4 Ways to Make Your Space Feel Clean in 15 Minutes or Less

I once woke up at 6 a.m. to find my roommate merrily scrubbing the insides of our kitchen cabinets with a mug of coffee in her hand. In contrast, that task would have only occurred to me if A) I was moving out that day or B) something had spilled.

Suffice it say, I am not the type of person who lives for sparkling sinks and spare countertops. Cleaning, in my mind, is a necessary evil, one I push to the back of my to-do list until I absolutely have to check it off.

But I’m also a grown-up. I understand the appeal of a tidy home on many levels. First, it’s important and responsible to take care of your stuff; second, when your space is spotless and organized, it’s easier to feel a little calmer or happier.

However, I don’t like the time-consuming nature of housekeeping, which is why I’ve learned to prioritize maintenance cleaning—or, in other words, the ability to clean your home in 15 minutes a day.

 

Decide what “clean” means to you.

 

Ask any two people who live together what “clean” means, and chances are high that you will receive wildly different definitions in response. Even if you live alone, it’s good to know your triggers and limits.

What drives you crazy: fingerprints on stainless steel? Crumbs? Shoe marks on the floor? And, what doesn’t matter to you at all: stacks of mail? Dishes in the sink? Dog hair everywhere? What chores do you love, and which ones stress you out completely? What’s your core tendency: self-ascribed “neat freak” or a total slob?

Understanding your general attitude and approach to cleaning can help you figure out how to get it done according to your standards.

 

 

Spend 5 minutes on 3 rooms…

Source: Studio McGee

 

It’s like the saying goes, “You can do anything, but not everything.” The purpose of maintenance cleaning is not to do it all at once, but instead, make a little bit go a long way. I call this the 5-5-5 rule: Pick 3 rooms where you hang out the most, set a timer for 5 minutes, and straighten up one room. Repeat twice, and you’re done.

The key to this strategy is quick, light cleaning; essentially, your lowest decent standard for neatness. It’s when you simply tackle the daily dirt, dust, and clutter that accumulates in a single room. Think “good enough” rather than “perfect,” like the level of clean where you wouldn’t be embarrassed if an acquaintance unexpectedly stopped by.

For example, let’s say you spend the bulk of your time in the kitchen, living room, and bathroom. These rooms are typically the most popular “priority” rooms; additionally, they often function as high traffic spaces for any guests and in general. Here’s how you could approach these areas:

 

5 minutes: Living Room

 

Living rooms are easy—they don’t get that dirty, just messy. Your job here is to simply make it look better.

  • Wipe any dusty surfaces, such as a TV stand or coffee table.
  • Fold stray blankets and arrange pillows where they’re supposed to be.
  • Sweep or vacuum the floor (bonus points if you have carpet; vacuum marks are very fancy).
  • Remove whatever doesn’t belong, such as books, dog or baby toys, random sweaters, shoes, etc.

The end. Go watch Hulu.

 

5 minutes: Kitchen

 

Ah, the kitchen: Where everyone hangs out no matter what; where you eat, drink and be merry at the expense of every dish you own, where stacks of paper and lunch containers and burp cloths are littered everywhere. (No? Just me? OK then.)

There are two tricks to keeping your kitchen in order: an empty sink and countertops free of crap that isn’t kitchen-related.

  • Put dirty dishes in the dishwasher, or if you don’t own one, rinse and stack the dishes neatly. Or, you know, do them. (Tip: Clean your dishes after every meal, and they won’t pile up. Annoying, but true.)
  • Put your stuff away! I am the guiltiest of this, as I tend to use my kitchen island as a pit stop for coming and going, but seriously, do it.
  • Clean your counters with antibacterial wipes or DIY lemon-scented spray.

Look around. Feel proud of this moment. Vow to keep your kitchen this pretty all the time.

