Melissa Maker wears many hats. She's a YouTube star, author of a new book, and the founder of a boutique cleaning service in Toronto. Through years of cleaning other people's spaces, she's discovered the best ways to clean her own—and she's sharing some of her best tips with Apartment Therapy.
Creating a cleaning schedule may not be at the top of your to-do list, and I get it. There are hundreds of more pretty, fun, exciting, and pressing things to do. But know this: having one makes life better. You get to live in a cleaner space and you have more control over your time. The question is, how do you get started when you're super busy already?
It's All About Routines vs. Schedules
Before we get into the nitty gritty, allow me to make a quick distinction: Routines encompass the things we do each day, usually the exact same way, and schedules are plans and tasks we block in based on what we need to accomplish during a given period of time.
Work Cleaning Into Your Routine
A healthy chunk of your cleaning can get knocked off your list if you re-think your daily routines and find ways to weave cleaning into them. It's akin to adding more vegetables to your diet—if you learn how to tweak things just so, your food will taste just as good and your body will feel happier, all without expending much extra effort. The same thing can happen with cleaning, my friend.
Have a good, honest look at your daily routines and see what your everyday patterns are. Then, when you have figured out what your Most Important Areas are (which I call MIAs), marry the two and re-work your daily routines.
Here's an example: Every day when you come home, you drop your shoes, bags and coat at the front door, leaving them to be picked up some time later. But you realize that your entryway is an important area (MIA) for you, so you have a lightbulb moment: If you can revise your routine to include hanging your coat and delivering your shoes and bag where they belong before getting distracted with anything else, nothing needs to be done later. Your entryway MIA stays clean and tidy forever.
By incorporating little micro-tasks into what you're already doing instead of delaying it for the big half-marathon cleaning session, you get to square away the majority of your regular cleaning needs with just a few simple tweaks.
Make a Schedule for Everything Else
The bigger jobs need planning, that's for sure. Anything important that doesn't get handled with small, routine changes needs to be worked into a schedule. The schedule has to work for you and your family, though. And once you think through a few things, you'll see that the work is far less daunting than it seems. You'll clean what you want, how often you want, at the time you want.
Here's what you need to consider:
- How often do you need this task completed? Just because Susie So-and-So from perfecthouseandlife.com says she cleans her tub every 4 days, that doesn't mean you need to. What suits you? What's a level of acceptably clean that you can tolerate? When the scale tips from "it looks ok" to "I can't even," that's when you know your time to clean has come. Don't sweat it too much; you've got good instincts for what you require frequency-wise.
- What are you going to clean? If you've seen my previous post about figuring out your MIAs, then you already know where you need to focus your efforts. If you haven't, I'd suggest you figure those out first. Trust me, this makes the job significantly easier and gives you far less to schedule.
- Find the best time to do the cleaning. When are you most energetic? When do you have your cleaning mojo? When are you least likely to make excuses? That's the best time to clean.
- Determine who can help you do it (if you've got a roommate or family member, this is your time to flex those negotiation skills) and determine what each person is going to do. Finally, determine how this will be tracked: an app, a spreadsheet, calendar items? (Something else?) What works for your situation?
In my book, I share with you the Maker Method, which is the secret to cleaning better, faster and loving your home every day (this is also the subtitle of the book, which makes sense). The third and final step of the Maker Method is dedicated to routines and scheduling, and I go into detail about how to do this, as well as include my four key routines (sharing the before and after of each), and a comprehensive scheduling tool which allows you to set up your very own cleaning schedule in a simple and manageable way.
Thing is, this sounds simple because it is. The hard part is just starting. And my best advice for that is just to try it and have faith. I like to believe that cleaning is a self-care tool, and nothing to be too fussy about or too lax about. You need to find your happy place—the just-right midpoint—and a cleaning routine that works for you. When you do, you'll be more inclined to keep at it and you'll get to reap the feel-good rewards of living in a cleaner space.
Melissa Maker is the author of Clean My Space: The Secret to Cleaning Better, Faster and Loving Your Home Every Day (Avery). She is an entrepreneur, cleaning expert, founder of Toronto's most popular boutique cleaning service, and star of the Clean My Space channel on YouTube (but she still hates to clean!). Every week, Melissa delivers new videos dishing expert advice on cleaning products, tools, DIY substitutes, and practical, timesaving solutions to everyday problems. Melissa has appeared on the Today Show, and has been featured in InStyle, Real Simple, and Better Homes and Gardens.