A big part of simplifying home (and maintaining a simple home) is regular cleaning routines. I used to stay on top of pretty specific daily and weekly cleaning checklists, but that was several years and two kids ago, so this is not that post.
Instead, I’m sharing some of our favorite mostly-natural cleaning produ
cts that make the cleaning jobs easier when we finally get around to them and keep our home feeling fresh and clean even in the midst of our daily busyness. And hopefully you’ll get a tip or two for enjoying simple cleanliness a little more often.
Simple Routines for a Naturally Clean Home
Often the days get away from us, and if we’re not careful, we’ve soon gone weeks without doing any real cleaning in our home which usually means more work later. For some, that might not be a big deal. But in our family of 5, even a week without cleaning means too much clutter and mess to even be able to relax in our home. There are a few things we aim to do daily, weekly, and seasonally to help prevent bigger messes, to feel proud of our home when people visit, and to relax and use our spaces well.
Daily-ish: The 20-Minute Quick Clean
First, we aim to do a 20-minute clean most days. I stay home with the kids, so some of this is done throughout our day which technically makes it more than twenty minutes. Even so, we usually try to join all our efforts at the end of the day to make sure we’re starting fresh the next day and not getting too comfy in our mess.
This routine usually involves:
Dishes. This is one of those things we try to do as we go–loading the dishwasher at the end of each meal and hand-washing any extras. Still, by the end of the day, there are usually a couple odds and ends that need to be rinsed and added to the dishwasher or hand-washed.
Pick-up. Each person picks up their belongings, and the kids usually team work together for the messes they’ve made in the living room. Items are returned to their proper rooms, mail is recycled or put on my desk for filing, the kitchen counter is cleared, the living room floor is cleaned up, and the entryway shoes and such are put back in order.
Floors and surfaces. My husband is usually the floors guy. We keep the vacuum handy on the main floor and he vacuums in the living and dining rooms where the kids seem to drop a lot of cracker crumbs. I also try to do a quick wipe down of kitchen and bathroom counters and the dining table. With kids, this is almost essential or everything quickly starts looking grubby and gross.
Weekly-ish: The 1-Hour Deep Clean
Like I mentioned before, I used to use a detailed checklist to do a weekly deep cleaning of our home. Sheets were washed, and bathrooms and kitchen were deep cleaned weekly. This is not that season in our lives. Now, instead of doing everything on the list every week, I aim to spend an hour or so doing a couple of the deeper cleaning tasks. As the kids get older, I’m also able to employ their help a little more, and hopefully we’ll be back into a better weekly deep cleaning.
For now, these weekly cleans include… (I can still hardly believe I used to do all of this almost every week)
Kitchen. Sometimes I do a scrub down of the oven and the burner plates on the stove. Sometimes I remove all the rugs and try to do a deeper clean of the floor (this needs to be done every week, but just doesn’t happen). Sometimes I clean out the microwave. My focus usually goes to the dirtiest spot.
Bathrooms. The bathrooms just don’t get the attention they need. Weekly cleaning sometimes involves removing anything on the floor and doing a quick wet sweep; it’s more often just a quick hand wet wipe around the toilet. I wipe down the counters and the mirror with a wet wipe. My husband usually takes care of scrubbing the toilet and the showers.
Bedrooms. In our daily cleaning we don’t make a big deal about cleaning bedrooms. We usually have the kids spend a few minutes cleaning up, but we don’t always follow up or check in or help them. Once a week we have them spend a little more time making sure everything is picked up and put away where it belongs and my husband will bring the vacuum upstairs to vacuum the bedrooms. We don’t have a lot of surfaces to dust, but those get wiped down as needed, too.
Laundry. I do laundry (including towels) the same day each week to try and avoid having it lay around in baskets all week (although that happens a lot, too). As the kids get older, and now that they’re home for the summer, I’m involving them more. So I have a day I focus on doing my husband and my’s laundry and the towels. Then I have the kids help me with their laundry from washing to folding to putting away. We have a laundry bag in the master bath for our clothes, a laundry bag in the upstairs hall for the kids’ clothes, and another laundry bag in the downstairs hall for any dirty towels or socks that need a place to land on the main floor.
