Home Cleaning Tips To Maximize Efficiency

photo of dining table on top of wooden floor
Photo by Milly Eaton on Pexels.com

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.

dusting furniture

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.

microwave

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.

 

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.

vacuum lampshade

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.

light fixture

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.

 

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Washing Dirty Vinyl or Metal Blinds

dustblindOver the years, I’ve tried a lot of different methods for cleaning dirty window blinds. In my experience, you have to really want to have spotless blinds to bother even attempting this, because blind washing isn’t a lot of fun. It takes time and elbow grease. I have found two methods that work well.

You need a bathtub for method one. If you don’t have a bathtub, skip to method two. Also remember these methods are for vinyl or metal blinds only. If you are cleaning vertical blinds, the slats can usually be removed from the headrail for cleaning.

Method 1

Put some warm water and all-purpose cleaner in a bathtub and immerse the blind in the water. Kneel beside the tub (you may want a towel under your knees) and, using a scrub brush, rag, or sponge, scrub several slats at a time until they are all clean. Reverse the slats or flip the blind over and repeat the process on the other side.

Drain the soapy water and replace with clean water to rinse the blind. Carefully wrap the blind in a towel to catch dripping water, and take it outside. Drape the blind over a railing or hang it up somewhere else to dry. You can hang it in the shower to dry if you can’t take it outside. Wherever you hang it, bear in mind that it will drip water for a while.

Method 2

Take the blind outside and find a clean place to lay it down, or place a tarp or some plastic sheeting on the ground and lay the blind on top. Spray all-purpose cleaner on the blind, then, using a long-handled brush, kneel or squat beside the blind and scrub the slats, working in sections.

When you finish one side, turn it over and repeat the procedure. Then take a hose or bucket of water and rinse the blind until all the crud and soap is gone. Hang the blind from a railing or clothesline or tree branch until it is dry.

Either procedure is time-consuming and tedious. The only consolation I can offer is that blinds always look really good afterward.

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: 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.

dustlight

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.

clean switchplate

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.

throw pillows

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.

clean cupboard door

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.

clean a window

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.

Spring Clean Express: Deep Cleaning Shortcuts

flower

Spring is the time to refresh and rejuvenate. It’s also an excellent opportunity to do those cleaning jobs around the house that you don’t usually get around to doing. Spring cleaning doesn’t have to be a major undertaking. Just a few minutes here and there can get the job done.

 

Vacuum Upholstered Furniture

The next time you’ve got the vacuum cleaner out, tackle upholstered furniture. Vacuuming and rotating sofa and chair cushions takes just a few minutes, freshens the furniture, and prolongs its life. Use the upholstery tool or dusting brush attachments, depending on your furniture’s composition. Be gentle on delicate fabrics.

dust ceilng

Get Rid of Cobwebs

Use a telescoping dusting tool to reach cobwebs that form in high spots, like where walls and ceiling meet, on light fixtures and ceiling fans, along the tops of window and door frames, and in any recessed areas like skylights. While you’re at it, dust the tops of any cabinets or tall furniture.

Freshen Window Treatments

Dust horizontal blinds with a damp cloth or your vacuum cleaner dusting tool. Vacuum heavyweight curtains; take lightweight curtains outdoors and give them a good shaking to remove dust. Use a dusting wand to get into all the spaces on interior window shutters.

dustblind

Wash Windows

If you’ve got tip-ins, this tedious task goes quickly. Have a supply of dry rags on hand. Make a window cleaning solution by mixing a half cup of ammonia into a gallon pail of water. Use a sponge or rag to wipe clean your window surface, rinsing your sponge as necessary. When your surface is squeaky clean, buff with a dry cloth. Switch out your cloths as they become damp to avoid streaking.

Dust Your Curio Cabinet

Spend a few minutes dusting inside cabinets that aren’t routinely cleaned. This is an excellent opportunity to cut down on the free dust circulating in your air. The more dust you can eliminate from your environment, the less dust there is floating around, waiting to settle down on your grandma’s crystal.

