Home and Garden

Why I Love My Once-a-Week Apartment Cleaning Routine


It hurts me a lot to say this, but I never really had a cleaning routine for my apartment until two years ago. Up until that point, I’d used a soul-shattering combination of panicking cleanup when things got out of hand, followed by long, paralyzed guilt as I watched the tides of chaos rise again around me.

That worked out well in the seven years I’ve lived in a studio and been cocooned in my own things. But when I moved into my friend’s bedroom and then across the country to a room that was new to both of us, it became clear that things had to change.

With double the number of people, the tide of chaos rose twice as fast, but at different times exceeded our tolerance levels – mine inevitably first. (That’s why I adopt this type of scheduled cleanup while he does things with a clear threshold, like washing up, taking out the trash, and recycling.) I immediately ditched my old triage-style cleaning habit and instead tried everyone Brush a little day. Unfortunately, that quickly burned me out, adding a parental feel to my dynamic with my boyfriend, which I found … pretty unsettling, you know. So that was out too.

The goldilocks option: a 4-zone rotation that is cleaned once a week

Now, having tried strategies on both ends of the spectrum, I felt it was time to try something in between: I decided to devote one day a week to a special cleansing session. Regardless of whether my fair threshold was exceeded or not, I would build in a few hours every Sunday to dust, scrub, sweep, mop and scrub my little heart. That way, I hoped the job would never get so big that I would fall back into the paralysis I felt in my overcrowded studio.

The thing is however. I’m still a lazy kid, so I had to do something to keep the project manageable in the long term. I divided our one bedroom apartment into four separate rooms – the kitchen and dining area, living room, bathroom, and bedroom – and vowed to tackle only one each Sunday. That way I would be able to do a more thorough clean while maintaining my sanity and every room would get a monthly overhaul.

(Author’s quick note: There’s also a hallway off the bedroom and bathroom that I clean both days since it’s such a busy area. And if there are ever five Sundays a month, I’ll take that as a sign from the purifying gods that I am to take off on this day.)

Does this schedule make perfect sense? No it does not. As you have probably already noticed, I never have a completely clean apartment. And I can almost hear you ask – isn’t the dust haunted from room to room between Sundays? Yes, absolutely. But for me and my brain, this routine has been an absolute lifesaver because it’s just so damn satisfying. There’s time for dust bunnies to gather, to brush around mirrors, to build up splatter on the stove – so that every single room gets a little grubby before I roll up my sleeves. Because if you can’t tell the difference in the before and after, what is it really about?

In the days leading up to my routine, recognizing an accumulation of chaos could result in a spiral or a complete derailment. I want to drop everything I did in order to solve the problem right now. But now I have a perverse pleasure in watching the dirt build up and imagining how much more satisfying it will be to root it out when Sunday is over.

Somehow there is a complicated alchemy in giving me the gift of forgetting the clutter on non-working days and turning my fear into zeal. For example, last Sunday I took over the kitchen, wiped the inside of the stove, and polished the sink until it shone. It wasn’t until Monday or Tuesday that I realized I’d neglected the mirror in my dinette, which was speckled with tiny oil stains from a month of cooking. Instead of feeling guilty or resentful that I missed it that day, I was looking forward to my next kitchen Sunday even more. It was the same in my other rooms.
From sticky puddles in the fridge to crumbs between the sofa cushions to The Pile ™ worn clothes that have built up on my bedroom dresser, every mess has its day. But the six remaining days of the week are for me – a routine that has kept me (until now!) From burning out the process of constantly fighting back the chaos.



Robert Dunfee