Tame the Clutter Monster

Clutter is one of the biggest obstacles to keeping a house clean. Spaces that are overflowing with objects are difficult to dust, vacuum, and wipe up. Floors can’t be thoroughly swept or mopped when piles of miscellanea clog up open spaces. In a nutshell, it’s almost impossible to eliminate all dirt and dust from areas that are overloaded with stuff.

Habitual tidiness doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but the good news is that tidying up isn’t difficult. The following are some simple steps anyone can take to wrestle the clutter monster into submission.

Practice Every Day

Practice makes perfect. Making an everyday practice of keeping things in order will, over time, become a habit that requires little to no thought.

Minimal clutter is no big deal. The trouble with minimal clutter is that it often spreads, and quickly becomes more than a minimal issue. The best and easiest way to avoid this problem is to keep things picked up and organized every day.

Keeping possessions organized has many benefits. It not only makes it easier to clean house, but saves time, energy, and frustration searching for lost objects.

Put Things Away Immediately After Using Them

Done cutting through the packing tape on your Amazon box? Put the scissors back where they belong before they get lost. Done scratching your back? Replace the back scratcher into its permanent home. Putting things away right away means it gets done. Do it now and there’s no need to worry about doing it later.

Find a Spot for Everything You Own

Taming the clutter monster is all about putting your stuff somewhere. Every object should have a space of its very own. Some things can live on countertops, everything can’t.

Every single object you own should have a designated spot where it permanently belongs when it’s not being used. This way, you’ll always know where to put things when you’re done using them and where to look when you need them again.

Find a Spot for Each New Possession as it Enters your Home

Your new Cuisinart Air Fryer is really cool, but where will you put it? Make a space for it immediately on its entry into your home. If it’s sitting in the box in a corner for six months, not only do you not get to use it, but it’s creating a clutter hazard.

If Space is Short, Purge

If you’re finding that there’s nowhere to put stuff, you’ve got too much stuff for your space. Either move to a bigger space or get rid of stuff you don’t need.

Look at it this way: no one can realistically keep track of 40 pairs of shoes, 30 pairs of jeans, or 20 handbags. Weed out what you’re not using and make a donation to a local charity. Someone else can use it and will appreciate it more than you do.

Don’t Hang on to Things You’re Not Using

Don’t keep stuff because you think you might use it some day or you got a really good deal on it or you just like it for no good reason. Things are objects, no more, no less. Objects don’t have personalities, bring good luck, or do much of anything other than sit around waiting for you to do something with them. If it’s not useful and you need the space, get rid of it.

Use Storage Space Effectively

Make maximal use of closets, dressers, cupboards, and space under beds. Leave no space un-utilized when you need it. Don’t leave stuff on top of a dresser when its drawers are empty. Don’t pile stuff on top of the bed in the spare bedroom when you could store it in a tote under the bed.

Arrange things neatly, not haphazardly. You should be able to open a drawer or cupboard door and quickly find what you’re looking for.

Label boxes, if need be. Use clear totes. Store things on shelves according to height so the taller items are in back. Don’t over-crowd things so much that you can’t see everything at a glance. Leave a little room for growth.

basket with papers

Use Storage Aids

Use baskets, bins, stacking tubs, boxes, or whatever will help you logically store your stuff. Baskets are handy for storing paperwork that’s in transition. Storage tubs come in all shapes and sizes for all types of situations. Collapsible fabric storage cubes are versatile, low-cost, low-space organizing tools.

Be creative and use whatever makes you happy and makes it easy to store and retrieve your things. Your system of organization should be customized to suit you.

Assign a Basket to Each Family Member

Hold all household members accountable for keeping track of their own stuff. Assign each member of the household a basket. If clutter starts to accumulate in common areas around the house, simply deposit items into the appropriate basket. If a basket gets too full, penalize the offender.

Remember that the More Space You Have, the More Space You Fill Up

Finally, remember that we tend to fill up whatever space we have. Don’t go there; become a minimalist. Be realistic about what you actually need. Don’t hang on to unimportant things.

Clutter makes it difficult to distinguish between the important things you need and the irrelevant things that are just in the way. Clutter makes house cleaning difficult. Clutter weighs you down. Don’t let clutter get you down; do whatever you can to tame the clutter monster.

Want more house cleaning tips and ideas? Check out my book Clean Like A Pro: Tips and Techniques for Cleaning Your Home Like a Seasoned Professional, available on Amazon

Advertisements

Hints for Cleaning Cluttered Spaces

If you’ve read any of my posts heretofore, you’ll know that The Cleaning Pro frowns upon clutter. Clutter makes cleaning difficult, breeds dust, and conceals necessary items. However, the reality is that some people are simply not organizers, and cluttered spaces still need to be dusted and vacuumed and generally spruced up.

So if you’re a member of the clutter club, here are some hints for getting your space to a place that will make cleanups possible.

laundry basket

Put Dirty Clothes in a Hamper

Don’t throw your clothes on the floor. Put them in a laundry basket or put them away if they’re not dirty. As a last resort, pile them up somewhere, and don’t let the pile get so high that it topples over. It’s impossible to vacuum or sweep floors that are buried in clothes.

Don’t Pile Things Haphazardly

Make your clutter as orderly as you can. Put papers that belong with other papers into piles: bills with bills, junk mail to sort later with other junk mail to sort later, newspapers with newspapers, magazines with magazines. If it’s all in a big pile of nonsense, you can’t find anything, and bills will go unpaid, your car registration will expire, important papers will be forever lost in the abyss.

