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How to Clean Your House in Five Minutes

Marcy writes about family, home life, parenting, money-saving tips, and many other topics, as well as essays and occasional humor pieces.

How to simplify your house-cleaning duties

How to simplify your house-cleaning duties

Simplify Your House Cleaning!

Our schedules are more packed than ever, and most of us (me, for one) have trouble finding time to clean the house. In our minds, we need several hours to tackle every room, clean it thoroughly, go over everything, and put things away. It's tiring just thinking about it!

I'm finding small pieces of previously wasted time to help me keep on top of things at home, and the more I discover these stolen moments, the more I'm putting them to good use. Here's how it works.

You can get a lot of cleaning done if you utilize those little moments of wasted time throughout the day, and this article will show you how.

You can get a lot of cleaning done if you utilize those little moments of wasted time throughout the day, and this article will show you how.

How to Stop Wasting Time

Here's how to identify wasted minutes:

  • In the bathroom: How much time do you spend standing aimlessly in your bathroom waiting for the shower to warm up? Those minutes are valuable, as you will see below.
  • In the kitchen: Do you have something in the microwave? Waiting for that cup of water to get hot can drive you crazy (it's amazing how long two minutes seems when you're standing around). Did you put water in a pot to boil? Use that time for something constructive.
  • In the living room or den: Commercial time on TV is not just for chowing down on snacks. You can target a task and get it done in time to see the next round of insults on your favorite variety show, and you won't miss a beat.
  • On the phone: Yes, really. How many minutes do you spend on hold? Get a speakerphone and put that time to work for you.

These small chunks of time add up during the day. So many small household tasks take only minutes to complete, but we tend to block out a large portion of time to devote to them. Sure, you might need an hour or more to tackle heavy cleaning, but think how much more willing you will be to do that if you're recapturing wasted minutes every day for the smaller, annoying tasks.

Quick Ways to Clean a Kitchen

Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway), be sure to wash your hands before touching food when you have a few minutes in the kitchen to clean a bit while you're cooking.

  • Unload the dishwasher: I can usually unload my dishwasher in 90 seconds or so, about the time it takes for my water to warm for herbal tea. I feel so in control after getting back that wasted time, and I don't spend all morning dreading the 'get up and unload the dishwasher' thing.
  • Clear off and wipe down the counter: You can do this in the time it takes to boil a pot of water or microwave some veggies.
  • Load the dishwasher: Are you waiting for that second cup of water to boil? Load the dishes in the sink and get them out of the way during that 60–90 seconds of wasted time.
  • Clean the sink: Another job that can be done in only a few minutes is cleaning the sink. If you're warming a can of soup for the kids, scrub the sink for a minute or two while it comes to a boil.
  • Toss out the junk in the fridge: Got a pan on the stove that's still heating up? Check the vegetable bin for those things that are growing hair and toss them out. You might even have time to swipe a sponge around on a few shelves. You're right near the stove, so you can still keep an eye on the stew.
  • Sweep the floor: Another job that we dread, but it really only takes a few minutes to sweep up the latest crop of Cheerios collecting under the table.
  • Empty the trash: Don't you hate watching the trashcan get full, just knowing you need to empty it and put in a new liner? You'll feel better when you take care of that odious chore while the toaster is heating up your morning bagel.
Waiting for water to boil is the perfect time to load or unload your dishwasher.

Waiting for water to boil is the perfect time to load or unload your dishwasher.

Make Quick Work of Cleaning the Bedroom and Bathroom!

We spend more time than we realize waiting for the bathtub to fill or the shower to warm up. These tips work, whether you're in your grown-up bathroom or running water for the kids' baths.

  • Clean the toilet: Don't you hate doing toilets? Use your shower-water warm-up time to get that done and forget about it for a few days.
  • Clean clutter off the counter: You're standing around anyway, waiting for the shower to warm up or the bathtub to fill, so put those minutes to use and make your counter neater and cleaner.
  • Scrub the sink: It really takes only a minute or two of quick scrubbing to get toothpaste, loose hair, and other junk out of the sink and make it shine.
  • Make the bed: If your bedroom is right next to the bathroom, make your bed quickly while the shower is warming or the tub is filling. This is especially useful for those who take morning showers before work. You'll come home to a neater bedroom that afternoon.
  • Gather the dirty clothes: Get them out of the hamper and ready for the laundry. Or pick them up off the floor. It takes just a minute or two.
  • Put clothes away: Put folded clothes in drawers, or hang up the outfit you wore and tossed on the chair yesterday.
  • Toss out the oldies in your cabinets: This is actually fun. Bite the bullet and get rid of the tubes and jars of stuff you bought years ago. Force yourself to be ruthless and make a self-bargain that you'll throw out as much as possible in that 2–3-minute window of time while the shower warms up. You'll recapture some shelf space, as well as those wasted moments.

Things to Do During Commercial Breaks

The 3–4 minutes of commercial time is almost a goldmine for the quick-cleaning strategy. You can do a lot in those minutes, and you'll get your body moving in a bit of exercise rather than using the time to find more snack food to stuff in your mouth.

