~Your mother-in-law just called. She's "dropping in" for tea in a half hour.
~Your son announces that he's invited a friend for dinner. Tonight.
~Your husband calls. The guys are coming by for a beer after work.
~You just got home from a rough day at the office. The calendar tells you that book club is tonight -- and it's at your house!
You look around you and see an ocean of clutter.
You ask yourself, Why don't people just put things away?
Don't panic. We've all been there.
It's the problem with actually having human beings living in your house. I mean, I would challenge any home decorating magazine to photograph that lovely living room on the cover after my children had been set loose in it for 15 minutes. I bet their readers would be surprised at the transformation. Better yet, we could televise the metamorphosis as a new reality show called "School-Kid Room Makeover: Clutter Edition".
But the clock is ticking!
You've got to get this place cleaned up!
Tip #1: Vacuum and dust at the same time. A quick vacuuming job does wonders, but why stop at floors? Slap on an attachment to quick clean ceiling fan blades or dust the mantle. (Take care not to suck up that photo of Great Aunt Winifred or the glazed clay dinosaur your husband made in kindergarten!)
Tip #2: Choose a gathering place for Clutter. As you vacuum each room, choose a table that you can throw "loose items" onto. In our house, that usually means the Han Solo Ice Planet Hoth Action Figure that was defending the dining room table, one pink sock that had been sticking out from under the couch (that's where it was!), and yesterday's mail, newspaper, and 17 fliers from school that were scattered around the kitchen. Choose a central location as you clean and just pile up that clutter!
Tip #3: Use Laundry baskets for more than Laundry. Once the floors are picked up and the clutter is centralized, I make a run from room to room with a laundry basket. Clutter goes in and either A) gets put in its place when I get to the next room, or B) holy mother of heaven they're going to be here in 2 minutes! ...so into the closet goes the clutter basket. It's true. I do it. (Don't you dare check my closets next time you're over unexpectedly!) Sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do.
Tip #4: Give hard surfaces a Lick and a Promise. Ever heard of Clorox wipes? Love 'em. They are made for situations like this. A greener alternative is to have a damp cloth, a dry cloth, and a bottle of eco-friendly cleaner ready under your sink. Take a quick run through each room looking for jelly fingerprints, dirty light switches, face-prints on the windows, or toothpaste spit onto the bathroom mirror. Ew. Wipe down counters, door knobs, faucet handles, and anywhere else that grime rears its ugly "this is our house and we live in it" head. (Also, ever since Mr. Clean graced the world with his handy Magic Eraser, my love for him as increased tenfold.) You can always do a better clean-up job later when you have time. For now, a quick clean is enough.
Tip #5: Don't just use your eyes -- use your sniffer. Have you been cooking cabbage today? Open the window! Does your garbage can smell like a stink bomb? Take that bag out to the garage. (Or if you don't think your guests will need to use it, take the whole can out there!) And, have mercy on us all! Hubby's running shoes must be moved from the front hallway!
Tip #6: Use products that do more than one thing. Next time you're shopping, look for products that can do more than one thing. Swiffer Wet can clean a dusty floor and deodorize a room. Putting a dryer sheet in your vacuum bag can do the same thing. Some Green cleaners can be diluted to different concentrations to fit a variety of cleaning tasks. There is nothing wrong with saving labor -- especially when you're tight on time!
Tip #7: Marshal the troops! When time is tight, everyone in the house should be helping to get things ship-shape. Ask your sons to clean up their toys and books from the clutter depot. Ask your spouse to put dishes in the dishwasher. Ask your daughter to assemble some snacks and drinks for your guests. And don't forget to schedule in 2 minutes for yourself when all the work is done, to change into a shirt with no spit-up and brush your hair. (If you have time, a glass of wine wouldn't hurt, either!)
Take a deep breath... Whew! You're done.
You can slap on a welcoming smile and answer that door.
- Midwest Mom