Open Thread: Keeping a Clean House When You’re Too Busy To Clean

Cleaning Supplies, originally uploaded to Flickr by SurvivalWoman

2016 Update: Links have been updated below; you can also check out our latest discussion on last minute cleaning for busy women.

So:  one of the big tips they give to working women is to hire a cleaning lady.  I get it, I really do — but I still can’t bring myself to bring someone in more than once a quarter.  I’ve seen a ton of interesting Pins on Pinterest on how to keep your house clean (e.g., this one from The Budget Diet), and I know both Apartment Therapy and Real Simple have written about it in the past.  I know readers have discussed full-fledged “systems” like The Fly Lady cleaning system, as well as newer ones like, ahem, [email protected]#$ Your Habitat (which even has an app).  There are even games out there, like Chore Wars! (Pictured: Cleaning Supplies, originally uploaded to Flickr by SurvivalWoman.)

For my $.02: I’ve been doing my own modified version of a few different systems, but in general I’m willing to commit 15 minutes a day to cleaning.  For our 2-bedroom, 1.5 bath, 1000 sq ft apartment, this is what it looks like:

  • Monday: clean bathrooms (counters, mirrors, toilets) and kitchen counters
  • Tuesday: Swiffer floors, dust apartment
  • Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday: spend 15 minutes doing Thing That Bugs Me (maybe it’s scrubbing the stove, or the shower, or decluttering the kitchen table, or cleaning a bathroom floor)

We tend to do laundry as needed throughout the week, and my husband (God bless him!) does most of the dishes and whatever vacuuming needs to be done.  I’ve found the perfect time for cleaning, for me, is after my workout, when I’m already sweaty and gross but want to cool down before I hop in the shower.  I’m starting to get more into nontoxic, green cleaners, and across the board I really like Method products over some other ones I’ve tried.

Readers, do you have a system for keeping your house or apartment clean?  If you have a partner or roommate, how do you split chores?


  1. I was astounded that Kat only vacuums her floors once a week – and then I remembered that not everyone has cats. I also have hardwood floors, so the tufts of hair don’t have a carpet to settle into, they are just little furry dust bunnies floating around the floor. My cleaning routine almost entirely comprises vacuuming every day, and then trying not to let everything else look too disgusting.

    • Have you considered a robotic vacuum (such as Roomba)? My parents have a dog and set it off every morning before they leave the house. It’s easy, and has made a huge difference. (They run it on hardwood floors and carpet.)

      • I’ve been feeling like I should do Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad and just have a Roomba wandering the place at all times. My issue is my long black hair! It’s everywhere and I just don’t feel like sweeping every night.

        • lucy stone :

          Ditto, except blonde. I am getting really tempted to buy a robot vacuum.

      • Google Roomba dog poop if you have pets and are considering a Roomba. Same goes for cat puke.

      • locomotive :

        My parents have a roomba too and although you still have to do some more in-depth swiffering once in a while (my mom says 2-3 weeks), it has reduced the daily cleaning of the hardwood floors considerably. Of course, it makes more sense in a bigger place (as opposed to my 500 sq foot studio)

      • Question for anyone who has a Roomba: does it have any kind of mechanism to keep it from falling down the stairs? Also, does it vacuum the stairs, by any chance?

        • SpaceMountain :

          It does not do stairs, but it has sensors to keep itself from falling down the stairs. Love my Roomba. I also bought the Scooba to wash my kitchen floor, but not so much success with it. It was always breaking down, and more trouble than it was worth. Easier just to mop it myself.

      • Maine Associate :

        It is just me and the cat in a 900 square fot condo with carpet and linoleum floors. I have a Roomba that I run each day M-F. I am shocked at the amount of cat hair that Roomba finds every day. I love coming home and seeing the marks in the freshly vacuumed carpet. The added bonus is that I need to keep the rooms picked up so Roomba does not suck up something or get stuck somewhere, so it is nice coming home to a freshly vacummed and picked up home.

    • We have a very heavily shedding dog, and, I have to admit, we pretty much just live with the hair. It’s not hurting anything, we know where it came from so it’s not too gross, and we can always vacuum it up before guests come around. Maybe this is gross, but, since there are tufts around 15 minutes after we vacuum anyway, we rarely vacuum even weekly – probably twice a month, on average.

      (We had a Roomba, but burnt it out from all the hair. I understand that they make ones specifically for pet hair, but I wouldn’t waste your money on a regular one if pet hair is a big issue.)

      • This. I had a Roomba. My cat (who sheds his own body weight in hair every two days) killed it within about three months.

    • Wow. I have cats, and my place only gets vacuumed once every 3 weeks when my cleaning lady comes (she also removes cat hair from furniture). Do you brush your cats? I have some little cat-hair tumbleweeds on the floor, but not enough to bother vacuuming.

      • I think it depends on how much you let your cat roam….if we left our little furball alone in the apartment, everything would be covered. He sleeps in “his room” in the basement (where his bed, toys, litter, food, etc are), hangs out in the house ONLY if we are there & is not allowed on furniture; otherwise he has to be downstairs or outside.

        I think people with purely indoor cats would have to vacuum the cr*p out of their house every day. With our strategy (which sounds like might be yours?) We just have the cat tumbleweeds and a little shedding on the carpet- but 1x a week vacuum is fine.

        • I have a cat and I don’t have the pet hair problem. My cat is allowed to roam everywhere but the closets and tabletops. I think it depends on the cat and the type of furniture you have (we do have one ikea chair that seems to be a hair magnet. But I put a different piece of cover on it, and the problem more or less solved itself).
          Also, on an aside, I find that cats that eat wet food shed a bit less – maybe it’s a matter of extra oils?

          • We’ve noticed the same with our cats re: diet. All of ours are on a grain-free, mostly wet diet and we have relatively little shedding. I brush them once a week and we vacuum all surfaces once a week, but after the diet change, I can pick up my long haired white Ragdoll in a black suit without fear (and without a sticky roller nearby). His hair stays put.

          • TurtleWexler :

            My cat sheds some, but it’s not too bad. We do try to brush him a couple times a week, which heads off some of the problem because we can capture the hair and throw it out before he spreads it everywhere. We vacuum about once every 1.5-2 weeks to get rid of tumbleweeds, dust, etc, which is more of a chore now that we’re living in a sizeable 2-story house rather than our old 1-br apartment. I actually find that the little pieces of whatever it is the tree in our front yard sheds are worse than the cat hair, though, as they get tracked inside and manage to spread everywhere.

          • How do you keep your cat off the table tops? Because in the last year, I have started waking up to find kitty sunning herself on the kitchen table, exactly in the spot where I eat. My solution has been to put down placemats when I’m eating and remove them when I’m done.

          • @Bluejay –
            Constant harrassment. When she was little, I would just do a very authoritative “NO” whenever she would try to get on the table, coffee table, counter, etc… Repeated until it worked. If the cat doesn’t move, “NO” accompanied by taking cat off the offending tabletop. Cats can be trained just as well as dogs, it’s just a matter of sticking with it and a somewhat different reward system. If all else fails, try the water gun :)

          • @Bluejay

            Slightly crumpled tin foil. And occasionally some duct tape rolled so its double sided. That plus a loud “Pst” sound has worked.

          • I fill a spray bottle with water and a little bit of white vinegar. My cats don’t care about being moved, told “no”, hissed at, or sprayed with regular water until they are soaked . . . but they HATE the smell and taste of vinegar. Now whenever they are being naughty I leave the spray bottle out on the counter and they go back to behaving like angels.

          • hmm… thanks for the ideas. I’m not home enough to be consistent with telling her to get off the table, and I think she’d enjoy playing with aluminum foil balls, but duct tape just might do the trick.

        • How much you let your cat roam? Don’t you mean how much of the apartment your cat lets you use? :)

          My cats go everywhere and one of them is long haired. I’ve never had a cat who was restricted to one area of the house. I think that if you brush them regularly the shedding isn’t so bad that you need to vacuum often.

      • We do brush our cats, but we have 3 in 550 sq. feet, so I think that makes it feel like it accumulates faster than it might otherwise. I also didn’t notice it as much when we had rugs, but now it’s all hardwood. I may also be more fastidious about it than necessary. :)

    • I would love to get vacuum recommendations from people with pets. I am currently considering a Miele – I like how lightweight it is, but I have only ever had bagless and am a little concerned about the cost of the bags. I considered Dyson, but it’s quite heavy and we have three levels that need regular vacuuming, so portability is a high priority. Thoughts?

