Spring To-Do's

It's Tax Time!

How to Clean Your Home ... in Just Minutes a Day!

cleaning

Confession time: Raise your hand if you spend the last hours before a guest arrives madly dusting, mopping, disinfecting, scrubbing, and dealing with cobwebs in the corner.

Busted! But help is on the way. Follow these steps and the days of trying to cram a month's worth of cleaning into a single afternoon will soon be over.

Invest in Quality Tools
"You may spend a bit more for good quality, but it will cut your cleaning time and save you a bundle of money down the road," says Mary Findley, author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Cleaning" and founder of Mary Moppins. That $13 wet-sponge mop that you replace 10 times a year or the dust mop that's falling apart aren't really "bargains" if they don't get the job done well, she reasons. "Buy quality equipment. It will speed up your cleaning time and the tools will last you many years."

Don't Let the Dirt Pile Up
"When you start ignoring a surface it's far too easy to continue overlooking it," says Findley. "A two-second wipe-over when it's not visibly dirty will save 30 minutes of cleaning down the road." If it's an area of the house that doesn't see much action, like a guest room, you can hit it with a vacuum and dust cloth monthly; otherwise, clean surfaces at least twice a month.

Keep Clutter Out of the Way
It takes a lot longer to clean a bathroom counter that's covered in bottles of hair product and scattered makeup, so have each family member put their things away on a shelf or in a tote when they're done using them. In the morning, as you're brushing your teeth, attack any remaining clutter. After you're done brushing, pull the sink stopper and fill the sink with hot water. Place soap dishes in the water to soak, and shake the bathroom rug outdoors.

As for the kitchen, divide your kitchen into five zones, then wipe down one zone each morning or evening -- maybe while you're waiting for water to boil or toast to pop. By the end of the week, you'll have cleaned every surface in the kitchen without adding any extra time to your day. You can do more intensive cleaning on the weekend. Another timesaver, if you have a divided sink, is to fill the sink with hot, sudsy water before you start dinner, says Findley. As you finish cooking, put your pans in the sink and let them soak while you eat. "They'll get clean in seconds."

Make Use of Phone Time
"The next time you're shopping, pick up a package of men's cotton tube socks," says Findley. "Before you dial the phone, slip a sock over one hand and spray it with furniture cleaner or a bit of water. As you talk, dust your furniture." You can also tuck a second cloth sprayed with window cleaner into your back pocket. That way, as you're dusting your cabinets, you can take care of those small fingerprints on the glass doors at the same time.

Do Double Duty
"Going to the store? Take the garbage out at the same time," suggests Findley. And never leave a room empty-handed: grab a toy or piece of paper on your way out and return it to its home. Better yet, keep a basket for just such a purpose, and fill it with stuff to put away each time you leave the room.

Now, the next time you've got company coming over, you can use the prep time for more important things -- like teaching your preschooler not to burp at the dinner table.

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