How to Find Time to Clean When You’re Busy

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A busy life doesn’t mean you’ve got to have a filthy home. Here’s how to find time to clean the essentials and stop sweating the rest.

Life is crazy these days. Sometimes it can feel like all you do is work and clean. If your kids are attending school online or you homeschool, it might feel like you don’t have time to clean at all. Then your home starts making you miserable. It looks like a mess, and that makes you feel awful.

You start thinking that something is wrong with you for not doing it all — work, parenting, and keeping a spotless home. When you finally move that pile of laundry off your bed and try to go to sleep, you remember all the things you “should” have done but didn’t. You feel burned out from all the responsibilities. It takes hours to calm your thoughts and fall asleep.

The next day, you’re exhausted as well as busy. The last thing you’ve got energy or time for is cleaning the house. Things get messier. That stack of laundry on the bed gets bigger. Those few anxious thoughts at bedtime turn into dozens that stop you from sleeping. Again.

Cartoon of woman sitting up in bed and surrounded by thought bubbles filled with anxious thoughts

Are you ready to break that cycle?

How to Find Time to Clean House

I want you to try something real quick. Close your eyes for a minute and imagine your home being as clean and tidy as you think it should be. Hold that image firmly in your mind. Picture how it feels to wake up and see it that way, and how it feels to walk in the door and find your home looking like that. Now, as yourself: who on earth did all that work — and why?

Spotless homes get that way because someone chose to clean instead of doing something else. That’s not always a good thing. For instance, some people stress clean. Others clean when they’re angry or trying not to be. I know a woman who cleans the house when she ought to be working on helpful articles for a blog that supports her family. (It’s me.)

Clean Doesn’t Just Happen

The only way to really have a spotless home is to spend all of your time and energy on it… or make your family live in some other home. If you’re a slob, you might have to go live with them. But then you’ve got two messy homes to deal with and no real solution. Not very practical, is it?

A Clean Home is Just a Home That’s Been Cleaned

I say this a lot, but I think it bears repeating and maybe posting on your bathroom mirror as a reminder. Far too often, we let our home’s messes define us — or we think others define us by them. So, remind yourself every morning (or click the pretty picture below and print it to hang on your mirror): You are not the sum of your home.

Dusty furniture, unmade beds, and cluttered countertops do not mean you’re less worthy of love and respect than someone with a spotless home. But, also, a spotless home does not mean you’re a better human being than someone who struggles to take out the kitchen trash. You are not your home, and your home is not you.

Clean Enough is Good Enough

We clean for two reasons: to get rid of harmful germs and to remove unsightly dirt. Dealing with only one of those things is essential. (Hint, it’s not the dirt.) If you want a clean enough home, prioritize what you need to clean, find some daily time to deal with it, and make a point to clean the rest on a fairly regular basis. Then stop beating yourself up that your home isn’t spotless. Ready to post that note on your mirror now?

Tend the Important Areas Daily

The important areas to clean are the ones where harmful germs breed. Notice I said harmful: everything has germs on it. It’s the ones like staph, salmonella, and E. coli that we need to be concerned about in our homes. Those are worst in your kitchen and bathroom(s). Clean and disinfect their high-touch surfaces and change hand towels daily, and give them thoroughly weekly cleanings to keep them healthy.

Be Realistic About the Time Required

Often, we put off cleaning because we think it’s going to take a lot longer than it really does. I’ve been writing this blog for ten years now, on top of authoring books about homemaking. In that time, I’ve heard from thousands of people who’ve struggled to find time to clean the house. Many of their emails took longer to type than it would’ve taken to clean.

I know this because I’ve told them to grab a printable house cleaning checklist, set a timer for 20 minutes, do exactly what the checklist says and nothing else, then and then let me know how much they got done. Almost everyone discovered they could finish most, if not all, of a room in that time.

Schedule the Rest as You Can

Cleaning the rest of your home, with a few exceptions, is just about dealing with visible dirt. Those few exceptions include your sheets, which should be changed weekly, your phone’s touchscreen, and your TV remotes. Here’s how long it should take to clean a room:*

  • Kitchen: 30 minutes.
  • Bedroom (each): 20 minutes.
  • Bathroom (each): 20 minutes.
  • Family room: 20 minutes.

* It’s even less time if you’ve followed my daily cleaning checklist.

Squeeze Easy Tasks into Spare Minutes

Not many people are so busy that they can’t find 20 uninterrupted minutes at some point during their waking hours. If you happen to be one of the few who can’t, don’t worry: you can still squeeze some cleaning time into your insanely busy day. You’ll need to be mindful of the times when you think you’re busy, but you’re actually not. Here’s a printable list of one-minute chores that really add up.

Don’t Make Work for Yourself

Be mindful, too, of whether you’re leaving messes for Future You to deal with. Letting your dishwasher sit full of clean dishes is a perfect example. It takes five minutes or less to put away clean dishes. If you don’t, you’ll wind up with a sink full of dirty ones. Food residue will dry on them, so you’ll have to spend extra time scrubbing. Also, your sink will get stained, so you’ll have to scour it. Look at all the work you made for yourself by not taking five minutes to empty the dishwasher.

Get Everyone Involved

That’s not to say you have to be the one cleaning everything or finding the five minutes to deal with that full dishwasher. Get your kids involved in housework — it helps them learn how to pay attention to details and teaches them time management skills that will help them succeed as adults. Assign them the kind of chores that kids can do.

Or, if you’re using one of my printable cleaning checklists, hand a different one to everyone in the family and set that 20-minute timer. When the timer goes off, stop. You can always pick up where you left off the next day. It’s just a house — it’s not you.

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