Sanity-Saving Cleaning Strategies for the Holidays


Manage expectations.



It simply may not be possible to keep your house as clean and tidy as you’d like, so set priorities and ask for help—especially if you’re expecting a crowd. Let everyone know you want their coats hung in the closet and their shoes and backpacks tucked away in the appropriate spots. If you hate clutter, deposit all of your cards and mail in a designated bin, and ask one of the kids to help keep newspapers and magazines neatly stacked and toys in their place. And, remember, if all else fails, hit the dimmer switch and light some candles.




Oh the holidays!



The time of year that’s filled with love and joy. Not to mention cooking, cleaning, and more than a few loads of laundry. But before you come down with a case of Bah Humbug, follow these timesaving tips for keeping housework under control.



Clean as you cook.



No one wants to face a mountain of unwashed dishes after a big family dinner or party, so wash, dry, and store anything you use for kitchen prep as you go along. When chopping or peeling, it helps to work from left to right or right to left consistently so that any scraps stay together in one area, making disposal easier. Another trick: Place a pot of simmering water on the back burner of your stove and use it to soak gooey utensils—and make cleanup a breeze.




Stick to a schedule.



Set a daily time limit—say 30 minutes—and tackle as many tasks as you can. In the kitchen, put dirty dishes in the dishwasher and wipe down the sink, countertops and any spills on the floor. Fluff the pillows on the living room couch, sweep up any crumbs with a handheld vacuum, and run a dust cloth over wood surfaces. Then head into the bathroom and wipe down the sink, countertops, and mirror, and give the toilet bowl a quick brush. When the timer goes off, you’re done (until tomorrow at least).




Lighten your laundry load.



The extra laundry houseguests generate won’t feel so overwhelming if you have a plan. Presort clothing (get the kids to help), and put delicates in a lingerie bag instead of laundering them separately. Wash socks in a mesh laundry bag, too; they’ll stay together, thus eliminating the pesky chore of finding singletons once you start folding. To save more time, use premeasured detergent pods, which combine detergent, stain remover, and brightener all in one no-mess, no-guess package.



Give stains the slip.



If you’re serving red wine (of course you are!), soft drinks, or mulled cider at a holiday get-together, there’s bound to be a spill. This goes double if you have a light-colored rug or couch. Instead of smiling while you inwardly seethe, do a quick smartphone search for step-by-step cleaning tips on how to remove anything, from cranberry sauce to chocolate, fast.


What to Do When Your Favorite TV Show Ends

It’s the circle of TV-viewing life: Finales and cancellations happen, and new (even better) programs come your way. Accept and move forward.

Step 1: Find a new must-watch show. Start with a web search. A great place to begin is by skimming fan sites of the just-ended show. Consider what the other devotees are gearing up to watch. Once you find some promising suggestions, check critics’ picks to narrow your list.

Step 2: Rally your friends. Part of the fun of having a favorite new show is talking about it with your besties. Entice them with an invite to a viewing party of the pilot episode. Post messages on your favorite social network while you watch it to drum up even more buzz in your circle.

Step 3: Establish a unique viewing ritual. A new show presents the promise of new traditions. Maybe this is the night that you break the house rules and let your entire family eat dinner in front of the TV, or have your best friend show up with her special five-layer dip each week. Just keep a stain remover on hand to remove food and drink stains so those lasting memories aren’t forever imprinted on your clothes.

Step 4: Cozy up the couch. Before debuting your new TV-night ritual, get rid of that old-TV-show juju, not to mention the mounds of crumbs buried beneath your sofa cushions. Launder slipcovers and throws in a liquid laundry detergent with a fresh, long-lasting scent that goes perfectly with your TV fresh start.

5 Fast Fall Recipes—One Can of Pumpkin Puree Required

Once the leaves begin to turn, cans of plain pumpkin puree take center stage at the supermarket. But don’t just think of it as a filling for pie. Use it as a nutritious addition to your favorite recipes. Need some inspiration? Try one of these dishes. P.S.: Make sure you don’t accidentally pick up pumpkin pie filling, which is sweetened and spiced!

