As many of my friends and family (but mainly Jake, the boyfriend) know, I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), which is no fun for anyone that is in my life, especially if they live with me (sorry Jake, Frank, and sometimes Reagan). I use to be on medication for my ADHD which in turn helped my OCD calm down a bit. But since stopping, my OCD is probably the worse it has ever been. Poor Jake. He gets to hear my wrath of keeping the house clean probably once a week.
It is so bad, in fact, I hired a maid service (The Maids) to come every four weeks just to vacuum and mop the floors, as well as clean all the bathrooms. We have a Roomba knockoff (named bObi) that we set loose every once in a while, but it can’t clean the three flights of stairs that we have, and it doesn’t do a very “deep clean.” Also, my time is limited, and it usually takes both Jake and I about three to four hours to vacuum and steam just the stairs; the maids can vacuum all levels and the stairs, and clean the bathroom in 50 minutes or less (we still have to steam ourselves). Additionally, toilets are the one thing I REFUSE to clean.
I think the biggest thing is not putting things away. If the dishwasher is clean, empty it. If the trash/recycling is full take it out. If you get something out, put it back when you’re done with it. And so on and so fourth. So, here are some tips and tricks that I use when trying to keep our house clean; they are the most common issues that I have on a daily basis.
1) The Dishes
- Empty the Dishwasher. In the morning, or right when you get home from work/school, empty the dishwasher and put away any hand washed dishes. That way, after you make and eat dinner you can put all the dirty dishes right into the dishwasher and start it if it is full enough. We usually wash ours every other night.
- Clean as You Go. When making dinner, clean as you finish using an item. Don’t just put the dishes in the sink so they pile up. Rinse them and put them in the dishwasher (hand washed items can wait to be cleaned until after dinner or when/if your meal goes into the oven).
- Wash Pet Bowls. If you have pets, this is a great time to wash their bowls as well. I hand wash Reagan’s food/water bowl every night when doing the dishes to make sure she has a clean bowl to eat/drink out of every day. You wouldn’t eat off a dirty plate would you? Don’t let your pets either.
- EXTRA TIP: Soap Dispensers. Keep two soap dispensers on your kitchen sick, one for hand soap and the other for dish soap. This makes it simple to just pump some dish soap while you are washing dishes, rather than rummaging through the kitchen cabinet to find the dish soap.
2) Pick Up After Yourself
- Don’t Create Piles. This is so hard for some people to not do. Sadly, I do this with Jake’s and Frank’s things. They usually leave them lying around and don’t pick up, so I put their things in tidy piles to make the mess look more confined. Just put things away, it will make life so much easier on everyone.
- Give Everything it’s Own Place/Spot. I’m big on organization, so everything that I own has its own place. I even had Jake build me dividers for my desk drawers. I don’t believe in junk drawers because I think it’s just a catch all for things you don’t feel like putting away, also called clutter.
- 60 Second Rule. If it takes 60 second or less to put something away, do it. You will thank yourself later when you don’t have a list a mile long of small tasks to do, or piles of things that need to be put away.
- EXTRA TIP: Just Do It. If something needs to get done, just do it. If you let the trash over flow, the laundry pile up, and your refrigerator become unruly, you’re going to become overwhelmed and spend hours, rather than minutes, just cleaning up what could have already been done in a few minutes.
3) Replace the Toilet Paper
- Replace the Roll. This one is the easiest task to do in your home, yet people make it seem like it is such an inconvenience; if you use it and finish the roll, just replace it. Karma will come back around if you’re home alone and the roll is empty. Make sure you recycle the cardboard roll if you recycle.
- Have a TP Reserve. We keep small baskets on the floor next to the toilet with extra toilet paper (about three rolls) in them so it’s easy to replace the roll right then and there; the basket creates a look of organization. I also keep a basket in the laundry room filled with toilet paper, so when the small baskets run out, I just go grab three more to put back in the bathroom baskets. Easy peasy.
