Housekeeping Secrets: Tame the Clutter Monster

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Cleaning Secrets: Details Matter

House cleaning is all about details. Lots of little details. Yes, you can do a quick cleaning job and it’ll be fine. Sometimes skimming off the top layer is all there’s time to do; it’s better than doing nothing at all. But a really detailed cleaning job shines bright.

Many little details comprise the finishing touches that transform your ordinary cleaning routine into one that makes your home the envy of the neighborhood. The following are some examples.

Get Rid of Cobwebs

Cobwebs hanging from your chandelier are unsightly and make your home look dirty. Look around for cobwebs on the ceiling, on light fixtures, in corners, and on the edges of furniture.

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Dust Baseboards

Take the time to use a dusting wand or your vacuum cleaner dusting tool to remove dust from baseboards, chair rails, window sills, window grates, and the ridges on louvered and paneled doors.

Spot Clean Doors and Walls

Use a damp cloth to eliminate fingerprints and smudges from door frames, doorknobs, walls, switch plates, and hand rails and banisters.

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Clean Entry Door Glass

Make an excellent first impression on visitors by having spotless glass on your entry doors. If this area looks clean, people will notice.

Fluff Throw Pillows

For optimal presentation, fluff and artfully arrange throw pillows and throws.

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Vacuum Pet Hair from Furniture

Having pets means extra maintenance for you. Don’t allow hair to overrun your furniture. Use your vacuum upholstery tool to thoroughly remove hair from cushions, the backs that you lean against, arms, and any other areas to which you see hair clinging.

Spot Clean Cabinet Doors

Wipe away spills, spots, and fingerprints on cupboard doors in the kitchen, bathroom and anywhere else.

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Clean Appliance Fronts

If you do nothing else, cleaning fingerprints and spills from the fronts of your microwave, dishwasher, refrigerator, trash compactor, and stove give your kitchen a clean appearance.

Pick up Clutter

De-cluttering your space is one of the best ways to make it look clean. Surfaces that are covered in debris look messy and collect dust.

Eliminate Dust Bunnies

Be sure to clean up dust bunnies in corners. Noticeable globs of dust make your home look dirty, regardless of whether it actually is.

Spot Clean Insides of Windows

Clean any fingerprints and doggie nose prints on the insides of your windows. No one notices when they’re not there, but they do when they are.

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There are countless little details that can make or break your house cleaning efforts. For more ideas, see my post Don’t Forget to Clean Under the Kitchen Sink.

We often don’t notice things we see every day, so hone your skills of observation. Learning to clean is a hands-on endeavor and there’s always room for improvement. That’s what makes it interesting.

Whenever time permits, give the job the attention to detail that’ll make your home stand head and shoulders above the rest.

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.

House Cleaning 101: Introduction to Making Your Home Shiny and Clean

sweepIf you’re a total cleaning novice, you’re in the right place. This is Cleaning 101, the introductory course to making your home shiny and clean. Cleaning is both simple and complicated at the same time. At its core, house cleaning is quite simply the means through which dirt and other unwanted substances are removed from your living space.

There are also many nuances to cleaning which make it complicated. We won’t worry about the nuances today. Our focus today will be on some basic home cleaning fundamentals.

Cleaning is a Process

The first thing you should understand about house cleaning is that it’s a process. Done properly, cleaning isn’t something that only happens once in a while. Keeping a home shiny and clean requires commitment. Simply put: the more frequently you clean, the nicer your home will look and smell. It’s therefore necessary to establish a cleaning routine that involves cleaning your home on a regular basis.

Establish a Routine

Figure out a schedule that will easily fit into your lifestyle. Your routine could be carried out daily, weekly, every other week, or some combination thereof. Whatever the routine, the most important element is that you have one. Get into the habit of cleaning your home on a regular basis in order to ensure that it stays clean.

Doing an extensive cleaning of your home once every six months isn’t a cleaning routine; it’s damage control. When dirt and grime sit around for a long time, they begin to degrade surfaces. Furthermore, it’s much more difficult to remove long term buildups; a process that is both time consuming and potentially damaging to the surface. Refer to my blog post Cleaning Secrets: Frequency is Your Friend to expand your knowledge on the subject.

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Get Some Supplies

After deciding on a cleaning schedule, you’ll need to know what supplies to have on hand. The short list: a broom or vacuum cleaner, a mop for bare floors, a bucket, a toilet brush, some rags or cloths, sponges, possibly a dusting wand (makes the job go quicker), and some basic agents for cleaning glass, appliances, countertops, bathroom fixtures, floors, and any other surfaces. My post entitled Back to Basics: What Supplies Do You Really Need To Clean A House? gives more in-depth info on this topic.

Get Busy

Once you’ve got your cleaning supplies, it’s time to get busy. First de-clutter and organize your living space as much as possible. It’s a lot easier to clean surfaces that aren’t covered in stuff. Organizing and de-cluttering are the prime prerequisites to keeping a clean home. This step might take ten minutes, or a week and a half, depending on your particular state of clutter. If need be, just work around the clutter for now and plan to organize and de-clutter incrementally.

Strategize

Next, take a few minutes to strategize your plan of attack. Decide how much time you have available to spend on cleaning. Then take a quick walk through your home, getting an idea of what needs to be done. Refer to my House Cleaning Checklist post for ideas about what specific tasks comprise the steps in cleaning a house.

Look for trouble spots as well as areas that don’t need any attention. Once you’ve got an overall picture of the job, plan how much time you’ll spend cleaning each area, keeping in mind the total overall time that you have available to spend on the job. Getting the whole house cleaned is your goal. Budgeting your time and staying on schedule will help you to make that happen.

The cleaning process itself shouldn’t be too elaborate at this point. If you’re a cleaning novice, focus on the obvious. You’ll hone your skills over time. There’s a learning curve to house cleaning.

