I’ve been living in apartments on my own or with roommates for the last seven years of my life, and before that I lived with parents so obsessed with cleanliness I would literally still eat a meal off their bathroom floor (I’m not kidding. My parents’ house is freakishly clean). While that level of pure, germ-free living is probably not possible if you’re renting a 100-year-old apartment like I am, there are plenty of small ways to keep your home neat and tidy without having to spend your Saturdays scrubbing the kitchen floor on your hands and knees (here’s looking at you, Dad).
1. Buy a jumbo multipack of Clorox wipes and keep them in every room of your house.
I used to really believe in a bottle of 409 and a washable cleaning rag, but honestly, wipes are just so much easier. Keep them in your bathroom, your kitchen and your living room/bedroom (depending on where you eat/drink the most) and you’ll be much more likely to clean up whatever you spill there than if you have to trek to your cleaning supplies, find a rag, and then come back and clean up whatever you left laying on the counter or ground for five minutes while you searched. You can get a three-pack of the Walmart brand for $9, or you can make your own.
2. Learn to dust.
One of my weekly chores growing up was to dust, either with a Swiffer duster or with a rag and lemon Pledge. It isn’t fun, but it really doesn’t take that long and you’d be surprised how much better your bookcase looks without a layer of DEAD SKIN PARTICLES ALL OVER IT. I usually try to dust with a Swiffer two or three times every couple of weeks and then use Pledge and a washrag once every few weeks.
3. Put your stuff up after you use it.
This is seriously my best piece of advice. If you wear a pair of shoes, put them back in your closet after you take them off. If you take a book off the shelf, put it back. If you’re done with a dish, put it in the dishwasher or wash it. You’ll save a ton of time, as compared to cleaning up after you’ve waited till your apartment looks like a tornado hit it. I get it, I know we are all rushed sometimes, but you’d be surprised how much better you’ll feel if you can leave for your stressful day knowing your apartment isn’t going to be a disaster when you get back.
4. Wash the damn dishes.
At my parents’ house, it’s a punishable offense to leave a dish in the sink. I don’t quite take it that far at my own place, but my general rule is that I don’t leave dishes in the sink overnight. It attracts bugs, which I’m ~not about~, it stinks up your kitchen, and it’s just generally gross. If you’re lucky like me, you have a dishwasher, and the hardest part is making sure you keep it emptied so you can always stick your dirty dishes in it no problem. If you are unlucky and have just a sink, it’s best if you just wash what you use as you use it. Less bugs, less stink, more clean dishes, pretty kitchen. Win/win/win/win.
5. Make your bed.
This one seems so simple, but it’s a game-changer. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people my age over and had them remark incredulously, “I can’t believe you make your bed!” To me, it’s one of the easiest things you can do to make your space feel neater automatically. It takes two seconds, and it’s easy to incentivize by getting yourself two or three throw pillows you’re proud of and want to show off.
6. Clean your floors.
This might be the one I’m worst at, but it’s the one I’m always the most happy I’ve done. For tile floors, invest in a Swiffer Sweeper or a Swiffer Wetjet. For hardwood floors, a Swiffer Sweeper/hardwood floor cleaner mop are what you’ll need. For carpet, get a good vacuum, like this little red Dirt Devil. Then proceed to clean your floors at least once every two weeks. I hate cleaning the hardwoods in my apartment, so I try to stretch that out to three weeks, but I vacuum my rugs once a week at least (or twice, depending on how much my pet bunny has been shedding). You don’t realize how much the little specks on your carpet or the dust bunnies in the corner affect how your overall apartment appears until you get rid of them.
7. Empty the garbage cans.
Obviously you have to empty the kitchen garbage can when it’s full, but that doesn’t mean you always take the garbage bag to the dumpster or chute *right* after you do. For trash cans in your home office or bathroom, it can be easy to just let it fill up to overflowing onto the floor and still not take it out. Like everything else on this list, I know it may seem like you don’t have time to do it, but you leave your apartment every day to go to work, school or to see friends. Just drop the garbage bags off at the dumpster on your way out and be done with it.
8. Get rid of things you aren’t using.
There is a pan in my kitchen that is too big for my oven that I literally haven’t used in more than a year. I decided the other day I am just going to donate it. Same with a bunch of spring and summer clothes I made it through March–September without wearing. What is the point of thinking you’ll use it again when, statistically, you won’t? Those shoes aren’t going to come back in style. Same with that sweater. Just get rid of them.
When you read this list as comprehensive, it can seem overwhelming. But when you take one item at a time, you’ll see they’re simple fixes that can keep your home looking neat and clean with minimal effort on your part—and no more marathon cleaning sessions.
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