Do you keep a tidy house or are you someone who wonders how people manage to keep their homes clean? If the latter describes you, don’t worry. That creeping feeling of hopelessness is more common than you think. 

It can be embarrassing to admit that you don’t know how to clean your house in an effective and efficient manner. Tidying up feels like something people pick up naturally or grow into as they age, but the truth is that it’s a learned skill. 

You may have not grown up with tidy role models or you might not have bothered to pay attention before this. Whatever the case may be, there’s no shame in finding the time to do a little self-study—or outright asking for help—to instill healthy cleaning habits now.

Below are six excellent tips and tricks that will help you transform your home from a cluttered mess to a spotless nest. 

1. Focus on Large Surfaces When Tidying up 

Let’s start with an often-overlooked fact: Cleaning and tidying up are similar, but not the same. You can have shiny floors, vacuumed carpets, and laundered sheets while still being disorganized. Being tidy is about creating order out of apparent chaos. 

Large surfaces and containers are the most prone to clutter. Papers and books on the coffee table, clothes all over the guest bed, dirty dishes in the sink—focus on areas like these before the mess gets out of control. Organize your belongings and don’t let things pile up on top of each other.

You can put dirty plates in the dishwasher right away. You can fold laundry as soon as it comes out of the dryer. You can keep your kitchen countertops as clear as possible—devoid of appliances, condiments, unopened mail, and other typical items that can occupy that space.

When you keep an eye on potential clutter and keep surfaces tidy, your home’s visual appeal increases. As a bonus, it becomes easier to clean and wipe down those areas. 

2. Make Cleaning Part of a Daily Routine

Like any system of organization, tidying up a home works best with rules and routines. Most people with clean homes don’t wait until their living space is unpresentable to make an effort. 

Routines to follow daily should keep messes relatively small and easy to manage. Whole weekend cleaning binges should be the exception and not the rule.  

You can require your children to put away their toys in a designated box before they go to sleep. Everyone in the house can make their beds as soon as they wake up. You can fluff all the throw pillows and arrange them on the chairs and sectional couches after using the family room.

A great trick is to try to do at least one big cleaning-related chore a day. Include here all the weekly or bi-weekly tasks like doing the laundry, taking out the garbage, and mopping floors in high-traffic areas.

3. Keep the Outside Separate from What’s in the House 

Want to cut down on vacuuming and mopping? You can adopt a no-shoes and no-coat policy in your home. Never mind the welcome mat! Keep a coat rack, shoe closet, and a chair near entrances so family and friends can take off coats and shoes and wear indoor slippers before going further into the house.  

This is a simple tip that can prevent a significant amount of soil, dirt, leaves and other contaminants from being tracked into your home and transferred onto your upholstery and bedding. Consider changing your clothes the moment you get home, too. Avoid sitting or lying on your bed with clothes you’ve worn outside.

4. Create Space for What You Love 

If you don’t use it regularly and it doesn’t hold a place in your heart, you don’t need it in your house. This rule can be difficult to follow for collectors, but it’s sound advice. Your home is a finite space, which means that you will soon reach a point where no amount of tidying up can get rid of clutter—if you’re not there already, that is.

Go through your belongings and decide which items to keep, toss, donate or sell. This can take more than a few tries if you’re the nostalgic type. Once you’ve cut down to a manageable inventory, you can limit yourself and the rest of your household by requiring an item to be thrown or given away for each new thing someone buys.

Here’s another trick to make it easier for you to create space for what you love: Pay for quality, not quantity. For example: Invest in a big-ticket statement furniture piece, instead of a dozen single-purpose kitchen gadgets. You will have less to tidy up and you’ll have more things in your home that you love completely.  

5. Have a Place for Everything—Even Junk.

When you know where everything should be, tidying up is faster and easier. There’s also less of a chance that you will lose things in your own home, or inadvertently clutter up space with items that belong elsewhere.

You probably already do this with your kitchen cabinets and closets. When you arrange your plates and glasses in a certain way, you’re assigning them places. Same with clothes and shoes you put away.

What about pesky items that seem to appear out of nowhere and pop up everywhere? Pens, lighters, hair ties, loose change—if you notice these accumulating in certain rooms, use organizational tools to keep them in a central location. Place a discreet tray or bowl on a side table to hold the disparate items.

If you constantly find keys and hats being left all over the house by family and friends, consider putting a console table or stand near the front door. You may also use this space to temporarily keep unopened mail and packages. 

Don’t have the time to go through the items you need to put away because people are coming over unexpectedly? Have an empty “junk” drawer or box ready for this purpose. Just don’t forget to sort your things once you have the house to yourself again. 

6. Think of Cleaning as More Than a Chore

When the big cleaning chores come up, give yourself an incentive to follow through and finish the task. 

You can put on a peel-off or clay mask and light some aromatherapy candles while doing the laundry. You can listen to podcasts while vacuuming the carpet. You can sing along to your favorite songs, at the top of your lungs, while mopping the floor. 

Combining caring for your home with self-care is a real winning strategy. You end up with a tidy house, a calm mind and a way to associate cleaning with positive feelings.

Claire Preece