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Home-Cleaning Projects by Time: An Hour, a Day, a Weekend

Jane Matthews

There was a time when "weekends were made for Michelob"; now it seems like for many, spare time is spent running errands and cleaning house. That's because maintaining a tidy living space is no easy task – it takes hours of work to keep the icky at bay. The process can take even more if you procrastinate and let dirt and clutter build up.

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Even if you can't commit hours to the job, there is a better approach to house cleaning: Fight those dust bunnies a little bit at a time. When you're short on time, squeeze in cleaning tasks that will help minimize your effort, organize your home, and remove the filth. Here is how you can clean your house, from top to bottom,  in your spare time.

A Few Minutes

You know that paperwork that you meant to file ages ago, or that kitchen junk drawer you keep meaning to unstick? When you only have minutes to spare, tackling the tiniest of jobs can ultimately make vast differences. Using any extra moments to clean a little bit every day will result in progress.
  • If you can't see your living room floor under newspapers, magazines, and unopened mail, it only takes a few minutes to review, sort, and recycle.
  • Physically group and stow similar items, including kid's art projects, toys, or stray clothing.
  • If you want to get a little deep-cleaning on, just choose to wipe down a piece of furniture or two.
A Few Hours

Bathrooms, kitchens, living rooms, and other common areas gather the biggest messses, so they need the most attention. If you have an hour or two, focus your energy on spot-cleaning your home's high-traffic hot spots. These big cleaning gestures can make huge differences.
  • General maintenance, like sweeping or mopping floors, vacuuming rugs and carpets, or scrubbing down kitchen surfaces.
  • Give some love to often-ignored areas by wiping wiping down ceiling fans, shutters and blinds, or furniture.
  • Windows are another wise use of an hour; aim to wash the windows of either one room or one floor during this time.
An Afternoon

When you have a free afternoon, you can focus on a primary task, declutter, organize, and go deep. You can take on a massive cleaning challenge and emerge victorious!
  • Scrub all bathrooms (human and pet).
  • Go elbow-deep in that closet you have been ignoring
  • Wash bed linens and towels.
  • Spelunk your refrigerator/freezer -- dispose of everything, toss out old food, wipe up those mystery drips, and reorganize.
  • Wipe down all your kitchen appliances inside and out.
  • Check out your pantry, throw out expired food, and wipe down stray bits and pieces.
  • Dust collections of brick-a-brack, hanging artwork, and display cases.
A Day

When you have a day, channel your inner explorer. Now is the time to navigate the unknown, whether it is an attic, garage, or junk room. Learn to separate treasure from trash. When it comes down to it, it is not about having stuff, but having the right stuff. After you review, get ready to part with the wrong stuff via consignment shop, garage sale, online auctions, or thrift shops.
  • If you want to sell, use the day to gather items, clean them, and investigate and decide on pricing. You can either post directly to an online auction site or start organizing a garage sale. Regarding the latter, check your schedule, and choose a date. Remember to promote your sale via Craigslist ads and neighborhood signs.
  • If you want to donate, contact an organization that could use your stuff (many pick up at home).
  • If you want to trash it, arrange with a rubbish removal company that brings large bins to haul it all away so you don't clog up your trashcans.
The Weekend

You are ready to conquer your world and dominate space! No matter your cleaning fantasy, this is your moment to get it done right.

Commit to cleaning your entire home until it sparkles, or to completing an overhaul on an entire room or section of the house. Or use this block of time to host your garage sale and donate the remains to a reputable charity. You can also do home maintenance, like touching up paint, making repairs, and providing general equipment care. It's also the right chunk of time for yard-work projects like cleaning out a shed, weeding and re-planting, or refreshing your landscape.

Getting Help


Remember, you are not in this alone, especially if you have children. Chore charts can enable children to help you out every day. After-dinner kitchen cleaning, daily dishwasher unloading, and regular organization are valuable rites of passage and will prompt your kids to participate in keeping your home clean.

When it comes to bigger tasks, feel free to exploit their energy and recruit them to do some of the dirty work. They can grab cleaning supplies or throw out the trash, preventing you from having to stop mid-task.

The process can even be fun. Encourage your littlest helpers by suggesting they fill a treasure chest (a.k.a. a storage container) with their personal swag such as dolls, books, and stuffed animals. Children can also alphabetize and stow their games or DVD collections. Older kids can also get in on the action; encourage a little competition by providing teens with a duster or glass cleaner, and see who can finish a room first.

And if you find your kids are less than helpful, pick up the pace by outsourcing. Hire a professional cleaning service, recruit assistance via apps like Task Rabbit, or  save time by with services like Instacart, which can shop and deliver your cleaning and organizing supplies for you.

Jane D. Matthews is a writer-for-hire living in the heart of Hollywood. She has created content for dozens of websites, worked as a ghostwriter, and contributed her words to a published NYC shopping guide. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, camping, vegetarian cooking, decorating, advising, and laughing until it hurts.
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