How many chores are on your cleaning list?

Probably more than you would like. And you have to do them over and over and over again. Unfortunately, most cleaning chores are a fool’s errand. As soon as you get the kitchen all sparkly, it’s time to make dinner.

What if there was just one thing you could do that would instantly make your house look and feel cleaner? Even if you skipped all the other chores on your list.

What if there was just one chore that made your home cleaner |

Okay, let’s talk about something else you are used to doing with minimal effort for maximum results.

Your morning routine.

Most mornings I am sure you rise before the sun and take a gloriously long and leisurely time getting yourself all dolled up to drop the kids off at school.

Oh, wait…no mama has time for that.

It’s more like doing whatever you can to look presentable as you scramble to get them to the bus stop.

So, what do you do when you only have 5 minutes to get yourself ready in the morning? Either because you are a chronic over-sleeper or you have needy children that you put before yourself.

The answer just popped in your head, didn’t it?

Because it has happened to you a lot and you already know what you would do.  You know what makes the biggest impact. You know what makes you feel or look your best. And you prioritize doing that when you only have 5 minutes to get ready.

We have all dealt with the “oh crap, I only have 5 minutes to get ready” problem. And after handling it a few times, you know what to do. You have a plan.

For me, it’s a quick shower. I’d rather leave the house with wet hair than dirty hair any day. That’s just me. For you, it might be throwing your hair in a messy bun and slapping on some mascara. We all have our thing, the one thing we would do if it was the only thing we had time to do.

Now, back to the chores.

We have all had the “oh crap so-and-so wants to stop by” moments and thought our house was a disaster.

But we don’t have a quick fix.

Instead we try to stall, make excuses, or ask them to come by another time. Last resort, we greet them on the porch for a quick chat.

And with all of those we make apologies. Sorry my house is a wreck. Sorry it’s been a long week and everything is a mess. Sorry we just had company and we are still trying to get back on track. Blah, blah, blah…

But what if you had a quick fix? One chore that would make your home good enough at the drop of a hat.

Have you given it any thought?

If you only had 15-minutes warning before someone dropped by your house, and they are coming no matter what excuses and apologies you make, what would you do?

Your answer will be different from mine, but we all have one thing.

There is one chore on your list that takes less than 20% of your cleaning time and makes 80% of the impact (gotta love the Pareto Principle). One chore that makes your house feel and look cleaner to you. One chore that when it isn’t done makes you the most embarrassed to have company in your home.

For me, it’s vacuuming. There is nothing else I can do in 15-minutes that makes my home look cleaner. With a border collie whose mission in life is to fur bomb my entire house, vacuuming makes everything better. With probably 2,000 sq ft of carpet, it is one of the biggest surface areas in our home. When it is covered in fur, our entire house feels dirty. When it is freshly vacuumed, every single room feels sparkly and clean…even if I skip the dusting, window washing, and making the beds.

So, what is your one thing? What is the one chore on your list that makes your house feel the cleanest?

Putting the toys away. Cleaning the kitchen counters. Scrubbing toilets.

Now that you know it, when you have a bad day or week or someone is coming by on short-notice, be gentle with yourself. Give yourself permission to just do that one chore and let the rest go. It’s okay to slack every once and a while. Just do the one chore that makes the greatest impact and call it good.

Another thing you should consider is where does your one chore fall on your priority list?

I don’t vacuum nearly enough. But I do dishes and toy corralling too often. Vacuuming is getting a new status…it makes my home feel the best…I should do it first and more often. (Plus, the carpet stays cleaner longer than the dishes stay clean and the toys stay put away.)

What is your one chore?



In just 15 minutes a day for 5 days, you can refresh one room. Without spending a dime.

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29 Responses to The One Thing You Need to Do to Make Your House Cleaner

  1. Cathleen says:

    It’s definitely clearing the debris field my twins leave throughout the front of our house. My latest and greatest approach is this… the girls and I lay out an old blanket on the floor, and everything that doesn’t belong in the living room/family room/kitchen goes on the blanket. Then I drag it sleigh like to the rear of the house and deliver the items back to their rooms. It doesn’t always get into drawers/toy bins at this point, but at least our main living space is livable and ABLE to be vacuumed at this point. And it’s fast…

    • Jackie says:

      Cathleen, Love it! You gotta do what you gotta do. I’ve heard of keeping a basket in each room to deposit things that belong elsewhere or belong on a different floor of the house. We have a bin like that in our master bedroom…when the boys leave toys in our room we throw them in the basket and ask them to put them back every so often.

  2. Kristin says:

    For me it’s picking up our tiny living room. It’s where my boyfriend & I plus our 2 cats spend the most time so there are always things to be picked up. If I’m having company I will tidy up the usual messy things like shoes, then gather all the clutter stuff & put on top of our bed. Once it’s clear of the mess I do a quick vacuum & try not to worry about the messy kitchen, LOL!

  3. I love Cathleen’s idea! I tried implementing a “crap box” (and old diaper box, no pun intended) that we threw stuff in from the main living areas that didn’t belong. It just turned into an extra toy box, so I had to give that up. Oops!

    But for me, the floors as well. With two dogs and a cat, I sweep or vacuum at least the main living areas usually every day or two days. It only takes 15 minutes, but makes such a difference. Then my #2 is the dishes in the sink.

    • Jackie says:

      Erin, I agree with your #2. You can only let the dishes pile so high. The worst is when the sink is full and you realize the full dishwasher hasn’t been run.

  4. Catherine says:

    I totally agree. Having clean floors makes everything else acceptable to me.

