If you walked into my house right now, you'd never leave. You couldn't; you'd be stuck to the kitchen floor. That's how three insanely busy weeks, three kids and a dog have left things.

Obviously my house is not holiday clean, but I know from experience that if I had to, it could be in short order. In our house we have various levels of cleaning, each with its own agenda:

All hands on deck:
This is reserved for cleaning emergencies only. It's the "we have people coming over in two hours and can't walk through the living room" panic. I bark orders and assignments and amazingly everyone falls into place. It's one of the few times we're all in sync with household chores. It's tempting to use this more often, but I've managed to stay true to its original intent.

Garbage-bag cleaning: If I have to issue too many warnings about messy rooms (or really, when they become a safety hazard) I give the final warning: If it's not clean, then I'll clean it. And I clean with a garbage bag. Ideally garbage bag cleaning would be done in tandem with said child, but either way it's productive and fulfilling. The complaining eventually stops, especially when more closet space is usually an end result.

Vacation cleaning: At least once I year I use my vacation time to clean. Alone. Everything gets turned upside down and inside out and scrubbed from one end of the house to the other. Appliances sparkle, floors shine, counters are bare and everything has a place. It usually takes the better part of a week, but it's time well-spent. Toward the end of the week I bask in the glow of a clean house. And then everyone comes home.

The purge cycle: Ever get to the point where you're surrounded by too much stuff? Anything could trigger it; unearthing three year's worth of art projects or the sight of clothes that haven't seen the light of day in a decade. My most recent purge cycle yielded a half a garage full of stuff we didn't use or need, and several garbage bags full of random things that at one time were deemed important, although for the life of me I couldn't remember why. This is my favorite type of cleaning, as it almost always is accompanied by a trip down memory lane (and several texts to my sister). I'm hoping enough purge cycles will make it easier to downsize someday, or at least give me a fighting chance the next time someone needs that one certain picture from the third grade or something equally obscure.

And finally, holiday clean:
Before the Christmas tree and all the insanity that surrounds it can be brought up, the house needs to be beyond company-ready. That means bathrooms have no toothpaste smeared in the sink, crumbs are wrappers are excised from the couch cushions, Legos aren't underfoot, and everything is dust-free and vacuumed. Holiday clean means we put things away, not just stash them where company won't see them. (Apologies to the office and bedroom closet.) After the house is holiday clean, I can finally enjoy the fruits of our labor, sit by the Christmas tree and feel ready for company, all while trying ignore the Lego I missed underneath the buffet.

Is your house holiday clean yet? Have you found any success in keeping it that way? Please share your tips!