How to Use the “Last-Things-First” Method for Cleaning


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I have a flexible work schedule, which is another way of saying I work all the time. This makes it difficult to keep up with domestic tasks, especially completing the cycle. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, completing the cycle is similar to closing duties, i.e., resetting a space after you’ve used it. The hard thing about successfully completing the cycle is that all the work happens when you’re already spent — post-dinner, post-movie night, or post-breakfast when you’re rushing out the door. That’s why I love my “last-things-first” method of keeping up with cleaning; it makes completing the cycle much less painful. 

This system looks a lot like procrastinating, but I swear it’s not. Here’s how it works: I flip the cycle and do the clean-up first. Time to start my workday? Step one is a quick tidying and dusting of my office, including starting the robot vacuum. Need to take a shower? I begin with a five- or 10-minute quick clean of the bathroom first, and, as a bonus, the shower will be much more relaxing. Dinner time? I clean the kitchen first. Dinner may be a little late, but I was going to be up late anyway cleaning. 

There are a few things I do that make this process easier. I keep a microfiber cloth in my desk drawer, so dusting my office takes almost no effort. I have a basic set of cleaning supplies under every sink, and I keep a reusable lint roller and a container of Armor All Wipes in my car. I try to remove any barrier to my pre-task cleaning routine, and at this point my tidying rituals are habits. (It also helps that I’ve been telling myself for years that I “can’t” work in a cluttered space.) 

If you’re worried, you’ll get lost in the weeds and start reorganizing your pantry instead of making dinner (speaking from lived experience here), set a timer. If I’m tempted to reach for my Bissell SteamShot, my alarm reminds me this is not the time for it. 

Don’t needlessly double your effort. I know I always sweep after dinner, so while clearing the sink and dishwasher is definitely part of my pre-cooking ritual, sweeping isn’t.

These routine micro-cleans also mean that I can stretch the time between dedicated cleaning sessions. That alone is reason enough to adopt the habit, as far as I’m concerned. 

I know myself. If I save all the cleanup for the end, I’ll often skip it. But if I clean first, resetting the space after I use it is easy, and I’m much more likely to “complete the cycle.” By making cleaning (or just tidying!) the prerequisite to my must-do tasks, I ensure it always gets done. 

What makes it easier for you to complete the cycle?


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