Soup’s on! Adding pumpkin puree to soup can give it a thick, creamy texture without adding a ton of fat and calories. Melt some butter in a large pot and sauté some chopped onion and a clove or two of minced garlic; add about four cups of low-sodium chicken broth and a can of puree and stir. Let simmer for 20 minutes or so, then finish with a swirl of half-and-half and freshly cracked pepper. Like your soup on the spicy side? Add 1/2 tablespoon of curry powder.

Upgrade your oatmeal. Give your breakfast a pick-me-up by swirling a couple of tablespoons of puree into a steaming bowl of oatmeal. Drizzle with maple syrup and cinnamon for a sweet finish.

Bump up butter. Compound butter is super easy to make and will wow your dinner guests. Simply soften a stick of butter in a small bowl, then add a couple of tablespoons of pumpkin puree and a little sugar, cinnamon, and salt to taste. Stir to combine, then serve with warm, crusty bread.

Partake in a parfait. Is plain Greek yogurt a staple in your house? Kick it up a notch by layering it with pumpkin puree sweetened with honey. Top with sliced almonds or granola for a satisfying crunch.

Do a dip. Combine a can of pumpkin puree with a brick of light cream cheese in the bowl of a food processor, then add cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar to taste; pulse until smooth. Serve with apple or pear slices.


Spooky Stains?

Yikes! All that spooky October fun has resulted in some seriously frightening stains on your clothing. These expert tips will take the mystery out of getting your clothes clean again—no witchcraft required.

Cola chills and spills. You dumped cola all over yourself during the scary part of the horror movie. The fear stops here: Soak up the soda quickly with a clean white cloth. Once all the liquid is soaked up, pull out your portable stain remover and dab it on the stain several times to release the cleaning solution. Then launder according to fabric care directions. 

Chocolate horror show. Halloween candy sure is a treat until those candy bar minis melt all over your favorite canvas shopping tote. No need to forswear your sweet tooth. Wipe the stain gently with a clean cloth. Next, pretreat the mess by pouring on a detergent, and let it sit for 20 minutes. Wash the fabric with detergent in warm water. Then resume sneaking Halloween candy from your kids, only store it more carefully this time.

Grapes of wrath. People dressed in creepy Halloween costumes already give you the jitters. But when your son puts a fake spider on your dinner plate on Halloween night, you flip out and accidentally spill red wine down the front of your shirt. Instead of sending him to his room, have him fetch you a clean cloth soaked in cold water. Blot with cloth to dilute the stain. Rinse in cold water if the stain remains. Launder as directed on the fabric care instructions.

Ghoulish grass stains. The Halloween tombstones in your front yard are a fun addition to the décor but become a frightening obstacle course at night, which is probably why you tripped over one of them and got grass stains on the seat of your pants. Remove this most stubborn of stains in one wash with the help of a stain booster. Grass stains be gone!

A bloody mess. Your daughter skinned her knees while running through the pumpkin patch. After dispensing some soothing words, bandages, and hugs, help rescue her favorite jeans by quickly blotting them with a stain remover or a clean cloth soaked in cold water. To treat the stain at home, create a soak of 25 mls of liquid laundry detergent to each gallon of cold water. Weigh the jeans down in the soak solution with a white towel for up to 30 minutes. Then wash on cold using a detergent designed for cold water.

6 Ways to Bring Summer Into Your Bedroom


Adjust your ceiling fan



Make sure that the blades on your ceiling fan are rotating counterclockwise at a high speed to circulate a cool breeze throughout the room. (There should be a small button or switch on the base that changes blade direction.)




Break out the cotton sheets



Make your bed with light-colored cotton or cotton-blend sheets. And when you wash your linens, add a liquid fabric softener.



Welcome the breeze



Soften window frames with light, breezy curtain panels that filter but don’t block the light. Then install screens in your windows and enjoy falling asleep to a warm summer breeze—no pesky bugs invited.




Switch to a light comforter or blanket



Stow your heavy winter comforter in your linen closet or under your bed and opt for a lightweight quilt or blanket.




Swap out wool carpets and shag area rugs for sisal



Lightweight and easy to clean, natural-fiber rugs, like sisal, jute, and coir, feel just right underfoot in summer. If the back of the rug isn’t rubberized, use a rug pad underneath to prevent slipping.




Go green



Bring a bit of the outdoors in with a potted plant. Choose an easy-care vine, such as English ivy, or flowers with delicate foliage, like geraniums.