How We Keep Our House (Reasonably) Clean & Dust Free

Q: I love the look of your house! And I love how you arrange and decorate your shelves, tables, etc. I would love to do more of that, but I talk myself out of it when I think about all the cleaning and dusting of all those little decor items!! How to do keep your house clean and dust free? Is it always as tidy as it looks in the pictures?- Kim

A: Good question! And one we definitely get pretty often. We do our best to tidy up before snapping after photos for the blog, but in general we’re pretty orderly people and we’ve found that creating a spot for everything really helps us keep things organized and neat (to see how we sort and store nearly everything in our house, check out this post– and peruse other ideas located under Organization Options on our How To page). That way we don’t have to schedule major house straightening sessions since most of our things have a place to call home (and can usually be found there, as opposed to in a pile on the dining room table or on the kitchen counter).

When it comes to actually keeping things spic and span, I like to work as I go (a little each day as opposed to a major cleaning sesh every a week). John does nearly 100% of the cooking (he’s my own personal Top Chef) and also does all of the laundry and lawn mowing, so cleaning seems like the least I can do to hold up my end of the bargain. I’ve also developed a series of shortcuts along the way (shhh, don’t tell John!) so it’s really not a major undertaking to keep our little rancher looking up to snuff on a pretty continual basis.


I like to do some things every day as I’ve found that they go a long way towards making the house feel nice and clean. For example, wiping down the counters in the kitchen and loading any dishes into the dishwasher that have piled up in the sink each night before bed only takes a second but ensures that I’m a little happier when I trudge into the kitchen for some cereal the next morning.

Here’s a list of some of the ten-second things I like to do daily:

  • wiping down the kitchen counters
  • loading the dishwasher & wiping down the sink
  • sorting the mail (paying bills & shredding junk mail immediately so nothing piles up)
  • bringing a few pairs of shoes back to the bedroom (they tend to pile up at the back door)
  • folding the sofa blanket and putting it back in the basket next to the couch


These tiny efforts literally take about five minutes total, but they really make all the difference in the world. Then there are a few things I do a couple times a week like:

  • running & unloading the dishwasher (it’s cake after years in NYC without a dishwasher)
  • wiping down the sinks in the bathrooms
  • taking out the garbage & the compost (when they’re full, no sense in wasting bags)
  • wiping down the stovetop (we have a glass top that’s pretty easy to keep clean)

Again, these little efforts really don’t take much time but they add up to a feeling of control. I sleep easier knowing there’s a grease-free stovetop and a cabinet full of clean dishes ready to go. Then there are the weekly cleaning must-dos:

  • dusting everything (shelves, mantels, tables, etc)
  • vacuuming all area rugs
  • wiping down the baseboards (it seems like they’re little shelves for dirt)
  • de-dust-bunnying the hardwood floors
  • cleaning the toilets (it’s a dirty job… well actually not that dirty- you’ll see)
  • scrubbing down the shower/tub
  • doing the laundry (hurrah- that’s John’s territory)
  • ironing (also John’s thing since my clothes are wash & wear, he does it watching TV)

I never end up doing all these tasks in one day though, I usually putter around while I’m on the phone doing some dusting, then the next day I’ll find some time to vacuum, etc.


Sometimes I’m not in the mood at all (I’m not a total freak) but it’s a lot easier to convince myself to do some isolated cleaning for a minute or two as opposed to tackling all of these projects at once, which would really feel like a much bigger deal than doing them as I go. And now for a few of my “shortcuts” when it comes to the weekly chores above.

As for dusting, I like using Swiffer Dusters (just the pads- they’re meant to be attached to a Swiffer but I use them with my hand to dust surfaces like the open shelves in the den, our coffee table, the fireplace mantels, and even the baseboards, etc). They create this awesome static-y cling that basically makes dust stick to them (no dusting spray necessary) and I just lift things up with one hand and swipe under them with the other and can basically dust the whole house with one or two in less than 20 minutes (I listen to my ipod as I go, so it feels more like dancing and less like cleaning). And that includes wiping down those dusty baseboards too! It really isn’t hard at all, and it’s so nice to see the things we love on display, so dusting them is well worth the effort! I’ve actually been meaning to try out some good quality microfiber cloths instead of the Swiffer pads (which I’ve heard are just as good at attracting dust like a magnet without any dusting spray). The bonus is that they’re washable so they’ll make for less waste, which always appeals to us! Update: Now we use microfiber cloths and love ’em.

As for vacuuming I’ve heard time and time again that something with a HEPA filter makes for much cleaner air and a healthier home. And until I can afford one of those amazing Dyson thingies, I use a Dirt Devil Vibe Swivel Glide vacuum. I also love that we have hardwood flooring throughout the house so I only have to vacuum a few 5 x 8 and 8 x 10 carpeted squares here and there and I’m done with the vacuum. Update: This is our current vacuum and he’s the man.

