Dust bunnies the size of tumbleweeds and a bathtub that has more than a ring around it--without a cleaning schedule, this is your lot in life. If you want your cleaning to be efficient and over as soon as possible, make a plan.
Short and Sweet
Ever look into your microwave oven and see a mess leftover from...whenever? Did it take forever to clean that caked-on junk? Of course it did. A weekly scrub of the microwave takes a couple of minutes, but if you wait a month, it will take so much longer--and it'll require more cleaning solution and scrubbing effort.
Make a list of the chores that need to be done regularly, and come up with a schedule that works for your family.
The Daily Duties
Some chores have to be done daily to keep your house tidy and your family clothed, fed and on time for their various social obligations. There is nothing more infuriating than having kids yelling down the stairs that they have no clean undies, or that they are missing their soccer uniform because the mountain of laundry has yet to be washed.
Daily cleaning duties typically include washing the dishes, clearing off the kitchen counters, wiping down the stovetop and the kitchen sink, and putting dirty clothes in a hamper. Try a quick (10 to 15 minutes, max) tidying of the family room or play room. Making beds and getting rid of the day's trash often fall into this category as well. Some families like the idea of washing, drying and putting away one load of laundry every day so that there is never a 7-load Saturday to tackle.
Sweeping or vacuuming the floors, dusting the furniture, cleaning the bathrooms, and changing the sheets and towels are all examples of weekly chores, for most families. If you have furry pets, the vacuuming may have to be done more regularly. With all the new cleaning wipes on the market, it is easy to get a nice sheen on the kitchen counter or the bathroom mirror without too much effort. Some folks wash their floors every week, but that depends on your level of expectations. In mud or snow season, a weekly sweep or mop of the entryway or mudroom is a good idea.
Everyone Pitches In
Every member of your family needs to help out for a cleaning schedule to work effectively. Little kids can put toys into a bin or sweep with a mini-sized broom. Older kids can easily load the dishwasher or use warm water and baking soda (or lemon juice) to wipe down countertops or bathtubs, etc. Sorting clean laundry is another kid-friendly chore. Put the weekly chores list on the fridge or in a easy-to-see area. Grownups have to pay bills, shop for food and cook, but for a household to run smoothly (and Mom to be happy), everyone should be part of the maintenance process. And the best part? The next time you have company, cleaning will take a fraction of the time it would have without quick and regular maintenance. Put your feet up on the clean coffee table and relax!
About the author: Alicia Klepeis is a freelance writer living in upstate New York. A former middle school geography teacher, she has written for the National Geographic Society, as well as magazines including The Dollar Stretcher, Fun For Kidz, Kiki and Sprinkles. She also writes for Suite 101. Her website is www.aliciaklepeis.com.