On a related note, get a basket for the important paperwork that you need to sort through. When the basket is full you have reached your deadline. Deal with it.

Don’t Save Junk

Stop saving clippings, newspapers, magazines, etc. that you will never look at again. If you can’t find anything anyway, isn’t it easier to toss it out now rather than allow dust to settle onto it for the next fifteen years?

Don’t let stuff that’s just plain trash pile up. Move your recycling to the curb or the dump. Old newspapers, magazines, food wrappers, and similar items have no residual value.

Keep Fishing Gear Out of the Living Room

Tools, gardening equipment,  parts for the car belong in the garage or the tool shed or the basement. You can’t pile all your fishing gear in the middle of the living room and expect to be able to clean around it (or live there). I’m sorry, but this is where a line has to be drawn.

Don’t Have Christmas Every Day of the Year

Take your Christmas tree down by the end of January at the latest. Especially if it was a live tree.

Keep the Kitchen Clean

Keep the countertops in your kitchen as free of clutter as possible so they can be wiped off periodically.

Throw out food containers. Don’t save leftovers indefinitely. Go through the fridge once a week and toss out food that’s no good.

Pay attention to your nose and if you smell a funky odor, you need to root out its source. Now.

Bathroom Clutter is a Big No-No

In the bathroom, don’t let stuff pile up on the counters. Put toiletries into drawers or cabinets. If your drawers and cabinets are full, set aside an hour to go through everything and throw out what’s no good. Or put all that clutter into a basket when it’s time to clean. You can’t clean countertops that are covered in stuff, and all that clutter collects dust which, in humid bathrooms, turns into a crusty mess.

Minimize Clutter As Much As Possible

While some clutter is tolerable, don’t let it get out of control. Bear in mind that clutter accumulates dust and there’s no way to vacuum or sweep cluttered areas. Unchecked clutter spreads from corners outward until entire rooms disappear. So do your best to keep it to a minimum so you can move freely enough through your living space to clean (and live).

On cleaning day, do what you can with what you’ve got. Dust ceilings and walls for cobwebs. Dust all flat surfaces and dust over and around any piles of stuff. Clean the kitchen and bathrooms. Follow the advice presented here and do your best. It’s not easy, but it is possible (and necessary) to clean cluttered spaces.

Want more house cleaning tips and ideas? Check out my book Clean Like A Pro: Tips and Techniques for Cleaning Your Home Like a Seasoned Professional, available on Amazon.

.

 

Home Cleaning Tips To Maximize Efficiency

No one wants to spend hours upon hours cleaning their home. The key to keeping a home cleaning regimen short and sweet is simple: maximize efficiency. By making the most of your time and efforts, your house cleaning routine will be streamlined and you’ll have plenty of time left over to do more interesting things. The following are some house cleaning tips to maximize efficiency.

Begin With a Walk-Through

Before starting to clean, take a quick lap through your home with a laundry basket and large trash bag. Gather up loose items that should be put away and deposit them in the basket. Collect trash, and empty trash containers into the trash bag.

Pay attention to what tasks need to be done, what areas might require extra attention, and what places are in good shape and therefore don’t need any sprucing up. Mentally calculate how much time you’ll need for each area, keeping in mind how much time you have overall to spend cleaning.

Starting off knowing that there’s dog hair all over the sofa in the family room and the upstairs bathroom is a disaster makes it easy to allocate enough time to these areas. This way you know from the start that you won’t have time to vacuum under beds today.

Minimize Clutter

Set aside the basket of lost items that you collected on your walk-through and deal with it later. Picking up and organizing are not part of house cleaning; they are prerequisites. Clutter control should be an ongoing process. Spending an hour picking up and putting away miscellanea before you can start cleaning means you’ll potentially run out of steam before the housework is done.

Working around, or worse, having to shift and replace, clutter while cleaning eats up time as well. Clear surfaces and spaces make cleaning quick and easy. Cluttered surfaces and piles of paraphernalia collect dust and complicate cleaning.

Have What You Need On Hand

Keep your cleaning closet stocked with whatever you need. Penalize household members who make off with the vacuum cleaner or the broom and don’t return it. Having to spend twenty minutes tracking down the mop is an inefficient use of time.

Wear an Apron or Tool Belt

Keep what you need readily at hand as you work so you don’t have to repeatedly stop to fetch supplies. Wear an apron with lots of pockets, or a tool belt, or carry a caddy with you. Reducing steps reduces time and maximizes efficiency.

Use Minimal Supplies

Use as few cleaning agents and tools as you can; the less stuff to have to tote around and keep track of, the better.

Clean With a Buddy

If chatting with a buddy while you work isn’t a distraction, clean your homes simultaneously and cheer each other on. Exchange cleaning tips. If it keeps you motivated, go for it.

Pay Attention to What You’re Doing

On a related note, don’t allow your mind to wander off while you work. Pay attention to the job at hand. An efficient cleaner cleans only what is dirty, which requires mindfulness as you work.

Think Ahead

Anticipate what’s next as you perform each task and work in such a way as to minimize unnecessary steps.

Don’t Get Sidetracked

Stay focused. If you’re easily distracted by side jobs, keep a small notepad in your apron pocket and make a to-list as you work. If you notice that the fridge needs to be wiped out or the kids’ closets are a mess, plan to tackle these extra chores as soon as your schedule permits, but don’t stop doing what you’re doing now. Completing one job from beginning to end is satisfying and motivating. Starting three jobs and not finishing any of them is frustrating.

