When it comes to inspiration for our homes, it’s hard to find a better source than Joanna Gaines. The home design and renovation guru has, with husband Chip Gaines, helped countless couples achieve the homes of their dreams in their wildly popular HGTV show, Fixer Upper. Audiences are so in love with the Gaines’ approachable style that the show reached an astonishing peak of 17 million viewers, and after a two-year break, the show is due to return in 2021 (per Vanity Fair). The Texas-based couple has parlayed that fame into an entire Magnolia lifestyle brand, including products, a market, real estate, a magazine, and even a TV network.
And it’s easy to see why Joanna Gaines, in particular, has become so popular. She takes a refreshingly functional approach to living spaces, and her ethos balances a modern yet welcoming sense of style with a practical understanding that houses are meant to be lived in. And as the mother of five children, Gaines knows a thing or two about the challenges of keeping spaces tidy while also making them liveable for kids, adults, and pets, too. So it’s little surprise that she has a host of clever cleaning tricks that make everyday chores a little less daunting. Let’s take a look at 14 of Joanna Gaines’ top cleaning tips.
Try to get in the zone before you get started
Let’s face it: Cleaning can be a lot of effort. And the chore is even worse — and can take even longer — when you approach it half-heartedly with your mind on something else. That’s why Joanna Gaines advocates trying to "get in the zone" before beginning a big clean to make sure you’re in the right headspace to do a thorough job.
And we have to admit that the way she gets ready sounds pretty enjoyable. "To ‘get in the zone,’ I put on my cleaning apron, light a candle, turn on a good playlist, and set out all the cleaning supplies I’ll need for the day," she writes. "This prepares me for the work to come and makes my job easier knowing everything I need is in one spot." We’ll definitely be giving this one a try with our favorite tunes.
Set aside ample time for cleaning
Anyone who’s seen Joanna Gaines’ design work knows that she doesn’t do things by halves, and it’s the same deal with cleaning. Doing a thorough job takes time, particularly when there’s an annual spring clean in the cards, which is why she advises dedicating ample time, even a full day, to get down to business.
"There’s no better feeling than coming home to a clean house — which is my motivation for my annual deep clean," Gaines writes. "I usually plan this for a weekend day when I know nothing is going on, and I’ll have the whole day to clean and organize top to bottom." By taking an entire day to clean, you’ll ensure not only that the job is done well, leaving your home sparkling, but it’ll help you draw a line between cleaning time and leisure time. Meaning, when you’re done, you can kick back and enjoy, instead of tackling cleaning while you’re supposed to be relaxing.
Before a big clean, clear out what you don’t need
If you tend to hold on to things for a little too long, this trick could be the kickstart you need to revitalize your space. Joanna Gaines is a huge advocate of clearing things out before you start cleaning in earnest to give you the boost needed to get down to the dirty work.
"Get five trash bags and start filling them with items your family has outgrown or no longer needs," she writes. "If you don’t love it, toss it. Trash anything that is broken and serves no purpose, and donate items to local shelters and you’ll feel much better before you even start." It’s useful to point out that Gaines isn’t the only home improvement guru to suggest being fairly black-and-white with clearing out old stuff. Marie Kondo also recommends that we only keep items that "spark joy" for us, letting go of the things we don’t need and thus decluttering our space (per KonMari).
If you’re cleaning with family, make a game out of it
All parents know the difficulty of trying to get their children excited about cleaning, and Joanna Gaines is no exception. With her five little ones — Drake, Ella Rose, Duke, Emmie Kay, and newest arrival Crew (per Country Living) — things are bound to get a little messy from time to time. Gaines reasons that one of the best ways to get kids to clean up after themselves or to participate during clean-up day is to make it into a game.
Speaking at an event (via PureWow), Gaines outlined her method to get the kids enthused about a big clean. She sets a timer for 20 minutes and gives each of her children three trash bags. They have up until the timer goes off to collect all their things that they don’t need or no longer want. According to Gaines, this method of tidying quickly gives you a clearer area to work with, which then allows you to "see the space and re-evaluate how to make it functional for your family."
