In 30 minutes: Sweep the kitchen floor and wipe the cooktop; wipe the sink, mirror, and toilet in guest bath; and dust the dining or living room table.
Two hours to clean: Kitchen and bath basics; vacuum living area floors and dust major furniture; declutter throughout the house.
Minor chores to do while talking on a portable telephone:
Hire a reliable neighborhood teenager, such as your regular baby-sitter, to come in and baby-sit for a whole day while you or your spouse clean the house. It's more economical to pay a baby-sitter than a housekeeper.
Carpet Service: Maintain your carpets with deep cleaning once or twice a year. Have all the rooms cleaned at the same time for the best price.
Heating Service: Save energy by having a heating and cooling service check your system in spring and fall. Routine maintenance saves repair cost.
Chimney Sweep: Hire a licensed, bonded, and insured service to clean and inspect after the heating season. Schedule repairs in summer or early fall.
Cleaning Service: Although you may not get the best price, hire a service occasionally to clean before special occasions or when you are extremely busy.
Lawn Care: Look for services that offer what you need. Beyond seasonal lawn care, ask about occasional chores such as pruning or fertilizing.
Gutters: Be cautious about cleaning gutters if you do it yourself. If you hire help, use a service that is insured, licensed, and bonded for safety.
Window Washer: If you have storm windows and/or a two-story house, this is worth the cost. Look for a service that cleans inside and out.
Child Care: Cut back on other expenses and only hire a nanny or day care with stellar references. For baby-sitting, set up a co-op with your friends.