I like to think that despite how busy I often am, I keep a relatively clean house. It's not spotless by any means, but it's clean. With three kids, a husband who removes clothing everywhere, and two cats, this can be difficult. I use all natural cleaners too, which can take more elbow grease. But I measure cleanliness in a few easy ways: can I walk barefoot and feel comfortably free of crumbs and stickiness? Are counters and tables free of clutter? Is there a ring in the tub or toilets? Have I run out of clothing?
In the book Cheaper by the Dozen (a delightful true story about a family with 12 children that has nothing to do with a movie of the same name), both parents are professional efficiency experts in the early 1900's and found amazing ways to streamline processes that would normally consume their lives. I like to take the same attitude, so forgive my unconventional 'shortcuts':
1. No folding laundry. Each person owns no more clothing than what would make a single load of laundry, which gets washed and thrown into a basket in their room, or a dresser. Yes they get wrinkled, but we own few items that really get very wrinkled and we iron if we need a wrinkle-free item. Once they get dirty, they are thrown into a hamper in the kitchen. It would be in the bathroom if that room were bigger.
2. Floor materials should be consistent. I used to use the rugs on the wood floors but during the summer I rolled them up. I vacuum the hardwood and I found that switching the head of the vacuum between rug and hardwood took more time, besides the fact that the rug got dirtier. It is faster than sweeping to vacuum the floor, especially since I do it every other day. Either have all wood or all carpet, and do the traffic areas every other day, after the kids have eaten lunch. One other vital step is to always clean up spills immediately with a mop or cloth or they will end up looking worse as they gather dirt.
3. Wash the tub every few days. This used to be more of a weekly thing but spending 5 minutes wiping the tub down with a spray saves much more time than scrubbing furiously ever couple of weeks.
4. Wash the bathroom once a week. This only takes 10 minutes each bathroom. It could be done more often, but I don't for a couple of reasons. First of all, natural cleaners don't keep the toilet bowl from going yellow like Lysol does, and even though it doesn't look nice, if it gets a bit yellow it's not a health hazard. Secondly as soon as you wash it a child will go in and splash water everywhere and it will look the same as it did. Once a week is often enough to kill the buildup of germs, and in-between just use toilet paper to wipe up hair and water spots. One thing if you have kids is to wipe around the toilet seat every day, to remove spillage.
5. Clutter and garbage are what makes a house look really dirty. Every afternoon I take a trash bag and pick up any garbage, some of which gets tossed into the Make Box for reuse. The Make Box is a box of materials for crafts. I make three piles in the middle of the living room floor, one pile for each girl and one for me, of all the stuff that doesn't belong in that room. Then each pile is worked through and put away. This process takes me only 15 minutes (the girls take longer).
6. Clean right before cooking. I know this sounds backwards, but I clean the kitchen while waiting for pans to heat up or chicken to defrost. It takes about that long to load the dishwasher and wipe the counter. Then after the meal all the plates are put into the empty sink. This works for me because then I always have a clean load of dishes the next morning, I always cook in a clean kitchen, and I only do dishes twice a day instead of three times because I don't really need to at breakfast. Even though I wake up with a few dirty dishes in the sink, I always make sure to clear and clean the counters so it still feels clean.
7. Keep a schedule. I write down my cleaning schedule or I would forget. Laundry is done twice a week on Tuesday and Friday, bathrooms on Wednesday, floors on Thursday, etc. The afternoon around 4pm is clean up time, and we do a quick one right after breakfast as well.
Those are the biggest things that I do differently in my housework, and it works well for us. Keeping a house clean can be overwhelming, but there's no rule book that says you have to do things a certain way. I admit that I don't wash my sheets once a week. I wash them when they are dirty. Why? Because I take my showers right before bed, which is the only time I get to myself. Which means I go to bed clean, so my sheets don't get dirty as fast. Be creative and think about ways to make your life more efficient, even if it seems a little weird, lol.