Purge Your Pantry

Remove items from your pantry, sorting as you go. Discard expired foods or anything that looks suspect. Dust shelves and re-organize as you restock.

Wash Entry Mats

Rubber and rubber-backed mats and rugs can be sprayed with an equal vinegar/water mixture and then hosed off outside. Leave to dry in the fresh air and sunshine. They’ll look and smell like new.

These are just a few ideas to give your home a spring boost. For more quick home freshen-ups, check out my post Cleaning Secrets: Details Matter.

Look around and see what else needs to be cleaned, polished, or freshened up. Spring cleaning doesn’t have to be a big deal, but it can make a big difference in the way your home looks and smells.

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.

 

Don’t Forget to Clean Under the Kitchen Sink

 

photo of a kitchen sink
Photo by KML on Pexels.com

There are lots of tasks that fall outside the scope of a typical house cleaning routine. For this reason, it’s important to watch out for any areas that are starting to look dirty or smell funky. Sometimes when we see things every day we don’t notice the gradual changes that are right in front of us.

One notoriously grungy and commonly overlooked area lies right below the epicenter of your kitchen: the sink. This space often holds things that are not food-related. Cleaning supplies are frequently stored here. Some people keep their garbage container in this space.

It’s also a spot that sometimes ends up with moisture problems due to leaks. From time to time, make it a point to take everything out, wipe up any spills or other messes, discard anything that isn’t useful, and rearrange what’s left.

Another kitchen hazard is the pantry. Food cupboards harbor spills that can easily attract insects or rodents. They also often contain outdated products that ought to be tossed out so they’re not inadvertently served to friends or family. Making it a practice to periodically remove all items, cleaning and sorting as you go, reduces the likelihood of attracting unwanted visitors or poisoning the ones you asked in for lunch.

Along similar lines, the refrigerator typically needs attention from time to time. Regularly get rid of anything that isn’t fresh. Any foul odor deserves your immediate attention. Every so often, wipe down the inside. Walls, shelves, the racks inside the door, as well as drawers, all need to be cleaned. Food spills, crumbs, and drips typically occur over time and won’t go away on their own.

Other areas of the house also need a little extra sprucing up on occasion. Light fixtures and lampshades often accumulate dust or cobwebs that we don’t notice. Dust lampshades gently with a clean paintbrush, a hair dryer, a microfiber dusting wand, or a clean, damp cloth. Alternatively, vacuum lampshades with your dusting tool attachment (use low suction). Light fixtures may be easily dusted with a dusting wand.

Glass shades that are cloudy from dust or dirt can be hand-washed with a little dish detergent in warm water. Glass prisms or shades that aren’t easily removed can be cleaned with a 50/50 mix of rubbing alcohol and water applied with a soft cloth and then buffed dry with a second, dry cloth.

Couch and chair cushions often harbor objects, crumbs, dirt, and pet hair. Periodically vacuuming this space easily remedies this situation. It sometimes pays off, too, if there are loose coins among the paraphernalia.

clean switchplate

Fingerprints and smudges on walls, switch plates, door frames, and handrails often go unnoticed. Whatever doesn’t come clean with a damp cloth or sponge will easily be removed with an eraser-type sponge. Don’t scrub too hard or you’ll remove your paint along with the dirt.

Ceiling fans are the number one dust draws in your home, and are quite commonly overlooked on cleaning day. Dusting ceiling fan blades on a regular basis is an excellent way to remove dust from your environment. Use these dust traps to your advantage.

These are just a few of the many jobs that should be done from time to time in order to keep your home at its best. More ideas can be found in my post Cobweb Patrol: What Are You Missing When You Clean Your Home?

Hone your eye for detail by paying attention to things like dusty blinds and fingerprints on windows. Whatever house cleaning routine you generally adhere to, there’s always more stuff that needs attention. A little extra time spent here and there ensures that your home stays in great shape everywhere.

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 Organizing Guide

 

beige queen folder
Photo by Mike on Pexels.com

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.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

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.

