Get your home under control with these daily habits that help keep your home tidy — then build on them.
For some reason, your house never stays clean. You wonder why you can’t stay on top of things, and whether there’s any point in trying.
I’ll let you in on a secret: people whose homes look clean all the time have daily habits that keep it tidy. They know how to stop messes from spreading. They make a point to “reset” their homes each day. And, they understand how to squeeze in housework rather than trying to make time for it. You can, too
Daily Habits for a Clean and Tidy Home
Habit #1: Keep the Sink Empty
Does it seem like every cleaning article or blog talks about the importance of an empty kitchen sink? There’s a reason for that. An empty kitchen sink stops clutter from spreading, along with other bad habits.
Why is keeping your sink empty important? When your sink is full of dishes, the only place for more dirty dishes is your counter. Then, things you’d put on your counter wind up on your table. You can’t enjoy a nice dinner at a cluttered table, so you wind up eating in front of the TV and feeling guilty. All because the sink was full.
How to keep your sink empty. Treat the sink as if it has only one purpose: washing things. That means you don’t use it to hold stuff. If you have a dishwasher, put dirty tableware and glasses straight into it, not the sink. If you don’t have one, use a dish wand to clean things immediately after use, then dry them.
What habit to start next? Once you’re in the habit of keeping the sink empty, make a point to scrub it daily, too. Dirty kitchen sinks smell awful and attract pests. Clean sinks create the impression of a cleaner kitchen and a generally tidy home. (Related: Daily Disinfecting Sink Spray.)
And then? Build on this habit by keeping your kitchen counters clutter-free. After cooking, give them a quick wipe. Do the same with the kitchen table. Soon, you’ve got the habit of keeping your kitchen tidy all the time.
Habit #2: A Nightly Pickup
Kid’s toys, stuff you pulled out of cupboards, incoming mail — they all make your home look messy if you ignore them. A cluttered home is harder to clean and never looks tidy.
Why make this a habit? Clutter doesn’t put itself away. The longer you let it sit in place, the more blind you become to it. Then other things join it because you figure you’ll deal with them on cleaning day. But once it’s time to clean, there’s so much stuff that you wind up shoving it from place to place and never putting it away. Then your home looks like a wreck.
How to start a nightly decluttering routine. If you have kids, let them push bedtime back by 15 minutes for a toy pickup routine. (They’ll enjoy tidying messes when they feel they’re getting away with something.) For adults, spend those 15 minutes on the most cluttered room. After a few nights when it’s more under control, focus on a different area.
What habit to start next? In time, you’ll have put away most of the long-term clutter. That’s when you start using your nightly routine to purge stuff. Open the junk drawer and toss what you don’t need. Do a nightstand drawer the next evening. It is amazing how much stuff you can clear out in 15 minutes each day.
And then? Don’t stop. New things are always entering your home, like paperwork and clothing purchases. Older items are forever breaking, or you lose interest in them. So, decluttering must also be ongoing, too. That’s easy to do if you make it a nightly habit.
Habit #3: Don’t Write Down Small Tasks
Look around. How many messes could you fix in a couple of minutes? Shoes by the front door. Coffee spills on the counter. Toothpaste splatters in the bathroom sink. None of these belong on your To-Do list. It takes almost as long to write them down as it would to do them. So do them.
Why make this a habit? Wouldn’t it feel better to have a short To-Do list and a tidier home? You can, if you stop writing down small tasks and adopt the 2-minute rule.
How to adopt the 2-minute housework rule. If you see a mess that takes only a couple of minutes to clean, do it right then. Don’t give future-you the burden of it. Walking through a room and see dirty dishes? Pick them up. Notice the kitchen trash reeking? Empty it. You’ll soon realize most housework comes down to puttering around and putting things right.
What habit to start next? Look for opportunities to knock out small tasks. Are you waiting for the coffeemaker? Putter around in the kitchen, wiping appliance fronts or cabinet handles. Are you stuck on hold during a phone call? See what you can tidy in your bedroom. Done watching Netflix? Fold your throw blanket and straighten the sofa pillows before you leave the family room.
And then? Start paying attention to the time it takes to do other chores and look for ways to break them down. Don’t try to carve out entire days to clean or organize. That’s almost impossible if you have kids. But finding ten minutes daily to do part of a project is simple, even if you have to wait for the kids to go to bed. After ten minutes, stop. Then — and this is important — come back to the project the next day. (Related: Cleaning Checklists for Every Room.)
Keeping your house clean and tidy doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Much of it comes down to small tasks that prevent big messes. For larger projects that you can’t do in a few minutes, break them down into more manageable steps. Use spare minutes to do those tasks, or set aside time daily to “putter around” at them. Once that’s a habit, keeping a clean house feels effortless. Give it a try!