in: Featured, Heading Out On Your Own, Homeownership, Lifestyle

• Last updated: June 4, 2021

How to Establish a Simple Cleaning Routine and Stick to It

Young man in car leaving home for college illustration.

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During my first semester of college, I roomed with my good friend from high school in a dorm at the University of Oklahoma. We were pretty much like The Odd Couple, with me playing the part of the slobby Oscar Madison and my friend taking on the role of neat freak Felix Ungar, minus the annoying neuroticism.

You could walk into our dorm room and instantly tell whose side was whose. My roommate’s side always looked presentable and clean: bed made, desk neat, clothes put away. My side looked like a disaster area: blankets and sheets askew, books and newspapers covering my bed, and laundry only half put away. The mess on my little twin bed sometimes got so big and unmanageable that I’d just sleep on top of all my crap, like you see those crazy people do on Hoarders. 

Thankfully, my roommate was quite patient with me and kindly nudged me to start routines that would keep our place looking spic and span. I soon discovered that keeping things clean didn’t take all that much time or effort. In less than 30 minutes a day, we created a haven of order and tidiness that would make Mr. Clean (and my mom) nod with approval. And my turning over a new leaf couldn’t have come at a better time, as I started dating Kate soon after. It was nice being able to invite her over to our place without having to worry she’d be frightened to use a bathroom that looked like a giant petri dish of mold, bacteria, and other gunk.

For many young men heading out on their own for the first time, maintaining a cleaning routine on their own wasn’t something they had to do at home. Sure, they might have helped with chores when asked, but they probably had their mom or dad telling them what to clean and when. But keeping your dwelling space clean and tidy is important for a variety of reasons: it’s hygienic, allows you to feel comfortable having people over (and inviting in surprise guests), gives you peace of mind, and even helps conserve your supply of willpower.

Vintage man vacuuming floor business clothes.

Establishing a Simple Cleaning Routine

The key to keeping your place clean is to break the job up into smaller daily and weekly tasks. A lot of young men won’t clean anything for a few weeks, and then when the mess gets so huge it can no longer be ignored, have to spend a whole Saturday digging themselves out from under it. Or, the job begins to seem so enormous they can’t motivate themselves to tackle it, and let the mess grow even bigger.

Below, I offer a simple suggested routine for a young man living in a dorm or apartment that will keep your place clean while only requiring a small effort every day. It goes without saying that if you’re living in an actual house, your routine will be a bit more complicated and involved. (I plan on writing about regular home maintenance later this year.)

What to Do Daily

Instead of letting messes pile-up, making them more of a pain in the arse to clean come Saturday morning, invest 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes at night in a daily cleaning routine.

Here’s a suggested daily attack plan to keep your place in tip-top shape.


  • Make bed
  • Spray down shower with a product that keeps it cleaner for a longer period of time, like Method Daily Shower. Apply right after you get out.
  • Wipe down bathroom sink and counter with a disposable Clorox wipe after you’re done getting ready
  • Empty dishwasher (if you have one)
  • Wipe down kitchen counters and stove with a sponge and a 409-type product after you’re done with breakfast


  • Wipe down kitchen counters after dinner
  • Spot vacuum
  • Load dishwasher (or clean dishes by hand if you’re in a dorm)
  • Pre-bed clutter pick-up. Go through the house and put away all the clutter you find before you turn in at night.

What to Do Weekly

In addition to your morning/evening cleaning routine, do one bigger task each day of the week. Depending on the size of your place, each will take you 10-15 minutes.

Here’s a suggested schedule:

Monday: Dust

Tuesday: Scrub toilets, shower, and bathroom sinks

Wednesday: Vacuum and mop

Thursday: Clean mirrors and windows

Friday: Clean out leftovers and wipe down inside and outside of fridge, wipe microwave inside and out, clean kitchen sink

Saturday: Change and wash bed sheets

Adapt this schedule to fit your particular circumstances. For example, if you live in a dorm with communal bathrooms, you won’t need to scrub the toilets and shower floors. But you can still dust and vacuum.

That’s it. Together, the above routines only take about 30 minutes a day. If you have roommates, you can divvy up some of the tasks and shorten the time requirement even more.

Follow these routines, and your place will look great every day. All it takes is a bit of dedication and willpower to make these routines a habit, but the simplicity of this plan helps make it easier to stick with.

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