How I maintain my home with military precision – 4 traits I learned from my veteran dad

I swear by these four traits to help me maintain my home with military precision

Someone putting glass jars of dried food goods on a wooden shelf / A white kitchen with a chrome sink, white floating shelves with a blue breadbin / a neutral entryway with a wooden wall-mounted coat hook rack, an orange jacket hanging from it above a bench shoe rack
(Image credit: Ivymore Living / Sophie Allport / Umbra)

Growing up in a military household had its pros and cons, but while I wasn’t a fan of the routines and strict schedules as a child, I have grown to appreciate them and the order they bring to my home as an adult.

From self-discipline to perfecting the art of efficiency, I picked up plenty of helpful traits from my dad over the years – all of which now play a huge role in keeping my home and my life well-organized. 

These are the four traits I picked up from my veteran dad that help me to maintain and organize a home with military precision.  

How to maintain your home with military precision

After hosting some friends for the first time this week and all of them commenting on how seemingly spotless my home was despite the minimal effort I said I put in, I realized that my military upbringing was far more helpful than I first thought. 

This is how I do it without tiring myself out.

1. Reliance on routines

Pink cabinets, stone floor

(Image credit: Ca’ Pietra)

I grew up doing almost the same morning routine before school every day from the first day of elementary to the last day of high school (except my dad no longer had to plait my hair when I turned 11). As a result, I became very comfortable living with routines – having a perfect order of steps I could follow and getting the same results every time was not only reassuring but perfect practice for when I lived in my own home. 

Now, everything from organizing a bedroom and doing laundry to my nightly closing shift routine follows the same set of steps every time, helping me to achieve near-perfect results day-in-day-out without feeling overwhelmed. 

Keeping the same clean-up routine helps me to stay on top of clutter and ensures that any room that does fall into chaos is quickly dealt with without it becoming overwhelming – even my partner has started to pick up on the habit.  

You can start small by establishing one routine at a time. Perhaps you need to get better at cleaning a kitchen. Start by habit stacking and cleaning down counters while your coffee brews, then start loading the dishwasher as you wait for dinner to cook. Soon enough, you will have an integrated set of steps that flow naturally to you, and you can begin making new routines elsewhere in the house.  

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2. Attention to detail

A lasy using a cloth and spray to wipe down a make up desk

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Another trait I picked up early on from my veteran dad was attention to detail. It started with me learning to clean and polish my shoes when I was very little and grew to ensure that no surface was forgotten when removing dust as I picked up more chores as I got older. It may have seemed like a strict childhood, but it taught me to notice even the smallest of details and piles of dirt or clutter as an adult. As a result, my house is rarely difficult to clean and organize. 

One of the best ways to develop this skill is to walk around the space and try to view it as if you are expecting an inspector to follow around after you. When we become used to our homes, we often miss small areas that then get disorganized or dirty – taking this different view helps you to see small ledges or nooks that you haven't touched in a long time. 

If you see something you would not want to be picked up for in an inspection or would be embarrassed for a guest to see, it's time to clean it up. 

3. Strict self-discipline

Someone vacuuming a mattress

(Image credit: Getty Images)

It takes a lot of self-discipline to look at a to-do list and work through the chores when we would rather be relaxing – especially when we can be so easily distracted by social media. 

My dad would always repeat the phrase ‘once it’s done, it’s done’ whenever I protested doing homework or helping clean the living room, and that phrase has stuck with me ever since. I would spend a maximum of 20 minutes dusting and vacuuming the living room as a teenager, and once it was done on a Saturday morning, I was free to spend the rest of my weekend as I liked. When I went to college, all of my assignments were always finished early using this logic, and now as an adult, most of my chores are done in record time, and I have plenty of spare time to spend with friends. 

This can be a tricky habit to build up when you are new to it, so it can be helpful to try a productivity scary hour and work in rewards to encourage yourself to complete something you might be procrastinating. Start by putting any distractions in another area of the house, such as your phone, and then use an analog to-do list to work through chores and life-admin – ticking off each one for a small boost of encouragement. 

Then, when you have finished everything, do something nice – have a relaxing bath or read a book you enjoy. It is a great way to make your to-do list less overwhelming

4. Easy efficiency

bathroom with double vanity and large mirror

(Image credit: Future PLC)

In the army, my dad would have to work through tasks as efficiently as possible to complete everything on time and to the highest standard, even in stressful situations. While the most stressful thing I have ever applied this to is decluttering a home room by room, the principal still stands. This skill set has helped me to develop a systematic approach to decluttering, organizing belongings, and maximizing space in my limited storage (although my dad’s military storage rules for small spaces also helped). 

For instance, I know to always start decluttering by cleaning away surface clutter to create more space and make the room less overwhelming, then work one shelf or box at a time to declutter without making a mess, prioritizing the area that I have been struggling with the most. Similarly, when cleaning a bathroom, I always leave the sink until last so that I am not rinsing off dirty clothes or sponges into a freshly washed vanity – saving me time on cleaning it again.  

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Towel storage

(Image credit: Garden Trading)

If you want to start using your time more efficiently, start by allocating time during the week to get tasks done – giving yourself more time than you think you will need to allow for anything unexpected. 

Then look at the space pragmatically – is there an area that you will keep revisiting during the process, like a bathroom sink, that you should leave until last so avoid having to keep redoing a task? Would tackling one area first, such as clearing off a work surface, make the rest of the job easier? 

Small adjustments to the plan rather than diving blindly into a chore headfirst will often save you both time and energy. 


Given that I have been honing these four traits since I was so young, they feel almost effortless to me most of the time, but there were certainly times when it felt impossible – and I still occasionally have slip ups when I am unwell or burnt out. The most important aspect of developing military-like precision at home is to repeat habits as often as possible until they start to feel less like a conscious effort and more like an auto-pilot.  

Chiana Dickson
Writer

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for a year, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.