Here's what you really need to tackle on your to-do list.

By Katie Holdefehr
July 27, 2019
Annie Schlechter

Most of us probably make to-do lists that are a little (okay, sometimes a lot) more ambitious than the hours and energy we have in the day. And that rings true for our daily cleaning routines, too. Mopping the kitchen floor sounded like a good plan at 10 a.m., but by 10 p.m., the couch and Netflix is calling our names. To make your daily cleaning routine more realistic, we're breaking down the tasks you actually need to complete each day, versus those you can totally get away with skipping (at least until tomorrow). These are the tasks that if avoided, can have real consequences, like a smelly home or potentially bigger problems down the line. As for the rest, feel free to save those chores for your bigger weekly cleaning spree. Or, you know, push them off until tomorrow's to-do list.

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Do the Dishes

It's all too easy to let dirty dishes pile up in the sink, but skipping this daily chore can make your home smell, or worse, attract pests. If you have a dishwasher, committing to this daily task becomes much easier. Instead of waiting for dishes to reach critical mass before loading them into the dishwasher, skip the sink entirely and get in the habit of loading each cup, plate, and utensil as you use it. Get your family on board with this routine and you'll never come home to a stinky pile of dishes again.

Wipe Down the Kitchen Counter (And the Stove Top)

If you leave sauce splatters and jelly spills on the kitchen counter overnight, not only do they have the potential to attract bugs into your home, but they'll be infinitely harder to wipe away in the morning. To save yourself the extra elbow grease in the morning, take one minute to wipe down the counters and the stovetop at night. Plus, it's a much better start to your day waking up to a sparkling clean kitchen counter.

Take Out the Kitchen Trash

Whether you made fish for dinner or cleared all of the outdated produce from your fridge, it's a good idea to empty the kitchen garbage on a regular basis, ideally daily if you cook every day. If not, the food scraps can start to smell. If you compost, be sure to invest in an air-tight container that won't let smells escape.

Treat Spills and Stains

When you accidentally drip wine on the rug during your favorite show or when friends are over, it may be tempting to put off cleaning it. But the longer you wait, the less likely you'll be able to fully remove the stain. Be sure to spot-treat the stain as soon as possible, and definitely within the day, to save your couch, rug, or duvet cover from ruin.

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Squeegee the Shower

Wiping down the shower walls barely counts as cleaning, but adding this 30-second task to your daily routine can help prevent the buildup of soap scum, mold, and mildew down the line. Because it doesn't take very long and could save you from hours of scrubbing grout or regrouting, it's worth adding to your (and your household's) to-do list. After a couple weeks, this chore will become second nature.

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Skip It: Wiping Down the Mirrors

Smudges on the bathroom mirror may seem like glaring messes, but those fingerprints and water spots aren't likely to spread germs or bacteria, and they won't make your home smell. If you want to do a quick clean that will improve appearances, go ahead and wipe down the mirror, but if you want to prioritize cleaning the areas that harbor the most bacteria, it's smarter to spend that time wiping down the bathroom sink and faucet handles instead.

Skip It: Vacuuming

Unless you're targeting crumbs in the kitchen (which can attract pests), you likely don't need to vacuum every single day. Depending upon your family and the foot traffic your home gets, adjust your schedule to once or twice a week. Sure, vacuuming regularly helps maintain your carpets and rugs and keeps your home looking neat, but this is one chore you can probably put off until tomorrow.

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Skip It: Cleaning Small Appliances

If you're wiping down the microwave or cleaning the coffee maker after every single use, you're probably working too hard. Don't feel too guilty about letting microwave splatters marinate for a couple days—this microwave-cleaning trick will make it easy to wipe away the mess later. If you make your coffee in a Moka pot, a quick rinse with water and a thorough dry is all that's needed, so you can skip the soap and scrubbing.

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