Housekeeping for Nerds

Housekeeping for Nerds

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to be on the House Keeping for Nerds panel at Arisia. Among my co-panelists were Jennifer Hunter – a professional organizer who also runs the blog “Weird Stuff I Found While Organizing”; Michelle Driscoll; and Shana Fuqua.


Since the panel, I have been contacted by people who were unable to attend but felt that they could have used the housekeeping advice. As a service to those people, I’m reproducing the handout that we provided to panel attendees. I also hope that these tips may be useful as a fresher to those who attended the panel as well as to the wider Internet community.


The information below was jointly contributed to by all panelists and provided in hard copy to the attendees. I will later blog in more depth about my area of the panel – using technology to help with housekeeping and organization – however, I don’t feel that I can more accurately represent the advice of my co-panelists than by presenting verbatim this jointly authored handout.


Resources, Tips, and Tricks



  • Divide and conquer
  • You don’t have to do it all at once!
  • 15 minutes really makes a big difference
  • Develop your own rituals and habits and (gently) help housemates establish theirs
  • If you leave stuff clean, other people will be more likely to keep it clean
The Weekly Home Blessing 

Slipshod cleaning. No detailed cleaning required; vacuum the middle of the floors only!

FlyLady sets her timer for 10 minutes to work on each of 7 tasks:

  • Vacuum
  • Dust
  • Mop
  • Polish Mirrors and Doors
  • Purge magazines
  • Change Sheets
  • Empty all trash

This takes approximately one hour; some tasks take less than 10 minutes.

“Don’t obsess, set your timer for 10 minutes for each task, then QUIT!”



  • FLY Lady:
    • A little hokey, but lots of good ideas.  Room cleaning list, house blessing outline, and daily tasks if you want them.
  •–Gain XP for cleaning your house!!


Cook ahead of time

Divide leftovers into small portions

Label leftovers with food item and date (use masking tape/sharpie, or write right on plastic containers with a dry erase marker)

Find out food peculiarities

Discover the slow cooker and the rice cooker

Plan meals ahead of time (if possible)

Fill the sink with soapy water and toss in dishes as you cook

Do dishes while waiting for the next step in cooking


  • Joy of Cooking: for beginners, defines all important terms, and gives a substitution table for when you run out of ingredients
  • Rachel Ray:  All the books are good, but I especially recommend the Express Lane book, which gives a great list for stocking the pantry and recipes that use fewer than 10 special ingredients.  Some very heavy food, but some healthy options as well.
  • The Sneaky Chef: How to Cheat on Your Man (In the Kitchen!): Hiding Healthy Foods in Hearty Meals Any Guy Will Love by Missy Chase Lapine: I don’t have this book, but it gets excellent reviews.  If you or your family wants to keep healthy but doesn’t like vegetables.  Seems to require a lot of pre-planning (freezing things ahead, etc.)
  • Recipes for anything you could ever want, with comments and suggestions from other users.  Bonus is you can search by ingredients you want or don’t want, so you can figure out what to do with that carrot, fennel, and asparagus that is hanging around the fridge.


  • Get help if you need it
  • Develop a ritual: if you have a washing machine, throw a load in every morning.  If you don’t, pick a day or time that works for you.
  • Develop a database of clothes to help with packing
  • Establish clear patterns of where clothes go
  • Always keep the laundry basket in the same place (for late night tossing)
  • Avoid buying clothes that require ironing or dry cleaning
  • Resources:
  • Steamer (like an iron, but uses hot steam, and can quickly release wrinkles from hanging clothes)
  • Shout wipes (you can keep them in your laptop bag, for quick stain removal)
  • (how to remove every kind of stain known to man)



  • Purge, baby, purge. The less stuff in your house, the easier organizing (and therefore cleaning) will be.
  • Group like items with like. This not only makes them easier to find; it also helps you see how many there are.
  • Real estate: Keep the most-often used items the closest to hand. Banish other stuff to the suburbs.
  • Create systems, labels, and homes for things. It may seem overly fussy, but especially with housemates, it will save you angst.
  • Work with your current habits. If you prefer to do your paperwork at the kitchen table rather than your desk, figure out a system to make that possible.
  • Stem the incoming tide of paper. Opt out of mailing lists (there are several websites), or email/call companies directly to get taken off. Keep recycling/shred bins where you open your mail (preferably in your front hallway so it doesn’t even make it to your desk).
  • Hiring a professional organizer can make this all much easier and more effective!


Many useful organizing links at

The National Association of Professional Organizers is at

An excellent book on organizing is Organizing From the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern.


Miscellaneous Ideas:

  • Establish an area where you can be as dirty as you want to be (or allow your spouse/partner/housemates to do this).
  • Ask trusted visitors to be brutally honest with you about the state of your home. You may not be able to smell it anymore, but they do.
  • Don’t be afraid to delegate. Install a dishwasher, hire a housecleaner, send the laundry out. It doesn’t matter how it gets done, just that it gets done.
  • Bribe yourself to do the boring tasks: listen to good music or a podcast while you work.
  • Don’t aim for perfection; aim for better. Set small goals that can be easily accomplished, and work your way up.


  • Roomba
  • Scooba
  • Japanese Screen
  • Plastic Storage Containers
  • Buy redundant quantities of small items – I have 50 identical nail clippers and 120 identical combs
  • Space efficient dishes: e.g. Corella
  • Wall mounted shelves
  • eBook readers
  • Web services to get rid of junk: Fufillment by Amazon, eBay, Craigslist
  • I’ll post details at: http:://