Get the Most from Your House Cleaning Routine

white bathroom interior
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Practice makes perfect. Experienced homemakers and house cleaners have learned from many years of trial and error how to most effectively clean a house. Getting house cleaning down to a science isn’t something that happens overnight.

The easiest way to keep your home clean is to establish regular cleaning routines. This works to your advantage in a couple of ways. First of all, doing the same things over and over again improves your skills and speed. Second, regularly cleaning your house keeps it in good shape so that each time you clean, it gets better and better.

Cleaning your home on a regular basis requires commitment. Set a schedule for yourself and follow through. Treat house cleaning like the job it is and buckle down on cleaning day. Turn off your phone, pull out your vacuum cleaner, and get going. The following tips will help you maximize your efforts and make cleaning day a happy day.

Plan

Before you begin to clean, get an overview of what areas are most in need of attention. Grab a garbage bag and laundry basket and walk through your home, collecting trash, laundry, and miscellaneous clutter while also getting the lay of the land as you go. It’s better to identify trouble spots before you start so you can plan accordingly. Set up a time “budget” for each area in your home and stick to your plan as you work.

Don’t waste your efforts

Make every step count. Work methodically, always thinking ahead to the next step. Develop a routine that flows smoothly from task to task in a logical order. Divide your home into sections and work at a steady, meaningful pace. Pay attention to what you’re doing. Don’t clean what isn’t dirty.

Follow the cardinal rules of cleaning from my post on the topic.

Live to clean another day

The beauty of cleaning regularly is that you don’t have to do every single task every time you clean. Do as much as you have time to do today and know that the dust bunnies will still be waiting patiently under the couch next week. Establishing a regular routine that you stick to means that high traffic areas always get the attention they need and the areas that get less use are cleaned periodically as well. All areas are cleaned on a regular basis.

Don’t get sidetracked

If you notice things that need to be done but which aren’t part of your regular cleaning routine (and time budget), make a mental note or write it down and then move on. Tacking on side jobs will slow you down and potentially prevent you from completing your cleaning day routine.

It’s important to stay on schedule to ensure that you’re able to complete the job. Running out of time or running out of steam before you’re finished defeats the purpose of a regular cleaning schedule.

Successfully completing the job motivates you to do it again next week. Unfinished, unsuccessful attempts at cleaning will discourage you and cause you to feel overwhelmed. House cleaning is totally manageable if you take control of the reins.

If it’s right in front of you, will only take a minute, and you have what it takes to do it in hand, just do it.

Go ahead and wipe away the hand print on the wall if it’s right in front of you and your cleaning cloth is in hand. If it’s one little thing that’ll only take a minute, just do it. House cleaning involves making a hundred little judgment calls just like this all day long. Time and practice give you a feel for what to do now and what to put off until next time.

There’s a learning curve to house cleaning. As you get more comfortable with your cleaning regimen you’ll get better at setting priorities. Knowing what’s been done, what needs to be done, and what can be put off until next time will help you with this. You’ll figure out plenty of your own shortcuts and time savers as you go along. Over time, experience will teach you what you need to know. Practice will make your cleaning day a happy day.

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.

Dealing with Messy Roommates

wiping a counterYour roommates are slobs and it’s driving you crazy because you like to keep a neat and tidy home. Besides finding new living quarters, is there a solution to this dilemma? Dealing with messy roommates can be tough.

Different Styles

People have many different attitudes toward house cleaning. Some can’t function in anything less than a perfectly ordered environment and therefore clean continually as a normal part of daily life. At the opposite end of the spectrum are the folks who are oblivious to piles of dirty dishes and masses of cobwebs. Most people fall somewhere in between these two extremes on the cleaning continuum.

If you’re faced with having to tell your roommate that their slovenly ways are driving you nuts, there are strategies that you can use to attempt to resolve the issue. Whatever you do, don’t resort to yelling. Coercion is never the answer.

