Keeping a Clean House on a Time Budget

Okay, here’s my dilemma. I get up at 6 to get to work by 8am, work ends at 6:30pm, I go to the gym for an hour, then it’s 7:30, I’m home ~8:30. Then I need to eat. I’m usually asleep by 10. Many nights, I go to the boyfriend’s place, eat, fall asleep by 10. Then it’s up at 5:30 to have time to get to my place for a change of clothes, etc. On this schedule, I hardly have time to do laundry, and it usually never gets fully put away.

Other salient details are that I’m 24 and this is my first apartment alone (studio). I live in manhattan. I am not an incredibly tidy person by nature, and this is exacerbated by always being in a rush, or so it seems.

The problem is that I’m starting to notice the dreaded NYC cockroaches slowly invade my little apartment, and this is slightly horrifying. I can deal with a few of them, I figure in NY it’s almost a given, but they’re starting to become more noticable by day which means they’re probably multiplying rapidly out of sight. I went online like a good little researcher, and all the sites say the same thing: KEEP A FASTIDIOUS HOUSE, wipe up every crumb, seal up all food, don’t keep any dishes in the sink, don’t even keep MOISTURE in the sink, don’t let piles of anything (clothing, paper, dust) accumulate, etc. etc.

Now, this would be fine and good if I had two hours a day to devote to cleaning, but I don’t. The prospect of spending all weekend every weekend cleaning my whole apartment with bleach makes me wilt like a flower. There’s got to be a way, there have got to be tips and tricks to keeping a place relatively clean with a minimal time commitment, and I’m counting on the older, wiser dopers to help me out, please!

What’s your secret to keeping a clean, tidy house on a busy schedule??

P.S. I have not the money for a maid.

I find that if I do “major tasks” – vacuuming, cleaning out the fridge, wiping down the bathroom – everyother week, and stay on top of “minor tasks” – dishwashing, surface tidying, taking out the trash, sorting the mail – at least once a week, I get it all done in about 2 hours a week. (note I do my laudry in the off week from the Major Tasks). I hate doing it but I feel so much better when the place has been cleaned (to my not-so-exacting standards).

There’s also a list of “every now and then” tasks – cleaning the stovetop, washing the kitchen throw rug, vacuuming the cat hair of my desk chair – I try to do one per weekend cleaning session if I think of it.

It doesn’t take two hours a day, and I keep a 4-bedroom house relatively clean while I raise three small children. Wash your dishes as soon as you finish eating. Wipe down your countertop as soon as you finish washing the dishes. For a single person, you probably aren’t using more than one pan, one plate or bowl, and one or two utensils, so this shouldn’t take more than 4-5 minutes.

Clean your bathroom weekly. It took me 20 minutes today to do that, including tub, sink, toilet, mirror and tile. Wipe surfaces as needed daily – it takes about 30 seconds.

Don’t store stuff in cardboard boxes; our exterminator tells me that that roaches love the glue that’s used to hold cardboard boxes together. We’re happily bug-free, and staying that way.

I scrub floors every other week, which takes about two hours for five rooms. Sweep floors daily, which takes about 15 minutes.

Once the place is clean, it’s not a huge effort to keep it that way. Just daily maintenance, maybe 15-20 minutes per day per room. It might be worth it to hire a cleaning service one time to get it clean, and then all you have to do is maintain the cleanliness.