Don’t Stress About Cleaning — Streamline Instead

Lots of people put off their household cleaning tasks because there are other, more fun things they could be doing. Chores are the work you do voluntarily, and they are often more fun to see completed than they are to do.

With busy schedules, it’s hard to find the time to clean, much less the motivation. But believe it or not, if you can make starting those chores less of an issue, completing them will come more easily.

You may find that cleaning is less of a burden if you put individual tasks on a schedule. This “makes sure that everything that needs cleaning gets cleaned,” Lifehacker says, [and] makes sure that you never tackle too much at one time and get overwhelmed.”

Another strategy is to clean in short bursts every day so that it seems like a routine part of the day rather than an exceptional burden. Dedicate 15-30 minutes to cleaning something — anything — every day, and eventually, everything will be spotless.

To prepare, assemble a complete selection of cleaning supplies for various areas of the home, along with sponges, rags, mops and other implements. Then put on some music or a podcast and begin, and cleaning will happen almost on autopilot.

Once you get into a rhythm, you may find you spend lots of your time moving stacks of papers, dusty knick-knacks and other stuff around in order to clean. That’s #clutter, and if you can get rid of it, household cleaning will become less strenuous.

Eliminate some of that clutter as you clean. Box important papers and put them in storage. Get rid of some tchotchkes you don’t really want to look at (or dust) every day. Fold the laundry, and set aside anything that no longer fits. Bag the castoffs and contact ClothingDonations.org for a pickup.

Without having to work around all that extra junk, cleaning will become easier. Sans clutter, many areas of the home will take less time to clean, and you’ll get more done in the time that you can dedicate to such chores.

When you see the results, you’ll no longer have the stress that a cluttered, messy and dirty home can produce. And knowing that a few minutes every day can leave your home consistently clean and tidy, you may even start to enjoy the chores!

Take Advantage of Kids’ Back-to-School Time

Many parents will be sending their kids off to school over the next two weeks, making for a bittersweet moment whether they’re heading to kindergarten or college. But what most parents don’t realize is that when summer ends and the offspring leave the house for at least part of the day, the demands on their own time will ease.

Without the kids constantly underfoot, needing rides or foraging for food, parents will have additional hours during the day to pursue their own career, learning and life goals. If you are in this situation and want to make the most of this newfound freedom, you’ll need to plot out a few projects for those extra hours.

Time management is the first step, Project Me says; without a plan, those extra kid-free hours will evaporate fast. Start by listing the things you would like to do with your extra time, such as going to the gym, starting a new work project or going back to school yourself. Identify your most important tasks, put them on a daily schedule and get started.

Decluttering is an excellent option, the site says. Step back and take an objective look at your space, create a plan of attack (doing one room at a time, for example, or targeting a number of bags and boxes to donate to ClothingDonations.org), and dive in. When each step in the task is complete, reward yourself! You’ll be much more likely to complete it if you have your eyes on a prize.

Back-to-school clutter likely needs organizing, says All Parenting’s “20 Things to Do When your Kids Go Back to School;” many areas may be cluttered with new clothing, backpacks and homework. Household cleaning tasks probably took a backseat to summer fun, too, so now’s the time to catch up on deep-cleaning the refrigerator, ceiling fans, baseboards, bathrooms and floors.

A digital decluttering can also help you get organized for the season ahead. Go through all of the summer photos on your phone(s) and camera(s); download them to a safe place and print the best ones out for framing and display. And while you’re at it, clean up your desktop and delete the mobile apps you haven’t used in months.

Whether you’re a stay-at-home parent or work full time, you’ll find that having the kids at school will free up a little bit of your time. Plan on making the most of it!

The Groundhog’s Guide to Surviving Winter

Hang on to your warm, furry hats: Punxsutawney Phil, the world’s most celebrated groundhog, gazed at the ground and beheld his shadow Friday morning. This means six more weeks of frigid winter, if you trust the weather forecasting skills of this oversize rodent. —The Washington Post, Feb. 2, 2018

Right about now, it seems like winter might never end. So far, the season has brought snow to more parts of the country than usual, and long stretches of subzero temperatures to places used to the precipitation. And whether you believe in Punxsutawney Phil or real meteorologists, you can take a cue from the rodent charged with predicting winter’s length to survive it.

Groundhogs (or woodchucks) quite literally “hole up” for most of the winter. The average burrow is about 3 feet deep and 14 feet long, and includes 11 dens and galleries, including sleeping quarters, a nursery and a “bathroom.” Groundhogs keep these areas organized and neat — even waking from hibernation periodically throughout the winter for short bursts of housekeeping.

