20 Songs That'll Bring Out The Clean Freak In You

Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Wasn’t summer fun? You lived. You loved. You lost. You learned. You were so busy being fancy, in fact, that you let your home go to pot. Luckily, September is here, and that means fall cleaning — your chance to reboot the mission and restore some order to your life. Sweeping, scrubbing, and mopping might seem like daunting tasks, but once you get going, you’ll be amazed by how great you feel. All you need is that initial push — which is where music comes in. What follows is a terrific 20-song playlist for this autumn’s adventures in housekeeping. Forget whistling while you work — sing along loud enough to hear yourself over the vacuum.
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Photo: Courtesy of Capitol Records.
“Cleanup Time,” John Lennon
Lacking motivation to get started? Your good pal John’s here to give you a nudge. Then again, he and Yoko probably had maids.
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Photo: Courtesy of Epic/Legacy.
“Wash,” Pearl Jam
Eddie Vedder craves a deep clean — one that brings his mind, body, and soul back “to the pure form.” He might need some commercial-grade solvents for that.
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Photo: Courtesy of Sacred Bones Records.
“Wash Over Us,” The Fresh & Onlys
The guitars are too darn pretty to play this one while washing dishes. The sound of the running water will only kill the vibe. Save this for dusting the fine china, and if you don’t own any, find someone who does.
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Photo: Courtesy of Interscope.
“Wash the Day,” TV on the Radio
This scruffy, draggy art-punk jam won’t inspire much heavy scrubbing. Your best bet: tie a broom to your foot, shuffle off to bed, and hope you pick up some dirt along the way.
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Photo: Courtesy of Geffen.
“Washing Machine,” Sonic Youth
“Honey, here’s a quarter,” some crazy old lady yells at Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, just before winging a coin at her. “Go put it in the washing machine.” By the sound of it, that’s just what Kim does — then she throws her guitar and amp in there, too, and makes the gnarliest noise her local laundromat ever heard.
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Photo: Courtesy of Max Recordings.
“Born Clean,” Big Cats
Self-delusion is a beautiful thing. Once your home is sparkling, blast this bright, shiny rocker and tell yourself the place has always looked that good. Unlike those other slobs you know, you were born clean.
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Photo: Courtesy of Aftermath.
“Cleaning Out My Closet,” Eminem
No matter how long it takes to reorganize your closet, rejoice: You probably won’t find the kinds of skeletons Em’s got in his.
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Photo: Courtesy of Rough Trade.
“Cleaning Out the Rooms,” British Sea Power
“Get the vacuum and suck it in,” these moody Brits sing. “Cleaning out the rooms / I’ll clean it up.” If your Hoover hums in the same key as the dreamy guitars, you might just weep over the beauty of it all. Try not to get tears on the rug.
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Photo: Courtesy of Parlophone UK.
“Dance Yrself Clean,” LCD Soundsystem
The beat’s just right for brisk sweeping, and the sooner that floor is spotless, the sooner you can start breakdancing. Just be sure to find a faster LCD tune.
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Photo: Courtesy of RCA Records Label.
“Dirrty,” Christina Aguilera
There’s good dirty and bad dirty. Xtina in leather pants = good. That three-week-old ketchup smear on your counter = bad. Learn the difference while you blast this dance jam and un-dirrty-fy your kitchen and bath.
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Photo: Courtesy of Rhino/Slash.
“Definitely Clean,” Dream Syndicate
While singer Steve Wynn stands around “waiting for you to come clean,” feel the power of this psych-rock scorcher and scrub those bathroom tiles with all your might. Show the initiative Wynn won’t. When it comes to cleaning, bad things come to those who wait.
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Photo: Courtesy of Rhino.
"Do It Clean,” Echo & the Bunnymen
“I’ve got a handful of this,” Ian McCulloch sings on this ode to cleanliness. “What do I do with it?” If it’s clothing he never wears, he should totally follow your lead and take it down to Goodwill.
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Photo: Courtesy of Sony Legacy.
“So Fresh, So Clean,” Outkast
As you cross things off your fall-cleaning to-do list — “wax Caddy,” “polish gold chains,” “shake excess glitter out of feather boa” — take a few minutes and celebrate, Stankonia-style.
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Photo: Courtesy of Deram Records.
“Vacuum Cleaner,” Tintern Abbey
Even back in those swingin’ psychedelic ‘60s, folks knew the importance of vacuuming. A magic carpet ride is no fun when you’re sitting in crumbs.
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Photo: Courtesy of Polyvinyl Records.
“Yr Broom,” Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin
Here’s some terrific advice: “You can’t keep everything.” Forget the broom. Get a big old box and throw away whatever pieces of the past are weighing you down. Life’s too short to schlep around the remnants of failed romances.
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Photo: Courtesy of SONY MASTERWORKS.
“Autumn Leaves,” Liam Bailey
Fall leads to cooler temps, and that leads to whatever chemical process makes the leaves change color and float down into your yard. The key to effective raking is pacing yourself, and U.K. soul riser Liam Bailey has just the swoony ballad for your seasonal yard work.
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Photo: Courtesy of 679 Recordings UK. Ltd.
“Tidy, Nice and Neat,” The Streets
“Always tidy, nice and neat / I like being white as a white sheet,” Mike Skinner, a.k.a. The Streets, spits on this loping U.K. rap jam. It’s not the most creative rhyme, but if you’re making the bed correctly, you’re concentrating too intently to pay attention lyrics. Hospital corners, people.
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Photo: Courtesy of HIP-O (PG)/Fontana.
“Mr. Clean,” The Jam
Worried fall cleaning isn’t cool? Let folks like Jam singer Paul Weller sneer at your spic and span lifestyle. It’s not that glistening countertop that makes you a boring person. It might be your personality, though.
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Photo: Courtesy of Republic Records.
“Dirty Laundry,” Kelly Rowland
There’s no beating the cleansing feeling that comes with doing the wash. Here, Kelly Rowland relishes the metaphorical purification she gets from exorcising her demons in song, and you’ll feel even better when you finally get that chocolate stain off your silk blouse.
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Photo: Courtesy of UDR.
“Stay Clean,” Motörhead
Approach cleaning the same way you do personal ethics, and as you strive to maintain tidiness throughout the year, don’t forget the immortal words of the all-wise, all-knowing Lemmy Kilmister: “Stay clean! Stay clean!"
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Clockwise, above from left. Photo: Courtesy of Republic Records; Rough Trade; Parlophone UK; Geffen.
Stay Clean, Y'all

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