If you’ve always been Type A, super neat, or preternaturally orderly, today’s post is not for you (but come back tomorrow for a very exciting farmhouse reveal, okay?). Today’s post is for the stragglers – the folks who drag their feet and put off cleaning and organizing until it’s a seemingly gargantuan undertaking that feels hopeless and impossible. I was that way, too! Case in point (brace for horrifying 2009 dorm room photo)…
WOOF. You know where this picture was never supposed to go? The internet, for millions of people to see. But sometimes when I read cleaning or decluttering advice, it’s from folks who have never stared down a beaver-like dam of junk in their house (or their dorm, or their apartment, or wherever). And when you read posts or watch videos from folks who’ve always been neat, it’s easy to feel like you’re just missing the organization gene, or that you’re lazy (because it seems so easy for others, right?), or that you’re always going to be living out of piles on the floor. It can be really overwhelming to feel like you’ve dug yourself into a hole that you don’t understand how to climb out of, you know?
But pals, there’s hope! It took a long time (not joking – a whole 27 years, I think), but I did finally nail down the routines and products that work together to keep my house tidy. Are any of the systems or products I’ve discovered IG-worthy? No! Am I going to end up on a cute and well-curated ~org porn~ Pinterest Board? LOL, NO. But this clean(ish) life is achievable and it can even be fun to maintain (!!!), which is necessary when you happen to have a pretty incredible tolerance for, uh, kinda gross living situations. (Speaking about myself here, hereby known as the Princess of Piles).
The first step? Changing my relationship with clutter. (And honestly, that doesn’t require any new purchases – if you’re feeling really overwhelmed, I recommend starting on that post and coming back here in a month or two when you’re ready). The second step? Finally taking the time to seek out tools that would work for me.
So today, I want to present my favorite cleaning and organization essentials (because they do go hand-in-hand – cleaning is SO much easier when you’re not trying to vacuum under a pile, I promise!). These are all products that I have in my apartment, use frequently, and genuinely enjoy. Each of them made a huuuge difference in the way that I’ve been able to maintain my home (and everything in it, TBH) – maybe one of your new favorites will be on here, too 🙂
1. Chaos Cart: I’ve heard about a lot of strategies for corralling clutter that involves schlepping a laundry basket around every night and filling it with misplaced objects. You know what I, a lazy person, am never going to do? Pick up a heavy basket and drag it around my home. Like, there’s a reason that hospitals have crash carts and not “just a bin of lifesaving equipment.” Roll it around your house, pick up items that are in the wrong spot (or that don’t have a home), and work from there. Shove it in a closet or cabinet when you have company. This was game-changing for me.
2. Drawer Dividers: I love these and they feel really sturdy – no sliding when I’m putting away bunches of clothes! – and they’ve optimized the dresser space I do have. LOVE.
3. Honeycomb Organizer: If you told me that one day I’d be a person with an organized underwear and sock drawer, I would have NEVER believed you. You can see mine in action above – it’s quick to assemble and you can make it as big or small as you need.
4. Linen Boxes: I have two of these – one for my regular bras, and one for my sports bras. Both are popped in a drawer. Finding the bra I actually want/need to wear is so much easier now.
5. All-Purpose Bins: There are a lot of bins out there, but these are a great size at an even better price. (I use them in my bathroom and in my linen closet).
6. Wire Bins: Target discontinued my favorite Brightroom bins (no!!!!), but these are similar (and honestly, a little chicer). I have 5 of these for towels, washcloths, sheets, duvets, and pillow covers. Reaching into the closet and being able to grab the bin I need (vs. destroying a neatly-folded pile, and then shoving the remnants back into the closet) makes life much easier.
7. Under Bed Bins: I have 4 – one for Christmas sweaters, one for swimsuits, one for leotards/body suits, and an empty one. None of them are particularly full, but I didn’t anticipate how good I’d feel knowing that I have room to grow (if I need to) without cluttering up my closets.
8. Hanging Organizer: I use mine for my shorts and jeans, but I also have two of these in my second bedroom closet for guests – it’s nice that folks can have a place to unpack a little bit, you know?
9. T-Shirt Folder: I LOVE THIS SO MUCH. It’s like a gateway to having an organized wardrobe, I swear. (And it’s awesome for those who struggle with folding, too!). Once you see your stack of perfectly matched shirts, you’re going to want to take care of them! It’s like magic.
10. File Box: Get a portable container for all your important documents (even if you’re not looking at them, or even opening them – guilty over here!!!). This is the one I have, and it does the job. Insurance info, health stuff, bank things – all into the box for when I need them one day!
11. Flocked Hangers: After 13 years of mismatched and collected hangers, I upgraded to a set of these and I love looking into my closet now. Sometimes it’s the little things 🙂
12. Tiny Trays: Nail polish! Hair ties! Tweezers! Zit patches! Pins! Bows! Clips! Kitchen tools! These come in a ton of sizes and they’re useful in every room.
1. Dyson V15: I recommended this vacuum after doing my Black Friday research, and it’s BETTER THAN I THOUGHT IT’D BE. I anticipated that it’d be pretty effective, but I’m blown away. My dark blue Nordic Knots rug, once covered in a thin layer of irremovable shedded pet fur, literally looks like it did on the day that I got it. (I’ll post some before and after pictures in the Link Up this week, cause I’m THRILLED).
2. Little Green Machine: Again, a dream. It got orange animal vomit out of my antelope-print runner with NO EFFORT on my part. Also, make sure you empty out the water after each use. (I always do, but the few complaints I read are always like “it smells bad!” and it’s like…yeah, I mean, there’s stuff in there, so that does make sense).