Switch up your space if you don’t like certain chores
We all have that one chore we just can’t stand. And sometimes, the space we have to do the task in doesn’t help us accomplish it. Joanna Gaines knows this feeling as well as everyone else, and for her, doing laundry was always a real bore. Ever the designer, though, she realized that a change in space could help make the dreary job more bearable, and it seemed to do the trick.
She told Today how she transformed her laundry room into one of her favorite places in her home: "I love my laundry room. I know that’s a funny thing to love, but this summer, I gave it a complete makeover, and now it’s a place that inspires me. Just the natural light alone makes me want to settle in and drink my morning coffee there. As a bonus, it helps me dislike laundry day a little less."
Create intentional spaces for mess
Trying to stop kids from being messy is probably one of the more futile things you can do with your time. This is something that Joanna Gaines knows all too well with her family of five, which is why she takes a different approach. Her strategy is to create intentional spaces where her kids can toss their toys and other belongings, containing the mess within and sometimes even highlighting it as a design quirk.
"I’ve learned that another great way to hide the mess is to create intentional spaces for toys, craft supplies, and odds and ends to land at the end of the day," Gaines writes. "I like to purchase unique furniture pieces that offer a lot of practical organizational space. These kind of pieces can almost make the mess ‘cute’ and well-played from a design standpoint." For example, she repurposed a wooden chicken feeder into cubbies for the kids’ things and also has a vintage blackboard where the kids can draw whenever they want. "All four of them know that this is a safe place for them to make a mess and have fun, and I think that’s important in a home," she says.
To keep furniture bright, Scotchgard can help
Keeping upholstered furniture clean can be an eternal struggle. Luckily, Joanna Gaines realized that this could be an issue with her kids and took a smart approach early on by prepping her furniture for stains. "The rule has always been you eat in the kitchen or the dining room," she told Southern Living. "We’ve always had light furniture and it’s just been a rule ever since they were little." But, since rules were made to be broken, she "took precaution early on and [sprayed] the couches with Scotchgard."
If you’ve never used Scotchgard before, it’s pretty simple, although make sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions before you apply it to your furniture in case the item already been pretreated, as Karin Larkin of Belle Home Housecleaning told New York. If not, she says that application is a cinch: "You just want to be smooth about it and keep moving as you’re spraying it to avoid any areas becoming saturated."
Help little ones learn the importance of keeping tidy
While it’s essential to let kids experiment and discover how to interact with a space themselves, it’s equally important to teach them how to take care of their home. For Joanna Gaines, that means teaching her kids that cleaning up once playtime is over is a part of playtime itself.
Her clean-up system involves baskets that keep things neat and help the kids feel positive about tidying up. As she writes: "Since my kids were big enough to walk, I’ve been putting name-labeled baskets on the stairs. Throughout the day, they know to place their toys in their basket once they’re done playing with them, rather than leaving them scattered around the house. At the end of the day, I ask them to take the toys up to the playroom and put them away […] I think it’s rewarding for them to see how big of a help they’re being. This makes clean-up more bearable to them."
Try to keep some house rules
Setting and sticking to some general house rules is a surefire way to keep a home spick and span. It’s something that Mary Gagliardi, Clorox’s in-house cleaning and laundry expert, swears by to keep a house neat. Speaking to Reader’s Digest, she says: "Everyone should have weekly chores (dusting, emptying trash, vacuuming, sweeping, etc.) that not only build responsible adults out of kids but also makes it easier to keep the home clean."
You might expect Joanna Gaines’ house rules to be similarly practical, but they’re a little more quirky. When asked about her personal house rules in an interview with Today, she said "no goats in the house" is the only one that comes to mind immediately. You’d be surprised how tough this one is to keep, given that the Gaines family lives in a farmhouse with over 40 acres of land and 60 animals (per Country Living). It’s no surprise that she has to enforce this one now and again!
