I used to be terrible at keeping a clean house. More than once I’ve been called a slob, lazy and other things that hurt me, even though I could see for myself why they were said. Recently I’ve been embracing the way that my brain is different, and understanding that I can not (not don’t want, but truly can not) focus on tasks I am not interested in unless there are real consequences. I wanted to share some of the lazy cleaning strategies that I’ve come up with over many years of struggling. This is not a post for everyone. But I think you will know by now if it is for you.
Lazy Cleaning Strategies in the Kitchen
This is without a doubt the hardest room to keep clean in any home because it is used so much. Even a simple breakfast like coffee and toast leaves behind a dirty plate, knife, cup, spoon and brewing equipment. There were times in the past that my kitchen was a mess and I opted not to cook instead of cleaning it up. Breaking this habit was one of the hardest I’ve faced, and as silly as it may be, it has improved my diet and my quality of life.
I started by doing a drastic purge of my kitchen. You can see what that looked like in this post. I kept only one of each dish per person. Everything else was packed up and put it in the basement. I kept only the essentials in cooking equipment, and no single task items that another tool could replace. This way even if every dish in my house was dirty, it wasn’t more than a sink full. Give it a try, even for just two weeks. If you add a few things back, that’s ok. But I think many will find, as I did, that having more means you’ll just reach for a clean dish each time instead of washing a few.
Next was tackling my dish washing aversion. I needed to make washing dishes not suck so much. So I started bringing my laptop in to the kitchen and watching a show while cleaning. This is part of the reason I love my Microsoft Surface so much: the keyboard comes off so it uses minimal counter space. So now I can catch up on last nights episode, binge on Netflix or watch an interesting documentary while getting stuff done. My partner prefers music, so we installed a small speaker for his benefit.
Now I just needed to make it a routine. Some people clean after every meal, but for someone like me that’s a stretch. Many people do the kitchen after dinner (supper? evening meal?) but I’m always tired by then. So I like to do it in the morning. I’ll soak anything that needs it in the evening, but I’ll do the real work the next day. I start by putting away any clean dishes, and anything that needs to go back to the cupboards. I can usually get that done while the water boils and coffee brews in my French press. Then after a few hot sips of liquid energy, I’ll spend roughly 20 minutes washing and rinsing, and leave everything in the dishrack until later. I do not dry dishes.
Any time I’m in the kitchen waiting on something to boil, toast, ding or beep, I spend that time putting dishes away or washing a few more. I never get much done in this time, but it helps keep it manageable. And sometimes I wash the same dishes (usually my kids bowls or plates) multiple times per day. But I really have come to prefer washing 2 plates 3 times rather than 6 plates (or 12 because I skipped a day) all at once.
The other minimalist thing that helps me in the kitchen is not storing things on the counter. I find as soon as you decide it’s ok to have some things out, more things join them, and suddenly your counters are stacked with things that don’t belong there, and the clutter gets overwhelming. Everything in my kitchen has a home in a drawer or cupboard and I use a one-touch method to make sure they all get put away. When I take something out, I use it, and instead of putting it on the counter to deal with later, I put it back right away. I have not managed to get the rest of my family fully on board with this yet, but I’m working (nagging) on it.
Lazy Laundry Strategies
After the kitchen, the laundry is the biggest continuous task that can be hard to stay on top of. Even if all the clothes in the house are clean, we are all actively dirtying the clothes we currently have on. Especially the 3 year old. She seems to go through every pair of pants and socks by the time the next load is dry. I’ve spent most of my adult life with clean clothes living in a laundry basket, never put away, and only lately have I found systems that (mostly) work for me.
Step one is getting the dirty laundry to the hamper in the first place. I was all too guilty of taking my clothes off and dropping them in a corner of my room to deal with later. That word keeps creeping up doesn’t it? Later. And for me, later never came until the mess got out of control. Anyway. The system that is working for me is having two hampers in our house. One is in the bathroom upstairs, and the other is at the bottom of the basement stairs. If someone removes their clothes in the bathroom, they go straight in the hamper. When I change clothes I toss dirty items to the bedroom door and not dirty items go on a hook inside my closet door. The only thing I have to do later is scoop up the dirty things and take them to the bathroom, where I surely have to go at some point anyway.
Kitchen towels and other things that are used downstairs get chucked down the basement stairs, towards the hamper. They don’t usually make it in, but when I go down stairs (because that’s where my wine is) I gather the random bits up and usually put them straight in the washer.
The hamper upstairs is a big one with a lid and a mesh bag inside. When its full or smelly (cuz kids..) I take just the bag to the basement and start a load. No schedule, just when I see it needs doing. I usually bring the bag back and put it on the railing to be replaced next time I go upstairs.
I still haven’t found a way that works for me to make sure the clean clothes get dried. Sometimes loads get rewashed a few days later. If you have a good tip, leave a comment, it would be greatly appreciated.
I keep another large canvas bag in the laundry area to bring the clean laundry up to the living room. Then I watch a show while I sort the laundry in to 5-6 piles. One for each member of the family, one for linens and sometimes one for too-small or out of season clothes to be donated or stored. Then I make each person in my family, including my 3 year old, put away their own pile! I fold the linens and put the kitchen towels away before taking the rest upstairs.
Now this is the part I think is so brilliant. Because we all keep a pretty minimal capsule wardrobe, we don’t need overly complicated clothing storage. We each have 3 drawers. Top is for under clothes and PJs, middle is for tops and bottom is for bottoms. My partner and kids all have this exact setup and they (the kids really) are instructed to put the clothes in the right drawers, but I don’t require folding. They can if they want. Any dresses or bulky sweaters they can leave on top of their drawers, which are in their closets, and I’ll hang them eventually. For my girls they each have a set of 3 Sterilite drawers in their closets to give them more play space.
My partner and I share a 6 drawer dresser, but I do things a little different. My top drawer is still for underclothes and swimsuits, but my PJs and yoga clothes go in the middle and pants in the bottom. I hand ALL of my tops in the closet along with dresses, bras and my partners sweaters. I always drop my pile on the end of my bed until bedtime, when I take 5 minutes to fold and hang everything.
By dropping the expectation of everything being folded, I put some of the responsibility in my kids hands, and they are managing it pretty well. The little systems have made it a much smaller and almost enjoyable chore. But the biggest part is that we don’t have a ton of clothes so we never fall too far behind and never run out of storage.
Ultimately, the benefits of minimalism in managing these tasks can not be understated. Having fewer things means fewer things to pile up. But after that it is about finding the little steps to make cleaning fall naturally in to your day, and finding a way to make the tasks less tedious and maybe even relaxing or fun. I hope if you’ve been struggling in this area that some of my systems might be helpful, or that they give you fuel to figure out what works best for you. We aren’t all build the same, and the idea that what works for one should work for all does not fit in to our world. I love the beautiful diversity of my own brain that has allowed me to create and share, even when it makes other areas of life so much more difficult.