Part 3: How to Clean Your Living Space

The Beginner's Guide to Cleaning

This is Part Three of an 8-Part Beginner’s Guide to Cleaning Series.  See the overview here.

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Welcome back to the Beginner’s Guide to Cleaning!  So far in this series we have addressed the “why” and the “when” of cleaning,taking an honest look at the reasons having a clean house even matters to us, as well as creating a workable cleaning schedule that fits with our own needs.  Then, last week, we also took a look at the “what” of cleaning—those cleaning products and tools we may need to get the job done.

But this is the week we will finally start getting our hands dirty….and our houses clean.  Each week we will methodically make our way through one area at a time, starting today with our living space—the most visible and most highly trafficked rooms in our home.  The good news is that after this week’s assignment your house will look and feel a whole lot cleaner.  The bad news is that this week’s assignment is probably the biggest of this whole series. But wouldn’t you rather get the hard part over with first?

The format for this portion of the series will be pretty simple.  I will walk you through the steps for cleaning the surfaces most commonly found in this zone, giving detailed instructions for how to clean each one.  If you are a seasoned house-cleaner, much of it may be review—feel free to skip to the end of the post, or add your own tips & tricks in the comments below!  At the end of the post you will get a printable checklist to use as you tackle your living space.

Are you ready?  Good! Then let’s get started.

Clean Living Space 1

Step 1:  Pre-clean & create a collection zone

Supplies needed:  A large box or basket or individual baskets for each family member (I like this large chalkboard label basket or this seagrass stair basket, but you could use whatever you have around the house, or even build a pretty box out of scrap wood.)

How-To: Pick up any items lying around the living area, including any clutter that has collected on tables or shelves.  Throw away garbage or papers that are no longer needed.  Place remaining items in appropriate baskets for each family, or collect in a single basket to be put away.  (This is a great task for kids while you are cleaning the room!)  Consider creating a permanent collection zone somewhere in your home—either at the front entrance, near the stairs, or in a corner of the living room.  Use your basket or baskets to collect any items that would normally get left lying around.  If mail & paperwork is normally a problem, create a 2nd collection zone specifically for items that need to be kept (but try to throw away junk mail & catalogs as soon as they come in!)


Clean Living Space 3

Step 2:  Clean Ceiling Fans, Vents,  Lights & Upper Ledges

Supplies needed:  Vacuum with hose attachment, hand vacuum, or portable wet dry vac, warm soapy water, rag or sponge

How-To: Vacuum excess dust from top of fan and/or upper ledges.  Use wet rag to gently clean blades; rinse and repeat if necessary.


Clean Living Space 4

Step 3:  Wash Windows

Supplies needed:  Glass cleaner, squeegee, rag

How-To: Spray glass; run squeegee against glass from side to side, wiping blade with rag as necessary.


Clean Living Space 5

Step 4:  Clean Curtains & Blinds

Supplies needed: washing machine, iron & ironing board, duster, mild soapy water & rag

How-To:  If curtains are washable, remove curtains and wash in cold water on permanent press.  Tumble dry on low and remove while still very slightly damp.  Iron and re-hang.  If curtains are dry clean only, consider having them cleaned or spot clean with mild soapy water.  For blinds, dust gently with dusting wand until all dust is gone.  If necessary, spot clean gently with a wet rag and mild soapy water.


Clean Living Space 6

Step 5:  Dusting

Supplies needed:  Reusable or disposable dusting wand or dusting mitt.

How-To: Run duster over all horizontal surfaces, including bookshelves, the tops of light switches and fixtures, picture frames, clocks, mirrors, and any knick knacks or figurines.


homemade furniture polish--works SO much better than anything you could buy in the store!

Step 6:  Clean & Polish Wood Furniture

Supplies needed: Murphy’s Oil Soap, Furniture Polish, rags

How-To: Fill sink or bucket with warm water and a few capfuls of Murphy’s oil soap.  Use rag moistened with oil soap mixture to clean all wood furniture, including bookshelves or hutches, desks, tables, and dining chairs.  I also like to use this mixture to clean my leather furniture, although it does not specifically say on the bottle that it is intended for leather, so be sure to test a small hidden area first!  Once wood is clean, polish surfaces with an oil-based furniture polish.  Apply polish to damp cloth, rub on surface, than buff off with a second dry cloth.


Clean Living Space 9

Step 7:  Clean Upholstered Furniture

Supplies needed:  Vacuum with brush hose attachment, dish soap, rag

How-To: Start by vacuuming all upholstered furniture using brush hose attachment to remove all dust, lint, & pet hair.  If possible, remove cushions to clean underneath as well.  Fill sink or bucket with mild soap solution, then use a rag to spot clean any marks or dirt.


Clean Living Space 2

Step 8:  Clean Baseboards

Supplies needed:  Vacuum with hose attachment, dish soap, rag

How-To: Start by vacuuming along baseboards to pick up any loose dirt, lint, or pet hair.  Fill sink or bucket with mild soap solution, then wipe baseboards clean with wet rag.


