how to keep a clean enough house

Note: Not my actual house.


Note: I’m digging into the archives so I can keep the content coming while I enjoy a summer break. This post was originally posted on June 6th of 2016, and I decided to share it because it’s a good complement to my recent Faithfulness series. For a more recent post from that series that covers more ground on this topic, click here.


I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that I’ll never be as good a housekeeper as my mom. Seeing as how I’ve made it this far in life without the cleaning gene kicking in, I have a feeling that the day I’m finally good at keeping a clean house will be the day I can pick up the phone and call in a cleaning service.

And do you know what? That’s okay. I don’t need to hold to my mom’s standard of cleanliness, and I can just go ahead and stop making that comparison right now. It helps to keep in mind that she was a full-time homemaker, and cleaning the house was her job–or at least a major part of it. I, on the other hand, am juggling writing multiple books, a blog, and a freelance career. It would be kind of insane to expect my home to look like I spend hours each day cleaning and decorating. I’m guessing the time and energy you have to devote to cleaning is also pretty limited. I finally made peace with these limitations by deciding it’s okay if my house is merely clean enough.

“Clean enough for what,” you ask? Clean enough that we don’t feel like slobs. Clean enough to ward off a feeling of embarrassment if someone drops in unexpectedly. Clean enough that my husband and I can relax and focus on our work (or rest) without being distracted by the nagging feeling that we should be making more time to clean. Clean enough that we can feel like actual grownups and not middle-aged adolescents.

So how do you keep a clean enough house?

First, you figure out what “clean enough” means for you. Obviously, the “enough” in “clean enough” implies that we’re not aiming for perfection, here. What’s the minimum that needs to be done in order to free you to relax in your own home and let go of guilt and embarrassment?

For me, that means keeping the bathroom clean, smoothing out the covers on the bed each day, staying on top of the dirty dishes, keeping the carpet vacuumed on a regular basis, and controlling the dreaded cat smell. It also means keeping an uncluttered and welcoming entryway so I can answer the front door without feeling like I need to apologize (full disclosure: currently my entryway does not meet this standard).

My clean-enough bathroom. Just don't look too closely at the floor.

My clean-enough bathroom. Just don’t look too closely at the floor.


My husband and I both have a pretty high tolerance threshold for dust and clutter, so these are not things I worry about on a daily or weekly basis. I dust and sweep the tile floors every so often when I get bit by the deep-cleaning bug, but I don’t sit around worrying about how to fit these chores in. And while we do make an attempt to keep the clutter contained, I think we’ve both made peace with the fact that as introspective creative types, we’re probably always going to live with a certain amount of clutter. Honestly, I don’t think I’d be completely comfortable in a totally clutter-free environment. I’d be too afraid of cluttering it up.

At any rate, the point is that your threshold might be different. Maybe you need to dust every day but making your bed isn’t even on your radar. Only you can decide what makes your home feel clean enough for you. So decide that, and figure out which tasks are required to achieve that minimal level of clean, and how often.

The second, and most challenging, part is, of course, implementation. If making time for cleaning chores came easily, you probably wouldn’t be reading this. So allow me to introduce you to the two-minute rule.

The two-minute rule is something I learned about recently from The Lazy Genius, and it is thus: if there’s a task that takes two-minutes or less, and you have two minutes to spare, go ahead and do it.

You would be amazed at how many housekeeping tasks can be done in two minutes or less. Here are the things I can do in that time:

  • Smooth the covers over the bed
  • Wipe down the bathroom sink and mirror
  • Swish cleaner around the toilet bowl
  • Scoop out the cat box
  • Pick up an entire trail of dog toys
  • De-clutter the entry-way table
  • Rinse out my dirty dishes
  • Put away my shoes when I’m done wearing them

That’s almost every chore on my “clean enough” list. The only thing on there that can’t be done in two minutes, vacuuming, only needs to be done once a week (once every two weeks . . . or more if I’m in a busy season) and takes up about thirty minutes of my weekend.

So you can see how this is totally doable, right?

What about you? Do you struggle to let go of a standard of cleanliness that’s driving you crazy? What makes your house feel clean enough? Got any nifty, potentially life-changing cleaning tips to share? Let’s hear about them in the comments!