Monthly-ish: The Seasonal Declutter
In the past I’ve done more thorough decluttering / simplifying home challenges each spring and fall. This process has become a lot easier and quicker over the years, especially since our initial decluttering. There’s still plenty that needs decluttered throughout the year as a family of 5 and with kids that seem to be magnets for stuff.
Here’s some of the areas that need decluttered regularly…
Mail / Papers. I try to take care of this as we go. Mail that comes in the house is immediately opened and either tossed in recycling (generic ads or mailers with only our address on them), tossed in the trash (if more personal details are included), or put on my desk to be acted on (i.e., pay medical bills or file important docs). When papers are filed, I’ll usually toss the oldest version of that doc, so I’m only keeping on hand the most recent and necessary records. Still, occasionally I’ll go through and find we have outdated documents that serve no purpose and need to be recycled or shredded. I keep our papers in two portable file holders and those are my limit for papers. If they’re too tight and not fitting anymore, then I know it’s time to get rid of old papers to make more room.
Toys. I’ve heard people blame a toy problem on the parents, which I partly agree with. Especially with young kids, we are in charge of how many toys our kids have and sometimes we’re even the ones buying them. Since we don’t buy our kids a lot of toys and they still often have too many toys, I can vouch for the fact that kids are simply magnets for stuff. Even some of the freebies from birthdays and other smaller trinkets are some of their most prized possessions and thus hard to let go of. We try to go through these each fall just in time for their winter birthdays / Christmas. We also do a little toy decluttering in the spring as we get ready for spending more time outdoors. Their toys are kept on shelves in each of their rooms and a shelf in the basement (especially handy in the cold winter months when they can’t go outdoors). When the toys don’t fit in those spaces or when they aren’t able to clean them up themselves, then we know it’s time for a decluttering.
Clothing. I go through the kids clothes twice a year as we go into colder months and again as it gets warmer. We get rid of anything they’ve outgrown and make a list of anything we need to fill in the gaps for the coming season. Twice a year would be good for my clothes too, but I usually end up doing it yearly or less. I’ve gotten a better sense of my simple style and am a little better about buying clothes only if I need them and love them.
Books. When I want to read a book I always check to see if I can get it through the library or borrow it from a friend. For the books I do buy, I try to find someone to pass them onto as soon as I’m done. I have a couple I keep for reference, especially if they have photos I can flip through for inspiration. I have a bin on our bookshelf for my books and when the bin gets full I know it’s time to let go of a few to make more room.
Outbox. Whenever I do a seasonal declutter, in addition to the above items, I make a list of 3-4 specific areas that need my attention. As I go through each, I put anything I don’t need or love into an outbox, which is usually tubs that get set aside in our basement. Sometimes I stay on top of getting things dropped off for donation right away. Other times, I have to go through these tubs and make final decisions when I work on the next seasonal decluttering. I’d love to have our home simplified and nothing sitting around in an outbox. For now, I’m learning to accept we’re in a season of our lives that we’ll likely have something waiting to be processed in the outbox and that’s still better than it cluttering up our main living spaces.
Note: Affiliate links used. See full note at bottom of post.*
Products for a Naturally Clean Home
In the collage above are some of our favorite go-to cleaning tools for somewhat natural / less toxic cleaning. Below is a little more about them and how we use them.
Air Freshening / Disinfecting Spray
This is my favorite / most-used item lately. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that it doesn’t involve any real cleaning. I mix together 50/50 witch hazel and water in one of our cobalt spray bottles, then add in 8-16 drops essential oils–either a citrus blend or tea tree or peppermint. All of those smell fresh and also help fight bacteria and kill germs. (The all-purpose cleaner below works too, but I don’t love the lingering smell of vinegar.) I keep these sprays in the bathrooms where I can quickly spray around the toilet or trash on a daily basis. I also do this along with a quick wipe down of the bathroom for a weekly cleaning and before guests come over.