Work in a Straight Line

Clean either room by room or in zones, and work in straight lines. Don’t backtrack.

Work Continuously

Don’t sit down. Keep working until the job is done. If you must take a break, time it. When your ten minutes is up, so are you.

Focus on What Shows

Clean what’s dirty, focusing on areas that stand out. When there’s time, clean the dusty bookshelf in the corner. When there isn’t time because the sofa has to be vacuumed free of dog hair, leave it. The dust will be there next time.

Treat Cleaning Your House like a Job

Cleaning your home is a job, treat it as such. Make a schedule, stick to it, see the job through to the end.

Use an Eraser-Type Sponge

Eraser sponges have many uses throughout the home. Soap scum removal, tough kitchen cleanups, scuffs on floors, and fingerprints on walls are just a few. These sponges save time and effort, both of which maximize efficiency.

vacuum ceiling fan

Dust Your Ceiling Fans

Make it a point to regularly dust areas that accumulate dust such as ceiling fan blades, under beds, on top of the refrigerator, tops of cupboards and wardrobes, and any other places that are not part of your regular dusting regimen. Removing as much dust as possible from surfaces means there’s less dust to end up re-circulating in the air.

Use a Dusting Tool

Forget dusting with a cloth; the quickest means of removing dust from surfaces is to use a tool, preferably a microfiber wand with nubs, because this will grab and lock down dust. Don’t belabor the task; working from the top of the room downward, dust ceiling fans and light fixtures, wall hangings, window treatments, window sills and grates, chair rails, baseboards and baseboard heaters. Then tackle furniture and lamps. Work swiftly, don’t backtrack, and make every movement count.

Keep a Spray Bottle of Water on Hand

A damp cloth cleans a variety of surfaces, from wall smudges to water glass rings to fingerprints on switch plates and sticky doorknobs. Avoid having to hunt down a cloth and find a faucet; keep a supply of cleaning cloths and a spray bottle of water on hand as you work.

Work Out a Routine

A regular, consistent cleaning routine works to your advantage in several ways. First, repeating the same tasks over and over increases speed and efficiency (the learning curve). Second, a regular routine gives you the chance to clean everything in your home on a rotating basis. From week to week some tasks can be deferred until next time, and others can get the attention they need right now. Third, working out a system forces your focus onto efficiency; over time your routine will inevitably become more streamlined as you work out the bugs. Finally, by making home cleaning a habit and a priority, it will get done. Period.

Stay Motivated

Stay motivated by finishing what you start. Each time you successfully complete your cleaning routine, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment. Take a little time to admire your handiwork. This feeling of pride in a job well done will inspire you to take up your broom next week and clean on.

Use the Right Cleaning Supplies and Equipment

Use whatever cleaning agents and equipment make you happy. If you use scented cleaners, be sure the scents make you feel good. Likewise, cleaning agents should do the jobs for which they’re intended, leaving you feeling satisfied that you’ve accomplished something by using them. Your equipment should be easy to use, not frustrating.

Spending a little more money on good cleaning supplies that you’ll look forward to using (or at least not mind using) is well worth the investment. You cleaning tools should be easy for you to use, perform well, and make you feel glad to use them.

Eat Right, Exercise, Get Some Sleep

Cleaning is hard work! Give your body what it needs to do the job. If you feel sluggish and run down, you’re not going feel overly enthusiastic about mopping and vacuuming and making beds. When you feel good and are energized, cleaning is a breeze.

Delegate

Make house cleaning a team effort. Many sets of hands get the job done quicker. Make a chart, assign chores, do whatever gets the job done quickly and efficiently.

Make a List

If you’re the type of person who is motivated by crossing items off your list, write up a list of chores before you start cleaning. Staying on task is very important to cleaning efficiently, so if writing it down helps achieve this goal, go for it.

Don’t be a Perfectionist

It’s a waste of time to try to remove 100% of the dirt from your home. Perfectionism will turn a three-hour job into a six-hour job. The difference between 95% efficiency and 100% isn’t worth three hours of your time.

Set Realistic Goals

There’s only so much any one person can accomplish within a few hours. Don’t set the bar too high. Set realistic goals that you’ll be able to achieve. Accomplishing goals is motivating. Failing to achieve goals is not.

Don’t Make a Big Production Out of It

House cleaning is labor intensive but not overly difficult. Don’t make it harder than it is. Don’t’ clean what isn’t dirty. Don’t perform elaborate cleaning rituals that make no sense just because your grandma did it that way. Simplify your procedures and get the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Want more house cleaning tips and ideas? Check out my book Clean Like A Pro: Tips and Techniques for Cleaning Your Home Like a Seasoned Professional, available on Amazon.

Dust Bunnies Aren’t Funny: How To Clean Up Dust in Your Home

dustfanDust bunnies are the Cleaning Pro’s prey. You know what I’m talking about: those globs of dust and debris that form under the couch and in corners. They’re the dead give-aways that their habitat hasn’t had a visit from the vacuum cleaner lately.

Dust is a funny thing. Not in the “ha-ha” way, but in the “it has unusual properties” kind of way. It’s in the air but is almost invisible. Even so, when you inhale any quantity of the stuff you know it from the stuffy sinuses it causes.

If dust is just lying around on top of your hutch, it doesn’t bother anyone. When that same perfectly innocent dust gets stirred up, it can be downright nasty. It makes you sneeze and can make you wheeze. At the end of the day, the best way to deal with dust is to get rid of it entirely.