You can do the same! Nobody is going to judge if you want to spend some quality indoor time with the family, TV and couch when the wind blows and the temperatures drop. But at some point, you’ll have to harness the energy necessary to clean that nest.

Pick up detritus from meals and snacks as soon as you finish them. Make sure that all dishes go back to their designated areas for cleaning (and clean them on a daily basis). Gather up strewn-about clothing and blankets and get them into the washer. On a dry day, take dirty throw rugs, bedding and other mucked-up washables and put them through a cycle, too. Dust, sweep and mop to get winter dirt up and out of your home.

In completing these tasks quickly and continuously, you’ll make your space even more comfortable. You might also feel such a sense of accomplishment in getting those routine housekeeping chores done that you’ll be able to relax and “hibernate” more completely. You could even celebrate with a small reward such as a pizza or cup of hot chocolate.

In the spring — like the groundhog — you’ll be able to emerge from your burrow, enjoy the sunshine and indulge in healthy vegetarian options. But until the icy weather ends in six weeks, the challenge is to keep the space where you spend most of your time clean.

There’s No Dirt Like Winter Dirt

Many parts of the country that don’t get a lot of snow and ice did earlier this month, and it looks like there’s more to come. Readers who live in the North know how easy it is to bring mud, moisture and salt into the house, and have strategies to keep tracked-in dirt at bay. But some of these strategies bear repeating.

First, encourage everyone who enters your home to remove their shoes. This is the No. 1 way for winter dirt to enter your living space, and even the freshest, whitest snow likely contains salt, sand and other contaminants that will dirty the floors. Place trays or washable throw rugs by all exterior doors to catch the muck melting from footwear.

Throw rugs are often the best defense for high-traffic areas; they catch winter dirt and can be shaken out or thrown into the wash easily. Use them even on top of wall-to-wall carpet, since it’s difficult to get carpeting to look clean and bright again once people track dirty snow onto it.

Leave a towel by the door to wipe down your pets following a walk or romp in the snow, says the Vivint Smart Home blog. Many dogs and cats also develop thicker coats in cold weather, and ultimately shed more. Brush and groom them regularly to prevent that fur from flying everywhere and attaching itself to furniture and clothing.

If you haven’t already, change out the furnace filters, dust the ceiling fan blades, and vacuum refrigerator coils and blinds to keep allergens to a minimum while the house is closed up against the cold, House Logic says. Sheets, blankets and comforters also catch a lot of dust and dirt, so be sure to so wash them frequently.

Be vigilant. You can’t keep every speck of dust and dirt out of your house in winter, but you can keep it from building up, aggravating allergies and causing permanent damage to floors, carpets and other surfaces. Sweep, vacuum and mop frequently to get any dirt that’s brought into the house out quickly.

If the weather forecasts are correct, you’ll be spending lots of time indoors for a few more weeks, so take the appropriate steps to make sure your environment is clean and healthy. Then, count down the days until spring!

The Best Gift for Mom? A Clean Home

Many moms will want a big brunch, cards, jewelry and a bouquet of flowers on Mother’s Day. But some would rather have a little bit of quiet time or an hour of extra shut-eye than a big celebration. And a break from everyday chores is a gift that moms young and older will always appreciate.

Money magazine talked to a number of bloggers who write about motherhood, and found that the best Mother’s Day gift is basically a day off—meaning zero time spent in the kitchen, and some space to relax. Simple outings can also be good, but only if mom doesn’t have to lift a finger to help out.

One of the most-wanted “gifts” the moms mentioned is a clean house. “My ideal Mother’s Day gift would be my family all pitching in together to clean up the house, do the dishes, fold and put away the laundry, and make me something yummy to eat while I took a bubble bath or read a good book,” moneysavingmom.com’s Crystal Paine told Money.

That comes as no surprise to this writer, who cleans, sweeps, vacuums and organizes some area of the home every time he visits his longtime neat freak of a mother. Since she’s getting older and downsizing, we often declutter and give the extra stuff to ClothingDonations.org, which makes it easy for us to keep the house tidy while contributing to a good cause.

If your mother has allergies, consider a “real” spring cleaning that cleans up the indoor air after a long winter, Huffington Post writer Amy Ziff says. Open the windows and give her potted plants instead of cut stems; they’ll help keep the indoor air clean. Clean under the sinks and replace the toxic chemicals you may find there with natural alternatives.

“Our homes need to become healthy-air oases,” Ziff says. “By conducting a health check-up this (and every) Mother’s Day, we can help our moms, ourselves and all of our loved ones breathe easier.”

Cleaning and decluttering cost very little, and the effort is sure to be one that Mom treasures. Once the place is neat, spotless and fresh-smelling (and you’ve worked up an appetite), you can take her out to brunch or dinner, too!