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How to Clean in Manageable Chunks

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Thinking of cleaning your entire home can feel like looking at Mount Everest and trying to figure out how to climb it—it’s overwhelming! When will you ever have time to get the whole thing done? But experienced climbers will tell you two things about a big ascent: you need a plan and you need to break the climb into manageable segments. The same rules apply for housekeeping.

Few moms have a large block of time to do a complete deep-cleaning and get all rooms spotless at the same time. Here’s a plan for cleaning a little bit at a time. Each day tackle three or four 10-minute tasks and one bigger chore (on days when you have time) to keep up with this dreaded responsibility. Heres how to clean in manageable chunks and accomplish more:

10-minute tasks:

Living areas

  • Clean glass, mirrors, TV, computer screens, and tabletops.
  • Dust tabletops, shelves, pictures, or mantel. (Now’s a good time to cut down on knickknacks. They’re too time consuming to clean, and you’ll have to put them away anyway if you have crawling babies or toddlers. Keep a dust rag handy to quickly dust and store them away a few at a time.)
  • Remove the books from one shelf on a bookcase, dust the books and shelf, and replace them.
  • Use a wide, soft-bristled paintbrush to remove dust from blinds and the pleats in lamp shades.
  • Clean the dust off broad-leaved plants by using damp socks on your hands.
  • Spot-clean sofa cushions and throw pillows. Use a masking-tape lint roller to quickly pick up pet hair.
  • Polish one or two pieces of wood furniture.
  • Damp-mop the floor in a room.
  • De-web light fixtures and dust the ceiling fan.
  • Wipe off switch plates.
  • Spot-clean doors and molding.


  • Clean mirrors, glass and tabletops.|
  • Strip bed and throw linens in the washing machine. Keep linens moving through the washing and drying cycles when you have a few minutes here and there.
  • Dust part of your bedroom and spot-clean picture frames.
  • Clean switch plates and doorknobs with all-purpose cleaner and cleaning rag.
  • Dust furniture and windowsills.
  • Vacuum and dust-mop floors/carpets.


  • Spray and wipe faucets and mirror with glass cleaner.
  • Wipe off windowsills, towel racks, and scale.
  • Sweep or vacuum floor, then damp-mop.
  • Use a clean sponge mop to wash the tub and wall tiles in the bathroom. This will prevent back strain.
  • Straighten a shelf or two in the linen closet.


  • Purge your pantry of food you never use, one shelf at a time.
  • Clean the outside of large appliances—one at a time.
  • Shine the outside of small appliances—two at a time.
  • Wipe kitchen counters and backsplash.
  • Spray the inside of your microwave with a plant mister, then turn the microwave on high for a few seconds. Allow it to sit for a minute or two, then wipe with a clean cloth. You can also clean the microwave by nuking a few tablespoons of baking soda in a cup of water. Wipe up the  mist with a paper towel. Use a toothbrush to scrub stubborn stains.
  • Dust sill or wash curtains—one window at a time.
  • Wipe off countertops.
  • Wash and disinfect trash can.
  • Sweep or vacuum floor.
  • Clean out one section or shelf in a drawer or cabinet.
  • Damp-mop floor.
  • Clean off one shelf in the refrigerator.

One-hour cleaning tasks

  • When you have more time to spend on housework, it pays to do some of the deep-cleaning projects listed below.
  • Clean your stovetop and replace aluminum drip pans under burners; wash the stove knobs with mild soap, warm water, and a toothbrush.
  • Move large appliances and clean beneath them with a vacuum. Pay particular attention to the coils.
  • Remove items stores on top of your refrigerator. Spray it with all-purpose cleaner and let the grease and dirt “marinate” while you empty the refrigerator drip pan and vacuum the coils. Then wipe the top clean with paper towels and cover with plastic wrap. (Moisten the surface slightly so the plastic wrap will stay put.) That way you’ll never have to clean up there again. You can just peel off and replace the dirty wrap periodically. A one-hour task will take just 10 minutes next time.
  • Wash woodwork.
  • Clean light fixtures and doorknobs. Carefully remove plastic panels from florescent light boxes. Wash them with warm, soapy water.
  • Clean the bathroom vent fan. Dirt and lint buildup inside bathroom vent fans can impair efficiency, encourage mildew growth, and shorten the life of the unit—so don’t skip this task. To clean, remove the vent cover and wipe the inside with a rag. Use an old toothbrush to clean the fan blades. As with any electric fixture, don’t use water to clean.
  • Clean and straighten the linen closet.
  • Clean the fireplace hearth and remove ashes.

Taken with permission from The Busy Mom’s Guide to a Happy, Organized Home by Kathy Peel.    


Can you think of anything you can do to help mom keep the house neater or cleaner?

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