Today I’m pleased to welcome a very special expert guest to The Home Know-It-All. Donna Smallin is an organizing and cleaning expert and the author of eight books on—you guessed it, cleaning and organizing—including her most recent release, The One-Minute Organizer: A to Z Storage Solutions (Storey Publishing, 2008). And she’s here to share her expert shortcuts for cleaning when life gets crazy.
I know I’m excited to hear what Donna has to say because I never seem to have enough time to clean. So let’s get started!
Q: What’s the key to keeping your home clean when you’re time-crunched?
A: I always say it’s a lot easier to keep up than to catch up. It may seem crazy, but the more often you clean the less time you’ll spend overall. If you wipe down the bathroom sink and counters every day, it only takes about 60 seconds every wipe. Then you won’t spend forever scraping dried-on toothpaste when you do clean.
Stash cleaning supplies in spaces around your home so you can clean on the fly. During a television commercial, you can dust in the living room. Cleaning supplies can be hidden behind the TV, behind books on bookshelves, in a drawer, even in a little container underneath your sofa.
Q: What are your favorite speed-cleaning tools?
A: The tools you use can make a really big difference.
I am really hot on microfiber cloths for a lot of reasons. They pick up dirt like nobody’s business. You don’t need to have any cleaning supplies either; you just have the cloth itself. All you do is wet the cloth and squeeze it really dry, then use it to wipe up. Even if it’s dry it does a great job picking up dust. And they’re not disposable—you can actually throw them in the wash.
Oxo makes an extendable microfiber duster. It is the coolest thing. It’s just this long pole with a microfiber mop head at the end. You can extend it and tilt it at a 90-degree angle so you can reach up and dust the fan blades or top shelves without having to get on a ladder. You can also just have it extend straight up to clean cobwebs. I love it. (Oxo Good Grips Microfiber Extendable Duster with Pivoting Head, $17.99, Oxo.com, right)
The other thing I love is the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser foaming cleaner sponge. You have to try this. They’re white sponges, you wet them, you squeeze them dry, and you can wipe off fingerprints around the doorknob, scuffmarks on the molding. It’s amazing what these things clean up. The foaming one is great for cleaning inside the microwave oven and refrigerator or on the stovetop. I have no idea how it works. I usually get it out for a particular job and keep going.
Most people have a professional carpet cleaner come in once a year or every 12 to 18 months depending on how much traffic they have. But you can keep the carpet clean in between professional cleanings. I recently tried the Bissell ProDry carpet cleaner—it’s almost easier than vacuuming. And it leaves the carpets dry in less than 30 minutes. So that’s a pretty cool thing because normally when you clean carpets they can be wet for up to 8 hours. This does a really great job of doing those in-between cleanings.
One other thing I always use: a squeegee. Oxo makes one with a little suction cup so it hangs in the shower. Every time you use the shower, if you use the squeegee on the glass doors and walls, you won’t have spots and it prevents soap scum and mildew on the walls. People always come in and say, how do you keep your glass doors so clean? It’s the squeegee.(Oxo Good Grips All-Purpose Squeegee, $5.99, Oxo.com, right)
Q: How do you get motivated to tackle your least favorite tasks?
A: Time how long it takes to complete cleaning chores you dread. I hate emptying the dishwasher because you have to do it over and over and over. So time yourself. When you realize it only takes 60 seconds to make your bed or 2 minutes to empty the dishwasher, it’s not such a big deal anymore. You just get it done.
Q: Any other time-savers you swear by?
A: Clean your toilets while you sleep. Pour cleaner into your bowl before you go to bed, then in the morning just brush and flush. That way you’re letting the cleaning product do the job for you. That’s true of other things too—when you spray down the shower, if you let it sit and do something else, when you come back to it it’s a lot easier to clean.
Think prevention. Putting mats inside and outside your entryway doors is always a good idea because we track in so much stuff. If you have a lot of carpet and it begins right in the entryway, leave a basket by the door for shoes.
If you sweep the kitchen floor, it’s going to stay cleaner longer. If you get just a little water on your floor and it’s already kind of dirty you really notice the dirt. But if you sweep each night and spill water on the floor it just dries rather than accentuating the dirt.
You may be cooking dinner and waiting for water to boil. Use those few minutes to run some vinegar and water through your coffee maker, unclutter drawers, wipe kitchen cabinets. Even 15 minutes a day ends up being 7 hours a month.
The other thing is that an uncluttered home looks a lot cleaner. Just getting rid of clutter and picking things up will make it look better. And then when you’re ready to clean it’s a lot easier. Just grab a trash bag or box and go through your home looking for things that are taking up space. You don’t use them, you don’t love them. If you really think about it they are just taking up valuable space.
Q: What can we get away with not doing?
A: Don’t clean where you don’t have to. If there’s a spot on the wall, clean the spot, don’t clean the whole wall.
If the job seems too big, just take a piece of the job, whatever that might be. Just spend 15 minutes doing it and see where you get.
Thanks for all the great advice, Donna. I can’t wait to try it out in my house! Come back and visit us soon.
Readers, if you want to learn more cleaning tips and tricks from expert Donna Smallin, be sure to visit her website and check out her books!
The Home Know-It-Al