      • My dog and I have killed 3 vacuums with our combined shedding. My current vacuum is the Shark Navigator, which is still going strong after a year. The cord and the hose are both a bit too short for my taste, but otherwise I am very happy with it.

      • I actually work for a company that makes vacuums. I’d recommend going to a vacuum dealer (not a big box store) that carries multiple brands so you can try them out and ask questions. You can probably negotiate for some free bags if you purchase from a dealer.

      • My Miele is about 8 years old and like it. I buy bags in bulk on amazon, which cuts down on cost. I have to cut the dog hair off the brushes pretty frequently, but I think that would be an issue with any vacuum.

        Also, we recently got one of the Electrolux cordless stick vacuums, and it is life changing. It’s light but powerful enough for a quick sweep so that I only need to use the Miele once a week.

      • The miele is awesome. Going on 15 years with mine, whereas before the miele i killed a vaccuum every year or two.

      • We have an irobot (like a roomba) that we got at an awesome sale price. It is amazing. Seriously, two long haired cats, a big dog, and two shed-y humans meant that I was vacuuming daily. As long as you make sure to clean out the dustbin regularly it works really well. Seriously, I think it saved our relationship. I was going crazy because of all the hair everywhere and my SO was going crazy because I was vacuuming all.the.time.

      • I have a Shark Navigator Lift-Away. I love it. I had bags before, and I prefer canister. (Although other members of my family feel the opposite way.) The Lift-Away can work upright, like a normal vacuum, or you can lift the canister off the stand and use it as hand-held.

        It was like $150 on Bed, Bath, and Beyond dot com. And since they didn’t have it in the store in stock, shipping was free.

        I read lots of reviews, and people seemed to like it way more than others in its price range.

      • I’m curious which Dyson you looked at and found heavy. We have the City, I think, and it’s quite a bit lighter than all of the standard uprights I’ve used.

    • Kind of funny story on pets and hair–I just got a puppy a few weeks ago. I vacuumed the morning I brought him home to pick up any loose thread and those little plastic tags from new clothes that previously never bothered me on the floor in between vacuums. I haven’t vacuumed since. The gross thing: we’ll be playing on the floor and I’ll notice one of his chew toys covered in hair–MINE. I haven’t seen a single one of his hairs, but mine is like a second layer of carpet. He’s probably wandering my apartment thinking “my owner is so gross! vacuum, lady!”

    • This is so ME! I am not allowed to have pet’s in my co-op, but it get’s very dusty, and with all of the work I am doeing at work, I do NOT have time to keep my place as fresh as I want.

      I do NOT have the money yet to have a cleaneing service come in. At my house, we had cleaner’s who also took thing’s so I have to be very carful, like my dad says, who I hire to do things for me.

      Anyway, Jim is STILL going to send over some cases, but I told him he should NOT be at the depo’s b/c I told him it would be inflamatorry for the plaintiff’s to see him there.

      I told the manageing partner about the deli, and he said I could bill Jim for my time, but that the firm would pay for his sammwich. FOOEY! I thought Jim should pay for both, but at least the manageing partner is going to reiburse me for the check at Pastrami Queen. Yay!!!!

  2. We clean once a week on saturday mornings. We try to pick a day, mid week, to tidy so that the process is substantially simpler come the weekend. Dishes & kitchen counters as needed, obviously.
    Split is SO does kitchen and bath, I do bedroom & living area. He is not capable of arranging clutter artfully and fluffing pillows just so, t/f he gets stuck with the toilet duty.
    I would love to hire someone but not sure if it’s worth it if she won’t do laundry (and put it away) in our small apartment and getting someone to do that requires more effort than I am willing to devote at the moment. But that’s the goal, ultimately.

    • FWIW, I have tried the one thing a day system Kat has and I just don’t have the discipline. I try to do little things throughout the week to make Saturday cleans easier but it just doesn’t happen with any regularity. Doing it once a week, I at least ensure that my weekends — when I’m home the most — are spent in a pleasant, clean environment.

    • Same – we have a 900sf 1br/1ba. Saturday or Sunday morning, after workout but pre shower, hubby cleans the bathroom while I vacuum/dust/get the laundry organized. We clean the kitchen counters as we go, but occasionally we’ll include a stove/microwave scrubdown into the weekly routine.

      During the week, we just try to keep things where they belong (i.e., putting used-but-not-dirty clothes back on hangers rather than letting them pile up on the chair we use to air them overnight before putting away) rather than tackling actual “cleaning.”

      I like doing the cleaning all at once — otherwise, it feels like we’d never have an actually “clean house.”

    • Aw, I miss being able to clean the whole house on Saturday mornings in 30 minutes. But yeah, that was pre-kids, 900 sq. ft. house. No longer.

      • This. Who knew that such little people could accumulate so much stuff?

        We have a cleaning lady come twice a month to do bathrooms, dusting, vaccuming the entire house, and deep cleaning the stove top. The rest of the time I just make sure to keep up with the dishes and clutter. My husband and I always do the dishes right after we finish eating dinner. Then, once the baby is asleep, I spend 10-20 minutes just “picking up.” I’ll either put dishes away, organize kids toys and burp cloths, file and sort mail, wipe down the kitchen sink and counter tops, throw a load of laundry in the wash/dryer, change bed sheets, etc. It’s just enough time that I don’t feel overwhelmed, but it is a nice sense of accomplishment.

        There’s nothing better than going to bed with a lot less clutter and not having to worry about that in the morning.

    • Honey Pillows :

      I’m not reliable home early enough on weekdays to keep my house clean every week. Every other week or so, I’ll end up scheduling a happy hour, two business meetings, a club meeting, and a date with the Dear Young Buck, leaving just enough time when I get home to slap together some food for lunch the next day and collapse into bed (and watch an episode of Jane by Design or Wilfred, I’ll admit).

      I have been managing to wipe down the bathroom every morning after my shower, though -cutting weekly bathroom cleaning to washing the towels and mat, and doing the floor.

  3. Fly Lady all the way! Her program has made a huge difference in my stress level on the weekends, and I cannot recommend it enough. You don’t even have to create a cleaning schedule, she emails you a Daily Flight Plan. So simple!

    PS: For those fly babies who are curious, the cleaning supplies I’ve purchased – purple rags and day of the week towels – are worth their salt.

    • Business, Not Law :

      I love the Fly Lady! I almost always do 15 minutes of whatever her “daily mission” is, plus generally fit in the items on the WHBH throughout the week.

      However, I swear by: the shiny sink, the daily load of laundry and the daily swish and swipe. These 3 things make me feel like I generally have it together enough at any given time and they really do translate into keeping the rest of the house clean…or being no more than 15 minutes away from “company ready”

      I’ve always wondered about the purple rags! (I don’t have any of her products)

      • Company ready in 15 minutes – exactly! Priceless freedom, I think.

        The purple rags are great – they work wet or dry. But, do make sure to wash them alone the first couple of times in the baggie they come in b/c they truly do bleed!

    • How do you get the daily flight plan emails? I get a huge compilation email that I usually just ignore because it’s mostly testimonials. Am I subscribed to the wrong list?

      I love her premise–that you can’t approach it like you’re “behind.” Just make a routine and tackle 15 minutes a day and settle for “better.” It really does help you stay on top of it. I think of her as the “Dave Ramsey” of housecleaning: Nothing revolutionary about the method, just a keen understanding of human nature.

      • Business, Not Law :

        That’s a great comparison!

        I get the daily compilation email and just look for “flight plan for the day” sub-heading. That or I’ll look at Monday’s “sneak peak for the week” and reference that. I very rarely read the rest of it unless I’m needing some extra motivation.

      • I’m about to take that approach with unpacking moving boxes. Setting out to do the big job just gets me frustrated & going in circles. We’ve been here a week, so most of the “musts” are done, but there’s a big, intimidating stack of boxes out there! And I didn’t do the weekend clean I had promised mysel in this house, bc everything seemed so hard to get to.

    • Honey Pillows :

      Yep, Flylady is great. I’m still limping a bit -“fluttering” as she calls it, but I’ve managed to create a morning routine with the SwishnSwipe and emptying the dishwasher/shining the sink every day, and I lay out my clothes and pack my lunch every night.

      I emailed her and didn’t get my question answered though -any recommendations for using her system with roommates? The system of Do It Now means my roommate Doesn’t Do Anything except her own dishes.

      • anon questions :

        Duh. If I’d just read a bit more. Honey Pillows has the same question that I do. If I do more hubby/roommate does less.

