How The Cleaning Card System Transformed The Way I Clean

How The Cleaning Card System Transformed The Way I Clean

When I was growing up in New Jersey with two working parents, my sister and I split most of the cleaning chores on the main floor of our quaint suburban ranch. That often meant we were in charge of loading and unloading the dishwasher, cleaning the baseboards in the living room, and scrubbing the tub in our shared bathroom on Saturdays, while my parents tackled the basement, as well as the outdoors.



But as we got older, we started leaving our weekend chores up to fate: Every Saturday, my mom would put on a mix of Sade, Whitney Houston, and Toni Braxton—a mix we’d affectionately call “Saturday morning cleaning jams”—and pick an index card at random. Written at the top of each index card was a room, and listed below were the chores associated with that room, as well as the approximate time it should take to complete them. This may sound like a vigilante way to delegate chores, but my sister and I enjoyed having set expectations of what “clean” meant. Plus, waking up to play a game of fate always satisfied the little sister in me.


Either way, the card system is something that stuck with me, and now that I live alone, I find it helps me budget my time. Similarly, my sister uses the card system with her son, who enjoys crossing specific tasks off when he cleans his room. Ahead, a breakdown of my official Cleaning Card System—and how it transforms the way I clean.



Using standard index cards, start by splitting up each room of your home into tasks that need to be completed in each space. Approximate how much time you’ll need to clean the entire room (adding a little wiggle room if it’s going to be delegated to a child!), then group them into weekly chores based on how much time you have to spare.

My mom used to laminate the cards and offer us dry-erase markers to cross off tasks each week, but if we’re being honest, I haven’t gone that far now that I live by myself. Here are a few examples of the cards I use for weekly cleaning:


Bedroom (60 Minutes)

  • Clear Clutter From Nightstands
  • Take Sheets Off Bed
  • Put Sheets Back On Bed
  • Dust Furniture
  • Dust Baseboards
  • Vacuum Carpet
  • Mop Hardwood
  • Dust Under Bed
  • Tidy/Organize Drawers
  • Put Clean Laundry Away


Living Room (45 Minutes)

  • Vacuum Rug
  • Dust Furniture
  • Lint Roll Rug
  • Clean Windows/Ledges
  • Wipe Mirror
  • Clean Baseboards
  • Lint Roll Couch
  • Wash Drapery


Bathroom (30 Minutes)

  • Clear Clutter From Vanity
  • Wipe Down Mirror
  • Wipe Down Sink
  • Mop Tile
  • Wash Bath Mat
  • Empty Trash
  • Scrub Toilet
  • Refill Toiletries in Shower
  • Clean Tub
  • Change Hand Towels
  • Clean Windows/Ledges
  • Clean Lighting Fixture


Kitchen (60 Minutes)

  • Do Dishes/Put Away Dishes
  • Clean Appliances
  • Wipe Countertops
  • Clean Sink
  • Dust Open Shelving
  • Mop Floors
  • Empty Trash
  • Water Plants/Herbs
  • Refill Soaps
  • Change Sponge
  • Clean Windows/Ledges


Dining Room (15 Minutes)

  • Vacuum Rug
  • Clean Windows/Ledges
  • Wipe Down Table
  • Wipe Down Cabinet
  • Wipe Down Chairs
  • Clean Baseboards
  • Dust Lighting Fixture


Kids Bedroom (20 Minutes)

  • Make Bed
  • Put Toys Back In Bins
  • Organize/Dust Bookshelves
  • Put Dirty Laundry In Hamper
  • Put Clean Clothes Away



Now that you’re getting the hang of it, you can create a master checklist for each section of your home, including your garage, hallways, and even your laundry room. If you’re really feeling fancy, break up the chores by weekly and monthly chores, then stick to it each time you clean. If you make your own cards, tag us in your post at @murchisonhume!


xx L