Dust builds up in some areas and then relocates itself to others when you’re not looking. So the best approach to eliminating dust is to track it down when it’s settled somewhere and get rid of it then and there. Not giving it the chance to re-circulate stops dust in its tracks. And the more frequently you can manage to do this, the less dust you’ll have to deal with later on.

To track it down, it’s important to understand where dust likes to live. Dust loves to settle down on ceiling fan blades. It likes the tops of cupboards in kitchens and bathrooms and the laundry room; especially the laundry room, in fact. The whole laundry room is a dust trap due to the lint trap in your dryer.

Dust likes to cling to some electronics; computer screens for example. Dust loves the vent fan in your bathroom ceiling. It likes horizontal window blinds and the top of your refrigerator. Dust sometimes even likes to cling to your walls, if there’s enough of it in the air.

Any horizontal surface is a candidate for dust buildup: shelves and tables and the tops of books, even inside the piano, leaves on plants, both real and artificial, the top sides of picture frames, the ridges on doors, lampshades, finials, light bulbs, and under your bed.

Knowing where to look is just half the battle. The capturing of dust is equally important. Dust needs to be trapped and locked down so that is doesn’t live to fight another day.

The Cleaning Pro’s weapons of choice against dust: the vacuum cleaner and a microfiber dusting wand. One or the other will do the job. Both used in tandem will defeat the dust bunnies.

The best tactic is to work from the top of your room downward. First use your dusting wand to grab any dust you can. Use your vacuum to suck the dust off of your wand as it becomes saturated with dust. When you’re done, vacuum any leftover dust off the floor.

Knowing where to look and how to capture dust is all there is to it. Repeatedly eliminating dust where it lives will pay off over time. You’ll notice less dust in your air and in its hiding spots. As your dust bunnies begin to die off, they will cease breeding. Before you know it, the hunt will be over!

Want more house cleaning tips and ideas? Check out my book Clean Like A Pro: Tips and Techniques for Cleaning Your Home Like a Seasoned Professional, available on Amazon.

Cleaning Tips: Home Organizing Guide

baskets for storage

Getting your home organized might seem like a monumental task. Most of us have lots of stuff, and it piles up quickly. Once the closets are full and the basement is overflowing, our possessions start to take possession of countertops and corners. And it’s a proven fact that clutter of any type, left unchecked, multiplies on its own.

Having a designated spot for all objects makes it easy to store and retrieve stuff. If you know where it goes, you know where to put it. If you know where it is, you know where to look when you need it.

Organizing, like so many things in life, becomes easier with practice. Yes, some people are just better at it. But anyone can learn.

We have closets and cupboards for a reason. These are spaces specifically designed for organizing things. So you’ve already got the framework you need to get started (assuming you have closets and cupboards). If your closets are jam-packed with stuff you’re not using, this is the root of your problem. You’re using your storage space inefficiently.

cabinet

The same goes for dresser drawers and kitchen cabinets and shelves in the garage or basement. We actually use a finite number of items in our day-to-day lives. Don’t hang onto things that are no longer useful to you. These things are serving no purpose in your life other than to weigh you down.

If your countertops and corners are harboring piles of stuff that belongs in closets, cupboards and drawers, you must make room for these objects by purging unnecessary stuff.

Any organizing project begins with the elimination of unnecessary objects. After this step has been completed, whatever you’re left with is then sorted into groups of related items. At this point, you can see what you’ve got to work with. From here, all that’s left to do is figure out logical places to keep things.

For example, if you’re a quilter, all of your quilting supplies should be stored in the same area so you’ll know where they go and where to get them when you want them again. All your home office supplies should be stored in the same space. Tools belong in the garage. Coats and shoes belong in the coat closet, mud room, or in individual closets.

Think of it like this: you don’t store baking dishes in the bathtub. Likewise, don’t store your nail polish in the den. It’s ok to take it there, but put it back where it belongs when you’re done using it.

As you arrange objects, make good use of shelves, totes, baskets, bins, caddies, boxes, and racks. Label boxes with lists of the contents. Keep in mind that your goal is to easily find items when you need them again. This is not an out-of-sight-out-of-mind endeavor.

Arrange objects on shelves so that taller items are in back so you can quickly visually scan the area to find what you need. Don’t overcrowd objects. Don’t pile things up so you can’t easily access stuff on the bottom of the pile, and don’t create hazards.

Also leave room for growth unless you plan to never bring another object home again. Or establish a new policy: for each new item introduced into your space, another item must go.

Once you get the hang of it, organizing is easy. The hard part is keeping possessions to a minimum. Think about what you bring into your living space before you bring it in. Consider if you have the space, where you will put it, and if you really need it at all. Don’t clutter up your space (and your life) with junk that you don’t need.

Staying organized is a continuous process. Put things away when you’re done using them. Find a spot for new things immediately. If you notice piles starting to accumulate, get rid of them.

Designate a basket for each household member and deposit any stray items into the appropriate basket. If the household member doesn’t deal with their basket in a timely manner, hold it for ransom.

Maintenance is the name of the game, and it’s easy if you keep doing it day in and day out. Practice makes perfect and if you keep practicing, you’ll be perfectly organized.

Want more house cleaning tips and ideas? Check out my book Clean Like A Pro: Tips and Techniques for Cleaning Your Home Like a Seasoned Professional, available on Amazon.