Communicate

Step one is to assume that your roommate is simply unaware of their shortcomings in the housekeeping arena. Communication may quickly resolve the problem. Gently open a conversation in a non-accusatory manner and approach the situation as the mutual problem that it is. You might say something like: “I’m the type of person who functions optimally in an uncluttered environment, so I wonder if we could work out a system to keep our place a little more picked up than it has been.”

Hopefully this will start you talking about your different attitudes toward clutter, or dirty clothes on the bathroom floor, or dirty dishes in the sink. There are lots of people who never learned how to clean, and your unfortunate roommate may be one of them.

Make a Plan

Starting this discussion should lead you directly to step two, which involves you and your roommate setting up a cleaning plan. Getting your roommate involved in the solution both empowers them and holds them accountable.

This is the time to talk about cleaning goals. Is your beef chronic clutter or a dirty bathroom or a perpetual mess in the kitchen? Be as specific as possible about what needs to be done to bring your home up to code. It may be the case that a little bit of education will go a long way toward solving the problem. After all, most people don’t want to live in slovenly homes. So give your roommate the benefit of the doubt.

You might simply write up a list of the specific tasks that need to be done and then ask your roommate which ones they want to do. For example:

  • Wipe down kitchen counters, appliances, and clean sinks.
  • Throw out food that’s no longer any good.
  • Take out the trash.
  • Wash the kitchen floor.
  • Dust and vacuum the living area.
  • Clean the bathroom sinks, countertops, mirrors, tub, and toilet.
  • Do laundry.

Specifically spelling out what needs to be done to maintain order serves several purposes. It gives your roommate ideas in case they don’t actually know what to do. It also sets very clear goals about what needs to happen to make your living area clean. It gives you both a reference point in case tasks get lost in the shuffle of daily life. And it gives you both the ability to negotiate who does what as well as establishing accountability if things don’t get done.

Carry Out Your Plan

This takes you to step three: implementation of your plan. Once you’ve ironed out a solid contract, you and your roommate have to each carry out your parts. If you’ve both agreed to keep your individual clutter confined to particular areas and take care of certain chores, you must each follow through. Failure to do so violates your contract.

As a Last Result

Consistently failing to respect your agreement (on either end) might signify a more serious problem with your relationship. At the end of the day, the place where you live is your respite from the world. It should be a place where you can relax and unwind, not a constant source of irritation. If you’ve made an earnest attempt to resolve your issues and are unable to do so, then it might be time to consider rethinking your choice of roommates.

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.

Vacuum Cleaner Explained: How to Choose the Best Machine for You

A vacuum cleaner is one of the most versatile tools at your disposal in the cleaning game. It can be used for pet hair removal and removing cobwebs. It’s the best choice for pickup of any type of dry goods. And it’s an excellent means of trapping and locking down dust. But how do you know what kind of vacuum cleaner is best?

Types of Vacuum Cleaners

Vacuum cleaners come in literally hundreds of different shapes and sizes. Types include uprights, canisters, central vacuums, handheld, stick vacuums, robotic, and electric floor sweepers. Varieties of these are available in models that are either bagless, in which the captured dirt is stored in a collection chamber, or bagged, which uses a paper or cloth bag to contain debris.

Upright Vacuum Cleaners

Upright vacuum cleaners are self-contained, best suited for cleaning large areas of carpeting, and not always ideal on bare floors. Most uprights these days have onboard attachments for cleaning furniture, stairs, etc. Uprights tend to be the heaviest type of vacuum cleaner, loudest, and least versatile.

Canister Vacuum Cleaners

Canister vacuums are more versatile than uprights. They have a main unit on wheels that you pull around by a hose that attaches to the various cleaning tools. Canisters are great for areas with a mix of bare floors and carpets or area rugs, and also handle carpeted stairs better than uprights. If you have pets that leave hair on furniture, a canister may be your best bet. Canisters tend to be quieter and more lightweight than uprights.