But what do we do to keep the wood floors clean? That’s where my BFF the Kurv comes in. You may remember this gushing post about how the Kurv changed my life, but if you haven’t seen it yet it’s worth a look. It’s my number one shortcut to a clean house. It works best in corners, under tables and cabinets, etc… but that seems to be where the dust bunnies congregate so after I vacuum the area rug and use the Kurv around the perimeter of a room and under the chairs, the floor is totally clean and ready for company. We still sometimes use the vacuum to cover bigger areas of the hardwood floor, but for “maintenance” between the more major clean ups it’s truly amazing and leaves the whole house looking photoshoot ready.


Oh and the toilets. I have to say that replacing both of our ancient models from the 70’s with new shiny white ones really started us off with a nice foundation for keeping them clean. The old porcelain ones seemed to get grody a lot more frequently, and the newer ones stay pretty clean week to week so when I spray them and scrub them down with one of those handled brushes (no hand in the toilet for me) they look great on a pretty continual basis. I think it’s another one of those chores that if you do it regularly instead of letting it get out of control it’s a lottttt less work. As for what I spray them with, I’m obsessed with Mrs. Meyer’s Shower Cleaner (the lemon verbena scent is seriously amazing and it’s eco to boot). Gotta love not even needing to kneel or reach inside the bowl. And I use the same spray in the shower/tub and gently scrub them down with a designated bathroom sponge (which I keep under the vanity with the spray) to fight back any grime before it starts.

When it comes to wiping things down things like the counters and the sink in the kitchen and bathrooms, I love love love Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day All Purpose Cleaner (again in their intoxicating lemon verbena scent). It can be diluted a ton for many different tasks so we keep a bottle going forever by just holding it under the faucet and adding a few inches of water from time to time- it never seems to lose its potency. And as for dish soap, we’ve used Seventh Generation Auto Dishwashing Gel forever because it’s good for the planet but still gets our dishes gleaming. Oh and even though laundry is John’s territory I’ll divulge that we use Seventh Generation Free & Clear 2X Concentrated Laundry Detergent without any dryer sheets or fabric softener. We’ve found that our clothes are just as soft as they were before we gave up the fabric softener and we’re saving money and using fewer chemicals which is always a plus for us.

Of course there are still seasonal chores like cleaning the windows (again I use Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day All Purpose Cleaner) and giving the floors a real scrub down (I like Method’s washable headed mop, called the oMop, with a bit of Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day All Purpose Cleaner- and I’m sure to rinse and dry the floors thoroughly since our refinisher said it’s bad to leave wood floors wet) but those tasks are few and far between… and they’re not even that tough to tackle when the rest of the house is on autopilot.

So that’s the little cleaning roundup that works for me. Unless I forgot something. Did I forget anything? What about you guys. Do you have a specific cleaning schedule that you stick to like glue? Any tips and tricks for me that will change my life? Any other miracle cleaning products that fry your bacon? Let’s talk about keeping house.

Note: None of the products mentioned above have solicited these mentions. They’re just truly the things that I rely on to clean up, and I’m very thankful to have found them!


  1. Jenn D says

    Do you use the Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day All Purpose Cleaner on your granite countertops? Everything seems to leave wierd marks on mine…

    • says

      We usually wipe down our counters with a moist sponge or dishcloth only, but for sticky ice cream globs and things like that we definitely rely on some diluted Mrs. Meyers- and it never leaves weird marks behind. Hope it helps!


  2. Jessica M says

    Nice snapshot! We might try the Mrs. Meyer’s products! And we just recently took the plunge and purchased a Dyson – this was shortly after we adopted a rescue lab. Oh, the shedding! The Dyson is absolutely AMAZING!! I was sold on it since it is allergy & asthma certified, and since our 15-month-old daughter has some allergic tendencies, I thought we couldn’t be too careful.

  3. Amy says

    Lets see, I work full time, have a part time job, have two shedding dogs and a house filled to the brim with useless items we have no place for…and a husband who doesn’t cook, do the laundry or clean…yeah there is no hope for my house!

    • Lauren says

      that would be the time i tell my husband to get off his a$$ and help. no pushing around, that he needs to get up and help. that it wouldnt kill him to do some laundry or at least fold it. if he works, ok, but you do to! it would be only fair

  4. Abby says

    I never seem to keep up with cleaning. I always spend the majority of my weekend tackling everything. The Dyson has been a huge help. We don’t have much carpet, but all the attachments make it so easy to do the steps, furniture, hard floors, etc. We have the purple Animal one and it tackles the pet hair great. With two dogs and two cats, the fur becomes a real problem.

  5. says

    My hubby got me an iPod for Xmas a few years ago and like Sherry, I used it when I was cleaning the house. It’s amazing how a little upbeat music helps a chore seem a little less awful. My spoonful of sugar, I guess. Anyway, he said Apple needed a new ad campaign: “Want a clean house? Get your wife an iPod.” I’m glad he noticed my efforts, but I’m not so sure I liked the caveman attitude…

  6. says

    I had been eyeballing a Dyson for the longest time but the cost was so daunting! So when our relic of a vaccum finally bit the dust we did a bit of research and picked up a Dyson on Craigslist for $100! Which was a savings of about $500. We did have to buy a few replacement parts on the Dyson website but apart from that we saved over 75% and it works like a charm!

