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Episode #011: Habit Stacking Your Cleaning Routine

It surprises a lot of people to know that I don’t actually enjoy the act of cleaning… But I LOVE the result, which is why I am always searching for ways to minimize the energy and thought required to maintain a clean home. Habit stacking my cleaning routine has been crucial! 

By habit stacking my cleaning routine, I clean more consistently with what feels like significantly less effort. Once cleaning chores become a habit then they’re performed without much thought or added energy. Cleaning can become as second nature as taking a shower or brushing teeth. 

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What is habit stacking?

I first learned the term “Habit Stacking” when I read James Clear’s popular book Atomic Habits. To summarize the concept, habit stacking is attaching a habit that you want to have to a habit you already have

If you want to build or incorporate a new habit into your regular routine then James Clear suggests attaching that new habit to the front or back of an existing habit. Ideally you’ll want both habits to be somewhat related (e.g. take place in the same physical space, require similar tools, etc.) to minimize any friction that might prevent you from incorporating your new desired habit(s).

How to Habit Stack Cleaning Chores

When it comes to adopting new cleaning habits, there are a few ways I suggest you set yourself up for success.

Store Cleaning Products Where You Use Them

For instance, I like to keep a small cleaning caddy in every bathroom underneath the sink area. In each caddy I make room for cleaning solutions, cleaning cloths or rags, sponges or scrub brushes, and sometimes a roll of paper towels. 

To save space, you can decant your favorite cleaning solutions into smaller 8oz spray bottles. In bathrooms I like to have one for mirrors, windows, and faucets. Another one for the shower and tub, then a third for counters, floors, and the toilet. 

Consider Habit Stacking Triggers for Cleaning

In Atomic Habits, James Clear details 5 different habit triggers: time, location, preceding event, emotional state, and other people. When it comes to stacking cleaning habits it’s helpful for me to consider the habits I can/will do every day in a certain place at a certain time.

For example, clean bathroom counters and mirrors while you brush your teeth. While your kids are soaking in the tub, quickly clean their sinks, counters, and toilet before drying them off. 

Track Your Progress

Use this habit tracking sheet to keep track of your progress. Consistency is key when incorporating new habits that stick!

Morning Routine: Habit Stacking Cleaning Tasks

Whether or not we are conscious of our morning routine, there are daily tasks we perform when we start our day that we can easily habit stack with our cleaning chores.

Toilet Bowl

Right after you wake up and go to the bathroom, quickly clean your toilet bowl. All this requires is a quick application of toilet bowl cleaner (just a little dish soap is enough to get the job done). Give the bowl a scrub with your brush, flush everything away then prop your brush in between the toilet bowl and toilet seat to dry. 

Counters and Mirrors

Store a bottle of spray cleaning solution underneath your bathroom sink with a stack of cleaning cloths. While you brush your teeth in the morning (or in the evening – the timing of this habit is up to you) clear your counters. Give them a quick spray, then after you finish brushing wipe everything clean.

Shower

My husband and I are the only two people who use our shower and it doesn’t require daily cleaning. Instead, I only clean my shower on days when I wash my hair – about twice per week. I store shower cleaning supplies – a scrub brush and spray cleaner – in my shower. While my conditioner sets in my hair, I quickly scrub and rinse our shower. Finish the job by using a squeegee to dry shower walls and floors and you’re done.

Bed

Make your bed after the shower, before choosing your daily outfit. In my opinion, it’s easiest to choose an outfit when I can lay options on top of my nicely made bed. 

Laundry

Start a load of laundry while coffee is brewing. I actually start this habit the night before by loading the washing machine with whatever needs to be cleaned the next day. Creating a laundry schedule for yourself and your family can be helpful here as well.

Meal Prep

I don’t always do this, but I aspire to always make lunch for my family while prepping breakfast. Even if we’re staying home that day – eliminating the need to take a break and prep lunch in the middle of the day is so off-putting to me. This habit means I am only washing meal prep dishes once in the morning and once after dinner in the evening. It saves time, energy, and minimizes midday hangry child meltdowns!

Evening Routine: Habit Stacking Cleaning Tasks

My energy level tends to be very low by the end of the day, so I stack most of my cleaning tasks with morning routine habits. With that said, there are a few cleaning habits my husband and I try our best to stick to in the evenings to make the next day start more seamlessly.

After School Routine

In our house it is extremely important that we stick to a consistent “after school” routine. I have preschool-age kids so for us this includes:

  • Remove shoes outside and pour out pounds of sand before coming inside (sometimes we have to empty pants pockets and jacket pockets as well…)
  • Immediately wash our hands
  • Empty backpacks and lunch packs
  • Load lunch containers into the dishwasher
  • Scrub the lunch packs clean if necessary then set out to dry

Floors

A number of months ago, I invested in a robot vacuum and my life has been dramatically improved because of it. After our kids are down for bed, my husband and I take turns picking up clutter off the floor while the robot vacuum zips around doing its job. Once we’ve picked up floors, we clear counters, load the dishwasher, and wipe surfaces.

Next Day Prep

If we have the energy, we’ll do a few additional tasks to prepare for the next day:

  • Set the coffee maker
  • Load the washing machine to start laundry the next morning
  • Prep our blender for morning smoothies and store in the fridge
  • Review our calendar for the next day

Weekly Routine Habit Stacking

I like to stack daily habits because it’s the easiest way for me to stay consistent. Habits that only have to happen once in a while tend to happen less often than intended for me. With that said, here are a few ways I habit stack cleaning habits to existing weekly tasks.

Trash

This might go without saying, but it’s worth emphasizing: empty your household trash bins the day before you take your trash to the curb. This includes bathroom trash, diaper pail bags, office recyclables, kitchen trash, and anything else you need to collect.

Fridge

Most people shop for or order groceries once a week for their families. It’s helpful to clean your fridge prior to loading it with fresh groceries. This doesn’t have to be a deep clean, just a damp cleaning cloth and maybe a vinegar cleaning spray will do the trick in most cases. 

As you’re wiping things down, also make a note of expired items that need to be tossed out. This way when you’re done you are left with a clean fridge filled with fresh, healthy foods to be enjoyed that week.

Using Checklists to Track Your Progress

One thing that also motivates me to stick with new habits is a checklist and reward system. There is just something about checking a task off of a list that is super satisfying. If you’re like me then you might benefit from my Green Cleaning Blueprint. This blueprint includes cleaning checklists for every room in your house – to keep you and other household members accountable for weekly cleaning tasks.

It also includes natural cleaning solution recipes, printable recipe bottle labels, how-to instructions for how to clean every area in your home, and more. Learn more here if you’re interested.

And there you have it! My tips for habit stacking your cleaning routine. I hope this inspires you to add one or two new cleaning habits to your routine. Enjoy!

Habit stacking your cleaning routine