Keep it Simple

For now, keep it simple. Dust, vacuum, sweep. Clean glass surfaces and countertops and appliance fronts. Clean your bathroom fixtures and mop your floors. Don’t concern yourself with eradicating every speck of dirt. Cleaning every single nook and cranny is time-consuming and unnecessary.

If you perform your cleaning routine on a regular schedule, everything will get cleaned eventually. For now, focus on high-traffic areas. These will need to be done every time you clean. Areas that see little or no use don’t need to be cleaned as often.

As your cleaning skills improve, you’ll get a better feel for the process. Regular cleaning  ensures that high-traffic areas are always in good shape and areas that need less attention get cleaned as needed. My post House Cleaning Demystified will give you more insight.

Maintenance

The final step of house cleaning is maintenance. Getting your home into excellent shape might take a few weeks, or months, depending on the state it’s in today. Once you’ve achieved a state of excellence, your home will stay that way if you clean regularly and keep up with the control of dirt, grime, and dust.

This sometimes calls for aggressive proactive measures and sometimes can be handled with a more laid-back style. Every situation is different. If you notice that you’re losing ground, increase your vigilance. It’s much easier to maintain a state of order than to have to reclaim it after you’ve lost control. My post Maintenance: The Cornerstone of House Cleaning  will give you more insight.

Following the steps laid out here will get you going in the right direction. House cleaning is a hands-on endeavor. Get in there, get your hands wet, learn on the job. Before you know it, you’ll be effortlessly keeping your home shiny and clean.

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.

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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.

House Cleaning Basics: Floor Care Tips

Floor care is a large component of house cleaning. The majority of the dirt on your floors comes in on the feet of those who enter your home. Using door mats at each entry area along with leaving shoes at the door significantly reduces the introduction of dirt into your home. Keeping a towel handy to wipe Fido’s feet also reduces the tracking in of mud and grit.

Keep a Broom Handy

If incomers aren’t so careful about wiping their feet, your floors will probably need more maintenance. In this case, you would be wise to keep a broom or stick vacuum handy and clean high traffic areas every few days. It also wouldn’t hurt to damp mop bare floors near the door frequently. Your objective is to keep dirt from being tracked all through the house.

Vacuuming

On cleaning day, floor care will probably be one of the most time-consuming parts of your routine. If you’ve got wall-to-wall carpeting throughout your house, you’ll be doing a lot of vacuuming. For best results, use the correct height adjustment for your vacuum carpet brush. It’s better for your carpeting and the machine will do the most optimal job if the height is adjusted correctly.

Carpet Care Tips

More carpet care tips:

~Always check your vacuum bag or collection chamber before you start. A full bag or chamber will not have good suction.

~High traffic areas warrant more attention than corners. Make a few passes over the sections that see a lot of action.

~ If no one walks there, don’t bother to vacuum it every time. Areas under furniture or in corners should be vacuumed periodically, but these are areas you can skip sometimes.

~Spot clean high traffic areas as needed with a good quality spot cleaner that’s safe to use on your type of carpet.

Mix of Bare Floors and Rugs

Areas with a mix of bare floors and area rugs are usually most quickly cleaned with a canister vacuum cleaner. If the rugs are all smaller, it might be easier to pick them up and shake them clean outdoors. However, if the rugs aren’t especially dirty, you can quickly go over them with your vacuum floor brush. Hold one side of the rug in place with your foot as you pass the floor brush over it.

Alternatively, if the floors are dusty rather than dirty, using a dust mop on the bare areas and vacuuming large rugs may be quicker. If you don’t have a canister vacuum, this would also be the best approach. Use whatever method will most expedite the process in your particular situation.

Use the rotating brush head on carpeting only, never on bare floors. The rotation of the brush can scratch the floor so use the floor brush attachment on bare floors. Also use the floor brush on oriental rugs, antique rugs or any rugs that are delicate, like silk rugs.

Bare Floors

Bare floors can be swept, vacuumed, or dust mopped and then damp mopped or steamed clean if necessary. There’s no need to wash a floor on your hands and knees. Use a mop that’ll get into corners and under the edges of appliances and such. Don’t make unnecessary work for yourself.

Wood Floors

Wood floors shouldn’t be washed unless they are dirty. Wash wood floors with a mop very lightly dampened in plain water or with a microfiber mop and wood floor spray cleaner. Use as little liquid as possible. Water is bad for wood and can ruin a wood floor if it is used in excess. Never leave standing water on a floor, and especially not on a wood floor.

Vinyl Floors

Vinyl and similar sealed floors can be cleaned with just a little all-purpose cleaner, vinegar, ammonia, or commercial floor cleaner diluted in water. Don’t overdo it with cleaning agents in your mop water as too much will leave a film that looks cloudy and attracts dirt. Less is more.

Stone Floors

Stone floors shouldn’t be cleaned with anything other than mild soap (like a few drops of castile soap) or plain water. Using vinegar or ammonia on a stone floor can damage the surface.

Ceramic Floors

Ceramic and other shiny tile looks better if it’s dried with a cloth after washing. This eliminates water spots from forming as water evaporates off the floor. To dry a wet floor quickly, use a couple of old towels and swish them around on the floor with your feet. Be careful not to slip and fall down while you’re doing this.

Whatever method you use to wash flooring, if your mop water, mop head, or cloth is filthy after one use, you aren’t cleaning your floors often enough.

Keeping your floors clean is one important means of protecting the investment you’ve made in your home. Floors will wear out more quickly if they aren’t maintained. Loose dirt and dried-on debris can destroy the finish on your flooring and ruin your carpeting. And like every other area of house cleaning, the more frequently you clean your floors, the easier the job will be each time you do it.

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.