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How to keep a clean home despite a busy schedule

Years ago, I remember my Grandmother Carrie Moses saying the well-known quote, "A stitch in time saves nine." A little bit of cleaning and organizing each day plus the following can help keep our homes clean despite a busy schedule.

As a professional organizer, I have clients who are able to get more accomplished and feel less stressful when they stay on top of the cleaning and organizing by doing a little bit each day. We all have a new year to make a fresh start.I suggest the following:

- Be creative. Get up 30 minutes earlier. Do two things at once. Schedule an appointment with yourself, and set time limits.

- Get rid of clutter. Anything that hasn't been used in one to two years is probably not worth saving. When you buy something new, ask yourself if you really need it and how much work it will take to keep it clean.

- Delegate chores. Let your family know how much time and energy are needed to keep the home clean and organized. If possible, make up a home management plan, listing daily, weekly, monthly, semi-annual and annual tasks.

- Be flexible. Don't expect to have your home clean and organized everywhere all of the time. - Cathy Roberts, Agoura, Calif.

What we did:

Rotating schedule

To keep our home clean we have designed a simple rotating chore schedule that even young children can handle and teenagers aren't too busy to do.

Since there are five of us, including Mom and Dad, there are five chores that need to be done daily, such as emptying the dishwasher, and five chores that need to be done once a week, such as vacuuming the living room. Each daily chore and each weekly chore is numbered from one through five and a description of each chore is posted on the refrigerator.

Initially, every member of the family is assigned a number from one to five that indicates which daily and weekly chore he/she will do for that week. Then, every Sunday each person rotates down to the next number. By rotating to the next number each week, no one is stuck for more than a week at a time with a job they don't like do. - Marilyn Reed, Bountiful, Utah

Have children help

I have a home transcription business as well as seven children, Church calling, etc. Here are some ideas that help me:

- Enlist the children to help. We have a 20-pick-up where everyone picks up 20 things to help. We also have had 7 a.m. jobs when everyone has a quick job to do before school or work. Everyone is expected to keep his room clean. All our children over the age of 12 do their own laundry. Even small children can take a spray bottle and wipe off a counter.

- Eliminate unnecessary clutter. Get rid of extra stuff that is not being used and donate to Deseret Industries or another such organization. I try to have my house looking neat every morning. It is amazing how much can be done in 10 minutes. My house isn't spotless, but it is usually neat.

- Do two things at the same time. For example, I can wipe down a bathroom while helping a small child take a bath. Throw a load of laundry in while cooking dinner. Fold clothes while talking on the phone, etc. - Marilyn Larsen, Mesa, Ariz.

Get rid of clutter

- Get rid of all the non-useful clutter and storage items. Be realistic about things you can actually use and things you get no use from.

- Streamline paperwork. Open and answer mail each day. File important papers and discard old mail, newspapers, etc., daily.

- Give everything a place and return it to its place after each use.

- Treat your home like your outside job or callings. Plan, organize, follow through on home maintenance.

- Have a daily plan. Take a few minutes each day to make things tidy. Have a weekly plan to clean deeper. Have a rotating plan for heavy jobs like carpet cleaning or wall washing.

- Clean up as you go. Hang your bath towel on the towel rack. Don't leave it on the floor. Put dirty clothes in the laundry basket. Rinse dishes and put in dishwasher when you finish eating. - Donna K. Maxwell, Syracuse, Utah

Divide chores

In our house, the majority of the cleaning is done first thing in the morning before everyone heads out to school. By sweeping/vacuuming the floors and wiping down bathrooms on a daily basis first thing in the morning, we find the amount of dirt and clutter never gets out of hand.

Chores are divided daily between my four children (including the toddler) and me, each being responsible for certain areas of cleaning. We break up big jobs, such as cleaning the bathroom into four equal parts. One person keeps the sink and counter areas clean, one keeps the toilet area clean, another keeps the tub area clean, and I keep the floors and walls clean.

Another important task to be consistent with is emptying all inside trash cans on a daily basis. This is important because unpleasant odors can make a home seem less than clean.

It may not be possible to keep a house clean all of the time, but it is definitely possible to keep messes small and manageable and the house looking presentable with consistent daily effort and help from each family member. - Chris Fry, Bremerton, Wash.

Family affair

The key to keeping a clean house is to have everyone help out and everyone responsible for something. Children can help with their own rooms and own laundry and can do daily duties. In addition, children can be paid to do some extra chores that Mom and Dad don't seem to find the time to do.

Work or tasks can be divided up and done on different days. For example, laundry on Monday, vacuuming on Tuesday, etc. - Richard L. Ricks, Spring, Texas

Strategic timing

I have found that strategic timing of a chore helps. If I clean the kitchen the day before I do the shopping, then I know what I need to get and there is room for the new items. I also try to pick a large cleaning task once in a while and fit it into the schedule for that room, like cleaning the refrigerator, organizing a closet or moving furniture. - Janis, Norton, Tujunga, Calif.

How to checklist:

1 Involve everyone in the family; assign daily, weekly tasks.

2 Clean as you go, do little each day, don't let tasks stack up.

3 Get rid of clutter; discard or donate what you don't need.

4 Be flexible; develop rotating schedule for cleaning tasks.

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- Also interested in letters on these topics: "How to save more, spend less," "How to build a strong work ethic in children," "How to encourage children and young people to be physically active," "How to avoid greed," "How to be more resilient in day-to-day life."

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