 

5 minutes: Bathroom

 

Bathrooms are my kryptonite. I hate smudged mirrors, grimy rings in the toilet bowl, and strands of hair on the floor. (Long haired women who may or may not have recently had a baby, I know you feel me on that last one. Ew.) I’m only human, so these things happen. Here’s how get it over with as soon as possible:

  • Squirt some toilet cleaner into the basin and let it sit. Return a few minutes later, use the weird white spiky stick that only costs, like, $2 at Target to scrub away the gross buildup.
  • Close your shower curtain.
  • Grab glass spray and a paper towel, and clean the mirrors, sink, and counter.
  • Empty the trash on your way out.

 

 

And spend 15 minutes on 1 room.

Source: Design Sponge

If one room is really bugging you—like, you just cannot let it be—then spend all of your 15 minute time slot deep cleaning one room as much as you can. We’ll use the same examples as above.

You’ll want to do everything already listed, and then intensify your efforts like so:

 

15 minutes: Living Room

 

  • Put all blankets and pillow covers in the washer.
  • Lint brush or vacuum couch(es) or chair(s), especially if you own animals. Every time I do this, I am horrified by the amount of hair on my neutral colored couch.
  • Clean underneath everything; you may be equal parts horrified and surprised by what you will find under there.
  • Dust any artwork, photos, or shelving. Open your windows and wipe down the frames and glass.

 

15 minutes: Kitchen

 

  • Sweep the floors and shake off any rugs outside.
  • Take the trash out.
  • Wipe the outside of cabinets for fingerprints, as well as frequently touched parts of appliances, such as the fridge or microwave handle.
  • Set out fresh hand towels.
  • If you have a garbage disposal, cut a lemon or lime in half and throw it down the drain with the water running and the disposal on high.

 

15 minutes: Bathroom

 

  • After you’ve cleaned the toilet bowl itself, wipe down the actual toilet: the base, top, lid, seat, under the seat, even the lever (think about how many people have touched it before washing their hands! Even you!). In fact, wipe down everything toilet-oriented; you will be so glad you did.
  • Do the same for the walls of your shower, plus the showerhead, arm, handle, lever, whatever you’ve got.
  • Drizzle Softscrub (it is chemical-laden, but it is the best; if you have natural suggestions, let a girl know) on the floor or base of your tub, allow it to sit for a few minutes, scrub it off, and everything will be brand-spanking-new-looking.
  • Wipe down the light switches. The same logic as the toilet handle applies. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

 

 

When in doubt, light a candle.

Source: The Everygirl

Seriously, if you lack five or fifteen or even one minute, swipe a match and bust out a candle. No matter how messy someone’s home is, if there’s a candle lit, I assume they’ve done way more cleaning than they probably have. It’s a total trick—and it works.

 

 

If you had five minutes to clean a room, what would you do? What about if you had fifteen minutes? Share your favorite tricks for speed cleaning in the comments below!

 

This article was originally published on August 17, 2016.

  • Hanny

    I love the 5-5-5 rules. Will use it since I have such a hard time doing a huge cleaning. I tried over the weekend and I failed.

    • Julia

      It is SO hard! Every time I try to do a big cleaning, I either get completely overwhelmed and give up or I want to clean for like, 10 hours straight (neither is good, ha).

  • SEM

    Love it. And as far as a natural cleaner….baking soda. Go on Pinterest and look up “uses for baking soda.” It will blow your freaking mind.

    • Julia

      YES. Actually, the more I look up “how to make your own ___,” the more I am surprised by how simple and easy natural cleaners can be.

  • NB

    This is so important for me to remember. I usually just think “I must clean ALL the things!” and then get overwhelmed and do none of them (especially dishes). But it really does make a difference to just pick things up as you’re passing through a room, or spend a couple minutes wiping down and organizing here and there. Thanks for the tips!

    • Julia

      Me too. This is probably TMI, but my mom once told me to put bleach wipes next to the toilet, so that while you’re peeing, you can just do a little wiping around the toilet/floor. Hilarious and I haven’t done it yet, but seems like an effective strategy!

  • Samantha

    Maybe it’s because I am a self ascribed neat freak, but….it only takes me an hour to clean my entire house.
    I always start a load of laundry, and challenge myself to see how much I can get cleaned before the load is done. Weird, but it works.
    I make my bed every single day, and it gives me such a happiness boost that I generally continue tidying the rest of the morning, too.
    Also, ceramic non stick cookware. It’s so easy to clean that I can’t justify leaving it sit in the sink.

