My favorite definition of housekeeping is: the replenishing of good things and the removal of unnecessary things.

I like this definition because it acknowledges that we need good things and we need to remove other things. One way I implement this definition is the “one in — one out” rule. If I buy one pair of socks, another pair must be ready for either the garbage or Goodwill (depending on why it is being removed). When our electric teapot dies, then I can get a new one. I don’t bring one into the house “just in case.”

Replenish the Good Things
I have monthly lists set up on Amazon, Akamai, and Grove that help keep our cleaning supplies, dog food, pen refills, 3-in1 bar, skin fuel, toothpaste, kitchen towels, etc streamlined. It takes about 5 minutes a month to double-check the lists and make any changes necessary.

This means when I go to the grocery store it is for food. I don’t get distracted by the other aisles and my grocery money doesn’t get spent on household needs. They each have their own line in the budget.

I keep a running list in the Notes app on my phone of clothing sizes, needs, and preferred colors/brands for each member of the family.

Lately, I have been bringing home plants or flowers to green up our indoors and provide some much needed cheer and color. We have so much green outside during most of the year, but late fall and winter can seem pretty bleak. It surprises me that I have such a hard time keeping indoor plants alive. I don’t know if I overwater or underwater or what other mistake might be at play. There is definitely a learning curve!

Removing the Unnecessary Things
This might possibly be my favorite part of housekeeping. Weird, I know.

There is always a bag sitting on the bench by the front door for donations. Sometimes it takes a week to fill, sometimes a month. Our current bag has been there for 4 weeks and still isn’t full. We are in a pretty good place stuff-wise since we undertook this journey mindset.

Garbage is another area where we are removing the unnecessary stuff. We sort ours into burnable (paper, cardboard, etc) and non-burnable. Our family of 4 adults fills two thirteen gallon bags per week. It is mostly plastic wrapping from frozen vegetables, fruits, vegetables, and meat trays. We have been trying for years, with varying degrees of success, to eliminate plastic from our lives. There are still days when the can seems full of strawberry bins and mixed greens bins. All I can do is sigh, break them down into small pieces, and wish for an easier solution.

Food scraps are another area of removal. We compost all that can be composted, but there are still bones, food with grease/oil, and other things best left out of a compost pile. Those end up dumped into the garbage bin. In fact, if it wasn’t for this bit we could probably get a way with paper bin liners instead of plastic. Those scraps bring raccoons and neighbors’ dogs from all around to the outdoor garbage can if we don’t have them wrapped in plastic.

I could go on and on about removing the unnecessary things, but perhaps that is another blog post for another day.

Cleaning Routines

One benefit to living small is that housekeeping and cleaning is much simpler.  Let’s define these terms.  Today’s focus will be on cleaning. Although, I will define housekeeping towards the end.


Cleaning: To me, cleaning means: sorting, putting things in their proper place, wiping down surfaces, sweeping, laundry (wash, hang, take down, fold, & put away), and doing dishes. I call the above list “Tidying Up.” Then there are the deeper cleaning needs like: toilet scrubbing, shower scrubbing, changing sheets, dusting walls, dusting baseboards, washing curtains, washing windows (switch plates & doors), cleaning the stove/refrigerator, cleaning out the cupboards, etc.

When you have less stuff, tidying up can take only a few minutes a day. I spend about 30 minutes a day tidying up. That includes 3 loads of dishes (we hand wash) and laundry.  We use clothes lines and racks for drying all our laundry.  I set aside another 15-30 minutes for cleaning. Each area has its own day.  Monday = bathroom, Tuesday = bedroom, Wednesday = Free Day, Thursday = Living Room, Friday = Kitchen.

Each room also has an order in which the tidy-up or cleaning gets done.


On a tidy-up day the bathroom gets a wipe down after my shower. I spray the walls of the shower with vinegar and let it dry naturally, I use the washcloth from my shower to wipe down the sink and toilet. I grab all the laundry and put it in the washer before heading out to take my walk.

On Monday (Bathroom Cleaning Day), I start by emptying all the laundry into a basket just outside the door.  Then I drain the toilet basin, and spray down the inside, seat, lid, and sides with an environmentally and septic friendly cleaner.  That sits for a few minutes while I start the laundry.  I sprinkle a bit of baking soda on my toilet brush and scrub away. Next I wipe all the surfaces of the toilet, and give it a flush.  After my shower (first thing in the morning) on Monday, I sprinkle baking soda on the walls and floor.  After finishing the toilet, I use a bristle brush and scrub down the shower walls and floor.  Next up is the easy part.  Just a bit of the multipurpose cleaner on a cotton rag and I wipe down the mirrors, switch plates, counter top, and sink.  Followed up by broom and I’m done.


On a tidy-up day, I throw the blankets back to let the sheets air while I’m doing bathroom stuff.  Then as I leave the bathroom (heading for the laundry room), I spread up the bed, return empty hangers to the closet, and put away anything not in its proper place.

On Tuesday, I completely strip the bed (folding the heavy blankets) and pillows and carry both the laundry and linens to the laundry room.  I start with sheets and cotton throw blanket on Tuesday, because they need lots of space on the lines. Then I return and sweep the walls, baseboards, and floor.  I dust the windowsills and windows, top of my cabinet and nightstand, check to see if the fan needs cleaning (it usually doesn’t). After that, I put new sheets on the bed, put the blanket/s back on, and sweep.  Done.  The sheets I washed today will get folded and put into the family linen cabinet for the next person who wants to change their sheets.  I do me, they do them. I only wash the heavy blankets/quilt and curtains when they need it.

Living Room:

On tidy-up days, the living room is mostly a case of returning things to their proper places, sweeping, and straightening up blankets and pillows.

On Thursday, I carry all the afghans and blankets with me when I go to the laundry room. They get washed first and hung up to dry.  (Except in winter when I wash them in the afternoon and hang them by the wood stove so they are warm when we sit down together in the evenings).  All the plants get watered (this is a new step), I sweep the walls and baseboards, every surface gets wiped down (including the knickknacks, stained glass pieces, switch plates, and electronics), the windows and windowsills get dusted, furniture gets moved around so I can sweep under everything, and finally I sweep it all up.

In the winter when we’re using the wood stove, I have to dust more often and will probably have to water the plants more often.  Wood ash leaves a fine coating on most of the surfaces on days we clean out the firebox.


On a tidy-up day, the kitchen still gets a thorough cleaning.  I have a very specific way I move through the kitchen and this is done after each meal. I make hot soapy water while cooking.  After I eat, I clean off the table.  Everything gets put where it belongs and dishes are stacked beside the sink.  Then I use the hot soapy water to wash the table, the stove, the refrigerator door, and all the counter tops.  Then I wash the dishes and use the hot soapy water to wash the counter where the dishes were stacked, both sides of the sink, and the faucet.  The dish pan gets rinsed and placed over the drying dishes.  Then I sweep. After sweeping I take a walk (which isn’t technically part of cleaning, but it is part of my routine) . . . when I get home, I put all the dishes away and put the draining towel in the laundry room.

On Friday, the kitchen gets the same daily routine plus I sweep the walls, wash the wall behind the stove, sort through food left in the fridge and pantry, use more hot soapy water on the cabinet doors and pantry shelves, add items to my grocery list, and mop with super hot water.

Housekeeping: I use this term to mean the running of the household.  This is things like paying bills, making a grocery list, making a shopping list, reconciling the bank account, bringing in flowers, caring for plants, planning, cooking. . .

More on housekeeping coming up later.