4) Put Your Laundry Away
- Get Organized. Instead of having one hamper to throw all your clothes in, we have an organizer for Jake’s clothes, two baskets for mine, and one extra for towels. Jake used to throw his clothes on the floor in a pile if his baskets were full (he waits until he has no more clean clothes to do his laundry). So I bought him a laundry organizer; it has four separate compartments, one for whites/delicates, the second for t-shirts/sweats/pajama bottoms, the third for jeans (he has A LOT), and the fourth for work shirts and pants. I promised him I would do his laundry if he kept it organized in the baskets, which has helped tremendously.
- Don’t Let it Sit. One thing I have noticed with myself, and Jake, is that if you don’t put your laundry away right after it comes out of the dryer, it will sit for days. Jake likes for his to sit in a big pile on the floor, I usually keep mine in a basket in the closet out of sight. To encourage myself to put away our laundry, I try to do only medium sized loads (as opposed to the large, washer packed loads that Jake does when he runs out of clothes). The smaller loads are easier to put away and less time consuming than the large loads.
- Wash Your Dedicates Separately. Wash all of your underwear separately from your clothes, and with hot water. I usually wash just my underwear completely separate from the rest of my dedicates (like socks, bras, and undershirts) to make sure the germs/bacteria are not washed into the rest of the clothes. My machine has three wash load sizes (small, regular, and large), so I can wash my underwear without using too much water. I also keep everything in a mesh bag so nothing will get snagged.
- Save Water and Energy. Jake makes fun of me all the time because I try to recycle and save energy as much as I can. I know that doing so doesn’t make that big of an impact, but I like to think it does. So when washing laundry, I always use cold water, except for underwear to kill the germs, I use hot then. I also don’t over pack the washer and use only medium, or regular, sized loads. Over-sized loads will sometimes not get completely clean and you end up washing almost everything a second time, which means you use more water.
- EXTRA TIP: Label Your Laundry Sorter. Sometimes Jake will just throw his clothes in a compartment rather than sort the clothes, so to make sure clothes go in the right compartment I labeled each so he knows exactly which one to put each item.
5) Take the Trash Out
- Don’t Let it Pile Up. One of the biggest issues in my house is the trash/recycling. We have a can with two compartments, one for trash and the other for recycling. Since there are three adults living in our house, it is easy to fill up at least one a day. The best thing to do here is not to let it sit. If it sits, then you start to play an unhealthy game of Tetras. However, it is simple, once it’s full, empty it.
- Take It Out. I’m usually the only one to take out the trash (I live with lazies), unless I ask. If I don’t do it, or I don’t ask, the trash bags will pile up and just sit there. So when I leave the house, I take as much out with me as I can. I remember to do so by placing the bags (and/or larger trash/recycling) right next to our steps that lead to the garage (where our cans are), so that every time I go down I take something with me.
- Replace the Bag. When you empty the cans, replace the bags. We keep our trash bags under the sink which is near our trashcan so it’s easy to replace the bag right way. I know some people keep their bags in the bottom of the trashcan so as they are within arms reach. Nothing is worse than going to toss something with your hands covered in food or water and there is no bag in the can.
- Sort It. I am big fan of recycling. We have two trashcans, one for recyclables and one for trash. If it is paper, plastic, cardboard, electronics, etc., it can be recycled. Depending on where you live will determine what your local recycling plant will take. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides a lot of information online on what you can and can’t recycle. You can also look at you local recycling center website to see what they do and don’t take (some centers will/won’t take certain items).
- Use the Symbols. This helps you determine items are accepted by your local recycling center. Some centers don’t take certain items, so this system is super handy.
- Plastic Bags. I hate plastic bags, but yet I somehow always need one. I am terrible at remembering to bring my reusable bags with me anywhere, so I usually end up with a collection of plastic bags that you CANNOT recycle with your normal recycling. Some countries, including many in Africa, have banned plastic bags; they are a danger to our wildlife and do not biodegrade. The end result is I collect them, then take them to my local grocery store (Harris Teeter) where you can recycle them; Walmart also recycles them if your grocery store doesn’t. They also recycle paper bags, but those are much easier to recycle. Click here to find a local store where you can recycle your bags. You can also check out A Bag’s Life or Earth911 to find out more on the impact of plastic bags in your community and around the world.
- Recycling/Trash Collection. Check with the county you live in to find out when trash and recycling is picked up in your community. You can also take trash/recycling to community dumps and recycling centers. Our trash is picked up on Tuesdays and Fridays, and our recycling is picked up on Wednesdays. We always have way more recycling than trash every week, which shows how much can really be recycled if you are consistent with your sorting.