  7. jillbinmd says

    ah, i always wonder how your house is so clutter free. my bf’s and my house is ridiculously cluttered. it drives us crazy. zero closet space and no basement/attic has really cut into how we store things so it just sort of starts to pile up or gets thrown in our spare room. its lucky we dont get many guests because they wouldnt have a bed to sleep on.

  8. Kristin says


    I use a wet microfiber cloth for cleaning nearly everything. The big bonus for me is – I can use pure water without any cleaner at all for most every-day dirt and dust (let’s say 90%). I even found out that things like dried food spills on the kitchen counter you need lots of elbow grease and cleaner to remove with a normal towel are gone within seconds, even without cleaner.
    With a special microfiber towel for glass and mirrors, I don’t need glass cleaner anymore – just wipe with a wet normal microfiber cloth and dry with the special glass-cleaning one – and no stripes at all.
    When I do laundry, I throw all my microfiber towels in about once a week (can be washed hot) so they do not start to smell as all the scent from the cleaners is missing.

    Hope it helps (and – not associated to any microfiber-towel-producing company ;-) ) and greetings from germany!

  9. julka says

    hi guys,

    me and my husband live with a dog (dirty labrador, and 3 dirty dirty cats) in a big house with a garden in poland.
    your cleaning routine is soo simple , our is soo much complicated..

    everyday vacumming, twice a week cleaning all the floors ( also wooden) – with water as they are simply tooo dirty to leave them ( see point about animals) -i hate it!

    laundry 2 times a week ( a few loads – i clean all the animals beds, rugs once a week , and change bed sheets once a week as well).

    toilets once a week, dusting once a week,clenaing cats toilets twice a week (or everyday ) daily clenaing kitchen . shopping once a week.everyday cooking -all meals from scratch and all lunches to go.i also bake once-twice a week a cake and bread.


    we also have room for almost everything (its sooo much easier like this).

    yeah …and we both work full time not from home so we had to do some major scheadules for everyhting…anyway soooo jealous ur house always looks sooo grat!

    i love your blog, house and i am addicted to it!



  10. says

    Just wanted to pop in and say, we did a lot of research and decided to NOT buy a Dyson. There are plenty of Hoovers and other major brands that sell HEPA-filtered, cyclone-technology, bagless vacuums for a quarter the price, and if you get them off the shelf in Best Buy or Target they feel so much more sturdy and well-made where the Dyson feels like a cheapo, plasticy thing that might break at any moment. I also read tons of reviews (and heard from one close friend) that said the extension for pet hair didn’t work at all because it was too weak. The only redeeming factor was the Dyson Ball, which did steer extremely well, but when you only have a few squares of carpet you hardly need that. We are convinced that a $200 Hoover is a much better value than the Dyson.

    Thank you for the post on cleaning. I’m trying so hard to get to this point, and we are getting an Italian Greyhound soon so that will hopefully jump-start me. Our living room is almost finished – just waiting for a few more items in the mail, then need to hang photos – and I want to decorate with some accumulated knick-knacks, so it’s encouraging to know that even decorating superheros like you have to dust on a regular basis! Here’s a small follow-up: do you dust your plants? I have a huge Peace Lily, and I have to dust its leaves, which feels so silly! But I love it, so I keep dusting.

    How about a post on buying home furnishings sight unseen online? I just bought this rug and it’s totally different than it looks on the screen. Luckily we still really like it, and we were expecting a difference from reading the reviews, but still – any tips and tricks to share?

    Can’t wait to send you the before and afters of my finished living room! It should be only another couple of weeks until it’s DONE! Thanks again for all the inspiration and encouragement. I never thought I could love a design blog, it’s so against my nature, but you two are the antidote to the common design blog.

    • says

      Aw thanks Meredith! We’re blushing over here. As for your question about purchasing things sight unseen online, we do what it sounds like you do. We read the reviews! If anyone says something is scratchy or terrible it’s out. Conversely if everyone raves and it has five stars we feel more confident.

      And of course we read the return policy. That helps put our mind at ease that if anything we snag doesn’t fit the bill we can either bring it to our local store, send it back on their dime, or even arrange for a paid-by-them pickup (we ordered a sofa from Target a loooong time ago, boy was that a mistake, but they picked it up and refunded everything).

      It also can help to search ebay or amazon or even flickr for the furnishing or accessory, since someone might have photographed it in a different way so you can see it a bit more thoroughly (rather than just depending on the perfect retouched photos from the original vendor). Hope it helps!


  11. Erin says

    Just thought I’d chime in about granite cleaning…Method makes a granite cleaner that smells wonderful and leaves them shiny & clean!

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