Baby Wet Wipes
Okay, in full disclosure, I feel the need to list these as my go-to cleaner lately. It is my most-used item after the air freshener spray above. I buy unscented baby wipes from Target and keep a package of them on the back of all 3 toilets in our home. This started as a way to be able to do diaper changes wherever and not have to run throughout the house looking for wipes. But it’s proven handy in so many ways. I mentioned I don’t get deep cleaning done as often as I’d like, but having wipes on the back of the toilet makes an easy handy solution to grab and wipe the counters or toilet seat or floor around the toilet (where son misses) or even the mirrors. It mostly just does a quick surface cleaning, then I can use either the air freshener spray (above) or the all-purpose cleaner (below) to help with the germs / bacteria side of things. It’s definitely not ideal, but at this season of our lives, it keeps us from living in a gross mess.
Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner (vinegar, water, essential oils)
I mix this together in a larger spray bottle than the air freshener spray above. I mix 50/50 white vinegar and water with 10-20 drops essential oils (depending on the size of the bottle) and again use either a citrus blend or peppermint. A little thieves blend is stronger in killing germs, but should be used in moderation and avoided around young kids. This works as a general cleaner to spray surfaces and wipe clean. Or if I need to scrub an area, say the stove or the shower, I’ll spray this cleaner over a layer of baking soda and let set 20 minutes or so before scrubbing and rinsing. This can also work as a disinfecting spray in place of Lysol–just lightly spray surfaces or door handles and let dry.
Baking Soda in a Shaker
Baking soda is great for areas that need to be scrubbed. It also works well down a drain, and especially down the garbage disposal, with a cup of vinegar followed by hot water. Or I’ll grind in ice to help clean the garbage disposal. I got a shaker to use when we cloth diapered that comes in handy for easily sprinkling baking soda in the shower or over the stove top. It can also work well sprinkled over carpet and let set, then vacuum up to help remove odors.
We used to have a Swiffer Sweeper for years, and now have another brand of the same thing. I love that it perfectly holds a kitchen wash cloth for when we want a reusable option. We used to wet the rag, then use the all-purpose cleaner (above) to spray the floors and/or spray directly on the cloth. Lately we’ve been using the disposable versions, but hope to get back to the reusable cloth. The kids have started to ask to do this, and it’s a great chore for them. Either way, the sweeper is a quick and easy solution to clean kitchen and bathroom floors.
My husband does car detailing on the side and got us stocked up on the microfiber cloths. They are great for cleaning surfaces, and can even be used dry for an easy dusting. We haven’t owned dusting spray in years because these and an occasional light use of all-purpose spray gets the job done.
White Floursack Towels
These floursack towels (not shown in collage) are mostly just the hand towels we use in the bathrooms. I keep several on the counter so they can be easily rotated to keep a clean towel ready. A dry one also works great after I clean the mirrors with either a baby wet wipe or the all-purpose cleaner. These towels remove streaks and smudges, leaving the mirrors looking great.
Diffuser / Essential Oils
In addition to the air-freshener spray, another thing we do a lot is diffuse essential oils. This is similar to the spray in that it makes the air smell good and can de-germ the space around the diffuser. I love diffusing citruses (they’re my favorite oils), and peppermint is a great germ killer and smells good around the holidays. We also have a calming blend we like to diffuse in the evenings or when company is around. Some essential oils take some getting use to the smell, so I try to stick with the smells that are more like a candle and less like a weird herb. Or we just use the diffuser before company comes and then turn it off when they’re here. (You can go here for >> essential oils basics with our favs and more ways we use them.)
I love plants, but the real green thumb in our home is my husband. Anything we’ve kept alive is all thanks to him. Several years ago I learned about air-cleansing houseplants (<<click the link to see my original post about them) and we bought several to put throughout our home. We have 2 still doing well, but a couple need to be tossed so we can start over. These are a natural way to purify the air in a home. It takes a 6-inch plant from the list to cleanse 100-square-feet in 24 hours. Plus, they look great. Other useful houseplant options are select herbs that you could use in your cooking–also on my list, but I need to work on my green thumb first.
That covers our favorite cleaning products and some basic cleaning routines we use to fake a clean home until we can make it. Feel free to add some of your favorite tricks or challenges you face in the comments below.
*Note: Affiliate links used. Purchases through these links could earn me a small commission with no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support.