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Overview

10 easy house-cleaning strategies

Conquer housework’s drudgery with our easy-to-follow tips

Last reviewed: July 2009

With smart planning, a few easy-to-establish habits, and the 10 tips below, you can make cleaning less of a hassle.

Divide and conquer

As with any daunting task, housecleaning is easier if you break it into smaller parts. Doing a chore or two a day is easier than letting tasks accumulate and become overwhelming. Cleaning regularly gets rid of dirt before you have to scrub it, saving you elbow grease and the things you clean unnecessary wear and tear. Regularly brushing Fluffy and Fido may cut back on the amount of pet hair around the home. See our report on to find out more. There are also a number of easy--and often free--things you can do to improve the air quality inside your home:

Devise a schedule

Many people find that a schedule lets them take control over housework, rather than the other way around. Start by making a list of cleaning tasks in your home. Then note how often each chore needs to be done--daily, weekly, monthly, or seasonally. Devise a schedule that spaces your daily chores evenly over the course of a week and your weekly chores evenly over the course of a month. Happily, few chores need to be done on a daily basis.

If it's not dirty…

You don't have to clean things that aren't dirty--sometimes a touch-up is all that's necessary. If there is a handprint on an otherwise perfectly clean mirror, don't clean the whole mirror; just attack the print itself. You don't have to dry-clean a suit that only needs to be aired, brushed, or pressed. Surfaces that you or your visitors can't see--like the top of a cabinet--don't need to be cleaned regularly. Put some paper down, and when it gets dirty, pick the paper up and throw it out.

If you can't clean, straighten up

If you're short on time, getting rid of clutter can make a room feel a lot cleaner. Make it a habit to tidy things up every day or two and there'll be less to do when you do haul out the vacuum cleaner and dust cloth.

Simplify and unclutter

If you don't need or like something in your house, give it away, throw it away, or recycle it rather than clean it. The fewer things you have, the less clutter you have. And, of course, the less you have, the less there is to dust, polish, shine, vacuum, and otherwise take care of.

Reevaluate your storage needs

Cleaning is much easier if you have well-thought-out storage space for the possessions you do hang on to. Look at each room in your house to see if additional storage can help you solve some of your day-to-day cleaning problems. For example, if you have a crate for shoes and boots near the door, it's less likely that shoes will be scattered around the room. Plastic containers with lids are great for getting such seasonal items as skiwear and beach gear out of the way.

Keep lists

Everyone knows how making a shopping list before you go to the supermarket helps keep you from making impulse buys. Lists can be handy in organizing your housekeeping, too. List the chores you need to do in a given week. If you notice a problem--a scuff on the wall in the stairs, a wobbly leg on a chair--and you don't have time to fix it now, write it down so you don't forget about it.

Locate supplies conveniently

In the kitchen, you'll probably make frequent use of a few key items: dishwashing liquid, automatic-dishwasher detergent, an all-purpose cleaner, ammonia, glass cleaner, metal cleaner, and white vinegar (a great all-purpose cleaner), along with a mop, cloths, and scrubbers. Store these items close at hand. Plastic caddies fit conveniently below sinks and can be carried from room to room. Though you probably keep baking soda with your baking supplies, it's such a handy cleaner that you might want to store a box with your cleaning supplies. To get the cleanest dishes, see our dishwasher detergent Ratings and recommendations. And if you're looking to save a little money or need a cleaner in a pinch, our free recipes for homemade cleaning products can do the trick.

Use cleaning as a way to check on the house

While you're cleaning or doing the laundry, take time to note any item that needs special attention. The time you take now can save you more time and work later. When crumbling grouting around the bathtub is not repaired, water can leak into the walls. If a dangling button falls off and you can't find a matching one, you might need to replace all the buttons. A loose piece of veneer can catch on a sleeve and break off. If plants aren't draining, they may be staining the furniture on which they've been placed. If you're wondering which household items, such as appliances and electronics, are worth fixing or throwing away, see our report, Repair or replace it (available to subscribers).

Get everyone to help

Make cleaning a family endeavor. Divide up specific tasks among family members. List chores on a calendar so that you all know what your responsibilities are. It might help to set aside a specific time when the whole household does chores. Devise a system of rewards to inspire kids to participate willingly. Everyone can pitch in when it comes to laundry, and an organized laundry room will save your family from schlepping a load of dirty clothes from the bedroom to the basement or utility room.

Remember, cleaning is always easier with the proper equipment. For more help with the housework, see our Ratings and recommendations for vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, washing machines, and clothes dryers (available to subscribers).