I love a clean home. It makes me happy to be in an environment that is clean and well-organized. If I lived alone I could probably get away with cleaning my house once a month; but that's not my reality.

Three things make my house less than tidy, and require me to clean on a regular basis:

1. Pets

  • I have three cats, so keeping cat hair, litter and food particles to a minimum is always a challenge.

2. My Elderly Mother

  • Old people make a mess. No way around it; we'll all be there someday.

3. Kids

  • By nature of their personalities, kids make messes; and if they didn't, they are probably not being kids.

1. I put my clothes away

When I take my clothes off, or walk in the house, whatever I'm wearing is either put away or put in the laundry. I don't throw them over a chair or throw them on the floor. All my clothes have a place, and they go there at the end of the day without exception. It takes less time to do this each night than it does to run around looking for the other match to a pair of socks or your favorite jeans.

2. I don't own extras of anything

This wasn't always the case. I used to have extras of everything. But once I decided I wanted to live a simple life, I had to make decisions about what I was going to keep and what I was going to get rid of. I remember the day I was organizing the attic and found 30 sets of Christmas lights, enough lights for three trees or more. I tested them all, threw away what wasn't working any longer, kept the ones I wanted and gave away the rest.

3. I keep papers organized

If you have piles of papers all over your home then you'll really want to consider adopting this habit! It takes less effort to file papers immediately instead of keeping papers hanging around the house. When bills come in, put them in one place and after you've paid the bills, file immediately. Keep menus, coupons and other mail you may need in one place so you can find what you need and purge regularly.

4. I wipe down surfaces after every use

After I cook, brush my teeth, make a sandwich, put on my makeup - whatever I do, I wipe down the surface I just used. I can't stand to see a dirty sink, stove top or counters, so I make it a habit to do a quick wipe of the area to keep it looking neat and clean. It takes only a few seconds to wipe down the area you just used and it stays clean and disinfected, ready to be used again. Most importantly, if you let grease and grime build up over time, it's almost impossible to restore it to its original condition.

5. My bed is for sleeping, not storing

My mother was a borderline hoarder and always had junk on her bed. It drove me crazy to see this and I couldn't understand why anyone would leave junk on their bed. I mean, it interferes with your sleep, right? My bed is used for its intended purpose, which doesn't include storing clothes or other items. If you need your bed to put your clothes on, you're probably due for a major clothing purge.

6. I have a reasonable amount of pillows and blankets

I remember going to clean a house once and counting 12 pillows on the bed. How on earth do these people sleep with 12 pillows? I'm surprised they never suffocated themselves! Keep a reasonable amount of pillows and blankets that you'll actually need. Throw out your old pillows and donate the blankets to a local animal shelter. The less you have on your bed, the more likely you'll be to make the bed each morning.

7. I make my bed every day

Nothing makes your bedroom look more tidy and clean than a made bed.

8. I put my shoes and coats away

This is one of my biggest pet peeves. I hate to see shoes thrown around a house. We take our shoes off at the door and put them away in the closet when we get home. I don't like the idea of all the dirt and germs being dragged through my house. It's also a great way to keep your front door inviting to guests who may pop over for a visit.

9. Dishes are either washed or put in the dishwasher after use

Growing up, my daughter was notorious for leaving her dirty dishes in the sink, even when there was plenty of room in the dishwasher. I eventually broke her of the habit, but it was tough to break. It's easy to rinse, open the door and stick the dish inside the dishwasher. Run the dishwasher at the end of night, and in the morning you'll have clean dishes that will take you a few minutes to put away. After you use pots and pans, clean them immediately, dry and put away. Your counters will look clean and organized, and you'll have what you need the next time you cook.

10. I put things away after use

I have a lot of people in and out of my home on a regular basis caring for my mom. If everyone decided to leave things out or to put them somewhere they didn't belong, we'd collectively never be able to find anything. Putting things back where you've determined they "live" in your home ensures everyone knows were to find things, and keeps your house neat and tidy.

11. I dust and vacuum regularly

Don't freak out when you hear my vacuuming schedule. I know it's not for everyone, but I have three cats, so we vacuum daily. I dust once a week. If you dust and vacuum weekly, your house will remain cleaner and you'll save time because you won't have to do a major cleaning each time you do decide to clean. Things will stay presentable longer.

12. I'm respectful of those I live with

Ultimately, I want to be respectful to the other people whom I reside with. Therefore, for me, keeping a house clean, neat and orderly is a way in which I can demonstrate my respect for their living environment. Luckily, we all enjoy a neat home. And even when it wasn't a priority for everyone who did live here, they came to understand it was a way to respect what was important to me.

Adopting these 12 habits will keep your home clean, neat and tidy, and will reduce the stress associated with a messy, dirty home. You'll be happy to be in your house and you'll see and feel the benefits immediately.

Editor's note: This article was originally published on a Debt Free Stress Free Life. It has been republished here with permission.

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