1. When cleaning a house, she thinks of everything as a grid.
“I do this with small areas, like a mirror or countertop, or larger spaces, like an entire floor.” Tanaka says. “By visualizing the space broken up into a grid, I don’t miss anything and I don’t go over any spot more times than necessary.”
2. She always cleans from top to bottom.
“If you’re doing a major clean-up, do your floors last,” Tanaka says. “That way you’re not shaking down dust and dirt onto anything you’ve already cleaned.”
3. She keeps a few odd (but seriously helpful!) items in her cleaning kit.
“I often use washable cloth baby diapers as a buffing tool,” says Tanaka. “They’re really amazing at shining things like granite countertops, mirrors, and windows, and help you use fewer paper towels.
Tanaka is also a fan of microfiber cloths, but heads to the automotive section to buy them. “They will be much cheaper than the ones in the cleaning section.”
And she’s figured out some double-duty uses for other cleaning tools in her stash. “A squeegee is great for sweeping up crummy countertops or dusty stairs, since it’s grippy and can get into tight corners. And I like to use a plastic pan scraper for lifting stuck-on messes off floors — it saves my fingers!”
4. She corrals her cords.
“Electrical cords are a real magnet for dust bunnies, so I like to neatly zip-tie them together, or even tack them up off the floor to keep dust from collecting.”
5. She relies on hooks to keep things tidy.
“People have good intentions with their organizing systems, but often putting things away in bins is still too much to ask,” Tanaka says. “I’ve found I’m more likely to hang things up (and I think other people are like this, too) so I like hooks.”
6. She always squeegees her shower.
Tanaka finds that keeping her bathroom as dry as possible to fight mildew and soap scum build-up. “I even squeegee shower curtains, or the lip of the shower door frame.”
7. She skips hairspray.
“Dust really loves hairspray, so if I use it, I tend to spray it outside. If you do end up with a sticky, dusty mess in your bathroom, a Magic Eraser can help clean it up.”
8. She has “house-only” shoes.
“Taking off shoes at the door really helps keep dirt out of your house. In the winter, I walk around the house in slippers, and in the summer I use flip-flops.”
9. She uses cooking downtime to start cleaning up.
“I love sitting down to dinner knowing that all I have left to clean up is the plates,” says Tanaka. She doesn’t waste time watching that pot boil. As her food is cooking, she starts wiping down counters, rinsing prep tools, and putting ingredients away. ”
10. She treats stains right away.
“The longer it sits, the harder it is to get it off,” says Tanaka. Ain’t that the truth. Wipe up spills and grab that prewash stain remover as soon as you see a spot — you can spray it on even days before you do another load of laundry.
11. She keeps clutter tidy until she can toss it or put it away.
“Don’t devalue the smallest tasks, like straightening a pile of magazines, fixing a stack of mail, or folding a blanket,” Tanaka says. “They make your space feel clean even if you don’t have time to really declutter.”
12. She cleans a little bit every day.
“People get bogged down in the details, but it’s better to look at the big picture,” she says. “I spend 15 minutes every day tidying up, cleaning countertops, and doing other quick cleaning tasks, which improves my mental well-being and makes deep cleans much easier to tackle later on.”
13. She listens to podcasts while she cleans.
Though Tanaka really enjoys how cleaning is the sort of physical task that offers you time to be totally unplugged (she even calls it “meditative”), it’s also a great opportunity to take in some passive entertainment. “I like to listen to This American Life, Serial, Stuff You Should Know, and a bunch of others,” she says. “Workout music is great, too. You’ll clean harder and you can totally count that as exercise (or at least I think so!).”