I Tried the “One Tool” Method to Clean, and I Was Surprised by the Results

published Feb 12, 2024
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vacuuming dirt
Credit: Joe Lingeman

I am a huge proponent of ”tilting” your homekeeping routine according to the seasons and lifestyle changes. This applies not only to choices like relaxing standards of tidiness depending on circumstances but also to which cleaning and decluttering methods you might find most useful at any given time.

Quick Overview

What Is the “One Tool” Method?

The “one tool” method is a cleaning approach in which you choose one tool to clean all over your home instead of choosing a space and doing all the necessary cleaning tasks for that room.

For instance, I’ve always found a daily cleaning schedule to suit my personality. I’d rather split up cleaning into shorter bursts than have to spend a few hours on the weekend getting the whole home clean at once. I also like to switch up the way I approach the household tasks that need to get done. Much like decluttering methods, this choice of how I’m going to tackle the cleaning I need to do tends to be influenced less by external factors and more by my inner state. Sometimes I need the quick win of the whirlwind 5×5 method. Other times, an overwhelming mess in one room calls for the “one spot” method

Varying how I clean any given space is another way to keep things fresh (and keep me motivated!). Because I enjoy the visual feedback of a completely clean space, I almost always pick one room and clean it from top to bottom (or as much as I can). But I recently took a different approach. Instead of choosing a space and doing all the necessary cleaning tasks, I chose one cleaning tool and used it all over the house. I call it the “one tool” method. I used my vacuum — and I was surprised by the results. 

Here’s what happened:

  • I vacuumed the entire house — in so much less time than I imagined. Our home is about 4,000 square feet, and I vacuumed almost every room. I didn’t move much furniture around; it was more of a “postage stamp” vacuuming session. But I was thorough and didn’t rush. I timed myself, and it took so much less time than I would have thought! Vacuuming the whole house took a mere 26 minutes. 
  • My vacuuming was more thorough than usual. Because my attention was focused on the task of vacuuming rather than on getting a designated space clean, I found that I vacuumed certain spaces that rarely felt the touch of a roller brush. For instance, the downstairs hallway and back entrance aren’t ever a “room” I clean. I just kind of clean them when it looks like they need it. But when all I was doing was vacuuming, I ran that vacuum cleaner everywhere. 
  • I did more than vacuum. Because I was vacuuming, I ended up picking up items that were on the floor. The result of this was that by the time I was done vacuuming a space, it looked much cleaner than it had before I started, and not just because the flooring had been vacuumed. 
  • I got the entire home clean(er). Focusing on one task and doing it throughout the house meant that my whole house felt significantly cleaner with so much less time and effort than I expected. Picking up the out-of-place items on the floor so that I could vacuum and the vacuuming itself had an outsized impact on the look and feel of the entire place. 

By focusing on one task and using only one tool, I eliminated two key components of most other cleaning sessions: decision fatigue and task switching. Deciding beforehand to only vacuum meant that I didn’t have to waste time or energy choosing what to do when or in what order. Taking task switching out of the equation kept me focused; I didn’t waste time or energy gathering additional supplies or tools and I didn’t risk distraction. 

This “one tool” cleaning strategy was far more effective than I expected it to be, and I can’t wait to try it with another tool.