There’s no panic quite like the one that the doorbell brings. On the way to answer that unexpected ring, you’re mentally kicking yourself for not being as tidy as you’d like. Even if no one is at the door, you might find you are just wishing the house was neater so you could relax and enjoy being home without worrying about the mess.
When I chat with other professional organizers, I find we all have similar routines we follow to keep our own homes clean. We’ve developed habits that are quick solutions for everyday problems that cause chaos when left to pile up. I use these easy hacks in my own home to keep it neat and tidy.
1. Get a Great Door Mat
A door mat is more than just a vehicle for welcoming guests—it is your first defense in the battle against a dirty home. Get one that will really scrape mud and sand off of the soles of your shoes. I make sure to shake it off and sweep my porch each time I vacuum the rug in my entryway. It’s a great reminder to keep the outside as clean as the interior, so less dirt gets tracked inside.
2. Stop Dirt Inside the Door, Too
I’ve learned that while the outside mat is essential, it doesn’t do the trick alone. Catch any remaining dirt and sand with an indoor rug. One of my favorite tricks is to use a runner as a door mat. It’s still small enough to take outside and shake, but it catches more steps and therefore collects more soil than a traditional mat. It is especially great if you have a small pet because they will walk several steps on it, in essence wiping their paws off completely.
3. Hang Up Your Clutter
A row of hanging items looks much neater than a pile of the same items on the dining room table or draped over a chair. Add some hooks to your entryway so that when you come in the door, you can immediately prevent a clutter pile by hanging up your purse, briefcase, coat, hat and keys. You can even add a wall basket to one of the hooks to collect wallets, sunglasses and other small items. Think of it as your clutter landing pad.
4. Go Vertical with Paper Stacks
Another thing that comes in the door with me is mail. Despite my efforts to go paperless, there are plenty of papers that would create towering stacks if left to pile up. I keep them neat with a vertical file holder. It’s set up with folders for bills to pay, papers to file elsewhere, invitations, take-out menus and local coupons. Create your own categories for anything that would normally get lost in a messy stack.
5. Keep the Kitchen Easy to Clean
Hustling in and out as we head to work can make it tempting to walk off and leave the kitchen mess for later. That just doesn’t work for me, as I find I don’t have more time later! I’ve learned that I need to leave the sink clean when I head to bed and again when I leave the house in the morning. Developing this habit meant a lot less stress in the long run and more time saved, as it is much easier to clean a fresh mess than an old one. Here are a couple of other tricks that help keep the kitchen clean.
- Get a backsplash. The term “backsplash” is appropriate in my home, because whenever I cook or do dishes, things get splashed back behind the sink and stove! There are tons of backsplashes available to make those messy areas easier to clean. You can opt for traditional tiles or easy-to-install stick-on backsplashes like RoomMates StickTILES. Discover fun styles from long stone to mosaic and even marble here!
- Use trays. I bought some inexpensive, colorful plastic trays that can easily be popped into the dishwasher. I keep one under the pet’s food bowls, another under the sink to collect spilled soap or dishwasher powder and a small one under the toaster to catch crumbs. Wherever you find a mess happening repeatedly, try this technique. It’s way easier than cleaning the floor or counter.
- Wipe down the kitchen continually. The more you wipe up a mess as you make it, the less you’ll need to deep clean later on. So lift burners and wipe the stove after each use, wipe out the fridge before stowing away this week’s groceries and wipe counters daily after you’ve washed the dishes.
6. Divide and Conquer Laundry
If you do laundry every day but still feel as though you can never catch up with the piles of unwashed clothes, you might need a change in your routine. I’ve found it takes so much longer to do a mixed load of clothing from various family members. By the time I go to each room to collect dirty clothing, wash and fold it, divide it by family member and return it to each dresser or closet in the house, I’ve made a lot of extra steps. Try having a wash day for each family member instead of mixing it all up. You’ll only go to one place to get and return the clothing.
7. Stay on Top of Clutter
Clutter happens when we have too much stuff laying around and wait too long to put it away. Don’t let things pile up until you are overwhelmed! At my house, I keep on top of the clutter bug with a couple of simple hacks.
- Collect daily. I use a laundry basket to go from room to room. I pick up items that are out of place and drop them in the basket so I can carry them with me to the spot they belong.
- I keep a donation bag in my closet to corral items I come across that we no longer wear or need. When the bag is full, I drop it off at a local charity.
8. Keep it Clean
Whenever I can, I take steps to keep my home as clean as possible instead of letting each room get really dirty and then trying to clean up the mess all at once.
- Make it easy. Keep disposable cleaning wipes handy in messy rooms for quick cleans. I have them in each bathroom as well as the kitchen and laundry room.
- Kick off your shoes. Leaving your shoes at the door really helps prevent dirt from being tracked in and keeps your floors clean. I’ve even added a hook by the door for my dog’s towel so I can give his paws a dry when it is rainy out.
- Wash your hands. Not only is it good for your health, but it’s great for your house, too. Teaching family members to wash their hands often will help keep doors, furniture, throw pillows and other often-handled items much cleaner.
- Protect high traffic areas. Add a throw rug to your living room, den or other areas where you spend a lot of time, and use runners in hallways that see a lot of traffic. This will protect your carpet and flooring from dirt and wear.
The trick to a clean and organized house simply consists of taking a little time each day to clean instead of leaving it all to pile up. Try these 8 clean and tidy hacks, and you’ll be surprised how easy it is to keep your home in tip-top shape.
Lea Schneider is a professional organization expert and a stickler for finding new ways to help keep homes clean with easy-to-use techniques. Lea writes her tips for The Home Depot. For inspiration on rugs that can keep your place sparkling clean, you can review a Home Depot rugs guide here. For a selection of area rugs on the Home Depot website, you can click here.