Easy Clean

Having just helped some folks clean their home, ahead of a rental inspection, I am once again reminded of how much more difficult cleaning is when there is so much clutter. 

Things sitting out on display, whether that be for aesthetics, convenience or lack of cabinet space (due to them being cluttered), are prone to get dusty or, in the case of the kitchen area, also covered in grime. The more things out the higher degree of difficulty there is to achieve a good outcome on cleaning day.

Not having a good working system for dealing with paperwork also adds another layer of mess to have to clean around. Not to mention the possibility of being late in payment for important accounts, missed opportunities and added life stress.

Lets talk about the kitchen. This area can be prone to pests if things aren’t cleaned properly. So it stands to reason that the more stuff you leave out on the bench tops the more difficult it becomes when you have to move them all in order to achieve a properly clean kitchen. Not to mention that, to do the job properly all these items will also need a wipe down on a regular basis, as kitchen grime has a tendency to settle on exposed items. To simplify the task it is best to only leave items on the bench that are used numerous times a day. I leave out the tea, sugar, teapot, kettle and our drinking glasses (that we reuse throughout the day). These items are easily moved aside and wiped under and over on cleaning day.

Items can still be in convenient positions in the kitchen without them being out on the bench.  The trick is to store them in a closed space that is the most convenient for use. This positioning is only possible if your cabinets aren’t cluttered with things that aren’t used often enough to warrant the space they are wasting. Cluttered spaces also make it difficult to find what you want when you want.

The bathroom is another area where leaving stuff out makes for harder cleaning. In this space you are combining moisture and dust which adds yet another degree of difficulty. If your cabinet is cluttered with excess makeup, lotions and potions then there won’t be convenient room in there to put things that get used regularly that would otherwise clutter up your bench top, sink or bath edge. Also storing numerous shower and hair products in your shower cubical is a recipe for mould buildup. You may think that variety is the spice of life but there is a limit where it becomes more of an inconvenience than a bonus. Consider what you really need in your bathing and makeup routine and use up and eliminate the overflow.

Bedrooms are harder to clean when lots of tidying up is necessary before the real work can begin. Clothes “hung up” on the floor, kids toys and craft projects all over the place and unmade beds. The same goes for the living spaces in your home when the floor and sofas are cluttered with magazines, toys, throw rugs, cushions, soiled dishes, electronic gadgets, school newsletters… And all this before even being able to vacuum the floor and dust any trinkets and horizontal surfaces.

Now imagine a home that is still individualised, warm and inviting but easy to clean each week. With a quick, if any, pick up prior to the main clean and very little dusting and things moved in order to accomplish the task. That is what I live with and I can tell you it is a pleasure.

After cleaning the bathroom of the home that mentioned above I was informed that I spent way more time on it than what is usually spent. I responded saying “That is because I did it properly”. The reply to that was “I do it properly, but only what I have to.”. As you can imagine my response to that was “There is no such thing!”. It was also said “But I don’t like cleaning.”. My response to that was “Neither do I but I hate a dirty house more.”

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. Oh, this is something I struggle with. Up until now, my system was to keep open baskets around the house and anything that that got used regularly, or that I wasn’t quite sure what to do with just got tossed in those baskets. The carpet beetles are helping me to see that this is not a great system though, because dust (AKA food for larvae) collects in the basket, and how on earth do you ever get those things clean? Plus, it’s so easy for things to get buried at the bottom and then you can’t find what you need. So I’ve tossed a lot of baskets recently.

    My problem is that I’m really an out of sight out of mind person. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve put something “away” never to find it again! Seriously, it’s like if I can’t see it, it might as well not exist, because it just seems to disappear. So as I go through every cupboard, drawer, closet, shelf, etc in my home, I’m finding that I have sooo many duplicate items.

