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I find that one of the biggest mental barriers that I have to overcome when it’s time to start spring cleaning is the inevitably of entropy. In other words, “it’s just going to end up messy again anyway.”

The truth, of course, is that doesn’t have to be the case. Maintaining the progress you make with your spring cleaning efforts is really just a matter of creating regular, set routines and being mindful of how, when, and where you use items in your home.

Though I’m still working every day to get better at this, I figured I’d share some tips that have helped make my home (and my life) a little more organized, ultimately so much so that I actually spend less time cleaning than before.

Make Your Bed

I’ll admit to being swayed by arguments about why you don’t really need to make your bed every day (or at all), but in the process of building better habits, it’s good to start your morning by tidying up your most intimate space. Besides, it’s not like you even need to go anywhere. Just wake up, turn over, tuck in some sheets, and now you’re in a tidiness mindset that can carry you through the next 16 hours, before you return to your cozy, well-made bed. You can improve this daily task by simplifying your bedding and accessories to just what you need to sleep comfortably (i.e., maybe it’s time to get rid of that top sheet or those extra pillows if you don’t really use them).

Schedule Your Chores

Easier said than done, I know, but just the act of creating a regular cleaning schedule is a big first step in establishing good habits, because even if Life Happens and you miss certain chores along the way, at least you’ll have some kind of road map guiding you, so you’ll know what you still need to do and how to get back on track. I’d suggest breaking down your scheduled tasks by how frequently (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.) and when they should be completed, and then writing down everything (including who in the home is responsible for each chore) 6-12 months in advance in a planner or on a shared family calendar. This upfront investment in time and planning will pay off big time in the long run, as it will keep you from worrying about what needs to get done and just do it.

Focus on Gathering Areas

Why do people always end up in the kitchen at house parties? Who really knows. But it’s good to know which rooms in your home tend to be used as gathering spots by friends, family, or even just yourself. Once you identify them, I’m betting you’ll find that these spots also tend to accumulate a lot of clutter and require the most regular maintenance and attention. Of course, they’re also probably the areas that you want to keep looking the best on a consistent basis, so favor them when you’re creating your aforementioned cleaning schedule. You can also extend this line of thinking to preparing your most highly trafficked areas to decrease wear and tear, such as leaving space near your entry and exit doors for people to put their shoes or hang up dog leashes, so that nothing dirty gets drug through the house before it’s put away.

Optimize Your Home for Efficient Tidying

Doing this correctly is actually an ongoing project that you’ll find yourself tweaking and improving all the time once you get the hang of it. It is basically the process of considering each item in your home as you use it. Inspired by the old adage of never leaving a room without something in your hand to put away, I’ve started to think about the relationship between where I use certain items the most compared to where they live the rest of the time, and using that to inform how I can best organize, re-organize, and design my home to cut down on some of that distance (in a sensible way) and make tidying up less of a hassle.

Tidy Bins

Cut down on accumulated clutter by putting small bins or baskets in your heavily used rooms, somewhere people can place items that will eventually need to be put away without having to interrupt what they’re doing at the time. Clothes, cups, and mail are among the most common items that enter a new room with you and run into trouble finding their way out. Having (aesthetically pleasing) bins near the doorway simplifies the tidying process and makes it easy for everyone to pick up after themselves.

Dust Frequently

Whenever I start a deep cleaning expedition, I find that I’ve never appropriately accounted for how long it’s going to take to dust everything. Having a dust-free home (or as close as you can realistically get) is the foundation of cleanliness, not to mention a great improvement for the overall health of your family. But as we all know, dust accumulates fast, so making dusting a regular habit will help keep your home looking and feeling great. The trick is to be thorough, but reasonable; rather than trying to get everything done at once, spend 10 minutes at a time focusing on a single room or area of your home and thoroughly dusting and wiping it down.

Clean As You Cook

Raise your hand if you’re also guilty of letting dirty dishes “soak” for a little too long. Nothing causes more underlying anxiety in the home than a messy kitchen. I try to maximize my time in the kitchen by cleaning up after myself during or immediately after I’ve finished preparing some food, wiping down counters while the oven is preheating or doing dishes as soon as I’ve finished using them. This is especially important if you’re in a small space - like a studio apartment or tiny home - where kitchen clutter (and associated smells) can quickly migrate into the rest of your living space. By considering preparing food and cleaning to be part of the same activity, it really just becomes something you do while you’re in the kitchen, rather than an extra task to be set aside and dreaded later.

Establish Simple Routines

In a similar vein, start to make a routine of cleaning up all of the areas in your home that get disheveled on a regular basis. The bathroom and kitchen are great examples of spaces where pretty much any activity you undertake is bound to make a mess, so small habits like wiping down the sink and counter after you brush your teeth or always putting the salt and paper shakers back in the same spot will go a long way toward improving the overall cleanliness of these rooms and cut down on how much you have to do when it’s time to really spruce up the space.

Show Some TLC

The thing about keeping a tidy house is that it’s not just checking off a to-do list. It’s a chance to spend time with your space and belongings and show everything you have some much deserved attention. Creating a routine out of caring for your things will give you a deeper appreciation for why you have them and slowly erode the feeling of being forced to do chores. At the very least, it’ll make it abundantly clear which items you think are worth taking the time to keep clean and tidy, and which ones are the obvious candidates for culling the next time you’re ready for a top-down decluttering project.

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