    • Julia

      I completely bow down to you — some people are really efficient and effective at cleaning! That’s amazing. Love these tips, too. I’ll have to try the “laundry challenge” 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

  • I love this post! I like to do quick, little spurts of cleaning, instead of a full-day marathon. The best part of all was your candle advice. It’s so true!!

  • Meghan Luevano

    http://livesimply.me/2015/02/08/diy-homemade-scrub-cleaner-like-soft-scrub/

    This stuff is legit

  • The quote “You can do anything, but not everything.” – Love this! Trying to remind myself of this a lot lately haha I try do everything because I get excited and then it’s too much. Great article and amazing photos! xx

  • Dee

    Love this! Shared 🙂

  • These are great! I actually already do these things, but I’ve never seen it laid out this way. I like it!

  • These are awesome tips! Cleaning overwhelms me before I’ve even grabbed the vacuum… this is a great way to approach cleaning in a totally non-overwhelming way!

  • Kate

    For guests I dim the lights, light a few candles, and wipe down the toilet and sink. If they’re grossed out by a few dirty dishes, they can clean them!! 🙂

    • Julia

      So true! I like your style, ha!

  • Dee

    So in other words….stock up on candles!!! lol love that trick! Thanks!

    • Julia

      Haha I mean… it works! Thanks for reading!

  • Alyssa Dalgleish

    This is awesome, and I feel like I can totally keep my home clean with these suggestions! And as much as I hate sweeping, it is the one thing that really makes my home feel so much more clean.

  • Fab tips, I am a big fan of a spring clean every now and then. Sometimes I hoard so much stuff that I just need to have a proper clear out

    Mel x

    http://mediamarmalade.com

  • chloeandisabelbydianan

    Best DIY cleaner for the bathroom: baking soda and dishsoap. Make a paste, disperse on tub/shower/sink and let sit for 15 minutes. Scrub in with sponge and rinse away. No more soap scum. Recipe on CleanMySpace.com.

  • Nikki Laraja

    I love the candle trick, so true!

    http://www.shopthecoconutroom.com

  • N Lewis

    Thanks for this post. I like the idea of cleaning things (and rooms) in under 5 minutes. It makes you think about the essentials that need to be cleaned. I’ll do anything to save time. And lighting the candle is like the cherry on top. Candles make everything better!

    Nicky
    http://www.sincerelybalanced.com

  • Tara Blahnik

    Where is that light blue-ish green duvet cover from?

  • This was the most helpful article I’ve ever read. As someone who despises cleaning but loves cleanliness (does that even make sense?) I’m always looking for a new, efficient method. Thanks!

  • Olivia Tchinnis

    Love the 5-5-5 rules!! But no to the candle: Diffuse some essential oils instead!!

  • Great tips the 5-5-5 rule is one that I practice daily. You end out creating a habit and eventually have a clean home! It is so important to me to keep a clean home it makes me feel a bit more sane and it helps my home decor to stand out.

    Charlotte | http://www.maelmoderndecor.com/default.asp

  • So clever! I love the idea of spending 5 minutes in the 3 most used rooms of my house. It seems so ridiculous to avoid putting those dishes into the dishwasher when it literally only takes 60 seconds and everything feels so much better afterward!

    It’s easier for me to set aside 15 minutes a day to clean when I can attach the the chore to a “treat” like listening to a favorite podcast or doing a face mask (or both!) at the same time.

    Here is a post full of ideas about how to make cleaning fun in case anyone else is interested:
    http://acleanbee.com/10-ways-to-actually-make-cleaning-fun/

  • Brilliant. I love a clean home, but the idea of breaking down cleaning tasks and prioritizing gives me serious anxiety. Thanks for this!

  • Great tips on cleaning and compartmentalising the time used to clean different rooms in the house. Thanks for sharing, Eme x

    http://www.peoniesandpassionfruit.com

  • Great tips on cleaning and compartmentalising the time used to clean different rooms in the house. Thanks for sharing, Eme x

    http://www.peoniesandpassionfruit.com