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Cleaning Hacks for Busy Weeks

Photo by: iStock

Whether you have an office job or work as a SAHM, it’s always a juggling act to maintain a clean house while making sure your kids don’t hurt themselves, the dog doesn’t run away and you don’t forget that emergency house call from the electrician. But with everything from laundry to vacuuming and dishes to dusting on your “To-Do” list, it’s hard to streamline projects when there are constant interruptions. Mari Ratcliffe, a retired organizing and cleaning expert from Phoenix, Arizona, has tips for harried moms. “Learn to multi-task, first of all. It’ll save your sanity!” she notes. Here are a few more words of wisdom.

1. Forget the 5 (or more) different types of spray cleaners. Mix 1/2 teaspoon with 4 ounces of distilled water in a squirt bottle and you’re all set to degreasing kitchen appliances, clean mold and mildew and turn cloudy windows sparkling clean. But keep this mix away from stone, granite and marble countertops and floors-it is acidic enough to damage the finish.

2. Cook your family’s favorite meals in large batches and portion them out to freeze. You’re cooking anyway, right? There’s very little difference in prepping and cooking for two than for four or more so why not make it worth your while? Buying food in bulk saves both time and money. Then set aside one day a week where you cook/freeze those meals. After the initial grocery expenditure and prep/cooking time, you’ll have enough pre-portioned, cooked meals ready to pop in the microwave at a moment’s notice.

3. Enlist help from your kids. Make chores a game where they’re rewarded with 15 minutes’ extra TV or make chores a contest where the fastest child gets to transfer his chores to a sibling. Ratcliffe adds “A fun task for kids is to have them separate the laundry and then run the washer and dryer. The sorting process helps keep their brains active and can help keep your brain sane. And as silly as it sounds to us as adults, your kids will feel good that you trust them with appliances.”

4. Don’t let clutter build up. Ratcliffe says, “When you’re done with the mail for the day, put the bills and important correspondence in your home office. Read through the junk mail then trash it immediately. Don’t just chuck all your mail on the coffee table. You’ll end up with a messy pile by the end of the week and spend more time sifting through it than you would if you dealt with it every day.”

5. Remember to multi-task! Keep a squeegee and old toothbrush in your shower. Once a week, brush the shower/tub corners where mold and mildew usually form as you’re waiting for the water to heat up. Then daily, when you’re through showering, squeegee the walls to keep buildup from…building up. Another timesaver? Buy a headset for your phone, advises Ratcliffe, “That way, you can chat all you want while you fold laundry, cook, iron or pay bills.”

The bottom line is, do as many chores in small chunks as they need to be done. Sure, there are large, time-consuming projects such as spring cleaning, but if you do a little bit each day to maintain your home, it’s rare that cleaning will ever have to reach the point where everything stops for a week while you catch up.

Shelley Moench-Kelly, MBA, is a New England-based writer and editor whose freelance clients include Google, L’Oreal Paris and

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