    • anon questions :

      I’m probably too late to get any comments, but here goes. I like the Fly Lady premise. But. I know this sounds petty but DH and I are always fighting about who does what when. He won’t participate. In order for me to have a clean sink at night, I’d have to load the dishwasher (which is/should be his job) then empty it and partially load it again in order to SEE the sink at night to clean it. And if I do all that, then he just ends up doing less and less. The more I do the less he does. Sigh. Not that y’all can help me do this, I’m just frustrated that we can’t agree to a plan.

      • I have the same problem. I ask too, and I get the half attempt. That’s worse than not doing it! I haven’t found a way to get through to him, yet. I sometimes get mad enough that I don’t to it either and wait for him to get the hint, same with replacing the trashbag. Still doesn’t get it and I can’t live in such grossness. Sad day. Anyone find a resolution to get their butts off the couch and help?

  4. research lawyer in SV :

    We have a Roomba and a Mint. The Roomba sets itself off M-F a little before we leave the house. We have an open floor plan so it does the kitchen, dining room, living room, and family room. The mint is very quiet but can do damp mopping. We use the mint in the bathrooms to damp mop but instead of using the cloth put a couple clorox wipes on it. We have hardwood floors, so we also damp mop the bedroom the with the mint once a week.

    The rest of the house gets done with a Dyson for the floors on the weekends. I hang the throw rugs out on the line to air out, and wipe down the bathrooms ( 2) with clorox wet wipes. Laundry on weekends too, but since we replaced our washer and dryer recently with the largest capacity models from Sears you can get, that’s cut the number of loads in half. The dryer also has a “steam and refresh” mode that good for reducing my trips to the dry cleaner for clothes that are merely rumpled.

    Hubs helps out a lot. I told him he could buy the vacuum of his choice if he was going to use it.

    We have an active soon to be 5 year old and a Maine Coon cat, so yes, my floors really do get that dirty.

    • Ok, I’ve never heard of a Mint. Please tell me how you like it and how well it works. This sounds pretty fantastic in theory, but is it worth it?

      FWIW, we have two dogs and our house is all either hardwoord floor or tile floor. Would you recommend a roomba, a mint, or both?

      • research lawyer in SV :

        Oh, I love them both. They do different things.

        The Roomba is great for picking up cat hair, bits of cheeios, dirt, etc. It’s especially nice that we have it set to run itself a little bit before we leave in the morning. Most of the time it re-docks itself but occasionally it can get “lost”. We have had various models over the last decade or so. The early battery technology only lasted a couple of years and a catnip mouse that was left out caused the quick demise of one. But, it’s regular and even if you bought one every year (which we haven’t by a long shot) still cheaper than maid service. Oh, and it gets under the sofa which is something I can’t manage with the big vacuum. If you have a throw rug with fringes, it will eat them up though.

        However, the Roomba doesn’t damp mop. We had a Scooba when they first came out and it just wasn’t worth the effort. It was bigger and clumsy and when the part that sucks the water back up stopped working correctly we abandoned it. The Mint ( solves that, at least for us. It can take either a reusable microfiber cloth or a swiffer disposable sheets in dry mode and uses a different washable microfiber cloth in wet mode. If you’ve ever gone through potty training with a little boy, you’ll know what I mean about wanting to clean your bathroom floor with Clorox regularly so figuring out how to attach the Clorox wipes to it was a real bonus. But, the Mint isn’t programmable and doesn’t hold as much of a charge so I mostly just use it to damp mop as much of the house as I can on the weekend, starting with the bathrooms and moving on to the master bedroom and then whatever else I can get out of it before it runs out of charge.

        Even with both of these we still have to vacuum with the Dyson occasionally. But if we miss a week or two it’s not critical. Now if they could just invent a robot to dust.

    • You have a Roomba and a Dyson? Wow.

      • research lawyer in SV :

        I suppose that does sound like a lot, but I’ll do anything to get my husband to help out including letting him buy the power tools of his choice! We have the “pet hair” model with extra suction and in the well over 5 years we’ve had it, I think I’ve used it twice. I do have cute photos of my husband vacuuming and my son pushing the little ball popper toy alongside him pretending to vacuum with him. :-)

  5. I take a few minutes every morning to tidy things around the house, put away clothes, tidy the sofa, load the dishwasher etc. so I am mostly “company ready” at all times. I DETEST cleaning, but I LOVE it really clean -so the cleaning lady is a must for me. She comes once every 2 weeks so there is not too much left for me in terms of deep cleaning. I just make sure to grab a couple of clorox wipes every 2 days and devote 10 minutes to cleaning something that is in frequent use: sink, toilet, shower (no more than 1 week between shower cleanings for me), clean the fridge or stove, change light bulbs (and no, I don’t use Clorox wipes for that :D), change air fresheners, pack away laundry, change bed sheets.
    As much as I detest cleaning, I love being organized, so every 6 months I do a purge and re-organize day, where I pick up every item in my appartment and decide whether it stays or goes.

    • I commented above, but this is almost my exact routine. And it works. My in-laws dropped by with 30 minutes’ notice yesterday (yay?) and we had the house “company-ready” in 15 minutes.

  6. Before I had kids, I had a designated small daily chore and saved the big stuff for the weekend, but I’m just not organized enough to do that anymore. During the week, I try to make sure the basics are covered – clean dishes that are put away, clutter picked up, no stinky trash sitting around, and maybe one of the bigger chores like cleaning the bathroom or dusting if I have the time and energy. Sweeping the floor also is a necessity after mealtime with the toddler, so that gets done every day, too. I wash bath towels and kitchen towels mid-week, but I wash almost all our clothes on the weekends. For me, it’s just easier to know that everyone has clean clothes for the week and I don’t have to mentally keep track of what’s clean and what’s dirty.

    To be honest, the cleaning mostly falls on me. And the big stuff just doesn’t get done as often as I’d like, partly because I don’t get started on even the routine daily stuff until after DS goes to bed. DH does vacuum and help me de-clutter after the munchkin goes to bed, but the big stuff is my responsibility. I’ve chosen not to be mad about it anymore because he does his share in other ways.

    I’ve had to relax my standards, big time, since having a child. I’d rather spend my evenings and weekends with DS and DH than have a pristine house. We don’t live in a pit by any means, and I’m positive I’m the only one who notices that the grout could be a little cleaner. We’ve talked about hiring someone for a monthly deep cleaning, but haven’t gotten around to doing it.

    • This, exactly. I’ve made peace with the idea that I can’t live in a showroom if I have a toddler. I try to have at least one room in the house that stays clean–an oasis from the parenting life. But the living room is just going to have toys on the floor most of the time. No way around it.

      • Research, Not Law :

        This. Basically, we pick up after the kids go to bed and do whatever gets done on one weekend morning, plus laundry and vacuuming as needed (1-2/wk). We deep clean every couple of months. Our house isn’t even close to our pre-kids standard, but oh well. It won’t be forever.

    • Anonymous :

      Pre-kids, and even when they were little, I felt like I was on top of keeping my house clean. But ever since child number 2 left her crib, leaving a trail of toys behind (they’re 5 and 7 now), it seems like I just can’t ever get on top of the clutter, let alone find time to clean the surfaces underneath. School papers, toys, mountains of laundry (magnified with changes of clothes and wet towels from summer camp), grownup paperwork, outgrown clothes, outgrown toys. Reasonable work schedule, but a commute that takes over two hours out of every day. Home to homework, dinner, bedtime, exhausted by the time grownup dinner rolls around at 8:30 or 9. I’ve already given up on getting to the gym. Weekends seem to fill themselves with soccer games, swim lessons (working mom guilt for not being able to squeeze in extracurriculars during the week), kid birthday parties, and just making sure that the clothes are clean and the fridge is full of food. No room in the squeezed budget for outside help. My current plan of staying too busy to have time in the house to see the mess is no longer working. Do any of you with bigg(er) kids and crazy schedules manage to stay on top of it all? Am I missing something?

      • My kiddo is still young, so take this with a grain of salt, but what’s helped me most with kid clutter is having a designated place for everything. That also might help the kids take ownership of their own stuff and gear so you don’t have to do this much. Can you take a day off work to create a “system” for organizing the stuff that drives you most crazy? You have my sympathies; I think being a working mom with school-age kids in activities seems really, really challenging.

        • Ooh, forgot about this, but since clutter seems to be your main issue, check out the blog Unclutterer. Lots of good advice for getting organized.

      • Diana Barry :

        I hear you. 3 kids (4,2,0) and mountains of stuff/toys/paperwork. :(

      • I don’t have suggestions – just want to say I’m right there with you – pretty much every detail of your post! Sometimes I feel like the only professional woman without a cleaning service. That’s maybe the first thing I would do if I won the lottery. Sad!

