The problem with cleaning is the repetition: Sweep, scrub, mop. Repeat the following week.
Cleaning can eat up a day off, which is no fun when you live in a state like Florida where beaches and bike trails beckon.
The worst part is that a just-scrubbed house can seem dirty again within days, especially if you have kids and dogs.
Some people have a higher dirt threshold than others and just live with a cumulative mess between massive cleanings. Celebrity decorator Mario Buatta once quipped that dust is a "protective coating for fine furniture."
But for those who like their houses looking great — and who maybe want the option of skipping that Saturday cleaning altogether — there are ways to cheat.
Enter Betty Arnold of Carrollwood. She's a professional organizer better known as "The Organizing Queen" — www.orgqueen.com — who spent the first half of her life working as an administrative assistant who wowed bosses with her affinity for streamlining the workplace.
After retiring, Arnold took those skills and applied them on the home front.
Cleaning the house efficiently is a snap, she says, if you follow a few of her basic organizing rules.
The most basic rule?
If you're not organized, you're not clean, says Arnold, whose "make it simple, make it spacious" philosophy guides her work.
Some of her tips:
• Keep it contained. "Out in the garage I keep a pail filled with rubber gloves, a squeegee, cleaning cloths and cleaning chemicals," Arnold says. "Then I carry it with me from room to room, just like (actor Carol Burnett's cleaning lady character). It's a lot easier than running from room to room looking for what you need." (Arnold recommends applying this theory to every task where you might need more than one supply: "If you need a screwdriver, carry around the whole toolbox; if you need thread, bring the whole sewing kit.")
• Do something each week. Arnold created something she dubbed "The 52 Pick-up Maintenance Plan" for clients who don't want to be stuck with major cleaning projects. Each item in the plan addresses a household project that will help keep accumulated dirt and clutter to a minimum.
"It guides you through the house to do something each week," she says.
• Keep clutter picked up. "I've helped clients who've had to dig down several levels to get to the carpet or the floor," Arnold said.
For her routine cleaning schedule, Arnold tackles a room clockwise "from left to right" and then cleans top to bottom, which she recommends so the last morsels of dirt are either swept away or vacuumed.
Make it sparkle
Hannah Keeley, a spokeswoman for the cleaning supply company SC Johnson, says there are some good ways to keep a home sparkling during that "in between" time.
"Along with the kitchen and main rooms, I always make sure the bathroom is looking and smelling fresh and clean in between cleanings. It takes the stress out of drop-ins and makes everyday life more pleasant," said Keeley, author of three books, including Hannah Keeley's Total Mom Makeover: A Six-Week Program to Completely Transform Your Home, Health, Family and Life (Little, Brown & Co., April 2007).
She offers these tips to help folks keep up with the cleaning game 24-7, with almost no effort:
• Light scented candles or place dryer sheets inside clothing drawers to keep closets and the rest of the house feeling fresh.
• Keep cleaning supplies in each room so that when the sink starts to look a little slimy you can grab the right tool for the job without having to search the house and garage for paper towels and scrub brushes.
• Take shoes off at the door so that dirt, leaves and other residue doesn't drag in.
• As you move from room to room, carry a laundry basket and collect items like mail, books and clothes that need to go to their proper places.
• Wipe off fingerprint marks and smudges when you see them so you avoid a collage of fingerprints on your glass coffee table.
Elizabeth Bettendorf can be reached at [email protected]