A Cleaning Routine for Your First Home

With basic supplies and room-by-room checklists, you can get into the housekeeping habit

By Laura Gaskill / Courtesy of Houzz.com

Moving into your first home is exciting and presents a wonderful opportunity to cultivate new habits, such as getting organized from the start, planting your first garden and even housekeeping. Cleaning may not be at the top of your list of things you’re excited about when it comes to your new place, but keeping your space spic and span is a big part of what will maintain that “new house” feeling. The key is crafting a cleaning system that works with your life.

Know your cleaning style. Do you prefer to take on the entire house in one marathon session or break it up into bite-size chunks? After much trial and error, I’ve discovered that what works best for my family is a combination: small tasks that get done each day, paired with one not-too-long weekend session where everyone pitches in.

Find the time. Take a look at your calendar to get a realistic idea of when you have the time to clean, and decide on a regular day and time each week — it’s easier to keep up with a cleaning routine if it’s just that: routine. If you’re finding it difficult to fit in cleaning, consider setting a timer during your sessions and challenge yourself to do the job within the time you have. If you’re trying to get children involved with the chores, try setting a stopwatch — it’s easier to get kids motivated when it’s a “race”!

Get the order right. Always start high and end low so that dust and grime that drift down when you’re tackling higher-up areas don’t dirty freshly cleaned floors. And if you’re pressed for time, focus on the rooms with the most need for frequent cleaning: the kitchen and bathroom.

Keep your tool kit simple and multipurpose. On one hand, having too many specialized tools and products makes cleaning more complicated than it needs to be (and clutters your cleaning cabinet). On the other, being underprepared for the job will frustrate you. Here’s what to include:

  • Good vacuum cleaner with attachments. A vacuum is a worthy splurge because it will last for many years and makes many tasks quicker and easier. Use it (with various attachments) to clean floors, blinds, carpets, upholstery and more.
  • Extension cord. If your vacuum cord can’t reach your entire space without unplugging and replugging multiple times, get an extension cord to plug into a central location to save time and frustration.
  • Microfiber mop with extension pole and removable, washable covers. The EPA reported on a study from the University of California, Davis finding that microfiber mops remove 99 percent of germs, whereas traditional mops reduce bacteria only by 30 percent. Use the mop to clean hard flooring, walls and ceilings. For many purposes, water alone is enough to get a surface clean because the microscopic fibers actually pick up and remove dirt and germs.
  • Microfiber cloths. Like a microfiber mop, cloths made from this amazing material should make up a key part of your cleaning tool kit. Use a microfiber cloth dampened with warm water to clean nearly any surface, then dry the surface with a fresh microfiber cloth to finish removing dust, dirt and germs. Launder after each use.
  • Cleaning brushes. A toilet brush, all-purpose scrub brush and grout brush (or spare toothbrush) are all you need.
  • Squeegee. Make quick work of window washing and mirror cleaning with this workhorse tool.
  • Gloves. Choose a pair that fits well and feels comfortable.
  • Baking soda and vinegar. There’s not much that one (or both) of these natural cleaning superstars can’t tackle. Pick up (or re-purpose) a few spray bottles to store your own cleaning solutions.

Make a master task list.Start by listing the cleaning tasks you hope to get to each week in your home, room by room. Read through the following checklists, and pick and choose the chores you want to focus on to create your own personalized cleaning to-do list.


Kitchen weekly checklist:

  • Clean fridge, discard old food and spot clean interior shelves using a microfiber cloth and warm water. For grimier areas, scrub on a bit of baking soda and rinse with water.
  • Freshen drain by pouring in 1 cup baking soda, followed by ½ cup white vinegar. Let sit for at least 10 minutes, then pour in a kettle of freshly boiled water. If you have a garbage disposal, you can also run through a hunk of lemon to freshen the scent.
  • Wipe down small appliances (inside and out), counters, backsplash, range hood and exterior of large appliances using a microfiber cloth and warm water. Dry with a fresh microfiber cloth.
  • Vacuum and mop floors. Wood floors with a polyurethane finish (this includes most wood floors installed since 1970) or engineered wood floors can be vacuumed and then mopped with a dampened (not soaking wet) microfiber mop. Older homes with unfinished or waxed wood floors shouldn’t be mopped; just vacuum instead.

Bathroom weekly checklist:

  • Clean toilet, bathtub, shower, sink and counter. Consider skipping the harsh cleaners (which can give you a headache and aren’t great for the environment) in favor of effective and natural baking soda. To clean the tub, shower, sink and counter, mix equal parts baking soda and water to make a paste, and scrub on. Let this mixture sit at least 10 minutes, then rinse with warm water. To clean the toilet, sprinkle in a cup of baking soda and use a toilet brush to scrub inside the bowl, then flush.
  • Clean mirrors and glass shower doors by spraying glass cleaner (or a homemade vinegar-water solution) onto a microfiber cloth designed for glass surfaces and squeegee off, or dry with a fresh lint-free cloth. Excess cleaner that runs behind the mirror can permanently damage the frame or backing, so spraying a cleaning product directly on the glass isn’t recommended.
  • Wipe mirrors with a cloth sprayed with glass cleaner to prevent liquid from running down and damaging the edges.
  • Launder towels and bath mat. To keep bath mats fresh longer, hang them over the edge of the tub between showers, where they can fully dry.
  • Mop floor with a microfiber mop dampened with just warm water or a little all-purpose cleaner.

Living and dining room weekly checklist:

  • Dust surfaces, light fixtures, picture frames and other objects with a microfiber cloth or duster as needed.
  • Recycle any piles of old newspapers and magazines.
  • Vacuum upholstery and floors.
  • Rotate sofa cushions for even wear.

Bedroom weekly checklist:

  • Wipe away any visible cobwebs and dust from walls and high corners with a dry microfiber mop with extension pole.
  • Dust surfaces, light fixtures and decorative objects with a microfiber cloth or duster as needed.
  • Launder sheets and pillowcases.
  • Vacuum floors.

Make things easier with doable daily tasks. Tiny daily tasks make lighter weekly work. Here are a few ideas to consider incorporating into your daily routine:

  • After your shower, wipe the bathroom sink and mirror with a microfiber cloth (keep a few in a bathroom drawer so they’re easy to grab).
  • Do a few loads of laundry during the week instead of letting it pile up for the weekend.
  • Sweep up under the table after meals.
  • Wipe up spills on counters and floors as soon as they happen.
  • Make the beds each morning.

Learn tricks and shortcuts. You can make your cleaning routine more efficient with some smart planning and a few tricks:

  • Repeat cleaning tasks in the same order each time. Memorizing your routine will make it easier to go faster and work more efficiently.
  • Time yourself while cleaning each room. Knowing that you can complete the bathrooms in just under 20 minutes, for example, may make it easier to justify squeezing in cleaning time. (You need to time yourself only once for reference.)
  • Apply products that need to sit for a while first (for example, baking soda paste in the tub and shower), and then move on to other cleaning tasks while you wait. The extra time means that it’ll take less elbow grease to clean.
  • Have a “bare basics” routine that you can complete quickly and easily for times when you’re tempted to skip cleaning altogether. For me, this means a quick clean of the bathrooms, changing sheets and towels, and vacuuming just the main thoroughfares of the house.

Tell us: Have a cleaning shortcut you couldn’t live without? Share your tips in the Comments!