This will take less than an hour and your home will be much nicer afterwards. Ready?
1. Prepare two empty paper sacks (or other bags or boxes that you don't need to keep). Make sure additional bags are handy.
2. Select an album to listen to. You will work steadily through the entire album, so make it a perky one that you like all the songs on.
Good: The Beatles – Abbey Road, The Beastie Boys – Licensed to Ill, Cherry Poppin' Daddies – Zoot Suit Riot, The Clash – London Calling, Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True, Devo – Duty Now for the Future, The Police – Ghost in the Machine, Propellerheads – decksandrumsandrockandroll, Squirrel Nut Zippers – Hot, or just about any Talking Heads, funk or swing album.
Bad: songs that make you cry, gregorian chants, Leonard Cohen, new age ambient space pudding.
3. Start the music. Get as far down the following list as you can. Don't stop and do other things; do them after this album finishes.
4. Take a large trashbag. Empty all the little trash containers in the house into it. Put it by the door.
5. Take one of the empty paper sacks. Put all the recyclables in it. (If your neighborhood requires separating them into paper, glass, etc., you may need multiple sacks at this step.) Keep today's paper if you haven't read it yet, otherwise recycle 'em all. Put any catalog you are not actively planning to buy from in the bag; they will send you another any day now, you know. Put the sack(s) by the door.
6. Carry all dishes into the kitchen and gather them by or in the sink. Ditto any dirty pans, etc. around the kitchen. You should fill crusty pans with hot water and a bit of soap now to make washing easier later.
7. (optional step for multi-person households) Take one bag for each shared room and put into it all the stuff that doesn't belong in that room and isn't yours. (Put your own doesn't-belong stuff on your bed and deal with it after you finish the rest of the list or during the last song on the album). Write "IS ANY OF THIS YOURS?" on the side of the bag and leave it in the middle of the room.
8. Put your dirty clothes in the dirty clothes basket. If you do not have one, put a piece of paper on the fridge and write at the top "SHOPPING" and put "laundry basket" under that.
9. Hang up or put away the clean clothes.
10. Put dirty towels (especially the ones from the kitchen!) in the laundry basket. Put out fresh towels. (If you only have one set of towels, put "more towels" on the shopping list and only move the dirty ones if you have time to do laundry right after this album).
11. If the sheets are dirty, take them off and put clean ones on. (If you only have one set of sheets, put "second set of sheets" on the
shopping list and only move the dirty ones if you have time to do
laundry right after this album).
12. Wash the dishes or load the dishwasher.
13. Carry out the trash and recyclables.
14. If you are blessed with laundry facilities in your building, start the laundry. Don't forget to check the pockets for forgotten items!
15. Use your cobweb duster to clean up the ceiling corners and around ceiling lamps. (If you do not have a cobweb duster and have ceilings too high to reach with a short duster, put "cobweb duster" on the shopping list).
16. Use your short duster (I like a big ostrich feather one) throughout the house. (If you don't have one, put it on the shopping list).
17. Sweep the hard floors.
18. Vacuum the carpets.
19. If you got this far, you obviously have a very clean place already and should now fix yourself a tasty beverage. You may dance to the rest of the album.
Start trying to do this one-album cleanup regularly until you can get to where you do it every week. I like to do it Wednesday or Thursday night so the house is looking pretty good when the weekend starts. Those with pets and/or children may need to do it much more often, though, of course, sheets only need to be changed when dirty.