Work Smarter, not Harder. Cleaning Secrets from a Professional Organizer

If you are trying to get organizing this year, you may also be making a common mistake: confusing organizing with cleaning. How to organize and how to clean are two completely different things, although one can easily lead to the other. Wouldn’t you like to know how I spend almost no time cleaning, even with 2 small kids in the house? I give you Cleaning Secrets from a Professional Organizer.

Cleaning secrets from a professional organizer

  • Organizing is the act of arranging things, time, and information so you can easily find it and use it.
  • Cleaning is the act of removing dirt, stains, dust, or other wear from surfaces and spaces you just organized.

With a house, a business, and a young family, I am blessed with the problem of a lot of things to organize. I live in a part of the country where we have four distinct seasons, so our accessible things must reflect today’s weather. Mostly what I write about is organizing.

Let’s be clear. I don’t like cleaning. I don’t like spending time cleaning. And I don’t like messing up my nails. Shallow but true. The very little cleaning that I do comes in tiny little bits at a time. I don’t use a cleaning service, which saves money and frustration (one less thing to manage and schedule), and I’m not waiting for the one day a week or month to get that clean house feeling. My house is always mostly clean, but I am not a slave to some schedule, and I don’t sacrifice a whole day to get a clean house.

A Place For Everything

The first and last rule of cleaning is to not let clutter build up. Ruthlessly pare down nick-naks, extra toiletries, toys, and just about everything else, because the less you have, the less you have to move and clean.

Being organized means that everything has a place, and things can be easily put away. Then cleaning is a lot easier, because you don’t have to move stuff first to start cleaning.

Cleaning the Kitchen

I keep a clear kitchen counter top. There are a few things that I use every day on my counter (knife block, fruit bowl, toaster), but everything else gets put away. When we’re not making a meal, the counter should theoretically be clear, and it’s easy to wipe it down, keeping it clean.

Dishes always go in the dishwasher. Except for over-sized items, I don’t buy anything that can’t go in the dishwasher. If it’s too fragile, then it gets returned or donated. The dishwasher is good for more than just dishes. Toys, some decor, toothbrushes, all sorts of things can go in the dishwasher.

My cleaning supplies are very minimalist. At this point I am down to Bon Ami, vinegar, baking soda, one bottle of commercial surface cleaner, cleaner for the glass cooktop, and dish soap in the kitchen. I use micro-fiber cloths instead of paper towels or wipes. Basically, the only thing I buy for kitchen cleaning are sponges twice a year or so.

Lifeliner removable shelf liner is the BEST. Once a year or so, if a certain shelf has crumbs, I’ll pull out the items, pull out the shelf liner, wipe it down, wipe down the shelf, dry, and replace the liner. No scrubbing. It comes in standard sizes for upper and lower cabinets, and comes in white and clear.

Note: Are you still too overwhelmed by clutter to actually clean your kitchen? Cleaning and organizing are two different things! Organize first, and your cleaning will go much, much faster. (And the opposite is true. If you keep stopping to clean while you are trying to get organized, you might never finish!) Get my guide to Organizing Your Kitchen with SORT and Succeed here.

Organizing Your Kitchen with SORT and Succeed

The night before grocery shopping is the best time to clean a refrigerator. It’s already empty, so it only takes about 5 minutes, as I’ve shown you before.

How to Organize a Refrigerator

Same idea with the cleaning the pantry. I try to eat right down to the shelves several times a year, and then give them a quick wipe. It’s also a good time to toss or donate foods that we’re not eating.

Cleaning the Bathroom

In the bathroom, I have a super quick routine. I’ve started using a DIY daily-ish tub cleaner. I hate lugging cleaning products home if they are mostly water, so this is a frugal and back-saving concoction. Every day I wipe down the sink and faucet with my face towel, which then goes in the laundry. Once a week I use Scrubbing Bubbles brand toilet wand to clean the toilet. Cleaning the outside of the toilet is the only place I use wipes. That whole routine takes less than 5 minutes.The same cleaning products are stored in each bathroom, so there’s no lugging them from one part of the house to another, and I’m more likely to do a quick cleaning. While the kids play in the bath every other night, I sweep the bathroom floor and swap the bath rugs for fresh ones, and put the bath rugs in the laundry.

Cleaning the Rest of the House

I don’t dust on a particular day. I am likely to grab my static duster wand and hit the high spots while I’m on a conference call for work. The one I have is similar to this below. You can prefer dusting wipes, but I just don’t want to have to buy the same thing over and over again and carry them from the store when this wand works better.

Once in a great while, I break out my favorite multiple use steamer from HomeRight and tackle some project, like steaming the kitchen floor or the bathroom floor or the mattresses. I wish I had time to do it more often. I love the great results and that “fresh from the dentist” feeling.

The kids, ages 6 and 8, help out by doing chores, like making their own beds daily. Once a week I ask them to strip their linens for the wash, and we work together to re-make their beds.

Before they can watch their Kindles or any kind of TV, they must pick from the chore list every day. Dusting, especially dusting the hardwood stairs, and vacuuming often gets done at least weekly because of this.

If they get on my nerves, the kids get extra chores, like washing the front door or baseboards, folding napkins or re-organizing their craft closet.

They are responsible for putting their toys away every day, re-stacking the messy bookcase, and keeping their shoes and coats in the mudroom area. I have been known to sit down with a book while they finish these chores, before moving onto something new or heading out to a playdate. I’ve gotten some good reading done this way.

Those are the secrets of our cleaning routine. You might think I spend entire days cleaning a family home, but it’s just not in me. If you have a question about something I didn’t mention, toss it my way in the comments. I’d love to help you pare down your cleaning supplies and time this year, too.

One last tip: if your goal is to get organized, then put down that duster right now. Get organized in the space you are working in. Totally organized. Sort, purge, and arrange your things before you ever start cleaning, otherwise you’ll lose steam right in the middle of your project!



This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Ruth Dowd

    Great tips! I just finished all the cleaning after the holidays and finally can start with organizing the house for the new year. A new year – a new plan! I’m changing my cleaning routine and your suggestions and ideas are great and very helpful for me. I’m in a search for cleaning solutions recipes, different cleaning tips, etc… Thank you for sharing and have a great year!

    1. Darla

      Updating your cleaning routine and your organizing routines are very timely in January! Stay tuned. I have a couple of DIY solutions that I’ll be sharing throughout the month.

  2. Jana Dunn

    I work as a cleaner for a company in London ( and I really count on having a good routine. Now the deep cleaning will be a priority for every home and this is the time when I have the most work. I need to get some more ideas because the spring cleaning is really serious work. Thank you for sharing! I really like your routines.

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