  5. I think my one chore would have to be making sure the sinks are empty and clean; especially the kitchen sink. My kitchen is open to the living room so anytime the dishes pile up, it instantly looks messy. But I am so with you on vacuuming. We have 2 dogs and 3 cats and the hair is just relentless!

    • Jackie says:

      Sarah, I have heard lots of people swear by clean and shiny sinks. If I didn’t have a dog, that would probably be my number one.

  6. My #1 is the kitchen (counters & sink). I feel much less stressed and that the “house looks cleaner” if the kitchen is cleaned. So this is the 1st priority (and normally gets done daily so it doesn’t get too bad anyway)

    But, I have a couple “routines/space planning” that help with this:
    – I have a shoe cabinet by the front door, so it’s typical for my kids to put their shoes away when they first come in the house (doesn’t always happen, but usually).
    – Also, my kids’ playroom is in the back of the house which means no toys in the living room (except the couple toys they manage to bring in).
    If I didn’t have these spaces in place, I’m sure my #1 would be shoes & toys! lol

  7. Chelsea says:

    Mine would be dishes. I always put them off because I HATE doing them (really no idea why haha) but I always feel so much better when they are all cleared from the sink, and dining table, and stove, and counters haha! It instantly makes the house feel cleaner. To me. My husband always tells me to leave the dishes and pick up the clutter so that would be number two. With two dogs, a muddy man and a little boy our floors get cleaned all the time or that might be the top of my list.

    • Jackie says:

      Chelsea, I agree…dishes are a bummer. We try to keep the dishwasher empty so we can load stuff right in, but when we get off schedule it is really hard to get back to the routine.

  8. Carin says:

    For me it’s floors too, until my littlest goes to school anyway, then it’ll probably be the kitchen or bathroom.

    I love Cathleen’s advice with the blanket. I just dump everything on the side of the stairs and bring an armful up whenever I have to go upstairs, or, if there’s a lot to go upstairs, dump everything in a laundry basket(which then makes me ready to bring down a load of laundry!)

    • Jackie says:

      Carin, That reminds me of another rule I love: Don’t ever leave a room without taking something with you that doesn’t belong there. I always have an handful of water glasses and snack bowls when I come up from the basement. That way it doesn’t get out if control.

  9. Erika says:

    For me it is also the floors. Our house is surrounded by pine trees. I am constantly losing a battle with the needles.

  10. lindyb says:

    For me it’s clearing up clutter! Our ‘great room’ (which is actually very small) contains the dining table, a desk, and a kitchen bar – all surfaces that are magnets for toys, papers, hair bands, books, you name it. I go around, toss it all in a laundry basket, and stick in my bedroom. When the company is gone, then I tackle sorting through it all and either putting it away, throwing it away, or giving it to the child who left it out in the first place!

  11. brbraroe says:

    Another vote for the floors. Running the vacuum seems to freshen the air as well as the floors.
    Jackie, I have to tell you how much I enjoy your honesty and authentic sharing about life. Your openness about real living is what makes your blog heads and shoulders above most of them “out there.” I always learn something new about “living” from your posts. Keep up the great work, you’re making a difference in so many lives by just being “real” about living!!

    • Jackie says:

      That is so true…most of the dust, dirt, and allergens are in the carpets. I remember when we first got of Dyson vacuum and I was disgusted how much stuff it picked up, but so glad it isn’t living in my floors anymore.

      Thank you for the sweet comment and amazing support. I am so happy to be part of the honest conversation about real living. Thank you.

  12. teresa says:

    Putting things back where they belong, tending to dirty dishes and dealing with the mail has the most impact in my home. I have a Roomba that vacuums for me and you should too!!! It was the BEST present I ever received. The note from my BF said it was The gift of Time and what could be more romantic than that sentiment? I only wish I had two as it can’t climb stairs.

    • Jackie says:

      Teresa, When they invent a room a that can clean stairs and handle my dog’s hair, I am all in. We have a lot of wood floors, too and have a Mint floor cleaner that sweeps and mops. We love it!

  13. Fran says:

    Room spray. If it smells nice a lot of things can be overlooked

  14. My family usually spends a lot of time in the living room and things tend to pile up on the table there … magazines, toys, books, things we bring in from the garden ( we use the door from the living room a lot to get into the garden) and so on. So I would clear the table and put a new tablecloth on it which makes the whole room look cleaner and more comfortable!

    I recently told myself that whenever I visit other people, they don’t have picture perfect homes either, because they are working a lot, they have children or pets or whatever. And when I see their homes, I never mind, so I am absolutely sure that they don’t mind either when it’s not perfect in my home when they come over… I keep telling me that and it is really true.

    We just don’t have to present the perfect home to visitors! Jule

    • Jackie says:

      Jule, Yes! If we all remember we are the same and have the same struggles and don’t mind seeing “real life”, it would be wonderful.

  15. Anne-Marie says:

    Corral the clutter from the counter tops and table in the kitchen. If you can see the surfaces, the kitchen looks bigger and cleaner. I’m happy to open my doors to anyone once that 1 chore is done…

  16. Jenna McClurg says:

    I feel the exact same way you do Jackie. For Christmas I got the Roomba Robot Pet series. It’s has changed my life! I know that sounds a little dramatic. It’s like I got an assistant to help me with my job. It’s amazing. We have a yellow lab that sheds like crazy. The robot cleans every night and when I come downstairs every morning everything is all nice and clean.

    • Jackie says:

      Jenna, that sounds amazing. We love our robotic floor cleaner, so a Roomba for the carpet might be awesome. Freshly vacuumed floors everyday sounds too good to be true!

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