The Lazy Person’s Guide to a Happy Home: Tips for People Who (Really) Hate Cleaning

updated Nov 7, 2022
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I’m always a little ashamed to admit this, but I hate to clean. I really hate it. I mean, there are so many more interesting things I could be doing. And the annoying thing is that when you clean something, it just gets dirty all over again. Cleaning is a horrible, boring, thankless task, but you know what’s worse than cleaning? Stressing out all the time because your house is filthy. What’s a lazy woman to do?

I’ve been working on this for a while, and I’ve realized that “not caring about it” is not an effective solution. I want my house to stay clean, I just don’t want to go crazy keeping it that way. With that in mind, here are some of my best strategies for keeping a (reasonably) clean house without losing your mind.

1. Deal With Your Drawers

You guys, the number one secret to clutter-busting is DRAWERS. I don’t know about you, but my house is full of little things sitting around — on the coffee table, on the kitchen countertop, on the floor of my bedroom — because they are in a sort of limbo: I know I should put them up, but I just can’t quite figure out where.

Any time I try to straighten up, I expend tremendous mental energy trying to figure out where that thing sitting by the front door ought to go, instead of by the front door, and after considering perhaps one pile of stuff, I give up, exhausted.

Maybe you’re not lazy like me. But if you are: you need drawers. Maybe one ‘stuff’ drawer in every room, so you can handily separate the kitchen stuff from the bedroom stuff from the bathroom stuff. Can’t figure out where something goes? Put it in the drawer. Bam. Done.

2. Keep Cleaning Supplies Where You Use Them

I know myself well enough to know that if I have to troop downstairs to get the Windex, the bathroom mirror is not going to get cleaned today. Or maybe ever. So I have two Windexes, and I keep one in the bathroom and one in the kitchen. I do the same thing with dustpans. I have a dustpan and broom set in the pantry and another one in the bathroom. Now my bathroom is 200% cleaner, and I am 200% happier.

3. Set a Timer

This idea comes from my mom, who is very astute (and a much better housekeeper than I am). I hate cleaning, but I can do anything for ten minutes, right? So I set a timer for ten minutes, and I get to washing those dishes.

Lo and behold, the timer rings and the dishes are halfway done. And then I clean the rest of the kitchen because that was really not so bad. What you’re doing here, really, is just making yourself start. That is half the battle. Actually, that is the whole damn battle. (Pro tip: the same thing can work for exercising. Try it.)

4. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Once I was getting the house ready for a party, and my then-boyfriend was helping, and I watched, in awe, as he cleaned the bathroom mirror in about 15 seconds. “But…but… what about those little teeny tiny spots that are left behind?” I asked. “They don’t matter,” he said. He was right: they don’t.

So if you dread cleaning (like me) because you’re lazy but also sort of a crazy perfectionist and think everything has to be SUPER SUPER clean: it doesn’t. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

5.Make It Fun

Here’s another insight that I gleaned from a man in my life. This one came from a co-worker who told me that the only time in his life when he felt completely relaxed was at the end of the day while ironing and drinking a beer (or two).

I was completely flummoxed by this. I hate ironing even more than I hate other cleaning-type tasks. But I love beer, so I decided to give it a try. It was wonderful. I got all the ironing done. I did not feel relaxed, but what had before been a grueling chore was suddenly slightly enjoyable.

So drink a glass of wine while you wash the dishes. Or turn some music up and make it a party. You can’t get around doing chores, but they don’t have to be… well, you know, a chore. (Hint: this will also help with #4.)

6.Have Less Stuff

It’s a simple concept — the less stuff you have, the less time you will spend cleaning and organizing it — but it’s probably the hardest thing on this list to do. We Americans have a strange relationship with our stuff: we’re always trying to get rid of clutter but always buying new things.

I’ve experienced firsthand the difficulty of getting rid of things because I’m planning to sell my house soon, so I’ve been cleaning out bigtime. The first few boxes of things I gave away were super easy to part with — goodbye, college textbooks! — but after that, it got harder. A lot harder.

But you know what? I freaking love my house now. I love it so much I almost don’t even want to move because there’s so much less visual clutter and so much less keeping up with things that I didn’t really need anyway. It is, in a way, a sort of lazy woman’s dream.