A 4-Step Cleaning & Organizing Schedule That Will Help You Finally Get it Together

published Dec 30, 2020
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Credit: Emma Fiala

If you’ve ever made the mistake of trying to organize your entire home on the first day of the new year, then you know that it often does not go according to plan. Trying to do too much, all at once is a recipe for disaster for any cleaning or organization project.

An alternative? Make January your month of organization and cleaning. Break your project into smaller tasks instead of trying to clean your kitchen, sort through your closet, deep clean your floorboards, and donate unwanted goods to a thrift store all in the same day. 

Even better? Follow a schedule that breaks down the first month of the year into specific tasks and goals. This way, you’ll enter January with a plan, and you’ll exit the month feeling ready to tackle the rest of the year with a clutter-free home and mind. 

Here’s how to do it.

Step 1: Start by decluttering.

Just as you should clean before you disinfect, you should declutter before you clean. This week is about getting rid of things, not sanitizing or cleaning.

Start by cleaning out the area of the home you spend the most time in. A good place to start is usually the kitchen, especially after a holiday season full of cooking and baking. Go through your cabinets and gather expired ingredients, unused pots and pans, and other bits of clutter and toss them or gather them in one place for donating later.

In your bedroom, put together a box of clothing to donate and a pile of clothing that needs repairs or dry cleaning. Go ahead and throw out all the uncomfortable underwear in your drawer that you never wear.

Address the bathrooms in your house all at once. Remove any ratty old towels, unused lotions or bath products, or anything else that is taking up space. And do the same thing with your various paperwork: Gather all the receipts, contracts, photos, artwork, etc. in one place.

At the end of the week, it’s time to deal with all those piles you made. Donate those unused pots and pans and kitchen supplies and old clothing. (A good first step is putting those boxes in your car, but, we highly recommend actually dropping it off somewhere.)

As for your paperwork, deal with anything that you can deal with quickly, then tackle the rest in phases. Put secure documents in a safe. File away tax documents and other important forms by year. Frame beloved photos.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Step 2: Dust, vacuum, mop, and scrub

At this point you should have a supremely decluttered home, and it should feel pretty great. Now it’s time to assess your cleaning supplies. Throw out anything you haven’t used in a year and make sure you have the right supplies to dust, vacuum, mop, and scrub every room in your house. It may be helpful to create caddies of cleaning supplies: Fill each with gloves, sponges, all-purpose cleaner, and put them in hidden, but easy-to-access location throughout the house.

Instead of breaking cleaning down by room, it actually makes a bit more sense to do it by specific cleaning task. First, focus on dusting and vacuuming the whole house. This includes floorboards and fan blades, as well as the insides of cabinets and drawers.

Next, it’s time to mop. Get out a mop or swiffer and go through each room in the house. Warn your family members to avoid slipping or, even better, get them to help. Make sure to get under rugs, couches, and beds to really make sure everything is clean.

It’s finally time to get into the nitty gritty and that means the bathroom. Throw on a pair of heavy duty gloves, get out your most heavy duty cleaning supplies, and clean every inch of the shower, tub, and toilet. Makes sure the sink and mirror are gleaming.

Next up is the kitchen. Finally give your stove a deep clean. Give the trash can a good scrub. Empty out the fridge and clean it from head to toe.

The final step? Go through every room and grab dish towels, bath mats, throw blankets, mattress covers, and pillows, etc. It’ll be a project, but knowing that all those things that you usually don’t think about at all are clean will give your house an extra fresh feeling. 

Step 3: Make sure your home is functional.

Now that you’ve cleaned and decluttered every corner of your house, it’s time to address which areas of your house are functional—and which are not. It’s a great idea to go through each room with a pen and paper and take note of the things that annoy you, and then spend the next few days tackling it. 

This includes the junk drawer, which, let’s be honest, could definitely be functioning better, as well as the cords in your office, the broken printer, and any other tech-y stuff that drives you nuts.

It may be helpful to create stations where things belong throughout your house: A rack for everyone’s shoes to go in your entryway or an old canvas basket for umbrellas in your entryway. Use a small decorative dish for keys. Create a small charging station in your kitchen for electronics.

Credit: Elizaveta Galitckaia/Shutterstock

Step 4: It’s all about the details.

This week is about the details, the small things that make a difference. Add hand sanitizer to the most frequented rooms of the house. Put a box of dusting wipes in every frequently used room. This is especially useful if your house is multiple floors. Add extras to rooms with a lot of books or ceiling fans (notorious dust-collectors).

Now, it’s time to make everything smell great. Go through each room and fill them with diffusers (plug-in or otherwise), room sprays, and other details that will keep everything extra fresh. Pro tip: Consider putting dryer sheets in your dirty clothes hamper and at the bottom of your trash can to keep things smelling fresh in those dirty spaces, too. 

Take a deep, clean breath and look back on all your hard work of the past month and treat yourself to a little reward. Maybe you need to invest in new underwear, a fresh set of bathroom towels, or a new set of kitchen spices. Whatever it is, you deserve it! Just make sure to be a little critical about whether you really need it or not, as this will help you have less to sort through next year.