Confession: if my house is messy, I get crabby really damn fast.
I was born this way. I had to share a room with a messy sister, and at age 7, I’d stand in the middle of our purple-flowered bedroom in tears over the mess. It was clear which side belonged to her and which side was mine — her half of the room made me physically ill.
Not everyone is like me, I get it. But almost everyone I talk to feels better when their house is mostly clean. I’m not talking about trying to have a home that’s perfectly staged and scrubbed and photo shoot-ready every day of the week. I’m talking about having a home that’s maintained and clean enough that when your family makes a mess, you don’t want to pull your hair out.
I don’t care who you are, you feel better when your home is maintained. Problem is, lots of us hate the actual cleaning part of it, and having a maid isn’t an option for everyone.
But I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I have a clean house 90% of the time and I never, ever spend hours cleaning. I don’t have time for that shit.
Now before you give me the middle finger, admit it: you want to know how I do it, don’t you?
Well, here’s the trick: I live by “the compound effect” principle.
When I read The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy, it changed my life in every aspect — my relationships, my career, and the way I manage and keep my home.
What makes the “compound effect” so, well, effective is that you’re doing small things every day to reach your goals, whether you want to or not. You are consistent about it, and over time, these small things add up and the rewards are huge.
So I decided instead of spending half a Saturday cleaning my house and still not even scratching the surface, I clean a little at a time, every day. That way I don’t feel like I want to rage clean or set our house on fire.
So what does this actually look like when it comes to cleaning?
Well, I vacuum (or my kids vacuum) almost every day. It takes just 10 minutes because I keep up with it.
On Tuesday, I clean my bathrooms — that’s it, no more cleaning.
Every other morning before taking the kids to school, I throw in a load of laundry and everyone is responsible for folding and taking care of their clothes. Kids can do this at a younger age than most people realize — and it only takes a few minutes.
I hate dusting, but once a week I hit the downstairs and once every two weeks, I hit the upstairs. My kids help with this too — they have their own feather dusters — so it takes ten minutes.
On Sunday mornings, I spray and wipe down my cabinets and appliances, and about once a month, I wipe down the inside of my fridge.
Every evening, we all load the dishwasher and I spray down the counters and stove top and it sparkles like 100 diamonds and I’m done for the day.
Once every two weeks, I mop the floors or assign it to one one my kids — truthfully, they do a better job than I do. That Swiffer Wet Jet is worth its weight in gold.
Big jobs like windows and scrubbing down walls get done a few times a year, and are spot cleaned in between when I feel like it. If you have kids, you can tear your hair out trying to keep your walls and windows free of prints and dirt, so don’t.
I’ve been able to stick with the compound effect when it comes to cleaning my home for a few reasons:
1. I never spend more than a half hour a day cleaning because I keep up with it. That way, it never gets out if control. My days of being overwhelmed and feeling like I’m going to be killed by dust bunnies and grungy counter tops are over.
2. I always plan something fun while I’m cleaning. A phone call with my best friend, or listening to a show or a great Podcast while scrubbing the shower and toilet makes it go by pretty fast.
3. If I clean the bathroom and the next day or two it gets dirty again, I let it go because I know in a few days, I’ll tackle it again before it gets too dicey. There are a few exceptions here, you know what they are, but toothpaste in the sink or a smudge on the mirror will be wiped away soon enough so they are easy to ignore.
This way of life — take a half hour every day to tackle a bit of cleaning — will become such a habit that you barely think about it. And because you’re doing just a little bit at a time, you won’t dread it like you do when you don’t touch your house for a week and it all piles up and comes chasing after you to haunt your dreams.
I’m telling you, it’s been the best mind-clearer ever and you won’t hate your life while you are swiffering up a mess that should have been swiffered a month ago, because you are on top of this shit.
Not to mention that doing something small every day, even when it comes to cleaning, can make you feel capable, motivated, and refreshed. Honestly, it’s changed my life — and my family’s too. Because they no longer have to scatter and run when they see me bust out into a rage clean on Saturday morning.