      • Ohmygod, you are me! At least I’m not alone in this boat.

      • Research, Not Law :

        When I was growing up, my mom had a magnet with a picture of a women digging through a laundry hamper with the words “Working mothers always have loads of clean underwear.” It puzzled me as a child, but I reflect on it often these days!

        No real advice, as my kids are still young. I’m thinking that I would schedule in cleaning time on the weekend and hold it just as sacred as swim lessons. You and husband attack the main rooms while kids pick up their bedrooms. I’d also instigate a one-toy-at-a-time policy, so they have to put away one before the take out the next. (Easier said than done, I’m sure). I find that papers and toys only get out of the way if they have a convenient home, so I’m currently plotting a system that will be easy for us to follow. The decluttering approach that works for us is essentially bagging up what we don’t want/need and dropping it a pile in the basement. We only deal with it about once a year. It’s not elegant, but it works for us.

      • I have 2 kids, an insane schedule and a clean but cluttered house. The cleaning lady comes every other week and the night before she comes is a miserable whirlwind of picking up and putting away. What we need is an Alice. What we have is a cleaning lady who will clean around anything not put away.

        We have relaxed out standards. We scream at the kids to pick up their rooms (thats the good thing about them being older) but in the end, theyre the ones who have to live in their messy rooms, not us. We do insist they get all of their crap out of the common areas.

      • One kid. Messy house. Paperwork kills me.

    • No kids, no dog (yet….), but I have totally relaxed my standards because having a fun life where I have time to cook a healthy meal, eat it while chatting with my DH, and making time to exercise is more enjoyable to me than a pristine house.

      That movie, “American Beauty” came out while DH and I were just dating. I told him I never wanted to be the Annette Bening character, who valued a perfect leather sofa over good s#x that might have helped her character reconnect w/Kevin Spacey’s character.

  7. Job Question :

    I’m threadjacking this thread with a job question because I think it’ll get more responses than this morning’s thread – I apologize in advance:

    I am a fifth-year associate, and I have decided that I don’t like being a lawyer. So much so, that I really can’t imagine doing this forever. I have 6-7 years of professional experience prior to law school and five years experience as a litigation associate. I have been applying for non-law jobs and have gotten NOWHERE! Prior to this frustrating process, I (wrongly?) thought that the law degree + non-law experience + five years experience writing, researching, dealing with clients, going to court, etc. would really make me an attractive candidate for some of these non-legal jobs. Most of them pay considerably less than what I currently making (I have decided that a pay cut is worth it since I am just that miserable as a lawyer). What am I doing wrong? Are my skills learned obtaining a professional degree and working as a lawyer really not as valuable as I thought they were? I have tried to emphasize in my cover letters how my experiences as a lawyer transfer nicely for the positions I am applying for. Am I doomed? Will I need to go back to school for another degree?

    • What non-lawyer jobs are you angling for? Same thing you did before becoming a lawyer?

      • Job Question :

        Yes, similar. Developmentand fundraising,PR, communications, marketing and academic administration and research. All are related to things I did per-law school, which was admittedly 10 + years ago, but all also seem to require skills that I also have as a lawyer. I have applied for approximately 10 jobs and have not received a single interview!

        • I’m not saying this to snark, but in the current economic climate, 10 jobs is really just not a good enough sampling to know if you’re doing something wrong.

          • emcsquared :

            Second this – it took me 30+ applications to land 3 interviews in the legal field with my law degree. Those 3 interviews gave rise to 1 job. You’re fighting an even bigger uphill battle.

            You need to rely on your networks and get involved in volunteer work; your resume and cover letter alone are not going to tell your story well enough to get you in the door for such a big change. Alternatively, can you come at it sideways by shifting into a marketing role within your law firm, as a stepping stone to something else in a few years?

            If you do relevant volunteer work or a gig on the side, make sure you add it to LinkedIn and to your resume. You need to build a paper persona that matches your ideal professional self.

    • I’m in a similar position. I’m remembering that the nonprofit world is rather small and close-knit, so my failure to maintain my nonprofit network is really hurting me. My advice would be to get back in touch with all the people you used to know and maybe find an organization to volunteer at so you look like you’re really part of the nonprofit community.

      • To be brutally honest, at some firms legal skills will be a detriment. I’m in finance, and working with attorneys is seen as a necessary evil by many people in my firm (I think a good business-minded attorney is worth his/her weight in good, most of the time). The other hiring people would assume it would be a bad fit.

    • People do not want to hire lawyers for non-law jobs because the assumption is that you will be smarter/know more than/etc. your boss and everyone else you are working with. Call it the intimidation factor. They will assume you will know too much, may be overly critical, may cause problems, etc. some of this is true. Ask yourself, would I really be able to fit in with this organization? Would I really be able to defer to the judgement of someone who doesn’t know asuch as me? Will I be a human resources threat? Will I be able to defer to bad advice from in house counsel? It’s a hard transition on both sides.

      • I think this, plus the perception that you will expect compensation on par with the (usually fictional) common concept of “lawyer pay.” It stinks, really. No one believes that (1) you might be willing to make less than that for a job that makes you happy, or (2) most lawyers don’t make as much as they think they do anyway.

      • I do not prefer to higher lawyers that apply for non-law policy type jobs because I often find lawyers can’t get beyond their training to think of risk, possible obstacles, why an idea won’t work, etc to be productive working in team settings. I am looking for people to help think of new ways to solve problems, not to tell me why the new idea could possibly fail.

        Also, I find that sometimes lawyers tend to be overly accurate (and want to correct you) in a way that misses the point of the conversation. If I am holding a meeting on how to chase away rain clouds and make the sky blue again, I don’t need to be corrected that the sky isn’t actually blue its actually no color. “Blue” works as the color of the sky for all but the most scientific conversations.

        I would make sure to counteract this when applying.

        **Disclaimer to say some of the people that I love most in life are lawyers and do not exhibit these traits. I know that there are many creative lawyers out there.

    • Hi Job Question — I can’t help with your specific situation, but I work in development and know from experience that having a colleague with a law degree (specifically in planned giving) is highly valuable. Don’t give up! I would make sure you’re applying to the right orgs: foundations and/or large advancement shops (i.e. higher ed or hospitals) — places with the budget and experience to know they want/need someone with a law degree. Also: networking! See if you have a local branch of the PPP (Partnership for Philanthropic Planning); AFP may also be helpful.

    • I suggest you look into becoming a claims adjuster for an insurance company. We have all kinds of adjuster, many of whom are either practicing attorneys or recovering attorneys.

    • Job Question :

      Thanks all! I do realize that 10 is a small number, but its been discouraging to have been rejected for all without a single interview. As to the perception that lawyers only add risk-adverse/non-creative solutions – I am not that kind of person at all, which I think is partly why I hate being a lawyer. I don’t enjoy the type of thinking and the type of planning involved in handling typical legal matters. I am a much (ha ha) nicer person than that! (obviously kidding, and not meant to offend). Is there any way to convey this in a cover letter? I had thought I’d be able to do this in interviews, but I’m being rejected before that stage.

      I will try volunteering and networking avenues. I should take better advantage of my network. Honestly, when I’m not at work, the last thing I want to do is “socialize” with people for purposes of networking, but I realize this s something I’m going to have to do. I’m becoming so much less of a social person as I get older.

      • TFA Staffer :

        Have you looked at Teach For America? Full disclosure – I work there (and love it), and we have JD’s on every team in the org in very diverse roles.

      • Unfortunately, networking will probably be crucial, esp. when you are trying to change course in your career/ applying for jobs for which you may not be an obvious good fit. I have actually never gotten a job without a personal connection or referral to the organization (from a member of my alumni association, law school friend, former employer).

    • suggestion :

      Please disregard if you have already considered and rejected this but…

      Have you thought about transitioning to a different area of the law? I hated being a litigation associate, but I love working in immigration, with a focus on complex criminal matters and deportation defense. It involves creativity, listening, interacting, story-telling, legal research and writing, and problem solving to find workable solutions in a complex area of the law. I often compare preparing for a hearing to producing a movie or a play. Plus, immigration cases almost never settle, so almost everything goes to hearing for a decision by the judge. Also, I actually feel like I’m helping people in immigration, whereas litigation bothered me partly b/c I viewed a lot of the cases as petty fighting for money. I know that not every area of litigation is like this, but that’s how I felt about a lot of what I personally was working on.

