How a Cleaning Routine Has Improved My Life

Once a week, my family cleans the house from top to bottom.

man vacuuming a rug

Getty Images/Bambu Productions

One thing that has come out of the COVID-19 pandemic is that my house is a lot cleaner. I never used to clean it much. My family and I just got by, mopping the floor and cleaning the toilets when they were too dirty to ignore any longer. It wasn't a great arrangement; the constant dishevelment of the house was a stressor for me, but there never seemed to be a convenient or consistent time to tackle the job.

When the pandemic hit and our social calendar emptied overnight, two things happened. Our house was suddenly messier than ever because there were five of us at home 24/7. We also had empty weekends for the first time, so my husband and I started cleaning the house on Saturday mornings. First we'd have a leisurely breakfast and coffee, and then we'd pick a floor and get to work, dusting and wiping and vacuuming and scrubbing. The kids worked, too, cleaning their rooms, hanging out laundry, shaking rugs outside. By the time lunch rolled around, the house was gleaming, we felt marvelously productive, and any laziness for the rest of the weekend felt entirely justifiable.

Nor was it a passing fancy. Almost a year later, the routine has stuck and we're still cleaning weekly. To me, that's the sign of a good habit – the establishment of something that has such a significant and positive effect on one's life that you can't stop doing it. There are numerous ways in which this simple little routine has improved my quality of life.

Most obviously, it reduces stress. No longer is the specter of a messy house looming over me, causing me to wonder when I'll have time to deal with it. Instead, the job is completed all at once and then I can blissfully ignore the growing chaos throughout the week, knowing I'll tackle it at 9 a.m. the following Saturday. 

This routine saves time. By condensing the entire job into a two- to three-hour weekend job (depending how in-depth it gets), I spend zero time cleaning during the week, aside from laundry and dishes. I am fiercely protective of my evenings as personal time and with this schedule there's no threat of it being undermined by short weeknight cleaning stints.

kids folding laundry
Get kids involved with chores like hanging out and folding laundry.

Getty Images/Maskot

The more I clean, the more I declutter, and the better the house looks. I have saved money by not paying a cleaner to come in, which I used to do occasionally out of desperation, and by not buying decorations to make the space look more attractive, when all it really needed was a thorough cleaning and decluttering. (That's a handy minimalism trick: You can make a space look great by clearing stuff out, not bringing new stuff in.)

The act of cleaning has become oddly pleasurable, which I never would've predicted. I listen to music and podcasts. I use great-smelling eco-friendly cleaning solutions (mostly Dr. Bronner's castile soap and some Blueland products). I open windows to get fresh air into the house and hang duvets in the sunshine to air out. I water all my beloved plants and dust their leaves if needed. After sitting in front of a computer all week, it feels good to be up and moving around, working with my hands.

After cleaning, the kitchen always feels so inviting that I'm inclined to spend a good chunk of Sunday cooking food for the following week. I've been doing more food prep than ever before – making pots of soup and bean chili, baking bread from scratch, making batches of cookies for the kids' school lunches, roasting vegetables in large batches – and much of this is because the kitchen is clean, the counters fully cleared and ready to use. 

bread loaves
Homemade bread for kids' school lunches.

K Martinko

Interestingly, a tidy kitchen can translate to better nutritional habits. Cleaning expert Melissa Maker cited a 2017 study that found people with 'chaotic' kitchens ate twice as many cookies as those in more organized environments, so that's another good reason to stay on top of things.

The same positive energy that spurs me to cook then carries me into the start of the work week. Waking up on Monday morning with all the housework taken care of lifts a weight from my shoulders and makes the week less daunting. So much for the Sunday Scaries – a clean house generates Monday Momentum!

Saturday mornings may not work for everyone, but I do highly recommend designating a weekly time to pull your house or apartment into order. It will give you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, and put you in a good headspace for the subsequent week. Get the whole family involved to make it go faster and to teach your kids how to clean. Check out all the great cleaning resources that Treehugger has, if you need guidance or inspiration.