De-Clutter Your Home: A Guide to Hosting Your Own Garage Sale

garage sale signA garage sale is the ultimate tool for de-cluttering your home. If you’re finding that you have more stuff than you need and need more space than you have, hosting a garage sale might be the answer. It’s a little bit of work, but so is hauling a truckload of household items to Goodwill.

A garage sale draws people to you; all you have to do is convince everyone who shows up to take something away with them. At the end of the day, if you’re successful, all your unwanted stuff will be gone. Presto!

This guide will help you to get a handle on the ins and outs of hosting your own garage sale, with the goal of eliminating unwanted possessions. Be forewarned that this assumes your primary goal is getting rid of stuff you no longer use. Don’t expect to get rich. You will not be able to recoup retail prices on your possessions.

A garage sale can net you a tidy little sum if you have lots of stuff that people want. But you’ll need to be realistic about what to charge for your old high-school clarinet and the Magic Bullet juicer that’s been used once. Garage sale buyers are bargain hunters. Most objects sell for less than a tenth of their initial price, even new or next-to-new items.

If you’re going to get rid of the stuff anyway, think of your sale as an opportunity to move along your unwanted possessions to someone else who can use them. Rather than donating your stuff to a charity where it gets passed on to faceless strangers, a garage sale gives you the chance to meet the people to whom your cherished treasures are going. Have a little fun with it.

Set a Date

To prepare for your sale, the first thing you should do is set a date. Fridays and Saturdays are prime garage sale days. If you can only do one day, that’s okay, but bear in mind that a longer duration means you’ll attract a wider clientele, which will move more merchandise.

When choosing your date, don’t pick the weekend that every school is your area is having its prom, or any other time when most people are otherwise occupied. Also think about the weather. For example, people attend garage sales in droves on the first really pleasant days of spring. If you will be setting up outside, have a rain date in mind.

Clear a Space

Next, choose your location. If you’ve got a big, empty garage, this is an ideal space. Most people don’t. After all, if you had a big, empty garage, you wouldn’t need to have a sale.

Outside is perfectly fine. Choose a large enough space in your driveway or yard to accommodate tables and shoppers, relatively flat and free from obstacles that people might trip over. A little bit of shade from the sun is also desirable.

Get Some Tables

You’ll want to set up some type of tables on which to display your wares, so think about whether you have folding tables or anything you can use to improvise tables. If you don’t have anything, see if you can borrow tables somewhere.

folding tables

If you don’t have access to tables, the alternative is placing things into boxes for display. Line up boxes neatly, with items grouped according to price: for example, “all items in this box $1 each”. Neatly organize stuff into the boxes so everything is visible. Do your best to create an attractive presentation.

Whatever you do, don’t just toss all your stuff haphazardly onto the lawn. This is a huge turnoff. If people aren’t sure whether you’re having a garage sale or a domestic dispute, they’ll drive right on by.

price stickers

Assemble and Price Stuff

Figure out what you’ll be selling and start pricing items. Either price things individually with stickers that will be easy to remove (don’t put a sticker on anything that’ll be damaged by its removal) or use a color-code system of dots that correspond to prices (all red-dot items are one dollar, all blue-dot items are two dollars), or place items on tables with signs marked “$10 table” or “$5 table”, or into boxes with the price on the outside.

price labels

If you’re having a large sale, plan on spending a few hours assembling and pricing your stuff. Any items that you believe to be valuable can be researched online. Go to eBay and use the advanced search feature to determine the price for which similar items sold. This method is more accurate that merely looking at asking prices. Anyone can price anything at any value they like; the true barometer is the price that was actually paid for the item.

price tags

Pricing your items too high means you’ll have a big pile of stuff left over at the end of your sale. Remember that your objective is to get rid of the stuff, so keep a level head when it comes to pricing.

It may be tempting to leave prices off altogether and wait for people to make an offer. Don’t do it. Many potential buyers are turned off by this approach, and you will lose the sale.

Do, however, be prepared to dicker with potential buyers. Many seasoned garage sale buyers will see your price as nothing more than a starting point.

Advertise

A few days before your sale, start advertising. Put up signs around your neighborhood. Place ads in the local newspaper, on Craigslist, on your local Facebook garage sale groups, and tell your friends and family.

Enlist Assistants

Ask a couple friends or family members to act as cashiers at your sale, at least for the first couple of hours. Or join forces and have a multi-family sale; this is always a good way to draw in more buyers. You’ll typically get a big crowd of people in the first hour or two of your sale, and having some extra sets of hands during this period will help ensure that everything flows smoothly and none of your stuff falls prey to a five-finger-discount bandit.

Put up Signs

The day before your sale, buy or make some garage sale signs to post on your street corner and mailbox so that people can easily find you. Make sure you have some small bills in cash to make change for customers. Also have on hand a few shopping bags or small boxes. If anyone buys multiple items it’ll be nice to have something for them in which to carry their treasures home.

On Sale Day

On sale day, be prepared for early birds. Whether your sale starts at 8:00 AM, 4:00 PM or anywhere in between, a few people will inevitably show up early in hopes of scoring deals before anyone else. You can specifically state “no early birds” in your ad if you object to this. My suggestion: put ‘em to work. Anyone who shows up early can help you set up your sale while also previewing your selection of goodies.

Get your tables set up at least a couple of hours before you open for business in order to give yourself plenty of time. Arrange your sale items neatly and in a way that allows customers to see what you’ve got. Make sure items are clean and in good condition. Anything that isn’t in great shape can go in a “free” pile. Putting a few free items out by the curb can draw in customers.

