How To Clean Your House in 20 Minutes a Day for 30 Days

When I first learned to clean my own place, I thought Saturday had to be an all day clean-a-thon. I didn't really have a concept of how to balance the work load during the week so weekends could be reserved for larger projects or even you know…fun! Now I clean in 20 minutes a day — every day — and things just seem to take care of themselves. Here's a glimpse at the schedule I use!

No one said you had to do everything at once and even when time seems short, if you can manage one task a day, things should start to work themselves out. Adjust this list as your family's needs require (those with more or less children might require doing certain activities more or less). If it's easier, take a blank calendar and fill it in accordingly so easier tasks are on days where your day is go, go, go and reserve the more difficult ones for days when things are a little lighter. Here's 5 tips to help make this 30 days a success:

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1) Dealing With What Comes Through The Door Set up a small area by the front door to act as a "landing strip" for incoming items into your home. If you're a long time reader this is nothing new to you. If this is the first time you've heard this phrase outside of reference to personal grooming habits, then make sure to check out Maxwell's latest Home Cure video on the topic.

2) Do Your Dishes After Every Meal This will help you stay on top of your kitchen instead of having it turn into a monster! No one really wants to do them (after all, you probably cooked dinner to boot). But waiting for another meal or until you have enough to fill the dishwasher just makes things feel overwhelming and easier to put off. The same goes for take out trash as well. If you need to take the trash out, place it by the front door to go out in the morning or dispose of it that night so it's over and done with.

3) Laundry If you have a washer and dryer at home, do a little bit each day. Spread things out so you don't feel bogged down by 200 towels and stinky socks. If you take things to a laundromat, sort clothes as you go so things are easier to load up into machines when you get there. Fold them before you come home so you aren't dumping baskets out on your sofa or bed and they can go straight into drawers and closets.

4) Whistle While You Work: Those who are happiest when cleaning are few and far between. Singing, humming, whistling or turning up the stereo are all great options to keep the beat in your feet and have fun while working. Here's a few past posts on killer cleaning soundtracks.

5) Set a Timer: Most items on the list below should take no more than 20 minutes total. It's easy to rationalize 20 minutes, but it's also easy to get distracted by phone calls, emails, children and other projects that call your name as you tackle each chore. Set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes (which ever works best for you) and that way when it sounds you know exactly how much time you have left. If you find yourself off task it's easy to get back on track.

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1. Surface clean living room and kitchen (pick up stray items, dust, sweep, vacuum)

2. Clean bathrooms (toilets, showers, floors, walls, mirrors)

3. Surface clean bedrooms (put away toys, clothes, dust)

4. Surface clean "extra" rooms (basement, office, play room)

5. Surface clean living room and kitchen

6. Clean bathrooms

7. Clean all interior windows (white vinegar and newspaper works great and is cheap!)

8. Sweep and vacuum all floors in the house (don't forget stairs)

9. Surface clean bedrooms

10. Deep clean living room (mirrors, baseboards, dust artwork)

11. Clean bathrooms

12. Clean out closets (hang up clothes, mittens, jackets, hats)

13. Surface clean "extra" rooms

14. Deep clean bedrooms (organize drawers, check under bed, tidy closet, dust artwork, fans, lights, mop)

15. Surface clean living room and kitchen

16. Deep clean bathrooms (clean inside drawers, inside of trash cans, tops of mirrors, tile, mop)

17. Clean all door knobs, phones, entertainment equipment (remote controls), switch plates, banisters and other things that are repeatedly touched.

18. Clean out the refrigerator, take stock of food, organize pantry

19. Clean entryway, sweep porch (if you have one), clean out car (because they're often our home away from home)

20. Surface clean living room and kitchen

21. Surface clean bathrooms

22. Surface clean bedrooms

23. Sweep and vacuum all floors in the house

24. Clean linen closet, straighten towels, sheets or regular closet if not applicable

25. Surface clean living room and kitchen

26. Deep clean kitchen (scrub appliances, wash trash cans, base boards, wipe down and straighten cabinets)

27. Surface clean bathrooms

28. Surfaces clean bedrooms

29. Clean one item you've been meaning to get to and haven't (deep clean your stove, wipe down all light fixtures, tackle a particularly unruly area)

30. Sweep and vacuum all floors in the house

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To this list you can also add chores that are to be done monthly or quarterly. It's easier to plan for larger tasks like steam cleaning a sofa or heavy traffic hallway, then it feels like part of the routine instead of that thing you keep putting off and dreading.

Habits are formed by doing and one of the best ways to change a bad habit is to replace it with another action. So if the time spent right when you come home from work is usually filled with email reading and a small nap, try switching it out with your cleaning instead. Making the 20 minute time slot routine will build good habits and help you stay on top of the game without feeling like it's a real chore.

Do you have anything to add to the list above? What cleaning tasks would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments below!

(Image: Lyndsay and Fitzhugh's Summer Cottage in the City House Tour)

Re-edited from a post originally published 11.1.10

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