  • Make your bed: I know, that's not in the living room. But an average commercial break gives you time to go to the bedroom, strip the sheets and put on a clean set, and still get back before the break is over. If you have more than one bed to make, or you have to track down the sheets, do it in two breaks. You won't feel as guilty about your TV time, and you'll feel like you won a little victory.
  • Load the laundry into the washer: You have enough time to go get a load of laundry, put it in the washer (or change a load from the washer to the dryer), program the cycle, and start the load.
  • Dust the end tables and coffee tables: Grab the dust rag, clean off the magazines and cups of whatever sitting on the end tables, and dust them while the commercial is on.
  • Run the vacuum cleaner: Sounds boring? Well, it's boring anyway, so you may as well use those wasted three minutes of commercial time to run it and get it over with. If you need to move furniture, do part of the vacuuming on one break, shove the vacuum to one side of the room, and catch the rest of the floor on the next break.
  • Mop the kitchen floor: This might take more than one break, depending on the size of your kitchen and how much the kids spilled on the floor this week. But you can probably knock it out in a few commercial breaks. Since you're in the living room or den, the kitchen floor will have time to dry before you go in there again (save calories on food breaks, too, by encouraging you to stay out of the room while it dries!).
  • Clean the half-bath: Chances are, if you have a half-bath, it is near the living area. Clean it during commercial breaks, and you won't resent having to tackle it. How much time does it take to clean one sink and the toilet, anyway? Not that much, when you think about it.
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Put a load of laundry in the washing machine during commercial breaks to save time!

Put a load of laundry in the washing machine during commercial breaks to save time!

Clean Your House While on the Phone

When you call your bank, credit card company, cable company, or any other place of business, you can spend a ton of time on hold. If you make conference calls from home, you're also probably spending time listening to others rather than presenting your material. Grab these minutes and use them!

  • Get a speakerphone: If you don't already have one, get one now! You may not want to have your calls on the speakerphone once a conversation begins, but you can surely use the hold time to do other things while you're waiting. And waiting. And waiting.
  • Sort papers: Get rid of clutter and paper by using those minutes to clear away some piles of junk mail or other stuff you're sick of seeing.
  • Fold clothes: If you know you're in for a long wait, grab your latest load of clothes from the dryer and start folding. It will feel like a small victory to get those minutes back and use them for your own benefit.
  • Do kitchen chores: Look at the list of quick things you can do in the kitchen and do one of those while you're waiting on hold.
  • Organize your pantry shelves: You can straighten out a shelf or two while you listen for the customer service line to answer. This is a task you can forget about and put aside and return to at a later time. Just close the door and come back to do the rest later.

How Many Minutes Have You Recaptured?

Once you get the knack of using small chunks of time to tackle the many small chores you dread, you'll have a sense of freedom and control over your time. You can more easily find time to address the bigger chores, rather than wasting time with the little things that can easily be done with your recaptured minutes.

As you learn more about the five-minute cleaning strategy, you'll think of even more things you can do in those 1–5-minute pieces of time that were wasted before now! Add up the time you've discovered, and see how many more hours are in your week.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2012 Marcy Goodfleisch


Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on December 09, 2013:

Hi, Vista! You made me smile, picturing your efforts to coax along your dogs' body functions! I'll bet you could do a book on the shortcut tips you've learned, by the way. The celery trick is new to me; I may try it. Aside from being Eco-friendly, it might also help avoid that awful dry air we get indoors in the winter, since the celery would sort of hydrate things, perhaps?

Thanks so much for dropping by and commenting!

Vista15 on December 08, 2013:

Thinking of Anne Marie's remarks about freshening or deodorizing... I have 3 cats, so I do NOT burn candles. Somewhere along the line I learned about putting celery in a vase and sitting it in the kitchen. It absorbs odors. A lot of times I only buy celery for this purpose. It's cheaper, too. (I was doing this before I even had cats.)

Anyway, I am a former maid/cleaning lady, and I used a LOT of shortcuts that would equate to these little multi-tasking tips. I also clean while cooking. I wash/rinse each dish I use so the kitchen is clean when I sit down to eat. Of course, I know it's different when you are cooking for a family...

I had to laugh at using commercial time. I have dogs, too, and I used to take them out on commercials. I always said, 'Hurry up now, we're on a commercial. They KNEW what I meant, too! Now I no longer have a TV, but I still have one of the dogs. He's almost 16. At least now I'm usually watching something on You Tube, and I can hit pause. Well thanks for letting me rant. Good, good Hub!

Marcy Goodfleisch (author) from Planet Earth on November 20, 2013:

Hi, Anne Marie - you make some good points about the difference in deep cleaning and doing smaller chores. I like your ideas about the candles and opening windows; that definitely freshens the whole room, once you have tackled the bigger things! Thanks for reading and commenting!

Anya Brodech from 130 Linden St, Oakland, California, 94607 on November 19, 2013:

This is a great hub, with nice little tips on how to break down cleaning into small tasks. The only downside is that I'm not nearly quick enough to speed clean like that. I like to clean things completely and take my time, so it looks extra good. But at the same time I know how to "mini-clean" in preparation for guests/unexpected visitors: put the dishes in the dishwasher, clean the countertop, wipe down the bathroom sink and countertop, windex the mirror, put away any embarrassing/personal items like dirty laundry or that pile of bras on your bed you left out while getting ready earlier, etc. Oh and light a candle or spray some air freshener like febreeze and/or open the window for a little bit so the place can air out a bit