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5 Time-saving cleaning rules

Kathleen Rellihan is a writer and editor living in Washington, D.C. She has contributed to a variety of lifestyle magazines and websites nationwide, covering everything from Salsa dancing to doggie daycare.

Mom's guide to an orderly home

Follow our five time-saving cleaning rules to have a neat and organized home that even your mother-in-law will love! With the hustle and bustle of everyday life, sometimes housecleaning goes on the backburner -- until you get caught with unexpected guests and a dirty house. To reduce stress and keep your home in order, follow these simple cleaning and organizing tips.

 

You get a call, a friend happens to be in the neighborhood -- can she stop by? Panic sets in. You do a quick scan of the house. Is the laundry still unfolded on the couch? Are the dishes in the kitchen sink waiting to be tackled? Are the kids' toys strewn around the living room? After a whirlwind cleaning frenzy, you vow you'll never let this happen again. Next time, you swear the house will be clean when the unexpected guest calls. So how can you keep your house in tip-top shape with your busy life? Simple. Follow these five cleaning tips to save time and sanity:

Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize

In lives full of work demands, carpools, visiting in-laws and other daily time-suckers, you must realize first and foremost that you can't do it all. You might not have time to organize the kitchen cabinets anytime soon, but you can keep the counters clean in the meantime. Figure out what needs to be done now, and do it. Everything else can wait. Clean those areas first that will be seen by guests, such as the front living room, hallway and guest bathroom, and clean the other areas, such as your bedroom, last.

"If you need to de-clutter in a hurry, grab a rectangular laundry basket and fill it with 2-3 plastic bags (or shoeboxes if you have them)," says professional organizer Karin Flagg. "Make each bag a generalized container for sorting purposes, like kids toys, paperwork and clothing. Not only do you quickly pick up the clutter around the house, but you sort and organize as you go."

Keep a multi-tasking cleaning arsenal handy

When you finally go to clean the bathroom, there is nothing worse than discovering that you have no idea where the tub cleaner is, or realizing you forgot to buy sponges during your last trip to the store. Stock up on all necessary cleaning supplies at once and keep them handy in a caddy. That way you'll always be ready to clean and won't have to run around the house looking for what you need.

Make sure your cleaning arsenal contains products that multi-task, which can quickly cut your cleaning time in half.  Products that not only kill germs, but also leave your windows streak-free will save you from toting around many bottles of cleaning products. Sprinkling carpet freshener over those high-traffic areas allows you to freshen the smell of the room while keeping the carpet looking clean.

Everything needs a home

Ever wonder how some of your friends homes never look disorganized? Look around next time you are there. Are all the DVDs on a shelf or in a basket? Are there hooks in the kids' rooms for their bags and jackets? Are there racks in the living room for magazines and books? Invest in storage, big or small, and find a home for everything. That'll cut down on the clutter and the endless, "Where did I put that?"

Do it as a team

You can't do it all. Period. So get the family to join in. The kids should be able to clean their own rooms, pick up after themselves, and help out with everyday tasks like emptying the dishwasher. And if the hubby hasn't already graciously volunteered for chores, let him know what he can do to shorten the cleaning list. Devise a game plan for the family, and in no time you'll notice your workload shrinking.

Don't think you have to do it all in one day! Assign Monday's to the kids to clean their bathroom, while Tuesday's are when you do the laundry. Find a system that works best for you and your family. Angil Tarach-Ritchey said she and her kids would have power cleaning hour on Saturday mornings. "We would turn some music up real loud, set a timer for 1 hour. Everyone would clean like crazy for 1 hr. When the timer went off we were done! The kids knew if they cleaned for 1 hr they had the rest of the weekend free, so they happily participated."

Time to trash

The best way to stay organized is to get rid of what you don't need. Once a month, set aside time to clean out one room of the house. Have two boxes for what you don't need -- one for donations/give-always, one for trash. This is especially important tasks for the kid's toys and closets. Within a couple months, the house will be more streamlined, and you'll be teaching charity to your children.

Cleaning & organizing tips

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