Central Vacuums

Central vacuums have a stationary central unit located somewhere in the home, often in the basement, which connects to all the rooms via tubes in the walls. The user plugs a hose into receptacles (inlets) located throughout the home and changes attachments as needed. With a central vacuum, there’s nothing to move around other than the hose, but the downside is that the hose is usually kind of long and can be cumbersome to move around. The user has to be careful to make sure the hose doesn’t rub against walls or furniture, which can cause damage. Central vacuum units are one of the best options for anyone with dust allergies because the dirt is channeled away to an area that’s remote from your living space.

Robot Vacuum Cleaners

Robot vacuum cleaners are cute little gizmos that do the work for you. The unit parks on a dock somewhere in your living space, and the user only needs to program the machine as to when to do its job and then empty the dust bin periodically. Sensors help the unit navigate so it doesn’t run into everything in its path. It can be operated remotely, it can recharge itself, and it learns. Cons: You will pay for the convenience; models with great reviews aren’t cheap. Also, the collection chambers are small, so they need to be emptied frequently.

Small Vacuums

Stick vacuums, floor sweepers, and hand-held vacuums are smaller, lightweight versions of upright or canister vacuums. Some of the newest models have been designed for use throughout the house on carpet, rugs, and floors. Some stick vacuums convert into handheld vacuums. These vacuums are either corded or rechargeable and are handy to have for quick jobs, floors, stairs, and furniture, and are easier to use than larger, heavier machines.

Bagged Versus Bagless

Most of the stick vacuums and smaller machines are usually bagless, as are robotic vacuums. Other types vary by make and model as to the availability of bagged versus bagless as an option.

There are three primary disadvantages to using bagless vacuums, in my experience. One: they have filters which need to be kept clean or the unit loses suction. Two: emptying the collection chamber is messy because dust tends to fly around rather than just falling neatly into the trash, and if you happen to set the chamber down somewhere on your way back to re-inserting it into the vacuum it’ll leave a ring of dust that you have to then clean up. Disadvantage number three: the user has to reach into the collection chamber with their hand to get all the debris out, especially any kind of pet hair.

The obvious advantage to bagless vacuum cleaners is that you never need to buy bags, which is better on the wallet and better for Mother Earth. So hopefully in time their design will be improved upon.

What Type Do You Need?

So what type of vacuum cleaner is best for you?

An upright vacuum cleaner would be fine if you have mostly carpeted floors. Upright vacuum cleaners tend to be hit-or-miss on bare floors; some models pick up dirt well while others blow dirt around more than they pick it up. If you have back problems, a traditional upright might be too heavy for you to use comfortably.

adorable animal canine cute
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For Pets

If you have pets, a mix of carpets and bare floors, or lots of stairs, a canister vacuum would probably be your best bet.

Bare Floors

For mainly bare floors with only area rugs or small areas of carpeting, you might be able to get by with a good stick vacuum that has a rotating brush for carpets. This wouldn’t be a good choice if you have a lot of dirt, because the collection chamber on these units tends to be small.

Dust Removal

Central vacuum systems are probably about the best vacuum for removing dust from the air. Central vacuums are pricey and have to be installed, which involves running tubes from the main unit to the inlets in various rooms in your home. If you’re having a new home built, you might consider installing a central vacuum system.

Be sure the vacuum cleaner you choose can get into all the areas where dust settles, including under beds and behind furniture. Many uprights will not lie flat enough and are not versatile enough to do this. You’d be amazed how much dust can accumulate under furniture if you never clean there.

Dust Allergies and Vacuum Cleaners

Another consideration when it comes to vacuum cleaners is whether you or anyone in your home has dust allergies. If so, a vacuum cleaner with HEPA filters and/or that uses cloth bags might be your best option.

You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a decent vacuum. Somewhere between $200 and $300 will get you a good machine that should last quite a few years. You can definitely spend more than that and get a machine with more features that would be nice to have, but it’s not absolutely necessary.

I recommend researching product reviews before buying a vacuum cleaner because there are hundreds of models available, and, in my experience, some are really, really bad. Most are fine. Some are not worth their high price tag. And a few are excellent products that will undoubtedly outlive us all.

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.