Mary Lazarus is a master of cleaning pleasantries. Here, the co-founder of Minneapolis-based Vestiges collectible tea towels (www. vestigesinc.com), and former co-owner of Caldrea and Mrs. Meyers cleaning-product companies, shares 10 tips for making housecleaning a less onerous chore.
1. Define your cleaning terms. Understand that there are several levels of cleaning. The ‘light’ version involves dusting, making beds, fluffing pillows, straightening up magazines, etc. The ‘deep’ version involves scrubbing floors, washing windows, cleaning light fixtures, etc. There is also ‘organizing,’ which involves drawers, cabinets and shelves. Understand which you are undertaking before you begin.
2. Understand your rooms. Every room does not require the same level of attention or the same frequency of cleaning. Bathrooms must be tackled on a very regular basis, while the living room requires a lighter touch. Spend some time understanding what you will need to attend to in each room. Create a checklist for each room and determine what the cleaning needs will be and how often you will do them.
3. Multitask. When you are watching television and it does not require your total attention, organize a drawer or sort through magazines. You can get a lot of little tasks done during commercial breaks.
4. Dress the part. Don’t start cleaning in your ‘good’ clothes or your nightgown. I like to wear sweatpants and an old T-shirt with a good pair of shoes.
5. Set a time limit. Give yourself a specific amount of time that will be dedicated to cleaning. One hour of all-out cleaning is good exercise, and keeps things moving.
6. Combine similar tasks. When you clean bathrooms, clean all of them. Bathrooms require specific cleaners, so clean all sinks, etc., at the same time.
7. Add a little happiness. Whether it is a souvenir dish towel from a fabulous trip, or some flowers or a lovely candle, be sure to add a personal touch of beauty to the process.
8. Check your lighting. Always make sure that your light bulbs are working. A room looks a lot better when the lights are on!
9. Look out for handprints! Don’t forget to clean telephone receivers, switch plates, doors and handles.
10. Top to bottom. If you are ‘deep’ cleaning, begin with overhead vents and light fixtures and work your way down to the floors. Dust and dirt fall down — don’t clean surfaces twice.