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Cleaning Shortcuts

No point in taking the long route for any housekeeping chore. These ideas will take you straight to clean.

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Create a place for everything in the house by following these suggestions:

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Keep clean dusters in stock.

Kitchen: Store cookware near the range or cooktop. Store utensils either in a drawer next to the range or cooktop, or in an attractive container on the counter; store all wooden spoons in one container, and all stainless steel and plastic in another. Keep a spray bottle with a solution of 1 part bleach to 4 parts water, or an all-purpose spray cleaner,the kitchen for sweeping after meals.

Bathroom: Stash a spray bottle with all-in-one window and surface cleaner and an extra roll of paper towels under each sink for surface cleanups.

Hall closet: Install storage bins with separate drawers for gloves, hats, scarves. Stock up on stackable see-through plastic containers to store light bulbs, batteries, and emergency candles.

Laundry room: Hang the iron and ironing board on a wall caddy. Keep all laundry supplies together in a basket. Store sewing supplies in a container with multiple compartments. Find buttons quickly with a sewing center book: Fill a three-ring binder with blank pages, and staple on the little envelopes of extra buttons and thread that come with clothing purchases. Note where the buttons belong under each envelope.

Cleaning central: Store all cleaning implements and products in one place for easy retrieval. A closet works fine but if you have a laundry room or laundry corner, the space is ideal because soiled or used cloths can go directly into the washing machine. Wherever you store cleaning supplies, keep them out of the reach of small children, even if you have only an occasional young visitor. Post daily, weekly, and monthly chores on a small bulletin board in the cleaning center.

To make your cleaning center efficient, buy a wall rack to hang brooms, mops, and dustpans in one place. Use baskets, bins, and caddies to store products and supplies. Make sure all supplies are stored out of children's reach. Create a customized, computer-generated supply checklist. Make photocopies on colored paper to post in the cleaning center. When a product is running low, note it on the list before the next shopping trip.

Start with a room at the top corner of your home (two-story house) or a corner room (one-story house or apartment) and work inward and downward. Clean rooms from the top down. Clean each room completely before moving on to the next to save walking back and forth. Think about your own time and energy level, help from family members, and the state of your house before you start a cleaning marathon.

Instead of spending an entire day or weekend cleaning, clean half the house or one story of a two-story on one day or afternoon; clean the other half or other story on another weekend afternoon. Reserve a block of time for the attic, basement, or garage.

Some household projects are worth the exchange of money for time because professionals have the expertise and equipment to efficiently do the job. Consider hiring a professional window cleaner once a year, especially if you have a two-story house or storm windows. Hire a gutter- and/or roof-cleaning service in late fall. Choose services that are bonded and insured and get at least three references. Depending on your time and house size, rent the necessary carpet-cleaning equipment or hire a service. If you are renting equipment, steam-clean all carpets at the same time to save money. Some companies offer discounts to clean three or more rooms.

Devise a laundry system that suits your household's needs.

Gear your laundry routine to your lifestyle and family size. If you regularly use a professional laundry for dress shirts and dry cleaning, establish a regular day to drop off and pick up.

Two-person household: Doing the laundry once a week is generally sufficient, unless you wash uniforms, work clothes, or gym clothes. If dress shirts and suits are part of your attire, add a weekly trip to the dry cleaners.

Three or more in household: Keep laundry from piling up by doing one load every morning (or every other morning) and folding clothes before or after dinner.

Train all family members to put dirty clothing in hampers. Place a basket or hamper in each bedroom closet, and in each bath if space allows. Place three additional hampers in the laundry area -- for dark clothes, light clothes, and special-care items. In households with teens, delegate a laundry responsibility to each family member. Delegate simple laundry chores, such as folding socks, to younger children.

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