The Mediocre HousekeeperÔ

Housekeeping Practices and Procedures: 

How to Clean a Home in 45 Minutes or Less


By Heidi Taskmaster



    Greetings, busy housekeepers.  When I received Editor Bernie’s email requesting my thoughts on a speedy home cleaning, I kicked off my shoes (one of which almost hit Jezebel, my two-year-old calico-I miss her all the time), poured some Chardonnay in a questionably-clean glass, plopped down on the sofa, spilling some wine that added to the stain pattern on my off-white (really off-white) cushions and smiled.


    So, I was finally going to be recognized for my genius.  Bernie and I are old friends.  We dated for four days and thirteen hours in the sixties, twelve days and three hours in the seventies and two days and seventeen minutes in the eighties—but who can remember these things?  In those days, I was a starving artist, living on a limited budget, earning a living by the sweat of my brow.  Yes, I have a rare condition that builds up excessive sweat on my brow, and I would drip for donations on the street.  I progressed through the years to jewelry-making and finger-painting and, in the nineties, achieved financial success as a motivational speaker.


    When I dated Bernie, I knew he was impressed with the way I cleaned.  He used to call me his favorite Dirt Dervish.  But enough chitchat; let’s get down to cleaning. 


    Here is my secret 45 minutes-or-less weekly cleaning guide for homes that may not, after cleaning, pass the heightened scrutiny of a boot camp sergeant or a mother-in-law, but will do just fine for a spouse, partner or a significant other whose sense of smell or sight has been diminished.


    Assume your home—apartment or house—has a living room, a dining area, a kitchen, a den in which you use your computer, two bedrooms and bathrooms.  The master bath is exclusively yours, not used by guests.  If you are living with a spouse or significant other, the cleaning chores are not shared unless I talk about sharing them.  From start to finish in 45 minutes—let’s go!


   You must assume the proper mental attitude.  Forty-five minutes is the limit.  Send this message to your mind, and your body will follow.




    There are two theories on bathroom cleaning.  I personally like top-down, although other people swear by bottom-up.  In other words, do you start with the floor and work up or do you start with the mirror, basin, toilet, shower and work down?  To save time in the shower, shoot it with a recognized cleaner/solvent, and let it sit.  You can finish the process when you take the shower you’ll surely need after you’ve cleaned.  Toilets take priority over sinks because you can always “hit” a sink when you’re washing your face.  During your five minute walk-through, take out the bathroom rugs for shaking.  It’s up to you whether to restock toilet paper, towels and soap during the 45 minutes.  It’s also a lot easier to clean a bottled “soft” soap mess rather than soap bar residue.


    Kitchen cleaning presents the greatest challenge in your limited time.  You should clean the toaster or toaster oven and the microwave at least once every two months.  If you don’t, the build-up becomes impossible, and you will not be able to see food burning through the window.  (Oven cleaning is an additional chore and not included in this 45 minute schedule.)  The 12-minute period does not allow for dishes.  Mats and coverings should have been shaken before you started this session.  Bottom-up or top-down, it’s your choice.  I work from top to bottom because any dirt that falls gets cleaned up on the floor.  There are some nifty floor mop products that do a fine job.  A reasonably-sized kitchen floor can be cleaned between one and two minutes.


    The rest of the rooms are no-brainers.  Any idiot can clean a living room, bedroom, dining room and den.  The degree of cleaning depends upon how sloppy you and any pets are.  If you have a large dog or more than one cat, allow an extra five minutes.  Stains should be cleaned within a month of their origination.  Don’t forget windowsills, blinds and picture frames.  All of these in a room should take no more than 85 seconds for each room.


    You may have read the above shaking your head and muttering that I’m absolutely out of my mind.  You may be right, but that’s not the point.  If you have the right mindset to accomplish the job within 45 minutes, you’ll do it.  Here are finer points:

1.      No telephone conversations of any kind, even if you have a headset and can talk while you’re cleaning.  Everyone can wait 45 minutes.

2.      No music.  This is work, not play.  If you want to make play out of it, set aside a day and do it at your leisure. 

3.      If you live with someone, there’s usually a conflict as to who does what, when and where.  Neither of you should take crap from the other.  Pick out the most distasteful jobs and divvy them up.  If it comes out uneven, switch off from week to week.  If you inspect each other’s work, it must be inspected subjectively, not objectively.  In other words, did you do as good a job this week as your roommate, spouse or significant other did last week?  Tit for tat and all that jazz.  Two of you equals 90 minutes worth of productivity.  Under that scenario, your home should reach a pristine-like cleanliness.


    Put away cleaning supplies and equipment in an orderly and usable fashion for the next time.  That’s one of the secrets of successful household management.


    When your 45 minute cleaning exercise is completed, open your own bottle of $5.99 Chardonnay, imported from Australia, Peru or Chile; dive into that gourmet cracker package; spread the Brie and have yourself a good old time.  If you’re really worried about keeping your abode clean for, at least, the next half hour, eat over the sink.  If not, what the heck.  Kick off your shoes, put your feet up on the coffee table.  Spills and crumbs be damned.  Have yourself a blast.  Happy housekeeping.