You can't deck the halls without cleaning them first. The holidays are a great motivator for cleaning, says Carolyn Forte, director of home appliances and cleaning products for the Good Housekeeping Research Institute. • "Your home is a reflection of you. You want your guests to feel comfortable. You want your house to be welcoming and inviting. You know how you feel when you go into a house that's not clean." • But the era when people spent days and days cleaning is gone, Forte says. • "Nobody has the time anymore to do top-to-bottom cleaning. We're doing what we can when we can. Clutter control goes a long way toward making a house feel clean," says Forte, adding that the kitchen, bathroom and wherever people will eat should get the most attention. Here's a plan for taming your to-do list: Cassandra Spratling, Detroit Free Press
Plan ahead and prioritize: Decide must-do, can-do and can-wait. The bathrooms, kitchens and wherever people will eat, for example, make the must-do list, while an upstairs bedroom that no one should see can wait.
Divide and conquer: Do something each day so that each task doesn't seem so overwhelming.
Freshen up the front: First impressions are lasting impressions, so clean around the entryways, and sweep porches and walkways. Put a festive wreath on the door. Vacuum or wash that welcome mat.
Clean from top to bottom: Because dust settles, it's best to dust furniture or wash walls before cleaning the floors.
Make housecleaning a family affair: Assign tasks to everyone who's old enough to do something.
"Doing it together gets the whole family involved in an activity that ultimately contributes to the holiday being healthy for all the family members and friends who attend," says Constance Costner, housing educator for Michigan State University Extension.
Group similar chores together: For example, vacuum all the rooms that need vacuuming so you're not taking the vacuum cleaner out for one room, putting it back, then taking it out again for another room.
Make it as enjoyable as possible: Yeah, right, we know. But try playing whatever music gets you and your family pumped up and moving.
Remove or organize clutter: Not only does this help the overall appearance, it makes each room easier to clean.
Clean first thing in the morning: If your schedule allows, of course. Dust and cobwebs are more visible in daylight. You can sometimes open windows to release the smell of cleaning products and let fresh air in. Also, a morning start — with time left over to do something you want to do — won't leave you feeling like you've spent the entire day cleaning.
DO A LAST-MINUTE WALK-THROUGH: On the morning before guests arrive, check through the rooms most likely to be visited. Look up and around for cobwebs, dusty furniture that may have been missed, a floor that can use one more mopping, and cleaning supplies mistakenly left out. You never know if we're going to have coat-wearing weather, but just to be sure clear the closet where guests' coats and jackets will go (put your family's coats into an off-limits bedroom). Put fresh towels in the bathroom that guests will use. And fresh flowers are always a welcome addition to any room.
Sources: Michigan State University Extension Service, Miranda Walker of Miranda's — the Miracle Workers, Good Housekeeping magazine and Merry Maids