      Just one specific example, but working in other areas of the law can be very, very different from working in litigation. Divorces, real estate, probate and criminal defense are also quite different from litigation.

      Good luck with your job search!

  8. Eloping girl from Friday– Just wanted to let you know I went with the Ann Taylor dress.

    The dress came to under $100 with the F&F sale, fit like a glove, and I can wear it on other occasions, so I couldn’t pass it up.

    Thanks for pointing it out!

    • Huzzah. I love winning at vicarious shopping. (And helping out eloping brides or really any brides is especially fun.)

  9. Anon Analyst :

    We have a 1500 sq ft house and cats, no kids.

    1. Vacuuming: I do both the upstairs and downstairs once a week. If I’m really motivated, I’ll do it on Friday. Otherwise, it gets done on Saturday or Sunday.

    2. Kitchen floors: I use the Swiffer wet cloths to clean them once a week. If the floors are really dirty, I’ll Swiffer and then use a Mr. Clean Magic eraser to clean by hand. We have light colored linoleum so dirt and scratches show up easily.

    3. Laundry: Once a week on Saturday or Sunday. The majority of it is my husbands work clothes b/c he wears uniforms.

    4. Bathrooms: Once a week or every other week depending on how bad they are. We have 2.5 baths, but only one gets used on a regular basis.

    4. On a daily basis, I do my best to clean as I go – especially when I’m cooking. I usually do all the dishes, wipe down counters, etc every night.

    My biggest thing is to have a place for everything, otherwise stuff gets piled up on the dinette table. I’ll try to process mai right when I get home and put my work clothes and shoes away right after changing.

    My husband will help with vacuuming the upstairs and cleaning the shower stall. I usually do the other cleaning.

  10. Cluttered Mom :

    Pre-kids, and even when they were little, I felt like I was on top of keeping my house clean. But ever since child number 2 left her crib, leaving a trail of toys behind (they’re 5 and 7 now), it seems like I just can’t ever get on top of the clutter, let alone find time to clean the surfaces underneath. School papers, toys, mountains of laundry (magnified with changes of clothes and wet towels from summer camp), grownup paperwork, outgrown clothes, outgrown toys. Reasonable work schedule, but a commute that takes over two hours out of every day. Home to homework, dinner, bedtime, exhausted by the time grownup dinner rolls around at 8:30 or 9. I’ve already given up on getting to the gym. Weekends seem to fill themselves with soccer games, swim lessons (working mom guilt for not being able to squeeze in extracurriculars during the week), kid birthday parties, and just making sure that the clothes are clean and the fridge is full of food. No room in the squeezed budget for outside help. My current plan of staying too busy to have time in the house to see the mess is no longer working. Do any of you with bigg(er) kids and crazy schedules manage to stay on top of it all? Am I missing something?

    • Cluttered Mom :

      Sorry about the double post. Technical difficulties. So glad to hear that I am not alone in the chaos!

    • Oh, take a breath, sweetie. It’s hard for all of us. Mine are 6 and 7 (almost 8) and they have smaller chores to help keep up (one sets the table, one sweeps after meals, one sorts and folds laundry, cleans the table, cleans the windows, etc). But, it is tough. Really tough. We hired a cleaning lady 1x per every 2 weeks when I was about 8 months pregnant and have never looked back. I simply don’t have the time or energy to do it all and she cleans way better than I do. Here’s a few things that work for me:
      1) Homework is at least attempted before I come home. I review it with each child before dinner and dessert or bed.
      2) Kids unpack and pack their own school bags and lunches
      3) I do dishes from dinner while the kids are making lunches or eating dessert. My husband does all the dinner cooking.
      4) I let them handle their own bath/shower, getting ready for bed. This means there is a lot of shampoo left on their heads. But, eh, never killed anybody. During this time, I finish the load of laundry I started in the morning.
      5) I try to do a load of laundry as I get up in the morning.
      6) Everybody puts away their own clothes.
      7) I work out at lunch and on the weekends.
      8) Our kids are limited to 2 activities each semester.
      9) We only accept party invitations if we’ve heard them talk about the birthday child. 8 & 9 are our own way of making sure that we don’t overschedule our kids or lose what little family time we have.
      10) We eat all meals as a family.
      11) I shop for groceries on the weekends. Mid week runs are done on the days I don’t work out.
      It works for us. Which is not to say this all works perfectly. I have a theory that you can never balance it all- if your professional life is going great, your house, or health, or family may suffer and vice versa. But, we try to make sure that our focus is on what we deem important and, right now, for our family-this works.

      • Wannabe Runner :

        Thanks so much for this post! Great advice.

        I love the one about declining invites from children yours haven’t talked about. What do you tell your kids as the reason they can’t go?

        • If they get an invitation from a random child, I’ll casually ask them, ‘Hey, what about X, do you like them?” If they are ambivalent, I decline the invite. It’s never really been an issue. So far…

  11. all the whelmings :

    Update that happens to be related to this post: I followed y’all’s advice about the fruitflies – the apple cider vinegar and dish detergent did the trick. I had previously using just the apple cider vinegar and a cone, and the ‘rette method was much more helpful. I hired someone to deep-clean my apartment, which feels like a nice reboot, so I can just tidy up at night. I enjoyed the heck out of the weekend and exercised every single day – double win. The clean apartment also makes it emotionally easier for me to work at home after dinner. So, things are looking up!

  12. I do all of this stuff, but the best thing that works for me is to make every moment throughout the house count. If I’m going upstairs, I take something with me and put it away.

    • I learned this from waiting tables back in the day. Saved steps are key!

    • You know, I also do this and I am also a former waitress. Never saw the connection before.

    • er, moment. Never a waitress, but I have a huge family + extended families and have hosted a lot and know how long clean up takes. Gah.

  13. DC Kolchitongi :

    Vinegar + hydrogen peroxide = disinfects as well as bleach, is extremely cheap, and is 100% non-toxic. Since it costs practically nothing and won’t hurt my dumba$$ cat if he decides to roll in it, I feel free to spray it around liberally every time I make a mess. I keep little spray bottles in the bathroom and kitchen and there is noticeably less dirt/gunk.

    Note that you can’t combine them into one bottle, that apparently produces some kind of undesirable chemical reaction. Also, no way around it, your house will smell like Easter egg dye for a little bit every time you spray.

    • Honey Pillows :

      You can add an essential oil (lavender is popular) to the vinegar, and it won’t negatively effect the way it works. Admittedly, it won’t completely mask the vinegar smell, but it will lessen it a bit.

    • Wannabe Runner :

      They say that vinegar and water also disinfects. I just have a spray bottle with 3-1 water-vinegar. I don’t use any harsh chemicals in the kitchen and bathroom any more.

  14. Drowning in Toys :

    My name says it all. I would love advice on how to keep the toy situation under control. I have two boys, 3 and 18 months. The 18 month old is a “dumper” (i.e., the moment he encounters a box or basket of cars or other objects, he will overturn it onto the floor). In particular, I’d love to hear about storage systems that people like and methods for motivating the kids to pick up their own stuff.

    • I would love to hear answers to this, too, in preparation for my impending bundle of joy. I grew up in a house with a huge basement that just kind of had toys everywhere. I have no concept of how people store toys neatly for young kids.

      • One friend bought me a few cloth and wicker bins when I was pregnant, and I was puzzled. Now I get it. The key is having stash places. My living room end tables have baskets under them, and there is a basket in just about every room in the house, where random toys may be tossed. My kitchen has one low drawer for this purpose. This way, when I encounter (usually by stepping on) a toy on the floor, I just toss it in the nearest toy receptacle, where it waits for baby Midori to wander by and dump it out again.

        • That sounds like a good idea – maybe I’ll register for some nice looking ones.


    • I don’t think you can eliminate the tendency to dump, but can you control the amount? We have a canvas toy bin from PBK and that satisfies my 2 year wanting to dump. We also try to contain his mess to one room so we can just shut the door. Limiting his access to toys and keeping some out of reach (rotating things so he doesn’t get bored) helps control the sheer volume.

    • My best suggestion is to get rid of toys. I know it’s hard, and you probably have a million family members giving them stuff. But no storage system is as good as reducing the amount of stuff. If this is hard, you can always implement a rotation system — keep out a handful, and then put the others in crates in the garage. (I live in Brooklyn, so I put the others in crates on shelves way up by the ceiling.) Fewer toys are easier for kids to handle — both with respect to keeping it clean AND with respect to enjoying the toys.

