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Summer guests? Save time, skip stress with these quick & easy cleaning tips

Fast ways to clean for the busy family

After coordinating your already busy schedule around summer camps, trips to the pool and your kids' other activities, there's not a lot of time left for housekeeping. But if you have guests coming to stay, you don't have much of a choice: Your home has to look clean, smell clean and feel clean. Here are some tips to help you get the job done quickly, effectively, and with a minimum of stress!


Stay ahead of the curve

"I began the habit of clean-as-you-go, keeping my house clean all the time," says Leo Babauta, a father of six who lives in the U.S. territory of Guam.Babauta, the man behind zenhabits.net, continues, "I clean my kitchen sink every time I use it, and keep the counters and table clean... I make sure the house is clean before I leave, and before I go to bed, so it's clean when I wake up. It's a simple way of keeping your house clean, and I recommend it heartily."Check out some of the gadgets that minimize the hassle of cleaning as you go, so you don't have to start from scratch every time someone comes to stay. For example, Scrubbing Bubbles® Automatic Shower Cleaner works with the touch of a button to keep your shower shiny clean and free of soapy residue. The dual sprayer provides overall and targeted coverage, and it couldn't be easier to use.

Don't make this a bigger task than it needs to be

You have guests coming, so you're on a deadline. Much as you'd like to use this opportunity to sort out all the little toys and papers and craft materials that have somehow ended up everywhere, this is not the time to take on a big stressful decluttering job.Get a few cardboard boxes -- one for each room -- and put everything without an obvious, immediately-accessible home into them. Label the boxes and put them aside for now. After your guests have bid you a fond farewell, you can take them out again and go to town getting organized!

Make it easy for the kids to help

"It's a fact of life that kids have lots of toys, and that they will be everywhere. You will drive yourself crazy if you try to manage them with dictator-like ruthlessness," says Babauta. "Instead, let kids play, but have lots of bins where they can toss the toys inside when they're done. Then cleaning up is a cinch — they just toss everything on the floor into the bins."

Clean the passive way

Look for cleaning methods that will work while you're busy doing something else.

  • It's the 21st century... and though it might not quite be out of The Jetsons, the Roomba is still pretty cool. This little robot will vacuum the floor in the whole room while you're off tackling another project. (The same company also makes the Scooba, which preps, cleans and squeegees tile and other hard flooring.)
  • Cleaning the toilet isn't anyone's idea of fun. Luckily, you can take action by, well, not taking much action. Try something like Scrubbing Bubbles® Toilet Cleaning Gel, which cleans and freshens with every flush (and doesn't leave any telltale blue color or residue behind). Give the other bathroom surfaces a once-over with Scrubbing Bubbles® Flushable Bathroom Wipes and you won't need to even think about whether or not the loo is ready for visitors -- or if it will stay that way.
  • Clean or replace your furnace's air filter and your vacuum's filter to regularly minimize the dust and allergens in your home.

Prep the kitchen

Before your out-of-towners arrive, run the dishwasher with every last dirty dish in it that you can find. This way, you can can take care of any new dishes immediately and with the minimum of disruption when your guests are there. To make sure you have enough space to clean all the dishes you and your guests use, run the dishwasher even if it's not quite full. Ideally, you can fill in any extra space with things like dish sponges, the glass microwave turntable plate -- even small plastic toys and any removable cup holders from your car that are top-rack dishwasher safe.

Ready their room

Put freshly-washed linens on your guest's bed and set out extra blankets (if needed) and bath towels. Fluff and freshen the guest pillows by tumbling them in the dryer on a no-heat setting (adding a static removal sheet if you like).

Don't forget

Be sure to dust off the most prominent surfaces in your home -- and don't forget the picture frames! Everyone loves to look at family photos, so let them see those happy faces and not a layer of dust.Especially if you have pets, it's important that your house smell as clean as it looks. (Remember that just because you don't even notice the kitty litter box smell anymore, it's unlikely your guests will be able to ignore it.) Completely clean litter pans, bird/mouse/rabbit cages and dog beds. Add clean, fresh and pretty aromas by lighting scented candles around your home or using candle warmers. You can also try an old real estate agent's trick: boil cinnamon sticks in a pot of water. They will release a wonderful, homey fragrance.

Hide it

Sometimes you can't just wash away your troubles. In those cases, try camouflage!

  • Cluster some candles on top of the water stain on the coffee table.
  • Remember that time you forgot to put a trivet underneath the fresh-from-the-oven lasagna? Cover up the burned spot on the kitchen table with a tablecloth, runner, scarf or bouquet of flowers.
  • Artfully place some pillows over the little happy face your youngest drew (with permanent marker!) on the sofa.
  • Shortly before your guests arrive, run the vacuum cleaner over the carpets in the main areas in which they will be staying. Those nice clean lines the vacuum leaves will be a visual reinforcement of the fact that your home is sparkling clean.
  • Finally, a vase or two of fresh flowers will brighten up any room -- and draw attention away from anything you missed.

Now relax

Yes, we know you have friends coming to visit, and there is so much to be done! But don't let yourself get all stressed out about it all. Do what you can, and realize that you're going to just have to let some stuff go. (If you can choose, always do your cleaning instead of clutter. Piles of stuff may be unsightly -- but dirty, grimy surfaces in a home can be really off-putting.)As long as you get the most basic of the basics covered -- clean sheets, clean bathroom, clean kitchen, no bad smells -- you'll be okay. The bottom line: Those guests aren't coming to see your spiffy house... they're coming to see you!

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