How to Clean and Declutter with Less Effort

Stuff. Stuff is here. Stuff is there. Stuff is high and low and everywhere. It gets dusty. And dirty. And dated. What’s a person to do?

Here are five practices I have for keeping my home as clean and clutter-free as possible.

  1. Pay someone. Let’s just put this one out on the table first. Over the years I’ve learned that having help with housecleaning simply saves time and energy. But honestly, I don’t do that good of a job. Have you ever seen a quad try to mop? I’ve tried my hand at using a Swiffer, but I end up leaving a trail of dirty wheel marks on my somewhat clean floor. For floors, sinks, bathrooms and dusting anything over five feet high, my lifesaver is Louise, who has been cleaning for me for about ten years.
  2. Don’t let it pile up. My worst habit is tossing everything – computer, mail, keys, receipts, bills, books, snacks – on the kitchen table as I come in the house. Within a few days I’m often drowning at my table, which leaves me feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. I end up taking an entire hour or two to clean up what would have taken much time to immediately put in its place. This holds true for dishes in the sink and laundry, as well. Staying on top of these things takes less time and energy than tackling the pile later on.
  3. Declutter annually. If you would have told me this a few years ago, I’d have laughed at you. But I came across a great blog at White House Black Shutters. The blogger, Ann Marie, coincides her forty days of decluttering with Lent. I am little less structured and usually just try to find a time during the spring to do this. On the blog she has ideas of where to start, a list to plan your forty days of decluttering and a box to check off the area when it’s completed. Be forewarned: Your first year will be the hardest. We have so much stuff. I like this method because it’s not overwhelming. Often our good intentions quickly turn into a bigger mess that we stated with, which is demoralizing. By making a list and cleaning out a small area (for example, two kitchen drawers or the medicine cabinet) makes it a manageable task.
  4. Don’t stick with the obvious. Not all messes or clutter are visible. Organize your email and computer files. Delete messages or files that aren’t needed and have a system where you can easily retrieve those you need to keep. Organize the filing cabinet and shred documents that are no longer needed. Download the photos on your phone and back them up or – gasp! – print the pictures or make a photo album.  
  5. Remember your vehicle. Guilty as charged. Having an organizer on my back seat has helped me tremendously. My computer, lunch bag, gloves, hat, an extra blanket during the winter and several bags of groceries all fit easily into this bin which attaches to the seat by a bungie cord to prevent it from sliding. (The outside of my van is another issue. After all, the one blessing of not having a garage is the free car wash when it rains, right?)
Don’t know where to begin? Start with one area. Don’t try to do it all. You’ll just end up over your head. As a chair user, I can say that literally, not figuratively.


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