Roll-Up-Your-Sleeves Projects for Getting Each Room Spick-&-Span

Plus, the tools you need to make it happen.

October 25, 2017
Photo by Bobbi Lin

Oh, we know: Things can get a little untidy at home. We partnered with Miele to show you how to approach your cleaning in a bite-sized way that will make your life feel a touch less hectic (and a whole lot neater)—and which tools you'll need around to help you do it.

The whirlwind of life gets the better of even the most tidy person (myself included). Despite my good intentions to keep everything organized, I sometimes find myself coming home to piles of clothes (the aftermath of never being able to decide what to wear in the morning) and a general state of domestic disarray.

In the time it takes for tea to be ready, vacuuming is done too! Photo by Bobbi Lin

Being faced with such a mess can be an intimidating task, so when tackling it, your first step should be a reality check: Don’t expect yourself to clear out all the clutter in your house from top to bottom Mary Poppins–style in one go. (Sure, Marie Kondo recommends an all-in-one decluttering marathon, which might be good in theory, but who has time for that?)

Like anything that seems like a mammoth effort at first, getting each room spick and span becomes far less daunting when you break it down into small, manageable projects that don't take much time to check off your list.

And if you get into the habit of doing these little things at certain times during the week or month, chances are you’ll be able to keep your abode relatively tidy all the time. Here’s how:


Think about a kitchen activity that you do often and enjoy—drinking tea, brewing coffee, blending a smoothie, microwaving breakfast. Then figure out what one cleaning or organizing task you can do while you have downtime during that activity.

I drink a lot of tea, so I ask myself: What’s one thing I can do while waiting for the kettle to boil? In the three minutes or so that I’d usually spend waiting impatiently, I can usually load or unload the dishwasher, or tackle the dirty dishes in the sink. Or I could use those few minutes to organize all the random packets of tea I have. The trick is to coordinate like teas with like (so I can easily find the tea I'm looking for), and transfer them to a clear storage container or basket (no more loose tea packets hanging around the drawer).

Living Room & Bedroom

Given that you’ll need to declutter, dust, and vacuum, tackling these can take up a little bit more of your time. So make it less of a chore by queueing up that podcast you’ve been meaning to listen to or that favorite 80s pop album that always lifts your spirits (no judgement here). You can also pick one part of each room to tackle at a time, like organizing the all the electric chords and wire cables in your living room one day, and cleaning out a junk drawer in your bedroom the next.

A freshly vacuumed rug really ties the room together, dude. Photo by Bobbi Lin

No matter which way you go about it, you'll probably want to make sure you've got a clean slate first. The secret to this is getting well-acquainted with your vacuum brush attachments. Using the wrong attachment for the wrong task is kind of like trying to apply eye shadow with your hairbrush.

First, slide on the dusting brush and use it to blitz any dust on bookshelves, windowsills, picture frames, blinds, ceiling fans, blinds and drapes. Next, use the crevice tool to get in between sofa cushions, in corners, behind the radiator, and underneath furniture, as well as to reach cobwebs on the ceiling and to clean bed frames. (It’s also great for getting under the stove or fridge in the kitchen, and for de-linting your dryer).

Then before you get started vacuuming the carpet with the floor nozzle, spruce up your armchairs and sofa with the upholstery tool. Since you’ll now be such a pro at vacuuming, you’ll probably still have time to also polish the mirrors, fluff the pillows, and, while you’re at it, water the plants.

On to the decluttering. A time-consuming, but very worth it project: the closet. This is a prime case of not doing everything at once. Instead, allocate 15 minutes each evening to do one thing—it could be folding your sweaters, organizing your shoes, or switching out warm-weather clothes for your fall staples (or vice versa). That being said, if you have a full weekend to spare, you can go full Marie Kondo and do the whole thing in one shot.

My favorite rule for keeping my closet from overflowing? Every time I buy something new, I have to donate an old item that I haven’t worn in forever. It works like a charm and keeps me ruthless, not only when it comes to parting with old clothes, but also when buying new ones.


For the bathroom, start by conquering an organization project, like spiffing up your medicine cabinet. Take everything out, wipe down the shelves with cleaning wipes, toss what you don't use or want anymore, and thoughtfully reassemble what's left (it helps to break each shelf into sections, like hair, face, etc.). Other ideas: re-fold all the towels on your linen shelf, transfer those bulky packages of Q-tips and cotton pads into cute jars, clean out all the soaps sitting in your shower.

As far as cleaning the bathroom goes, de-molding the shower is the worst. So rather than let your tub get to toothbrush-scrubbing-required levels of grime, set a day of the week (say, Sunday morning when you’ve got plenty of time on your hands) to give it a quick clean. About 15 minutes before you jump in the shower, spray it down with a cleaning product and let it sit. By the time you’re ready to get in, a lot of the mold will have dissolved and you can give it a quick wipe and rinse before you get on with your shampooing.

When you’re done, reward yourself for your hard work (and all the time you’ve saved your future self with all this super-organized cleaning). Rosé and Netflix, anyone?

We've partnered with Miele to show you how cleaning your home can be easy and stress-free when you have the right tools for the job—like a vacuum from Miele's HomeCare line.

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It's here: Our game-changing guide to everyone's favorite room in the house. Your Do-Anything Kitchen gathers the smartest ideas and savviest tricks—from our community, test kitchen, and cooks we love—to help transform your space into its best self.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Scarlett Fiona Reed
    Scarlett Fiona Reed
  • Joanna Johnson
    Joanna Johnson
  • dmass
  • Niknud
Infinitely curious writer, editor and wanderer.


Scarlett F. October 10, 2019
I like everything (and do it all) but could you please swap the single use wipes for a washcloth? I keep a washcloth folded on the counter and wipe down every time I use it, and wipe up after my boyfriend too. It really helps keep deep cleaning to a minimum.
Joanna J. November 3, 2017
Oh, if only this vacuum could declutter my kitchen pantry! :D It seems it can do everything else!

To the lady, who posted before me - yes, live a little, nobody can maintain a perfect home with kids. Everyone with kids knows this. I think the point was to help people who don't know where to start. It's sad to see how clutter triggers anxiety and depression. Housekeepers like me help those people maintain a happy life. Which makes me happy. :)
dmass October 28, 2017
Great ideas, especially breaking down tasks i to manageable tasks. I find if I try to put too much on my plate I wind up paralyzing myself and get absolutely nothing done. Small bites work for me and keep life less stressful. Same goes for exercise... squats while I brush my teeth. Whatever works, right? ;^)
Scarlett F. October 10, 2019
I totally do squats while brushing!
Niknud October 25, 2017
Can I choose life instead? I totally appreciate the idea of making good use of those little increments of time to multi-task but this article left me feeling somewhat exhausted. I am willing to trade a little clutter in my house for a chance to read a book to my boys or collapse on the couch with twitter for a while rather than wring productivity out of every scrap of the scarce free time I have. Like I said, I appreciate the tips and tricks and don't mean to come across as snarky, but I think there's something to be said for taking those minutes for yourself or your family. Guilt free and without judgment. And, while I know that it's not a financial option for everyone, paying a cleaning service to come in and clean your bathrooms and vacuum your stairs every other week is almost as good as vodka for my happiness (not to mention marital harmony). I trade off eating out/starbucks to be able to do this.