Clean Living Space 7

Step 9:  Clean rugs & carpets

Supplies needed:  Vacuum, baking soda, stain remover, dish soap, rag

How-To: Before beginning, be sure to check whether bag or canister is full, and empty if necessary.  Also check rollers to make sure they are free of strings or debris.  Vacuum rugs to remove all loose dirt and surface hair.  Fill sink or bucket with mild soap solution, then spot clean rugs with stain remover and/or mild water solution.  To deodorize after spot cleaning, sprinkle rug with baking soda, let sit for 20 minutes, then vacuum again.


cleaning of wet floors by mop and red bucket with washing water

Step 10:  Clean hard floors

Supplies needed:  Broom & dust pan, dust mop, wet mop, all purpose cleaner.

How-To:  Before beginning, move as much furniture from the floor as possible.  Starting at one end of the room, carefully sweep loose dirt and hair towards the center of floor.  Methodically make your way around the room, sweeping all dirt towards the center into one pile.  Sweep into dustpan and throw away.  Next, do a sweep of the floor with your dust mop to remove any remaining dust or hair.  Spot clean any sticky or dirty spots, or mop entire floor with wet mop and let dry.

But now that you know just what to do, it is time to get to work!  To stay on task, use this handy printable checklist to help walk you through all the steps:

Living Space Cleaning Checklist

{Get your printable Living Space Cleaning Checklist here}

Part Three Assignment

Just to review, here is your third assignment:

  • Set aside a good chunk of time—at least 2-4 hours—sometime this week to work on deep cleaning your main living spaces—the great room, living room, family room, and/or dining room.
  • Round up a pretty box or basket (or one for each family member) and create a collection zone for stray items somewhere in your home, whether it be on the stairs, near the front entry way, in the laundry or mud room, or in a corner of the family room.
  • Follow the Living Space Cleaning Checklist to get your living area shining from top to bottom.  If possible, open up the windows to let in some fresh air as well!


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Did I miss anything?  What are biggest challenges to keeping your living areas clean?

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{ 24 comments… add one }

  • Jessie March 18,

    This is so motivating! Loving this series! Thank you!!!!

    • Ruth Soukup March 18,

      So glad you are finding it motivating Jessie! You’re welcome! :-)

  • Kelly March 18,

    SO ready!

  • Cheryl March 18,

    I also do any mirrors and pictures in the glass section. Plus tidying dusting and cleaning any AV equipment ie the tv, cables, stereo, computer etc.

  • Ann March 18,

    Thanks for the great ideas! But 2-4 hours won’t be enough for one living area, much less all of them. I can probably do my formal living room and my dining room in that amount of time each but my real living area-the den- will take much longer :(

  • Danielle March 18,

    This is so wonderful! Thanks so much for sharing! We are in the process of adoption, and are having our first home interview on Thursday, I will definitely be using this list to follow as I clean in preparation. I would say my biggest challenge is making the time for the deep cleaning, as we are very busy with three smalls.

  • Cyndi March 18,

    The best idea I found for keeping our house clean is zones. When my husband and I married it was a second marriage, Brady Bunch sort of family with 6 kids, 2 cats and a Gecko living under one roof. We created a family zone and private zones. Nothing personal can be left in the family area like the kitchen, family room and bathrooms. Private zones (bedrooms) only get de-cluttered once a week or so. The youngest was 5 and even she caught on pretty quick. It cut my cleaning time in half! No one sat down to dinner unless the family zones were picked up. It has been 10 years and everyone still keeps family areas picked up.

  • Laci March 18,

    Love the ideas! Where is your mop & bucket from?

  • Kara smith March 19,

    I just have to say thank you so much for starting the cleaning series. It is great and so helpful!

  • Kelley Quigley March 19,

    This is such a great post! I thought I had my living space pretty clean most of the time, but this definitely got me thinking about some things that I hardly ever do. I’m going to have to do some deep cleaning this weekend. :)

  • Anonymous March 21,

    All great. But personally I would vacuum before dusting simply because some vacuum cleaners throw dust around.

  • Efren November 19,

    Superb write-up! There isn’t a lot of available information on window vacuums so therefore
    I found this genuinely valuable. Is this version very good for
    cleaning floor tiles, were you aware?

  • Larry December 16,

    A single guy at 73 years and needing the ‘How To’ like this is great.
    All great ‘Tips’ and keeps me going. Thanks Bunches !!

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  • Sara Deatherage January 19,

    I have been using aerosol dusters (Swiffer, Pledge, etc.) for years. How do I tell if there is a wax build up, and if so how do I get rid of it before using the cleaners you recommend?

  • Living Room Cleaning May 28,

    Nice blogs……….

  • Jo May 31,

    How (and how often) do you clean the actual vacuum cleaner? Thanks!


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