    My current plan, aside from getting rid of enormous quantities of stuff, is to group things together by use, and put each category in a clear plastic bin with a LID. So I’ve got a bin for cat stuff, one for plugs & extension cords, one for glues & tapes, one for stationery & cards, one for first aid stuff, etc. The bins then go in the closets, cupboards, shelves, and drawers, rather than the “raw” items. I’m really hoping this will help, but honestly, I have my doubts. I’m just not sure I’ll be able to keep up with it. But maybe having things categorized by use, rather than by size/shape (which is what ended up happening with my old system) will make it easier. Any suggestions?

    • Echo cat lady, I do understand your “out of sight, out of mind” problem. Because I had a multi-project job, I had to find a way to not miss doung tasks related to my projexcts as well as find easy wats to know what I had where. That was when I learned to hace task lists, designated storage places and a less is more attitude

      I started out with a Franklin Covey system and graduated to other ways to keep track of things as computers became easier to use. I still use Post-It notes for short term reminders. In Outlook I hace everything from grocery lists to pop-up reminders for birthdays.

      When it cones to supplies, I have designated places for extras of anything you can think of. That means I have only one place to check to see if I have replacements for things like batteries, power cords, etc. You are headed in the right direction.

      • Ha! I’m a big fan of Outlook reminders, and I thank god for automatic bill pay because I’d be sunk without it! And if something’s really important I leave a note either on my pillow (if it’s a must be done before going to bed thing) or on my computer keyboard (if it’s a must be done first thing in the morning one). And I really do see the benefit of having only one place to look for things – it’s just having the discipline to put things back there when I’m done with them that worries me.

        • Discipline, now there is something we all find hard in some area or another of our life. Maybe try putting everything that needs to be put back into a container then once a day put it back in it’s proper place. Once you are used to that then you can try doing it each time

        • The Other Christine

          I also have to write everything down otherwise I don’t remember it. Maybe you could use one of your note spots to remind you to do a daily roundup. After some time doing that I think you’ll start to think of it right after you use the item and eventually you probably won’t need a daily roundup.

    • Hi EcoCatLady,

      I think once you get everything down to a manageable level, you may find you can let go of the covered bins (if you’re sure the carpet beetles have moved out). This would make it easier to see your items. But I think it is good that you are using this system for now because it will automatically create boundaries for how much stuff of each category you can have. Maybe you will find that you are okay with things in covered bins, though, if you have less stuff overall (I’m thinking I need to use covered bins myself!). I like Deb J idea of having a “storage area” for replacement items also, like the store room we have at work for paper products, cleaning supplies, etc. It’s sort of like, with filing, keeping categories broad so that you don’t have so much to remember. ECL I really like all your comments 🙂 🙂 🙂

      • I’m starting to wonder if the people at the must think I’m some sort of OCD crazy person, with all of the plastic bags and boxes I’ve been buying! 🙂 But actually, keeping things in a clear plastic bin is proving to be advantageous because I can see what’s in it at a glance. I’ve been getting rid of TONS of cardboard boxes both because they’re not beetle proof, and because I’m discovering that not being able to see what’s in there contributes to stuff doing a vanishing act on me.

        And you are soooo right with the boundaries thing! Even just the process of having to pack everything up in containers is enlightening. I’m not really a shopper, so it surprised me to see how much stuff I actually own!

    • Eco Cat Lady – I am setting up something similar for my MIL – though I am using cardboard shoe boxes from the stationers (no beetle situation) – I definitely advise putting things ‘like-with-like’ – this was quite a break thru for my MIL to see all the (whatever it was) together. She also is a classic misplace the scissors in the house, so buy another pair kind of gal. I am, however, and I would suggest this for you too, buying boxes/containers a bit smaller than she herself would prefer. The more space, the more that can be loaded in, and its good to challenge one self to have a bit less.

      I have a four bedroom, two lounge house and it would take approx 2-3 hours to clean. I’d estimate that I decluttered about 80% to get to that situation. And there is still more that could go!