Items should be priced prior to set up. There will be lots to do and lots of confusion as you’re getting ready for your sale, and the process will be quicker and less stressful if you’re not deciding what to charge for items at this point.

When people start arriving for your sale, be friendly. Greet people, make eye contact, let them know you’re there to help them. If you’re ready and willing to drop prices when people ask, you’ll move more merchandise. Make a counteroffer if an initial offer is too low.

People will also be more likely to buy your stuff if you make a connection with them. Don’t be pushy, do be conversational. Giving a little history about items is an excellent sales technique.

At the end of the day, if there’s anything left over, box it up and place a “free stuff” ad on craigslist or facebook. It’ll disappear overnight if it’s anything good. If not, it’s trash.

Congratulations! You just exchanged a bunch of stuff you no longer needed for a little mad money. Plus you made a bunch of new friends and got to spend the day outside in the fresh air and sunshine. Best of all, you didn’t have to haul a truckload of stuff to Goodwill; you didn’t even have to leave your street!

For more de-cluttering and organizing tips, see my blog post The 7 Day Deep Clean Challenge: Bring Your Home Up to Par in a Week, Part 1 Decluttering.

Want more house cleaning tips and ideas? Check out my book Clean Like A Pro: Tips and Techniques for Cleaning Your Home Like a Seasoned Professional, available on Amazon. For more info: https://www.amazon.com/author/darlenephillips

The Cardinal Rules of House Cleaning

clean a windowHouse cleaning, at its core, is very basic. The objective is the removal of dirt and grime from a home in order to promote the good health of its occupants as well as improve their quality of life. Regardless of whether you’re cleaning a two-bedroom cottage or a twenty-bedroom mansion, some basic cardinal rules will help you achieve these goals.

Clean regularly and routinely to keep your home in the best possible condition. Integrating a regular cleaning routine into your schedule serves several purposes. First, it ensures that your house gets cleaned. Second, routine cleaning quickly becomes a habit. Third, the more often you clean, the less time it takes to complete the job. Fourth, regularly cleaning your home means you won’t get stuck spending an entire weekend playing catch-up. Fifth, a clean home just makes you feel good, both because it smells and looks good and because you feel a sense of accomplishment at having completed the task.

Make house cleaning a priority; a regular schedule means that important things get done before they get out of control, and less important things get done sooner or later as time permits.

For example, if you clean your home faithfully once a week, high traffic areas will get the attention they need before dirt and grime reaches toxic levels. This means your kitchen, bathrooms, and other common areas will always be in good-enough shape. They’ll be nice and clean on the day after you clean, and by the end of the week they’ll again need attention but won’t be terrible. And some weeks the kitchen won’t demand as much of your time so you’ll get a chance to vacuum under beds or couch cushions.

A set routine gets you into the habit of cleaning regularly, which ensures that all areas get cleaned from time to time. A clean home is a healthy, happy environment. Plus, you’ll never be embarrassed when unexpected company shows up at your door.

Reduce clutter to speed up the cleaning process and enhance effectiveness. Keeping clutter at bay makes cleaning quicker and easier. Dusting minimally-cluttered surfaces not only takes less time but also cuts down on dust in general because there are fewer surfaces on which dust can settle.

Having to work around or move multiple objects when vacuuming consumes time. Mopping is a nightmare when you’ve got to shift things around from space to space to even get at the floor. Plus, clutter-free spaces just look better.

Clean from top to bottom to make sure dirt always falls into areas that haven’t yet been cleaned. The first step to cleaning any space is dusting ceiling fans, light fixtures, and anything else up high. The last step is cleaning floors.

This principle should be applied continuously throughout the cleaning process so that dirt and dust fall down into areas that haven’t yet been cleaned. For instance, don’t sweep the floor before cleaning crumbs off of the kitchen countertops.

Clean in a continuous line so dirt doesn’t get tracked back into areas which have already been cleaned. Work from room to room in a continuous line as much as possible. Plot your course in a manner that will contain dirt and grime rather than spread it around. Tracking dirt back into areas you’ve just cleaned is counterproductive.

Use tools to maximize efficiency. For example, a good dusting wand with nubs that grab dust can be used almost universally throughout the house. A string mop gets into the corners and tight spaces that a sponge mop can’t reach. And never underestimate the usefulness of your vacuum cleaner. It’s one of the most versatile cleaning tools at your command.

Use appropriate cleaning agents in the correct amount. Know when to break out the tough cleaning agents. Mold, mildew, soap-scum buildup, grease, and mineral deposits are all most quickly eliminated by using chemical cleaning agents.

Conversely, don’t use stronger cleaners than are necessary. You’ll waste time rinsing away suds you didn’t need; furthermore, any residual cleaner left on a surface attracts more dirt. Sometimes less is more.

Keep entry mats at doors to reduce the amount of dirt that gets tracked into the house. The biggest source of dirt on your floors is the feet of those who enter your home. Keep door mats at all entrances and encourage visitors to remove their shoes. Keep a towel near the door to wipe off paws, as well.

House cleaning doesn’t have to be a big deal. Taking the time to learn and understand basic tried-and-true principles will maximize outcomes while making the best use of your time and energy. Learn from those who have gone before you. Don’t reinvent the wheel.

Want more house cleaning tips and ideas? Check out my book Clean Like A Pro: Tips and Techniques for Cleaning Your Home Like a Seasoned Professional, available on Amazon.

