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.

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