myself under my avalanche of a house!

  5. posted by jenn on

    this is the first piece of advice i’ve read (since i started reading this blog two weeks ago) that contained something i immediately thought “yeah, right!” about. your advice about laundry? COMPLETELY unrealistic for anyone living in an apartment without a personal washer/dryer. i have to use a laundromat, and clearly that strategy wouldn’t work for me. also, twice a week for two people? how many clothes do you really go through? my husband and i do laundry every two weeks — each of us has a basket, and they don’t get full until that point. just my two cents, but i wanted to speak for the washer/dryer-less people out there.

  6. posted by Alice on

    I agree with Jenn on the laundry. When I lived by myself without my own washer/dryer, I got away with doing laundry every three weeks. Even next year, when I’m going to have my own washer/dryer (yay!) I’ll probably only do laundry every two weeks- at most! Running too many small loads wastes too much water and energy and I never have enough to wash after only one week. Plus, as I busy student, I never have that much time.

  7. posted by Daniel Fisher on

    I’ve kind of implemented this schedule for myself, *and* I’ve turned it into a website:

    (Until this post inspired me, I hadn’t made this publicly available, so if you don’t see something or think you see something you shouldn’t, let me know and I’ll try to fix it)

    The page above is merely the “public face” for the page, there is a private URL that I use to actually maintain the data.

    My motivation for making this site is similar to the motivation this post describes, with one addition: I’m a slob and can blissfully live in squalor. My wife on the other hand will live in squalor until she can’t take it any more and then explode into anger/disappointment that the house is worse than a pig sty.

    So to hopefully avoid explosions, I made the web page above to make me aware of what parts of the house are due for a once-over cleaning.

    After 2 months of using this, my wife’s happier and we’re not afraid to invite friends over for dinner/parties.

    I’ve toyed with the idea of expanding this and making it into a commercial site, but I don’t know if there’s enough mass-appeal to make it worthwhile.

    ps- This is my personal site. It’s not ready to take millions (maybe not even dozens) of connections a minute. If it’s down or this URL is no longer valid, I’ll try to put a helpful message up as to why.

  8. posted by Raisin on

    As posted above, I would also like to also say that you should not run a washer or dryer when you are not home. It is just a safety hazard.

    Also, if you have a squeege in the shower, and if you have to wait a moment for the water to heat up, you can use that time and cold water to splash the shower with water and run a squeege over it. This keeps the mildew from growing much, and makes the ‘deep cleaning’ of the shower easier.

  9. posted by Cynthia Friedlob, The Thoughtful Consumer on

    Good list! I confess that I have difficulty maintaining routines, though I always make the effort when it comes to cleanliness. I think eliminating clutter is a crucial part of keeping any home clean. Less stuff to move out of the way, less stuff to dust, fewer places for dust to hide. And even if you fall behind schedule a bit, if the place isn’t cluttered, it will still look appealing!

  10. posted by Jacki Hollywood Brown on

    Save energy by doing all your laundry on the same day (if possible). By not letting your dryer cool down between loads you can save energy!

  11. posted by Rae on

    A great site that focuses on establishing routines and reducing clutter is
    Check it out.

  12. posted by Travis on

    One of my routines could be called “Surface Cleaning”:
    Every time I enter my apartment I pick up something that is wrongly placed, either trash or unchecked mail, or piled magazines or what not.

  13. posted by Sarah on

    I find if I leave my laundry in the washer for a few hours, it can get REALLY stinky. Just a warning in case anyone’s thinking about trying that tip 🙂

  14. posted by Keepin My Head Above Water on

    BWAHAHAHAHA! You’re very funny, do you do stand-up?

    “See if there is anything that doesn’t belong in your car…” Once I’ve loaded both arms with children’s shoes, clothing, school projects, sippy cups, Goldfish bags, and occasionally even the child, what gets left behind gets left behind, dig?

    I could pick nits with the rest of your delightful tips, but I’ve got work to do.

  15. posted by heather on

    Having a daily routine has halped me TONS!!
    I have five kids and run the washer almost every day. I start it up when I get my coffee in the morning.
    I get the dishes moving along and the kitchen counters clear and wiped while the kids eat breakfast.
    These two things and not allowing too many toys in the living room have gone a long way in being able to stay afloat!!

  16. posted by 100 Tips to Simplify Your Life on

    […] Create rituals, routines, and […]

  17. posted by » links for 2009-01-20 Scott Warren’s Blog: A Blog About a Guy With Too Many Hobbies on

    […] Unclutterer » Archive » Establishing routines (tags: organization lifehacks unclutterer unclutter) […]

  18. posted by Simplicity: Decluttering « Wings of Flight on

    […] and can be a major motivator for the rest of the house. Now is the time to work out some form of ritual or routine to keep it this way. A suggestion I liked is the two-minute pick-up where you put away everything […]

  19. posted by Simplicity: Decluttering « Wings of Simplicity on

    […] and can be a major motivator for the rest of the house. Now is the time to work out some form of ritual or routine to keep it this way. A suggestion I liked is the two-minute pick-up where you put away everything […]

  20. posted by Simplicity: Decluttering « Pagan Wings on

    […] and can be a major motivator for the rest of the house. Now is the time to work out some form of ritual or routine to keep it this way. A suggestion I liked is the two-minute pick-up where you put away everything […]

Comments are closed.