Turn your clutter into design statements
With Gaines’s impressive eye for home decoration, you can rely on her to make design choices that inspire millions. What’s perhaps even more impressive is how she’s developed a cleaning trick to incorporate mess and clutter into design, giving everything a place and keeping things both practical and stylish.
Gaines outlines her method for doing this with her kids’ belongings. "I bought basic containers to store these smaller things in so the kids know where they go when they are finished playing with them. I also think it looks super cute out on the dining table or coffee table as intentional decor for the kids. If you don’t have a playroom in your home, maybe your child’s space looks like a little desk with jars of legos, paper, markers and a place they can hang their artwork."
What’s more, if you don’t have kids, "you can take this same concept in your bathroom with your toiletries and jewelry or your office with your supplies. Turn your clutter into creative displays that inspire you to keep them contained."
This trick will clean your paintbrushes in no time
This next trick is pretty specific but will be a lifesaver the next time you’re doing some painting around the house. In a video from paint company KILZ, Joanna Gaines discusses her ingenious method of cleaning dirty paintbrushes. First, take some hot vinegar, and pour it into a container with your brushes, letting them soak for 20 to 30 minutes. Then, take a brush comb, and comb the bristles of the brush to get the old paint out.
Once you’ve done that thoroughly, submerge the bristles of the brush in some soapy water to clean the vinegar off, and then run it under hot water to get rid of the soap. Let it sit to dry, and then, as Gaines says, "your brush is good as new." So, the next time you’re despairing over an old, dirty paintbrush, save yourself the hassle and expense of buying a new one, and try out this method instead.
Use a checklist as you go
Creating a checklist to work from is something that many people swear by, and for Joanna Gaines, it’s essential when it comes to cleaning. "I love the satisfaction of physically checking things off my to-do list," she writes. "It motivates me to finish every single thing." By keeping a checklist, Gaines can systematically cover all her bases, making sure that everything’s accounted for, which is particularly important during a big spring clean.
If you’re paralyzed by the thought of creating a to-do list in the first place, don’t worry: She’s got you covered. Gaines has a printable checklist in her blog post that not only applies to her own home but can be used by pretty much anyone. It’s separated into "whole house" tasks and tasks that are specific to each main room. When cleaning is this easy, there’s really no excuse not to roll up your sleeves and get going!
Balance your cleaning with making a livable space
A clean and well-kept space is something most people enjoy, but it’s possible to go too far. Sometimes, by trying to keep our homes neat and tidy at any cost, we can forget that a home is meant to be lived in and we lose our enjoyment of it.
Joanna Gaines knows this feeling well. In her book Homebody (via First For Women), she discusses how keeping her home presentable for various photographers led to her creating an unliveable space, particularly for her children. "In my nonstop efforts to make the house look good for a bunch of anonymous strangers, I had failed to create a space where my children could simply be kids," she writes. As such, the trick here is to remember that, while cleaning is important for our families and homes, we need to ensure that our loved ones can feel comfortable to relax and be themselves at home. In short? Don’t overdo it.
After a big clean, make sure to reward yourself
This next cleaning "trick" is something that, honestly, we’re pretty happy to try out ASAP. Cleaning can be hard work, especially when it’s a big spring clean. So when the job is done, it’s important to recognize the effort you’ve made and reward yourself for it, Joanna Gaines writes. "Now for the most important part of the whole day… reward yourself when you finish. For me, that’s eating a chocolate cupcake, laying in the hammock, and just relaxing for an hour or so. Go ahead and treat yourself! You’ve done a good thing, and your whole family is going to benefit from this."
So whether it’s with a snack or a snooze, follow Gaines’ example: Treat yourself for all that elbow grease and a job well done. Just try not to make a mess of your freshly cleaned house in the process.