    • I have three kids and they each have their own room with a bookshelf. Toys are organized into bins on the shelf (along with a couple of the shelves full of books). Toys with lots of pieces (legos, lincoln logs, matchbox cars, trains) each have their own plastic bin with a lid. These get stacked in the closet. They to ask for help getting out these toys. They are allowed one at a time and must pick up before getting another set out. They have access to lots of other toys so I don’t feel bad about making them ask about these. I also keep the art stuff up in a hall closet. It is really helpful to make sure everything has a designated spot. In our family room we have a set of drawers where the more universal toys go–the play food, blocks, toy instruments. Also, as part of our bed time routine we put toys away. Even our 17 month old has to help. We will physically get her hands and help her bend down and pick something up and take it to where it belongs. We try and make it fun so that they are excited about helping out (we sing the clean up song and cheer as they put things away.) If the older two need motivation then we set a timer and have them race the timer. We also clean out toys constantly but especially before holidays and birthdays to make room for new stuff. I think I mentioned this before, but we ask for “experience” type gifts when family asks for present recommendations for the kids–so zoo passes, gift certificates to the pottery painting place, children’s museum, movie theater, bowling, etc. to limit the amount of plastic junk that comes in to our home, haha!

    • Research, Not Law :

      Can you start keeping the dumpable bins out of reach? That’s what we did with our first child. She had to ask for them, so we could enforce cleaning before getting out anything new. She’s 3 now and her toys are within reach, but she still has to pick up one mess before bringing out another bin. Our second is still just an infant, so I don’t know how reasonable that is with two kids in play.

      Our toy storage system (basically shelves + bins) was working well until relatively recently. I’ve spent some time studying what gets played with and when and have decided that we basically outgrew the current system, so the toys are mixed up and crowded. We have bins with legos, train, and wood blocks under the futon – which work well – but the rest is a mess. I’ve decided to get an expedit 4×2 bookcase with four bins. (I’ve even measured toys, lol). Books will go in the top three shelves. The fourth will hold puzzles. The bins will be used for: dress-up clothes, musical instruments, miscellaneous littles (cars, balls, wind-ups, etc), and baby toys. Anything that doesn’t fit and duplicates (why do we have three basketballs?) are gone. Barn and dump truck will go on top. A large basket for stuffed animals and baby dolls is negotiable. They don’t get played with much and may just disappear.

      • I’ve done the expedit too (six cubes, not sure what measurements are). Target baskets fit in it too. We put ours in the kiddo’s closet.

        • I much agree with others suggestion to limit the number of toys available for dumping and strewing. I find that my kids don’t even play with their toys when there are too many to choose from — the pieces get separated from the games and eventually its all just a pile of junk. A rotation system works well.

  15. baby weight :

    2000 sq ft + toddler + 2 working parents + 2 dogs = housekeeper every other week. Best money I spend!

  16. Sydney Bristow :

    I’m in the process of moving in with my boyfriend, so this has been quite the topic of discussion lately. We’ve decided to split things up by what each person doesn’t mind doing. Before we met, he was using paper plates and plastic silverware because he hates doing dishes, but I don’t mind (and hate the waste) so I’m in charge of dishes. I typically let the recycling pile up because I just hate taking it out, so he is in charge of taking out the trash and recycling. He also almost always cooks dinner and takes my laundry to the laundromat each week. We each just generally keep up with the other things. I’ll be cleaning the bathroom today and he swept the whole place last week. We kind of wing it on those types of things. Overall, it’s not probably not 50/50, but it’s working so far since neither of us minds the chores we have to do.

    • emcsquared :

      That’s what my husband and I did. He does laundry and empties the dishwasher, I load the dishwasher and do the grocery shopping and clean out the fridge/pantry.

      We had some initial friction because certain unassigned messes bothered one of us more than the other (i.e., he doesn’t like my floordrobe and I can’t stand empty soda cans left on every available surface). We finally resolved it by agreeing that whoever is bothered by the mess can clean it up, regardless of who caused it, and is not allowed to nag or resent the other person. It’s been really helpful; I suggest some similar overarching principle to avoid lingering conflict.

      • Sydney Bristow :

        That’s a good idea emcsquared. Although we dnt technically live together yet (moving in this weekend) we’ve basically lived together for months and at least so far seem to have similar basic levels of cleanliness. I’ll keep your method in mind though as we inevitably learn things about each other that bug one of us.

    • Praxidike :

      This is how my husband and I do it, too. I like cooking and (some) cleaning, so I do that. He will also pitch in, but I probably do 90% of it. He does 90% of the laundry and the vacuuming (I hate that part), but I pitch in with those, too. We take out the trash and the kitty litter on a rotating basis, with the majority of the trash/recycling falling on him, and the majority of the kitty litter falling on me. It works for us.

      We have two short-haired cats. I am in awe of some of the ladies above who said that they vacuum every day. We do it once a week, and I will dust once or twice in between the weekly cleaning. I guess we’re just awash in cat hair, but it’s like … never-ending. I will vacuum and dust, go to put the stuff away, and come back to YET MORE CAT HAIR. Don’t even get me started on my husband telling me to cut my hair short because it keeps getting tangled in the Dyson…

    • Ugh. You never know how it will actually be living with your man.

      My BF dropped soda a few months into our relationship. I moved in at the beginning of summer. Now, amazingly, there are empty soda cans everywhere. He thinking taking out the trash is the “man’s job,” but he doesn’t want to do it either. The lawn has been mowed *once* all summer. I just gave up on that, and invited company over anyway. I straighten the kitchen and the living room. His side of the bed is a trash heap.

      How do I get him to cook?

      • Sydney Bristow :

        We just preemptively talked about it all and have pretty much stuck to it. He cooks because I’m pretty bad at it and I bake yummy desserts in exchange. I have no idea how to get someone to do it because he likes to cook for me and volunteered to do it when we started talking about everything. We’ve both agreed to reassess if either of us becomes annoyed with the situation.

        My cat moved in today though. That’s the source of my real concern about living together since he’s never had a pet before. Fingers crossed on that one!

      • This may help or not, but I had an issue with being the person who cooked all of our meals, especially when our schedules were busy. I found a great little weekly dry-erase calendar for the fridge, and I asked my husband what he felt comfortable with cooking. I bought those supplies, along with what I would cook, and wrote out assigned days for the week when we’re each responsible for food. If we don’t feel like cooking, that’s fine, but we are still responsible for locating or preparing decently healthy food for the both of us (sandwiches, somewhat healthy take-out, etc.) So far it’s actually worked really well.

        • This is almost exactly what we did while I was studying for finals/the bar in law school. I do almost all of the cooking, because DH is just not good at it. His engineer brain just can’t interpret recipes, for some reason– we still joke about the chili with “meat flakes” that resulted from me explaining how to brown meat (break it up with the spatula, stir it around) and then leaving the room (seriously, though, it’s not like he’s never seen chili!). :) Usually, I just take care of the cooking while he cleans up the kitchen. Or I give him discrete prepping tasks (with very specific instructions!), like chopping, opening, measuring, or grating. And when dinner is almost ready, he usually sets the table and gets drinks ready. I like to cook, but even when I don’t feel like it, having his help in small ways keeps me from feeling like I’m doing all of the work.

          But when I absolutely can’t cook and don’t want to go out, I just schedule one of the meals he is comfortable with. We can’t do it too much, because I can only eat pigs in a blanket so often, but he understands and is willing to help out.

  17. Diana Barry :

    No system. 3 kids, 3000 sq ft, husband with home office. No pets.

    We have a cleaning person who comes every 2 weeks for the downstairs, once/month for the whole house. Would love to do it more often but think the $$ would be too much. Also, they don’t put everything away where it belongs (rrrrrr). BUT, they clean all the bathrooms well, so I don’t have to, thank goodness. I try to vacuum in between when they come but don’t always.

    My main problems are clutter, dishes, laundry and finding time to vacuum when the kids are awake. As Cluttered Mom noted above – the kids have paperwork too, plus toys, and they are ALWAYS outgrowing clothes, so you have to keep the bins out for those things. I have been trying to do the clean sink (a la flylady) after dinner, but it doesn’t always work (coincides with baby’s fussy time).

    • One thing I’ve always done for my clothes and things to give away/store and now the baby’s clothes and things that are outgrown is to keep a container (box, trash bag, basket, what-have-you) in my closet or the nursery closet that is the designated “give away” or “store in the attic, outgrown” container. That way, as I’m thinking about how something is no longer useful, I can just throw it in that container. It’s out of the way and every few months I either donate it or put everything in the attic at once.

      As for papers, the giant, leaning tower of things to be filed on my desk at home is my nemesis. I’m stuck there.

