Friday, February 1, 2013

Donna Smallin: What’s the Secret to a Clean Home?

I’ll be honest with you. I love a clean home, but I don’t particularly enjoy cleaning. So over the years I’ve looked for shortcuts to keep my home clean with a minimal amount of time and effort. And do you know what I’ve learned?

The secret to a clean home is not cleaning. The secret is preventing dirt, grime, and clutter from accumulating.

Following are seven of my favorite tips for keeping your home cleaner — and why they work:
  1. Declutter your kitchen. Do you really need to have every small appliance you own on your kitchen counters? My mantra is: If you use it every day, it gets to stay; otherwise, put it away. If you don’t have enough space in your cabinets, it’s time to declutter. Keep only what you use and donate or sell the rest. Result? A neater, cleaner-looking kitchen. (Apply the same rule to bathroom counters.) 
  2. Keep floors cleaner. Place mats on both sides of every outside door, including the door to your garage, to absorb moisture, trap dirt, and minimize tracking. Clean the mats regularly. You might also want to remove shoes upon entering your home. About 85 percent of the soiling in your carpets is loose dirt. 
  3. Pick up daily. An uncluttered home looks a lot cleaner than a cluttered home — and it’s easier to clean and keep clean. Set aside a specific time each day for picking up items that belong elsewhere. Consider establishing “zero tolerance” rules for clutter in certain rooms, such as the living room. If a family member leaves something out, he or she will need to do a chore to get it back. 
  4. Teach yourself new habits. One way to have a cleaner home with less work is to change some of your habits. And the easiest way to implement a new habit is to incorporate it right after you do something you always do. Examples: Hang your coat right after you take it off. Make your bed right after you get dressed. Wash dishes and sweep the kitchen floor right after dinner. (I’ve found that frequent sweeping keeps the floor cleaner between moppings. Also, I let dishes air dry and put them away in the morning; it’s actually more sanitary to let them air dry.) 
  5. Make cleanup easier. It’s faster and easier to clean up drips and spills when they are fresh, rather than waiting until they harden or set in. For example, rinse the bathroom sink after brushing your teeth and wipe out the microwave oven right after using it while it’s still damp. Line refrigerator drawers with a few layers of paper towels, line stove drip pans (and the bottom of your oven) with foil, and replace as needed. 
  6. Get home-smart. Change heating air filters monthly during peak home heating and cooling seasons to reduce dust buildup (and keep your furnace/AC unit running at peak efficiency). Pour boiling water down the tub drain once a week to keep it clear and prevent those nasty, hard-to-scrub tub rings that result from a slow drain. 
  7. Purge periodically. Take inventory of clothing and accessories at the end of each season, and make a decision to let go of anything you did not wear. In December each year clean out your filing cabinet to make room for the new year’s files. When you replace an item, get rid of the old item. If you find it difficult to get rid of stuff, think twice before bringing anything new into your home. 
Donna Smallin Kuper, organizing and cleaning expert and bestselling author (

Organizing expert Donna Smallin Kuper is the best-selling author of eight books on uncluttering, organizing, and simplifying life, including Cleaning Plain & SimpleThe One-Minute Organizer Plain & SimpleThe One-Minute Organizer A to Z Storage Solutions, and Unclutter Your Mind. Her advice appears regularly in Better Homes and Gardens, Woman’s Day, Woman’s World, and other leading publications. A member of the National Association of Professional Organizers, Donna received the 2006 Founders Award for outstanding contributions to the industry.

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