Cleaning Secrets: The Versatile Vacuum Cleaner

House cleaning is challenging. Keeping up with the dirty footprints and the spilled cereal, the dust that never seems to stop settling onto surfaces high and low, plus the other two-million myriad tasks that are part of day-to-day housekeeping, requires tenacity and resourcefulness.

One of the most versatile tools at your disposal is your vacuum cleaner. A good vacuum cleaner is useful for a wide variety of jobs beyond removing dirt from carpeting.

Vacuum Cleaner Attachments

Most vacuum cleaners come with an assortment of tools for dusting, getting into tight spots, vacuuming upholstered furniture, and vacuuming bare floors. Most modern machines also have extendable wands that will allow you to reach high spots and get into corners.

So what can you do with all of these tools? The sky’s the limit. Well, the ceiling anyway.

If your wand will reach, use the dusting brush to tackle cobwebs up high where the wall and ceiling meet, or on light fixtures or wall-hangings. Use the dusting brush to tackle interior window shutters, window grates, window sills, curtains and valances, louvered doors, chair rails, baseboards, heating grates and vent covers, lampshades. Remove dust from the top sides of books on shelves. Dust knickknacks and picture frames and everything in between.

The dusting brush also does an excellent job of removing dirt and dust from uncarpeted stairs. Its versatility allows you to get into all the corners and in between spindles, as well as removing dust from any other surfaces in the vicinity while you’re at it.

Tackle baseboard heater dustouts with this double-duty-duo: your dusting brush for horizontal surfaces and crevice tool to get to areas inside and underneath.

Use the floor brush to remove dust accumulations from the top of ceiling fan blades. This handy, wide tool also quickly removes dust and cobwebs from walls. Use the floor brush to eliminate accumulated hair in the bathroom, and not just on the floor. As long as surfaces are dry, use it on countertops and other horizontal surfaces.

Vacuum Pet Hair

How about furniture? Pet hair on upholstered furniture is easily removed with a small rotating brush attachment, if your machine is equipped with one. Otherwise, use the upholstery tool. Don’t forget to get underneath cushions and tackle the edges, too. Use the dusting brush attachment on leather furniture.

Your vacuum cleaner is also handy for cleaning loose debris inside of cupboards and drawers, like spilled rice and the crumbs at the bottom of your bread drawer. Spilled powder and the 1001 sequins that broke free in your craft supply bin are no match for the almighty vacuum cleaner.

Got pet hair all over your suit jacket and no lint brush in sight? Use your vacuum cleaner to quickly solve the problem.

Be creative. Have fun with it. Allow your imagination to run wild thinking up new uses for the superstar of cleaning tools, the oh-so-versatile vacuum cleaner.

Want more house cleaning tips and ideas? Check out my book Clean Like A Pro: Tips and Techniques for Cleaning Your Home Like a Seasoned Professional, available on Amazon. For more info: https://www.amazon.com/author/darlenephillips

Cobweb Patrol: What Are You Missing When You Clean Your Home?

It can be tough to cover all the bases when it comes to house cleaning. Time is short, cleaning routines are inconsistent, things get overlooked. Some people just don’t notice fingerprints on walls and streaks on windows. Cobwebs that are visible only when the sunlight hits them at a certain angle are easy to miss on cleaning day.

Professional housecleaners establish routines which ensure all areas of each job get cleaned regularly. This is why I recommend that anyone who does their own house cleaning set up similar schedules to make sure everything gets cleaned from time to time.

Many people subscribe to the belief that if you can’t see it, it isn’t dirty. Unfortunately, areas that accumulate dust are often out of sight, and because settled dust will sooner or later get stirred up and redistributed, any large settlements of dust in your home are potential trouble spots.

For this reason it is important to dust those ceiling fan blades and the top of the refrigerator and under the bed to remove these accumulations while they’re quietly resting and before they have a chance to get stirred up and recirculated into the air. You can’t count on the “cleaning only what looks dirty” style of housekeeping to keep your home in good shape.

Plus it’s frustrating to spend a whole afternoon cleaning your house only to later notice half a dozen things you overlooked. So, I’ve compiled a list of some of the tasks that are likely to be overlooked when you’re cleaning your house. Hopefully it’ll be helpful to you.

Cobwebs

Offense number one: cobwebs. These nuisances form along the edge where walls and ceilings meet. They form on light fixtures. They form in corners. Cobwebs appear along the bottom edges of furniture.

The trouble with cobwebs is that they’re often really hard to see, which is why it’s a good practice to periodically dust all the areas where they tend to form without regard to whether you think they’re there or not. I assure you, they’ll sudden become visible the moment some VIP houseguest appears at your door.

Hidden Dust

Hidden dust is offense number two, and it has lots of hiding places. Some are tough to reach, but many are just beyond your line of sight.

Ceiling fans are a primary culprit. Think of your ceiling fan blades as dust traps. A surprising amount of dust builds up on top of these, so attend to them frequently in order to reduce the amount of dust circulating in the air in your home. A simple dusting tool or even a broom or dust mop will remove the lion’s share of buildup from your fans.

Other areas to work into your dusting rotation:

  • The top edge window treatments and wall hangings.
  • Chair rails and baseboards often have an invisible line of dust on top.
  • Ridges on doors.
  • Lampshades.
  • Leaves on plants.
  • Under beds and other furniture.
  • On top of kitchen cupboards if they don’t meet the ceiling.
  • Sides of furniture and along any edges or ridges.
  • Back side of televisions and other electronics.
  • On top of books.
  • On light fixtures.
  • On top of medicine cabinets.
  • Along the top edge of shower enclosures.
  • Top edges of doors and door frames.