      • Diana Barry :

        Yup. I have those, but I have 3 of them going at once – so they take up a large space in the laundry room!

    • Research, Not Law :

      Dishes: Husband does them before bedtime routine starts, while I play with the kids. We eat dinner all together, which helps because we don’t mess anything later.

      Vacuum: Baby goes in the ergo and the older watches a video.

      Oy, the paperwork! The [email protected] infant carseat and craft table blocks our cabinet, so filing takes waaaay too much effort. The problem is obvious, but I don’t know where else we’d put them.

  18. hellskitchen :

    We have a cleaning lady who comes in every two weeks and does a deep clean… she even cleans out the fridge, a task that I personally detest. I could do with her coming in with less frequency, but I hate the idea of making a dent in her monthly income, especially as she is just starting out as an entrepreneur and has young kids.

  19. long-time lurker :

    I do a big clean every two weeks, with vacuuming every 2-4 days (dog) and bathroom freshening (toilet, sink) every week. I try to do the little stuff when I have a spare moment. Do laundry once a week (2 people). Big clean involves wet-swiffering floors, cleaning inside oven/stove/microwave, dusting all surfaces, eep clean tub and toilet and then one additional project like washing the curtain, steam cleaning the carpet, cleaning the coffee maker, or raking leaves in our small backyard (that is a husband project).

    H does the dishes and the trash as they become needed … he does not have the eye for dirt I have, so I took over the vacuuming. I do more than he does, but I am really fussy about clean/neat surroundings so its worth it to me.

    Have considered a cleaning service but have elderly dog who doesn’t like strangers.

    • emcsquared :

      We hired a cleaning service that said it would let out our dog when they came to clean. I was home sick one cleaning day, and came downstairs to find the dog *perfectly* blending into the back of the couch and watching the cleaners warily. The two cleaners didn’t even know we had a dog. Pooch goes to doggy daycare on cleaning days now.

      However, when we initially hired the cleaning service, they sent over two cleaners (who have never reappeared) to meet my dog, give her cookies, etc. If you find someone willing to meet the dog while you are home, would that be helpful?

      • I agree that it should be do-able if the person is willing to be introduced to the dog beforehand by you (works if you are there for the first cleaning) and it will be the same person/people cleaning each time. Our dog is generally fine with strangers and has been fine with the past two cleaning services we’ve used. We don’t expect them to take her out and have the understanding that if they ever felt uncomfortable because of her, they would leave and we would still pay them for their time. Our current service gives her treats, too, so I’m sure that makes her happier to see them (just from our supply).

      • I just told my cleaning lady that if she sees the door to my clothes closet open, don’t clean in there and don’t close the door because Kitty is surely hiding from the vacuum in my dresser (the cat can open the closet door). Several months on, my cleaning lady tells me that the closet door is always open when she comes, and she has never once seen my cat.

      • long-time lurker :

        Belated thanks for the suggestions. At this point, I am reluctant to upset the routine for our dog. One idea is having the cleaners come on the weekend and we can spend some time in the Park with our dog (which only really works in the non-freezing months). Letting her outside could also work as she loves our little backyard.

  20. You would think that two able bodied people could clean a 1 bed/1 bath 800 sq ft apartment in less than two hours. You’d be wrong. It takes (took?) SO and I pretty much the better part of an afternoon to clean the place. He gets easily distracted by some sort of ‘organizing’ project, which is not the same as actual cleaning…this led to much frustration on my part, since I’m admittedly messy and lazy when it comes to cleaning on a day to day basis, but more efficient when doing a forced clean. He is the worst type of messy, the type who thinks he’s clean.

    After several arguments etc, finally agreed to a service that comes in once a month, BUT I just feel like there’s only so clean I (or they) can get my apartment. It’s not an old place, but the fixtures etc are just at that point where they aren’t going to get sparkling clean — they weren’t high quality to begin with and they’ve been in use by renters for 15 years or so. Add not really having enough space for stuff and still living with grad student/free furniture, our place is just not as adult and neat as we’d like.

    But I’m really trying to spend 10-15 minutes before bed picking up now. I usually start a load of laundry before work (working out frequently = lots of laundry) just to keep on top of it.

    I do think a bigger place would almost be easier to keep clean because there’d be more room for” stuff”.

    • I don’t know how long you have been with your SO, but have you done a move with him yet? My SO also gets sidetracked by projects when cleaning, and it is so much worse when we are trying to pack boxes and he starts the same organizing/fixing/etc. projects.

      • Yes. It was helping him move into this current place –early on, so I’m sure I thought it was “cute” then. And he had about half as much stuff as he has now. I am dreading the next move.

        Maybe I’ll slip him some Ritalin so he can focus for a few days…(kidding!)

        • SoCalAtty :

          I can relate! Whenever we start trying to clean, I inevitably hear mail being organized or laundry being sorted, or the garden being weeded…none of which = cleaning! I’ve been through 3 moves with him, and after 2 rounds of doing the whole thing myslf, the third time I hired movers! All I left to the husband was his office, and when the movers showed up, he wasn’t done…so he ended up paying a few of his own employees to pack up his paperwork/office. Next time I will get the “full service” movers and pay for them to do his office, too.

          But yes, ritalin in the coffee might not be a bad idea…

          What I’ve realized is that he was never made to clean when he lived at home and just has some freakish aversion to cleaning. I’m in the process of making a list and letting him pick out the things he wants to do – and if he wants to hire a cleaning service rather than doing it himself, I’m ok with that! As long as it gets done, I no longer care.

          • YES!!! Why do you need to mow the lawn when there are piles of dishes and recycling that needs to go out???

  21. I love this topic! I feel like we’re just getting our cleaning life under control now (2100 SF, 4 bed/2 bath house with a dog and a 2.5-year-old toddler)…BUT we have a baby on the way, due in February, and I fear for the chaos that will ensue thereafter. Here’s what works for us:

    + Concealed storage for kid stuff — bins, hollow ottomans, etc.
    + Get the dishwasher loaded/unloaded promptly. Nothing dirties a kitchen like dishes stacked up near the sink. In fact, if my kitchen’s clean I feel like I have a better grip on the entire house.
    + Quick tidy-up every night/morning prep.
    + Immediate mail processing — recycle stuff, have a place for bills, etc.
    + Cleaning ladies once every other week. It’s only $60 per session and honestly, worth every penny. They get to the deep-cleaning stuff I’d only do monthly and my favorite days are the Wednesdays when they’re here.

  22. CleanMachine :

    Any advice for when you and your partner have different standards for “clean” and how often tasks need to get done?

    Our place is only 500 sq ft, so cleaning really shouldn’t be that difficult, but I find myself getting frustrated. We’re good about splitting the work in theory . . . if I make dinner he’ll do the clean up, but to him clean up = wash the dishes, and to me clean up = wash the dishes, empty the food from the sink drain, wipe down the counters (about 2 sq ft of space), and sweep the floor (which takes about two minutes). We’ve discussed sitting down and reaching an agreement on how often we’ll do various tasks and what something like “clean the bathroom” includes, but we haven’t gotten around to it yet due to different schedules, etc.

    I can stay pretty on top of it by myself now, but I’m worried that when law school starts back up in the fall I’m going to be coming home to a pig sty every night. I don’t want to hurt his feelings, but I’m not sure what I can do. I’d love to hire a cleaning service, but it’s probably out of my budget and I’m not sure that they’d even be willing to take on such a small place. Might not be worth it for them.

    • I think every roommate/couple has this issue. For me and Mr. Midori, it works best to just each do our favorite tasks all the time rather than rotate jobs. He likes to do laundry and is particular about how it’s done, so laundry is his job. I like to clean bathrooms and feel strongly about how clean the shower is, so bathrooms are my job. We generally don’t trade. That way what we care about gets done, and done the way we want.

      That, and we’ve had to learn to let go of some of our hang-ups. If he doesn’t like how I load the dishwasher, he can shut up and do it himself. Likewise, if I don’t approve of his ironing methods, I know where the iron is stored.

      Of course, it only works because we both like/are willing to do SOME housecleaning. And we have to accept that there are jobs neither of us like and just suck it up and do them. This did not work so well with roommate who just don’t clean, period. The solution to that, I think, is fire said roommate.

      • CleanMachine :

        I like your idea! Unfortunately, it seems that in our case it’s not that either of us dislikes any particular task so much as it is that we disagree on how frequently all of them should be done.

        I’m also a little worried because this is the first time we’ve lived together, and we’re planning to get married in 2-3 years, so I’m worried about falling into a pattern of me doing all the housework-type stuff that could be hard to shift later on.

