Building a Cleaning Schedule That Works

I’m just 1 person constantly building a cleaning schedule. The most important thing I’ve learned about cleaning routines over the years is to figure out what actually works for you. You might get lucky and stumble upon the right routine early into your process or you might need to refine your schedule over time. Ideally, your cleaning schedule should meet these two requirements:

  1. A routine you can stick to
  2. A routine that keeps your space clean

Think about these two requirements together. Scheduling one weekend a month to clean might be something you can keep up with and fit into an already busy schedule, but some parts of your house require attention more often than just once a month. Conversely, dedicating five hours a day to clean your home would probably be more than enough to get your house in excellent shape, but it might be difficult to maintain long term. So to build an effective cleaning schedule, it needs to both be something you can keep up with and something that allows you to clean what needs cleaning. 

Step 1: Make a List of Tasks

So how do you go about creating one? First, write a list of all the chores and tasks you need to do regularly to keep your home clean. These could include: changing bed linens, vacuuming or sweeping floors, dusting, scrubbing bathrooms, doing laundry, washing dishes, wiping countertops and  other surfaces, etc. Next to each item on the list, put the amount of time it takes to complete the task and how often you need to do it. If you’re in a one-bedroom apartment, it will likely take you less time to dust everywhere than if you lived in a three-story house. If you’re just 1 person in a home, laundry might take less time than if you’re a family of five. You might have a deck or balcony that needs sweeping regularly or you might have not one but four bathrooms to keep clean. There are plenty of guides online to help you figure out the frequency with which you should clean certain parts of your home, like doing the dishes every day. But your specific space and living situation might mean you will want to customize those recommended lists. For example, I have no dining room, so there’s no reason for me to put cleaning one on a list. But I do have two cats, and picking up their toys and emptying their litterboxes is a chore I need to do daily. My cats eat all their dry food out of treat balls that roll around on the floor, so I have crumbs everywhere on the carpet that always needs vacuuming more often than just once a week. Think of your space’s tasks and specific needs.

Need some help with your list? I’ve got you covered! In my Etsy store, you can download a spreadsheet, worksheets, and a guide to help you build the cleaning schedule that’s right for you. 

Step 2: Determine How To Fit the Tasks Into Your Schedule

Now take a look at the time requirements for each task. Are they doable? If they’re not, you might consider hiring a cleaner to decrease your workload. If you don’t feel comfortable with a cleaner or can’t afford one (that’s me on both counts) figure out how you can adjust your current schedule to make time for cleaning. Can you get up fifteen minutes earlier? Can you clean while watching the episodes on TV or streaming services you enjoy each night? Is there a block of time you could give up in order to clean? I know there are a million things you might prefer to do with your time than clean, but having a clean home contributes both to your overall physical and mental health. It’s an investment and sacrifice that will pay off in the end. 

With the tasks, time requirements, and frequency listed out, and keeping in mind all your other obligations from work to play, from errands to sleep, figure out how and where to add the tasks to your schedule. During what time of the day will you do the daily tasks? On what day and time will you do each weekly task? Will you tackle your monthly tasks all on a certain day or do one a week? 

After figuring all this out, take a step back. Is this schedule realistic? Is it something you can try to keep up with? Remember, there’s no harm in trying. If you try and succeed, congratulations! If you try and fail, go back and revise your schedule based on what went wrong.  Keep tweaking until you find what works. Everyone’s situation is different, and it may take some trying to find the right fit.

Step 3: Commit to Success

Once you’ve put together a routine that appears that it might work for you, where do you find the motivation to stick with it? I’ve tried many methods:

  1. A wall calendar where I give myself a sticker on every day I cleaned
  2. Games and trackers in my bullet journal
  3. Repeating tasks in my habit-building software of choice
  4. Giving myself rewards 
  5. Cleaning with others to keep me on task and accountable
  6. Making cleaning into a game

The thing that’s worked for me the longest is to develop it as a routine. Every Sunday morning before church, I clean my bathrooms. That gives me a firm deadline, and tackling a big cleaning project at the beginning of my day gives me a great sense of accomplishment early on. Every night at 10:15, my bedtime alarm goes off to let me know it’s time to do the dishes, clean the litterboxes, round up the recycling, wipe down the counters and skin, tidy up anything I was working on that day, put away laundry, etc. Again, knowing that as soon as I get all my daily chores done, I get to go to sleep is a great motivator for me. 

The trick is to figure out what will motivate you. Can you keep yourself accountable by taking photos of your clean space every week and posting them to social media? Can you round up a few friends to commit to spending two hours every Saturday afternoon to cleaning? Is the realization that you’re surrounded by dust and crumbs motivating enough? Do you need to post your schedule on your fridge so you see it often until it becomes second nature? Try a bunch of methods until one sticks for you. And don’t let yourself become complacent. Routines are only routines if they’re maintained. Once you start the good work, do what it takes to keep it up. I believe in you! 

What does your cleaning routine look like?

Photo by RenĂ¡ta-Adrienn on Unsplash

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