Hand Prints

Offense number three is dirty finger and hand prints. Areas where they tend to turn up:

  • Glass doors.
  • Entry doors.
  • Cabinet doors.
  • Switch plates.
  • Hand rails and banisters.
  • Appliance handles.
  • Mirrors.
  • Glass tables.

Fingerprints can easily be eradicated with a damp cloth and application of a small amount of all-purpose cleaner or glass cleaner. Sometimes they’re invisible but you’ll feel their sticky residue.

Pet Hair

Offense number four is sometimes almost completely invisible until you sit down on something covered in it wearing black pants: pet hair. If you have animals that shed, their fur is on your upholstered furniture. Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes not. So be sure to vacuum your sofa, chairs, upholstered ottomans and cushions, pillows on your upholstered furniture and anything else that pet hair sticks to. And don’t forget to once in a while vacuum under the sofa cushions, too.

Nose Prints

While we’re on the topic of pets, offense number five is dog and cat nose and paw prints on glass doors and windows and window sills. If your dog likes to sit by your glass door and look outside, odds are he’ll leave some evidence on the glass. The same can be said for areas on windows next to which your cat perches to watch birds and squirrels frolicking outdoors.

Remember, just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. The best way to ensure that you’re never caught with an embarrassing mess under the dining room table in the middle of dinner is the two-pronged approach of maintaining a regular cleaning schedule that includes a rotation with attention to all areas in your home as well as honing your eye for detail.

Practice makes perfect. In time you’ll be quick to spot Spot’s doggie drool on the windowsill and the smudges left on the kitchen door frame by dirty little fingers. Cleaning pros notice this stuff because we’ve seen it all time and time again and because we do it every day. You can acquire the same skills, all it takes is practice.

Want more house cleaning tips and ideas? Check out my book Clean Like A Pro: Tips and Techniques for Cleaning Your Home Like a Seasoned Professional, available on Amazon.

The 7 Day Deep Clean Challenge: Bring Your Home Up to Par in a Week, Part 1 Decluttering

dust ceilngIt’s spring cleaning time! This is the time of year when dedicated homemakers dive in and do a thorough home cleaning, tackling jobs that aren’t part of their regular cleaning routine. It’s also a great time to take control if you’re the type who doesn’t have a regular cleaning routine and you want to whip your home into shape.

Either way, this seven-day plan will arm you with all the information you need to deep clean your home in just seven days. Day one will start you off right by purging all of the unnecessary clutter that is eating up your valuable space. Day two will get you going in the right direction by taking a look inside your closets. Day three will be all about window washing. Days four and five will be devoted to bedrooms and bathrooms. Day six will get your living room and family room into tip-top shape. Day seven will wrap up with the kitchen.

Once you’ve gotten your home into shape, keeping it that way will be easy if you establish a regular cleaning routine. Even if your housekeeping hasn’t been so great up ‘til now, this is your fresh start, a new beginning. And isn’t that what spring is all about?

Day One: Decluttering

The first step to house cleaning of any type is de-cluttering and organizing. It’s just plain easier to clean spaces that are free of unnecessary objects. De-cluttering isn’t difficult unless you have years of clutter to clear out. In this case, you might want to check out my blog post De-Clutter and Organize Your Home in 7 Days.

basket with papers

Hopefully you don’t have that much clutter, so your task won’t be that big of a deal. It’s a simple process: throw things away, give things away, and put things away.

The key principle of organizing is that all items have a permanent spot where they live when they’re at rest. This allows you to put things away when you’re not using them and readily recover them when you need them again. The end result: everything you own doesn’t end up on the island in the middle of the kitchen, leaving you with nowhere to eat breakfast.

Toss Out Trash

The first step to de-cluttering is tossing out anything that’s just plain trash. Take a good look around, and I mean really look around. Often we overlook stuff that’s right in front of us because we’re so used to seeing it. Piles of old newspapers or magazines or Amazon shipping boxes that you think you’ll use sometime are trash. Toss ‘em (or recycle ‘em).

Get real, be honest, and if it’s something that you might use but probably won’t, don’t let it keep taking up valuable space that you could be using for the things that are of value to you. Be ruthless.

Donate Stuff

Once you’ve got the outright trash out of the way, take another look around for stuff that’s not trash, but that you’re not using. These are things that have value and that someone else could use. Again, be honest with yourself. If you’re never going to use it, isn’t it better to pass it along to someone who will?

Put together a donation box and pat yourself on the back for doing your part to help others while also doing yourself the favor of eliminating stuff you don’t need. Win-win.

donations box

At this point, whatever clutter you’ve got left is the stuff that you want to keep, so put it away somewhere. If you’ve already got a great system for organizing your stuff, this step should be easy.

Organize

If not, get busy. Find a logical place to store each object and put it there. It should be a place that makes sense and that you will remember so you know where to look when you want to retrieve the object for later use. Do this over and over again until everything is put away. It’s very easy once you get the hang of it.

See my Home Organizing Guide for tips if you want advice.

If you’re finding that you haven’t got space for your stuff, don’t worry, because tomorrow you’ll clean out some closets.

Tomorrow: Day Two, Closet Cleaning

Want more house cleaning tips and ideas? Check out my book Clean Like A Pro: Tips and Techniques for Cleaning Your Home Like a Seasoned Professional, available on Amazon.