- Recycling Household Items. I am a stickler for making sure that household items aren’t just tossed out. If I can’t sell it, I will give it away. I will also give items to Vietnam Veterans of America (before anyone else), The Lupus Foundation, The Salvation Army, Goodwill, and other foundations. I prefer giving to foundations before Salvation Army or Goodwill, because the foundations will usually not charge the recipients for your used items. Also, make sure the items that you are donating can be taken by the organizations and foundations, sometimes they do not take items like pet items or car parts.
7) Go Through Your Mail
- Sort It. Sort your mail into recycling, file, and shred. I do this every day when I get home. As a result I do not have any mail sitting around creating clutter. Many people have mail sorters hanging in their homes, but I believe this creates what I like to call “Controlled Chaos.” These sorters allow you to sort your mail but not go through it. Therefore, the sorted mail becomes full and will overflow.
- Shred It. When I go through and sort any documents (every day) that show money, account numbers, addresses, or personal information, these items go straight to the shredder.
- Recycle It. Pretty much all mail is in paper form, therefore it can be recycled. As I go through and open mail, I put all items that do not need to be shredded into a recycle pile. Once I am done going through the mail, it’s just one more step to toss the sorted recyclable mail into the recycling.
- File It. Luckily, these days almost all bills are electronic so we don’t have the need for filing cabinets or “paperwork.” However, every once in a while we get mail that needs our immediate attention, so I file it. I take it to our “office” and put it into a paper filer that is labeled “need to address.” Once a week I go through this file and address each item, then either file it in the filing cabinet or shred it.
- EXTRA TIP: Filing Cabinets. If you have a filing cabinet, A Bowl of Lemons has a great organizing blog on organizing your filing cabinet (I use this site for everything when I need inspiration on organizing). The only thing that I do instead of her is when labeling a folder, do it in pencil so I can reuse the tab later and not waste labeling paper (if you don’t care then by all means use a label maker). Also, here is her filing system organization, I follow this pretty closely as well. The different colored folders really do help. (BTW, I also own both of her books which are AMAZING: The Complete Book of Clean and The Complete Book of Home Organization) Toni Hammersley is seriously my spirit animal.
8) Cleaning Out the Refrigerator
- Monthly Shelf Wipe Down. I usually try to do this one a month, but sometimes it gets pushed to the bottom of my “To Do” list. I do this right before I go to the grocery store to pick up my groceries.
- Once a Week Clean Out. I pick up our groceries on a Sunday, so before I leave (and when I’m cleaning the shelves one a month) I start tossing anything that has gone bad or dump any Tupperware containers/leftovers that have been in the refrigerator since the week before. Tossing old items helps keeps the refrigerator clean and bad smells away. I also check the expiration dates on the condiments to make sure they are still good. This helps me determine what I need to buy at the store.
- Buy Arm & Hammer Fridge N Freezer. I buy these suckers once a month and replace the old ones, one in the fridge and one on the freezer (obviously). They really do help keep the refrigerator odor free, especially since we buy a lot of fish products. They have a place for you to write in the date which helps me stay on top of when I need to replace them.
- EXTRA TIP: Order Groceries Online. I added this one as an extra tip because it saves me so much time! On Sunday mornings, while making breakfast or right after, I start making my grocery list of what we need for the week. We go to Harris Teeter, so I use my laptop to pick my items on their EXPRESSlane Online Shopping site (for $5, well worth it), then I pick my time for pickup, add any comments (like substitutions if they are out of something), and hit order. They call me when my order is complete and let me know of any items they were out of. Then I go to the store. I pull up to the EXPRESSlane, call them on the box, and they bring the items out; I don’t even have to get out of my car if I don’t want to. Then pay right there. If you don’t have a Harris Teeter, there are other grocery stores that offer this service as well, just do some research. Huge time saver though; I usually spend about an hour at the store, so having someone else do it for me for $5 is money well spent.
There you have it. Some of my tips and tricks for the most commonly known cleaning issues in my house. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or if you have another problem that I didn’t mention and you need some advice.