3. Extended Arm Duster: I do not know what is in these little Swiffer duster pads, but they’re INCREDIBLE. When your apartment gets as much major roadway pollution as mine, dusting can get old real fast – these make it kind of fun. I love the extended arm for fans, light fixtures, moulding, etc., but the traditional wand is great, too.
4. Mop: Hands-free wringing, a telescoping handle, and a triangle-shaped tip for getting into corners. I know that a Swiffer seems easier, but this mop in particular shockingly takes less work – just fill it up and go to town (no bending, no constant need to adjust any wet Swiffer cloths!).
5. Dish Rack: One day I’ll reveal my kitchen and y’all will finally see this dish rack (my favorite quarantine purchase). Actually having enough room to dry the pile of dishes in the sink makes me want to do the pile of dishes in the sink.
6. Over the Door Drying Rack: You know what makes laundry easier? Not having to dry items by throwing them over an open door, or a chair back, or your shower rod, or balanced on top of whatever other bizarre surface provides adequate ventilation for clothes drying. (I keep mine in my living room closet so as to not cannibalize any bedroom door space – that’s valuable real estate!).
7. Scrub Sponge with Handle: Hi, I live in an apartment that’s covered in decaying 100-year-old tile, so I think I’d have some sort of hand ailment or injury if I did not use a scrubbing sponge with a handle. I keep one in the kitchen, one in the bathroom, and one in the shower.
8. Deep Clean Brush Set: One day, you’ll wake up a changed person with too much free time and you’ll find yourself in your kitchen, on your hands and knees, cleaning the crevasse between your floorboards and your toe kick. You’ll want these. (Another quarantine purchase, for the record).
9. Power Grout Brush: Again, I live in an apartment that is covered with worn, mostly butter-colored tile that looks dirty after about, uh, 15 minutes. Old grout is often disgusting (please confirm in the comments so I know I’m not just gross) and this is kind of fun and meditative to use.
10. XL Lint Roller: Great for sofas, rugs, and clothes, honestly. You can spot the top portion of mine in my closet above (it’s in the dedicated “lint roller” bin. Pet owners can relate :)).
11. Lobby Broom: No joke, this is the piece of cleaning equipment that singlehandedly changed my life. It was the first time I’d realized that maybe I didn’t hate cleaning, I just hadn’t looked for the tools that were the best fit for me. It’s not like sweeping is my favorite hobby, but it’s quick and painless (though I have in large part replaced my daily broom routine with the Dyson – it’s so easy to carry around!).
12. Toilet Brush: This is the one I have. It’s cute and inoffensive. I like that the design hides the bristles, too.
13. Gloves: Two pairs – one for cleaning (so you don’t get dissuaded by having to touch gunk) and one for dishes (HACK: put on lotion beforehand and it’s like a little spa treatment–except you’re not in a spa, you’re in your home and doing chores. But it’s still nice to come out with soft hands, I guess?).
14. Magic Erasers: I mean…they’re magic.
15. Microfiber Cloths: For all your cleaning needs! I like this set because it comes with three different textures.
1. Baking Soda: I do, in fact, buy the 12-pack. I mainly use it in the fridge and sprinkled in my cat’s litter box, but there are a ton of great DIY cleaning solutions that call for baking soda. If you have the room, buying in bulk is worth it.
2. Odor Removing Gel: Miracle worker – I also use this near my cat’s litter box and it really does soak up any escaping smells.
3. Barkeeper’s Friend: The best bleach-free all-purpose powder cleaner. (Awesome for getting gunk off a lot of my flea market finds, too).
4. Comet: My monthly deep-clean involves clearing all my counters, shaking out some Comet, and going to town on the tile and sinks (often with the aid of that spinny brush, or that scrubber I mentioned earlier!).
5. Vinegar: It’s natural, it’s affordable, and it’s multi-functional (clean your windows, dress some cabbage – vinegar can do it all!).
6. Wet & Forget: Another lightbulb product for me: I could literally spray this in my shower and eliminate the need for heavy-duty scrubbing. (I did also swap out my shower head for this one so I could spray the product off easily).
7. The Pink Stuff: The only way I can think to describe this is the “spray/paste version of a Magic Eraser.” When all else fails, the Pink Stuff works. (It is also very cute, so I actually like looking at it when I use it!).
8. Shower Spray: Keep it in your shower and spray all the walls and surfaces down after bathing. It won’t replace the need for deep cleaning, but it’ll keep any gunk or grime or soap scum from accumulating.
9. All-Purpose Cleaner: You know, for most of the things in your house. I prefer disinfectants for the higher-touch surfaces in my home, but this is great for most dining tables, bar carts, bookshelves, coffee tables, etc.
10. Dishwashing Liquid: If Dawn is good enough to get oil off a penguin, it’s good enough to get spaghetti sauce off your dishes. (But really, any kind will do).
11. Wood Cleaner: VERY IMPORTANT, but oft-overlooked! Don’t use an all-purpose cleaner on your real wood pieces, folks – it’s too wet (who knew?) and may damage or erode the finish. This spray is awesome as it leaves surfaces feeling glossy and clean, but you can alternatively grab this version to use with a mop for hardwood floors 🙂
12. Castile Soap: The real MVP here – if you need a product that can clean your body, your clothing, your fruits and vegetables, AND your house…well, baby, you’re in luck! The use cases here are pretty endless (and people are figuring out new and effective mixtures all the time).
That’s it for my transformational products – anyone out there have any cleaning or organization items that positively impacted their day-to-day life? I’M ALL EARS. xx
Opening Image Credits: Art Direction by Emily Henderson | Photos by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | Styled by Emily Bowser | From: IT’S TIME TO ORGANIZE – Small Entry Organization Hacks For Those Of Us Who Are “Mudroom-Less”