        Sigh…I think a potentially unpleasant conversation is the only way we’re going to be able to work this out.

        • Have the unpleasant conversation. I did it with my SO (twice) and each time it has gotten better. To some extent certain things are my problem (my preference is to have the bathtub so clean you could eat off it) and I recognize my standards are high. However, it is also about pitching in bc you love someone enough to do the little things that drive them nuts. If he doesn’t know what drives you nuts, you’re going to explode or resent that you have to do it yourself. Also, recognize that sometimes you might be a little nutty about odd things and cop to it. Finally, explain why having X clean (and define clean) is important to you. I frankly put it out there that having to clean all the time after his little messes was making me feel like his mother not his partner and that nipped most of it in the bud.

        • Sydney Bristow :

          Is there stuff that he thinks should be done more often than you? If he likes to have laundry done more often than you or likes the toilet scrubbed or tidying done more often, he could do that to his standards and you do the rest of the kitchen clean up to yours. There may be other ways to compromise. I think Praxidike’s advice is good too. You can’t make someone care about something that they just dnt care about. At some point, it’s worth it to suck it up and do the things that are important to you instead of living under a different standard than you like and building resentment because he doesn’t share that standard.

          • CleanMachine :

            Thanks! I’ll ask him if he thinks there is anything that should be done more frequently (but I kind of doubt it).

            I really, really wouldn’t mind getting everything up to my standards myself, but I think that once school starts again I just will not have the time to clean up after myself and clean his messes too (laundry thrown next to the hamper instead of in it, shoes left out for people to potentially trip over, shaving stubble left in the sink/shower and so on, coffee drips or food crumbs on the counter after he makes a snack, and so on). I barely have time now. It seems especially unfair because he has so much more free time than I do!

    • Praxidike :

      Heh. You’re not going to like my answer. If you don’t like the way your partner does it, let him do his part and then finish it yourself. You can sit there and talk to him about it until you’re blue in the face (“I feel like cleaning up after dinner entails these duties, and it upsets me when you don’t complete all of them.”) but if he’s not going to remember, or he doesn’t care, then you either chill out about it or you do it yourself. Stressing out and getting into fights over it is not, IMHO, worth it. Note, also, that this kind of thing is often indicative of a power struggle in the relationship, and you might choose to examine if that’s the case here.

      I’ve been married for almost seven years, together for almost nine. He doesn’t like the way I fold his clothes. Solution? He does most of the laundry. If I end up folding a load of laundry and it has his stuff in it, I fold it “my” way and then he either re-folds it or sucks it up. I don’t mind doing it “his” way, but I find it cumbersome and inefficient, so while I’ll sometimes try to accommodate him I usually just do it “my” way and let him deal with it. This works very well for us because we’ve talked about it extensively, but it might upset you or others who feel like your partner should “bend” for you. I don’t feel that way, generally, so this is the way it works best for us. Good luck.

      • CleanMachine :

        I appreciate your response. I dislike clutter but I can deal with it. I guess my bigger concern is sanitation. In my experience, ignoring food crumbs that are sitting on the counter/table and not emptying the drain catch thingy in the sink after making dinner is an invitation for insects (or worse) to come hang out in your kitchen. Not the type of roommates I’m looking for! I’m sure that not cleaning the bathroom until there is a layer of dirt/hair stubble in the tub is not very sanitary either.

        • Not sure if this is too late, but thought I’d throw it out there.
          When SO and I first moved in together, we quickly realized we had different standards of clean. Or rather, he just didn’t notice or think to do things that I did notice or think to do. So, often it would go: he does dishes, I go and say, “but you didn’t do the counters and you didn’t empty the sink drain thing.” Same with bathroom, he’d say, “clean” and I’d go in and say, “but you didn’t wipe the windowsill and what about that shelf there?” After a while, it became “inspection time” where I would go in and point out missed spots.. Not fun for either of us, but we made it into sort of a joke and it worked because we both approached it with humor. I can tell you that a few years later, it more or less all takes care of itself. What’s made it work is not freaking out about it, but treating it with humor. I think CleanMachine above is right about doing certain things yourself if you want them done in a very specific way, but cleaning a kitchen or bathroom are pretty easy to manage in a checklist. I posted this above, but that’s basically why SO & I divide our chores as kitchen/bathroom (him) and bedroom/living areas (me) — I will never get him to arrange magazines on the coffee table a certain way or place the knick knacks just so, but there is no reason he can’t wipe all the surfaces in the kitchen/bathroom once a week. So just don’t freak out and keep gently explaining that leaving sh*t in that sink drain thingie makes the kitchen smell like a** and will attract bugs and rodents and he does not want to live with you if you two have bugs and rodents. He’ll remember eventually (unless there are other issues). And remember – humor helps. And, of course, if you want to take a Mr Clean sponge to your floor tiles, well, then you’re on you’re own. But no reason the rest can’t be managed.

  23. Alanna of Trebond :

    Yay cleaning! We have a 500 sq ft apartment and no kids. SO now does everything I want him to do, so we did the rotation system that someone linked to a few months ago–where each person has a chore each day of the week (e.g. vacuuming, dusting), some chores everyday (e.g. doing dishes, but he actually does all of them), and then some chores only once or twice a month. We also send out for laundry.

  24. We do a big clean once every three weeks. Seems fine.

  25. financial anon :

    My husband and I have a 2 br/1 bath, with a dog. Kitchen/bathroom are tile, and there rest of the place is carpet. One of the best things we have ever done was train our dog to stay on a rug. The door to our backyard is in the kitchen, so he can be anywhere in the kitchen and then on a large area rug in the living room (borders the kitchen). It helps SOO much in containing his dog hair, and pretty much all of our non-sleeping time is spent in the living room anyway, so it’s not like we’re isolating him from us.

    We devote either Saturday or Sunday to doing a big cleaning (bathroom, floors, vacuum, laundry, etc.). I’m crazy about having a clean kitchen, so every night after dinner the dishes get done, and counters/stove top get wiped down. We also sort mail right away, and get rid of our magazines right away when new issues arrive. I feel like staying on top of the kitchen gives me a better sense of general “cleaning control”.

    • financial anon :

      I fee like I should mention that our dog is outside in a spacious, shared yard during the day with our neighbor’s dog, and so he spends most of the day playing/wrestling, plus we take him on a walk to the river or dog park 3-4 times a week….most of the time that he’s inside and on his rug is spent sleeping.

  26. How does one find a trustworthy cleaning service?

    Specifically, any recommendations in Manhattan?

    • I found mine via recs from neighbors and coworkers. The lady who cleans my place also cleans the homes of five or six of my coworkers and one of my law school classmates.

    • I use and like myclean dot com.

  27. DH is desi, ergo he likes things clean but has no concept of what it takes to keep them that way. For much of his life, he left a trail of trash and clutter behind him and his mother picked it up, so that he lived in a perfectly clean home without ever having to actually clean anything himself. I am not his mother and I have a full time job, so that isn’t going to work. It has been an adjustment for both of us. (Luckily, he is a wonderful husband in pretty much every other way).

  28. Subscribing…need ideas.

  29. Just get a housecleaner :

    Seriously, it is the best money you’ll ever spend.

  30. There is no way my flat would be clean with just 15 min/day : no pet, no kid, but white floors everywhere (inc. kitchen). Plus, somehow, we get lots of dust and dirt. I clean 15 min-20min/day AND a big cleaning session on week-end. Laundry & ironing not included.

    My nemesis are baseboards. They pick up dirt like crazy. When I’m grown up, I won’t have any baseboards, anywhere.

    The SO has a tendancy to leave things around, but I just pick them up and dump them in his office. Like my mom did with the toys :)

    • long-time lurker :

      Late suggestion: take a sheet of bounce dryer sheet and rub it on the baseboards (use multiple sheets to get good coverage). Repels dust. I read about this in Real Simple or some similar magazine and think it actually works.

  31. Anonymous :

    Why can’t I imagine a male blogger writing: “my wife (God bless her!) does most of the dishes and whatever vacuuming needs to be done”? Kat, maybe your husband also thanks God that you do housecleaning (and maybe he does!), but unless he does, you’ve implicitly propagated the notion that we-the-women are the ones who are primarily responsible for housecleaning, and should be “God-bless-him!” grateful for whatever “help” our male partners provide.

    It’s 2012. Please, oh please, let’s put that underlying assumption to rest. It’s great that your husband does housework; it’s great that you do housework; his doing housework is no more great than your doing housework.

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