      For me it was a leap of faith to put the surplus 5 pairs of scissors in the donate box – granted I have income and transport and could replace the pair of scissors in under 5 minutes if I wanted to – but it forced me to look after my one pair of scissors, I know where it lives and they go back there every time. I initially argued (with myself) that it would be a waste of money to have to go and buy another pair after donating 5 but then I reasoned with myself that I’d already bought 5 unnecessary pairs, if it ended up being 6 was it really a big deal? and what if I actually managed to look after the remaining one pair? I wouldn’t know until I’d tried.

      Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself a little. I’d even suggest opting for a smaller size container where possible.

  2. I wholeheartedly agree, it is much easier to clean without the clutter. My cleaning went from over 8 hours to 3. I found that organization wasn’t the answer for me….I needed to own less. I used to have everything organized & out of sight. It wasn’t until I moved & had to carry all my stuff down three flights of stairs that I decided to cut my possessions by 50-60%. Over the last few years with the help of Colleen & the 365 Community I have cut 70-80% of my possessions.

    Not only has decluttering cut down my cleaning time, increased my savings, helped me become debt free, become a more conscientious consumer, & a carry less of a burden mentally. It’s hard work but worth it EcoCatLady. Good luck

    • 70-80%!?!?! That’s impressive! I would say I’m at about 40% now, and still shrinking. Of course, I suppose that number depends on where the starting place is. I’ve been decluttering for years, just not at this level. Anyhow, I’m almost finished with my first sweep – currently working on the “house” stuff – tools, parts, etc. The last thing to tackle will be the random little stuff in my desk and a few other cabinets. Then comes the fun of ripping up the carpet and sanitizing the place floor to ceiling. I’m going to keep holding the 3 hour cleaning thing in my mind… can’t imagine cleaning the whole house in that amount of time!

      • ECL, I have a 3 bedroom/2 full baths, 1500 square foot home that gets cleaned weekly. With being able to move most furniture & having 2 completely empty closets & 2 half filled closets makes cleaning much easier.

        When I started this journey I did “the low hanging fruit” first, which consisted of giving away 500+ books, 200+ CD s ( I downloaded them to computer which has an off-site backup, then gave away), & hundreds of house plants. After I retired 4 years ago, I waited a year to see if I would actually wear any of my work clothes, found that I didn’t, so out they went. The weekly missions have helped me immensely to think about places & things I didn’t before. I often start on a daily mission & once there find many items. I also put the items in a designated area like Colleen has written about before. This gives me a couple of weeks to change my mind. I have to admit very few items have come out of the “leave” area.

        You are on the right track in my opinion, & with the help of Colleen & the 365 Community you’ll reach your goal. I have found slow & steady is the way to go.

  3. I so agree Colleen. Less is better when it comes to having to clean. I hate having anything on the surfaces of counters, tables, etc. For my taste, Mom still has too much in her apartment–furniture, pictures, etc. I’m glad she and the housekeeper are the one who have to keep it clean.

    Eent today to sign the prelimanary paperwork for moving. SO excited.

    • Hi Deb J,

      I am so happy for you to be able to move – finally! After all your work! Will you have a housekeeper as well? It doesn’t seem like you would need one since you have decluttered to the essentials 🙂 So glad you are getting your “dream” soon! 🙂

      • Thanks Peggy. I’m very happy too. I will have a housekeeper because I cannot run the vacuum cleaner nor can I scrub the shower floor. That’s all I need done and it takes about 15 minutes to run the vacuum cleaner and the shower only needs to be done once a month.

  4. Easy to clean is definitely a goal for me. And after about 4 years of 365ing it is easier. But there is still work to be done. As my DIL said, sometimes you look at something and say why in the world did I keep that. You can see when we get together we compare our progress, and usually have a good laugh, too, over something that left.

  5. I am currently working on cleaning out a bathroom I have used as storage for over 3 years.
    It’s full of window panes that I am trying to find a home for. Because i was saving them hoping to use them but since i have not in over 3 years…
    I posted a message on FB asking if anyone was interested, they just had to pick them up.
    AND I think they MIGHT be gone by the weekend.