You don’t have to approach cleaning as a complex task

to be mastered all at once. Actually, cleaning isn’t about setting aside a whole day each week (or month) for desperately attacking the dust and the mess.

It’s about making a consistent plan and sticking to it. It’s much easier and better to clean a little every day than it is to tackle the buildup of dirt and grime from several months (yes, I’m speaking from experience). Here are some of the benefits and tips to cleaning a little at a time.

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If you clean a little every day, then you are maintaining a house or apartment already mostly clean. This means your house will stay a lot closer to being clean than if you perform a sudden outburst of frantic cleaning every few months.

You spend the end of each day wiping up very recent messes. This helps your motivation. If you know your house is clean except for what happened today, you know you can clean it up without spending too much time. It’s easier to stay motivated when the task at hand isn’t so daunting.

Now if you have kids, the mess that they made today could be anywhere from a little spilled milk to a bag of flour sprinkled over your entire bedroom. But if you are in the unfortunate situation of having to clean up a large mess, afterward you definitely won’t want to have to deal with that small mess from yesterday.

Clean up spills and wet messes as they happen. There’s a big difference between cleaning off that jam your kid smeared on the table now while it’s wet and the next day when it’s dried up. Sweeping up crumbs a few hours after they happen isn’t a big deal, but prioritize cleaning things like juice or yogurt or jam.

To make this easy on yourself, have a lot of rags set aside for wiping up spills and store them close at hand. If your laundry room is far away, keep a little trashcan in there too for the dirty cloths. When you see a spill, just grab cloth, give it a couple quick wipes and toss it in with the other dirty cloths. Done. You just saved yourself 2-3 minutes later by cleaning it up now.

Empty your sink every night. A clean sink can look very nice, and a full sink can be truly disgusting. Whether you have a dishwasher or have to wash your dishes by hand, keeping the sink empty is paramount. Leftover food bits and standing water in bowls is a feeding ground for mold and bugs of all kinds. And it’s just plain gross. Looking at the same dirty dishes you had breakfast on a few days ago can’t help but be depressing.

Keep your cleaning supplies in the room they’re used in whenever possible. If you have to walk upstairs to get a cloth to clean up the spill, odds are you’ll put it off for later. Sometimes that means buying two or three of the same item, but cleaning products are generally inexpensive and never go bad so you don’t have to worry about waste. The time you save not running from room to room and trying to find where you left them will surprise you.

Clean regularly. If you have clean routinely, sticking to the routine will help you develop good cleaning habits. Whenever we do something only once in awhile -exercise, cleaning, cooking, etc- we’re not giving ourselves the opportunity for that activity to get easier. Running is hard when you start, but if you stick with it you can soon maintain your exercise habit without nearly as much effort. Cleaning is exactly the same. It’s hardest when you start out and only gets easier from there.

You can invite friends and family anytime you want. If you’re hospitable and one of us who struggles with keeping the house clean, then you’re acquainted with the sad situation of wanting to have someone over and feeling blocked by the shame of having a dirty house.

From this perspective, maintaining a clean house is immeasurably superior to bursts of cleaning every month or so. With a burst of cleaning, you can only host friends just after you’ve finished cleaning. A house that’s mostly clean can be used to host with a half hour’s notice or so. The freedom of being able to host whenever you want plus seeing friends and family more can be a huge mood booster.

Take the proper preventative measures. If dust is a big problem in your house or apartment, buying a better air filter for your furnace will make a drastic change in your dusting needs. Try to buy furniture that doesn’t stain easily. Spray your shower with shower cleaner and rinse it off after every shower.

Practice makes perfect better. Don’t let the false vision of perfectionism destroy your motivation. Things get dirty again, but in the meantime, it will look better and be ready for use when you need it. Nothing that you need to clean now will stay clean forever, and some things that get stained can’t be restored.

And that’s completely okay. You may view cleaning as a losing, day-by-day battle against the inevitable heat death of the universe (don’t worry, it’s unthinkable billions of years away). But if you do clean every day, your house or apartment will be cleaner all the time, and much easier to keep clean.

This may leave you wondering where you’ll get the motivation to clean your house to sufficiently to get to the point of maintaining cleanliness. If you can’t find the motivation for this in yourself, don’t stress out! Stress is the enemy of happiness. So rather than try to force yourself to do something that’s too difficult for you, save up for a one-time use of a cleaning service. That will get one step closer to a continually clean house without introducing more anxiety and stress into your life.

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