The best apps and gadgets for tidying your home
Stay on top of household chores.
Cleaning is a job that you never really finish—fresh dust and grime lurk just around the corner, waiting to undo all your hard work. However, even if you can’t banish the household chore for good, you can tidy faster with the right apps and gadgets. Here are nine items to help you spend less time cleaning and more on literally anything else.
Before you start scrubbing, you’ll need to tidy up the belongings scattered around your home. Once the mess is out of sight, the app Sortly (for Android and iOS, free or $5/month) will remind you what you put where.
As you put away each item, photograph it and add a tag or note about its location. This will help organize your various collections, from vinyl to kids’ toys. You can also log how much each object is worth, in case you later decide to sell your stored belongings.
The app is free for up to 100 items, but to unlock an unlimited amount of storage, as well as the ability to access your inventory online, you’ll need to pay a subscription fee of $5 per month.
2. Neato Robotics D7
Instead of forcing yourself to trot out the vacuum once a week or even daily, invest in a robot that will do the work for you. This type of device picks up dust and grime as it trundles across both carpets and hard surfaces, automatically returning to its base to recharge.
In a crowded field, we recommend the Neato Robotics D7 ($800 on Amazon). Its abilities include intelligent obstacle avoidance, tackling corners and crevices, and remote operation—you can control it with your phone or a voice command to an Amazon Echo or Google Home smart speaker. All you need to do is empty the bin once in a while.
You don’t have to do every chore yourself. TaskRabbit (for Android and iOS, free) puts you in touch with people willing to lend a hand. These “Taskers” will help out with a variety of tasks, including cleaning and tidying.
The beauty of the app is in its simplicity. You can see at a glance who’s available to help you out, how much they will charge, and what type of feedback they’ve gotten from previous hirers (the company vets these freelancers in advance to make sure they’re qualified). The app handles every step of the process, from communication to bookings to payment. It even helps you set up regularly recurring visits.
4. Welikera Dust Buster Cordless
Even with a robot vacuum on full-time duty, you’ll encounter little messes that are easier to deal with by hand. That’s why you need a compact, rechargeable, lightweight mini-vacuum— a dust buster. Because you don’t have to deal with the weight and trailing wire of a full-size vacuum, this type of device lets you clean faster.
We like the relatively inexpensive Welikera Dust Buster Cordless ($61 on Amazon). It will charge fully in fewer than four hours, and the full battery provides 25 minutes of cleaning power. The vacuum comes with a few attachments for different cleaning tasks, as well as a removable, washable stainless-steel filter that enhances suction. It even has an LED light for checking those dark corners for hidden dirt.
Maintaining a tidy home requires staying on top of dozens of little tasks, each with its own timetable. Tody (for iOS only, $7) will organize all these household chores.
The app sorts cleaning jobs into simple categories and lets you assign a priority and frequency to each one. Then it tracks this information with at-a-glance progress bars, telling you immediately what you need to do next. It also incorporates information about how many people are responsible for a given chore.
The only real negative is that Tody isn’t available on Android devices. If you’d like a similar one-stop housekeeping app, try Chore Checklist (for Android only, $2).
6. Fellowes Powershred 99Ci
As you sort and store paperwork, you’ll encounter unnecessary documents, pamphlets, flyers, and junk mail. You want to throw away that waste—but in your garbage, it will be vulnerable to identity thieves and nosy neighbors. To destroy it properly, you need to run it through a shredder.
The Fellowes Powershred 99Ci ($200 on Amazon) can reduce 18 sheets—including staples and paper clips—to cross-cut pieces in a single pass. In fact, its maw is strong enough to tackle CDs and credit cards. When the 9-gallon pull-out bin fills up, which should take a while, an indicator light will blink on, alerting you to empty the trash.
In addition to clearing out your junk, a shredder can help you go paperless at home. First, scan your important documents and back up these digital copies. Then shred the paper versions to protect your privacy.
7. Pocket Casts
Alas, no smartphone app can actually do your housework for you. But they can provide entertainment that makes chore time fly by. Podcasts are a particularly good choice because they don’t force you to stare at a distracting screen, and you can listen on a speaker while you perform quieter tasks and on headphones as you tackle noisier work like vacuuming.
There are many podcast apps, but our favorite is Pocket Casts (for Android and iOS, $4). It has an intuitive interface and, in addition to standard podcasting capabilities, includes handy features like variable speed controls and automatic silence trimming. Pocket Casts is also great for beginners, because it includes a vibrant discovery section to help you find new listening material.
Still, podcasts aren’t for everyone. If you prefer to catch up on your reading, tune into an audiobook with Audible (for Android and iOS, $15/month). Or blast your favorite tunes with a music-playing app like Spotify (for Android and iOS, free or $10/month).
8. Amazon Echo
On top of their other abilities, smart speakers can help with housework. Even while your hands are busy cleaning, these devices let you issue voice commands to make sure you spend the right amount of time on each chore (“Alexa, set a timer for five minutes”) or control devices like the Neato robotic vacuum mentioned earlier.
While you tidy, an Amazon Echo ($100 on Amazon) gives you hands-free access to weather status, news headlines, calendar events, and of course your podcast, audiobook, and music collection. As developers continue to add “skills” to Echo speakers, you can use Alexa for more housework-related tasks, such as editing your grocery list and setting to-do memos and reminders.
Although Tody is an excellent chore-management app, if your household includes multiple people, OurHome (for Android and iOS, free) makes a better choice. It divvies up tasks and responsibilities between roommates or family members, including children.
Like Tody, OurHome checks off completed tasks and makes it easy to see what still needs to be done and when. It also encourages task completion by repaying helpers with kid-friendly stickers and points. You can adapt the latter into your own reward system by allowing children to trade points for allowance bonuses or having roommates compete for the highest score. Other group-friendly features include a shared grocery list and calendar to organize your household routine.