Cleaning the house is a task that most people dread. Busy schedules leave little time for managing daily household chores and weekly cleaning schedules often fly out the window. Then the last minute phone call comes: in-laws are coming to town, someone important is coming over for dinner, the neighbors need a place to meet.

If there’s a house cleaning schedule already in place, last minute cleaning can be a simple task. Even if it hasn’t been followed, house cleaning with a focused plan can be quite effective.

Pick Up Clutter Before Cleaning

Removing clutter from the house can go a long way to making it look and feel clean. The biggest mistake most people make is to start cleaning before picking up messes. To remove clutter, start in bigger, high-traffic rooms like the family room, living room, den, kitchen and dining room. Use a large tub and place everything that doesn’t belong in the room into the tub. Toys, books, magazines and envelopes can pile up readily in these rooms. Removing these items opens up the surfaces to make cleaning the room easier.

Fill a Cleaning Caddy With the Right Supplies

Nothing causes delay like not having the right supplies. Fill a bucket or basket with several towels, window cleaner, sanitizing cleaner and dusting spray. Carry this caddy throughout the house during the cleaning process.

Assign Cleaning Tasks According to Skill and Ability

Children are wonderful helpers. Even kids as young as two or three can be responsible for putting toys or papers into a basket or wiping down baseboards. They require a bit of supervision to succeed, but this early investment can pay rich dividends in years to come. Older children can be asked to wash and put away dishes, sweep floors, run a vacuum, or even dust. When cleaning on a tight schedule assign simple tasks to the youngest and ask older children to pitch in on harder jobs. The saying that many hands make light work is very true in housework.

Start Cleaning Up High and Work Toward Lower Areas

When cleaning a house, don’t work against gravity. Clean counters and cabinets before moving to floors. Wipe table tops and desks before running a vacuum. By taking a logical, systematic approach to cleaning, the house will get cleaner faster.

Prioritize Areas to Clean

If the cleaning is being done in anticipation of a party, focus on high-traffic areas. If necessary, choose one room to be the closed door room and move everything that can’t be dealt with immediately into that room or closet. When prioritizing, consider safety and comfort first. Kitchens and bathrooms should be high on the list as these areas receive the greatest amount of traffic.

Start with the counters and major appliances. Save the deep cleaning for another time. This is not the time to take a toothpick and clean the grout. This time should be focused on making the house presentable for visitors. Wipe down cabinet fronts, chairs and table tops. Don’t forget to clean the sink. Sweep, then pass a mop over the floor and move on.

Do the same type of cleaning in bathrooms. Wipe mirrors and door handles. Make sure the room looks appealing. Once these rooms are clean, move to the sitting areas. Follow the top down approach with vacuuming being the last step. Finally, move to the bedrooms. Make beds, fluff pillows, dust furnishings and pass the vacuum.

Following these steps doesn’t eliminate the need for deep cleaning but it will allow for the house to be cleaned for guests.

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