How To Clean Any Space: 5 Steps To Start Fresh : Life Kit A clean home can feel like a fresh start. Here's how to build a cleaning routine without getting overwhelmed.

How to keep your house clean (enough)

How to keep your house clean (enough)

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Alfonso de Anda for NPR
Deep cleaning any space in your home.
Alfonso de Anda for NPR

Many of us are spending a lot more time at home than in years past. And if you've noticed dust bunnies, streaky windows or that pile of clothes that keeps getting higher, now's a great time to clean house.

We spoke to Taryn Williford, the lifestyle director at Apartment Therapy, about how to deep clean any space.

Think about what you want to achieve

Williford says figuring out what you want to get done — and why — is the first step. "Step back, zoom out and figure out your goals and really get your mindset into shape," she says. Maybe it's a nightly wipedown of kitchen counters, a weekly clean of the bathroom or a monthly deep clean of your whole house. Identifying what you want ahead of time makes it easier to get down to it.

Pick up clutter before cleaning

Before you start deep cleaning, do some basic tidying up. Remember the maxim, "A place for everything and everything in its place." Williford says when everything is where it should be, it saves a lot of time when you actually start cleaning.

And you can arrange your stuff according to how you use it. She says she remembers a comment a reader left at the end of an article on Apartment Therapy: "Don't change your habit, change your habitat." Williford says that helped her realize that it was OK to put a hamper in the living room if that was where she was most likely to remove her socks. "I realized I can kind of choose to design my home around my life, instead of designing my life around my home."

A place for everything, and everything in its place.
Alfonso de Anda for NPR

You don't need fancy products and cleaning equipment

You need an all-purpose cleaner, a disinfectant and a window cleaner, Williford says. That all-purpose cleaner will work on most surfaces in your home. The disinfectant will attack germs in places like inside the toilet or on the kitchen counter. And the window cleaner is formulated to make sure that it doesn't leave streaks or deposits.

If you want to experiment with making your own eco-friendly cleaners, we have a Life Kit episode all about green cleaning.

In terms of tools, a few microfiber cloths will do nicely, as well as a scrub brush, a mop and a vacuum or broom. She says you may also need a duster (or you can improvise with a sock!).

Williford also keeps handy a razor blade (to scrape off something that's stuck), a cocktail pick (to get to tiny crevices) and a squeegee (for glass shower doors and windows).

Clean from top to bottom.
Alfonso de Anda for NPR

Three basic rules for cleaning

Williford suggests starting with the kitchen and bathroom. "They're the most important rooms to clean — and to clean properly," she says. Make sure you clean all countertops, the front of the fridge and cabinets and even trash cans. Go clockwise so you don't miss any surfaces or furniture.

Another rule of thumb is to go top to bottom. So, for example, in the bedroom, clean the light fixtures and the fan before stripping the beds. Williford learned that lesson the hard way when she first started by taking off all the bedsheets. "All the dust would fall on my bare mattress!"

Make sure to dry clean before you wet clean. For example, you want to dust your blinds first before using your all-purpose spray. "And the reason for that is, if you start straight in with your wet cleaners and you haven't dusted that surface, you're going to end up getting all that gunk on your rag and you realize, 'oh, this rag is filthy' and you end up having to switch out rags more often. It's just really not efficient," Williford says.

Finally, sweep or vacuum the rugs and floors and then mop.

Get into a routine

Williford says getting into a routine helps make deep cleaning less intimidating. Set a schedule for daily, weekly and monthly cleaning tasks.

Daily tasks might include picking things up, cleaning kitchen surfaces and doing those dishes. Weekly tasks might include cleaning the bathroom, dusting surfaces all over your home and washing sheets and towels.

Nothing compares to the feeling of a squeaky clean home, Williford says. "When the kitchen's clean, it makes cooking that much easier. When the sheets have been washed, it makes getting to bed on time easier," she says.

A clean home can positively impact your health, your sleep and your hobbies. "A perfectly clean home really makes you feel like you can do anything!" she says.


The podcast version of this story was produced by Sylvie Douglis.

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