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Max's Famous Housekeeping Tips (veryveryvery long)

November 15 2006 at 2:05 PM
Maxine  (Premier Login MaxineS)

Here are the famous housekeeping tips from many years back. These were originally published on another forum, but were written by me. I have edited out the posts contributed by others, so feel free to post questions, suggestions, updates, whatever. Remember, it's the blind leading the blind here. And isn't it about time for a decluttering thread???? Pam and Karen, where are you?????

Housekeeping Confession -- and First Tip of the Day
In my personal experience, how a person "keeps house" often is more a reflection of organizational skills than it is pride of ownership. Housework is just a lot harder for some people!

I don't mean the physical work involved in vacuuming, cleaning toilets, etc., although I have to say it is easier to clean a clean house than a dirty one! I have always had a terrible time getting and keeping my house clean. It's always just on the messy side. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd love to be a 9, I'd be happy to be a 6, right now I am a 4, and I used to be a 2! And it has taken me over 30 years to get this far.

I have lots of excuses, and some reasons, but I have finally come to the conclusion that a clean house is a juggling act, and I just do one thing at a time! For example, people with really nice kitchens clean up as they go along (it took me YEARS to notice this). When I cook, I cook.

When I clean, I clean. It is really hard for me to remember to put water in the sink, toss my dishes in as I go, and load the dishwasher once dinner is cooking. People whose kitchens are always clean automatically do this. I KNOW what has to be done, because in 30 years I've learned SOMETHING, but it really doesn't come naturally and often I'll find myself in a disaster zone just because it never occurred to me.

Also, it took me a long time to find out where to start to clean. (More on this another day). I've also picked up some organizational tips that help prevent disasters, which I would like to share, one a day. Finally, I just do the best I can and enjoy it without beating myself up too much about why my house isn't a 6 or a 9. It is not easy, because I am married to a man who has been critical of my housekeeping for all the time we have been married. (No, he doesn't help, either. I married in an earlier time and my self-esteem was too low to do anything about it. It isn't worth the fight now).

My best housework strategy (the one that has made the MOST difference for me) will be posted tomorrow. In the meantime, here's a quickie:

Establish a place for your purse and ALWAYS put it there so you can find it later! In my case, I put a hook up in the hall closet. When I come in the door, I hang up my coat and I hang up my purse. If I need to take out my checkbook, I return my purse to the hall closet when I'm finished. Don't laugh, it's little stuff like this that can save your sanity!

Minimum Maintenance (long)
Yesterday, I told you I would make a daily posting of the tips and strategies I have used over the years to gradually improve my housekeeping skills. Today's tip is a strategy suggested by Bonnie McCullough, author of "Totally
Organized: The Bonnie McCullough Way."

Bonnie calls it Minimum Maintenance. It's 5 minutes per room of putting away, straightening up and wiping off. Begin with the biggest items in each room, such as bed, newspaper or kitchen table, and work your way down to smaller items. When the 5 minutes is up, STOP. You can finish what you're doing at that moment, but don't start anything else in that room.

If you have a 6 room house, you can make a major improvement in only 30 minutes (the kitchen may take longer). This is only basic maintenance--you are not going to clean up a pit in only 5 minutes.

However, and this is the surprising part, you will begin to see a huge improvement by about the third day. On the first day, you'll get the biggest stuff put away. On the second, you'll be finding homes for the little oddball stuff you left out because you didn't know what to do with it. By the third day--now that you've got the counter cleaned off--you'll have time for a swipe with the dustcloth. You will never have time in 5 minutes to do heavy cleaning, but your rooms will be presentable. Once you get the clutter put away, you are much less likely to add to it as much.

It's important not to get too involved in any one room, and to move on after 5 minutes. If you don't, you will find yourself bogged down in one room and letting the rest of the house go to pot. On your daily rounds, you will notice what else needs to be done, and can go back to clean it when you have the time.

If you don't know where to start, begin where you will make a first impression. In my case, that's the entry hall and living room. I generally skip to the bedroom and bath after that, because those rooms are hidden from view, yet I want to make sure they get done. Then I do the dining room and finish with the kitchen (plan on spending more than 5 minutes on this room). Do it in the order that works for you. My schedule, I'm sure, would be very different if my kids were small and the dining room table was buried under cereal boxes, spilled milk, Matchbox cars, color books and magic markers. Just getting that cleaned up would give me a huge lift and I'd probably do it first!

Advantages of minimum maintenance (per Bonnie McC):
(1) It keeps things from getting worse
(2) You like yourself and your house more
(3) Areas you have already cleaned stay clean longer
(4) You gain freedom to move onto new projects without tangle or clutter
(5) The program is easy to teach and delegate to spouse and kids

Note from me: You will be amazed how much you can accomplish in only 5 minutes. Tomorrow I'll suggest ways to motivate yourself to do it. (If you do it today, you won't need any motivation tomorrow!).

How to make yourself do it (long)
No, ladies, we are NOT talking about sex here! Today's organizational tip is about remembering and motivating yourself to get things done.

One of the biggest problems we random housekeepers have is remembering to do things. The answer, of course, is to WRITE THINGS DOWN. Then you don't have to remember anything except to look at the list occasionally!

So today, I'm going to talk about lists.

There are a couple of ways to make lists. I'll talk first about the ways that DON'T work for me, because we are all different and one of them might be just the ticket for you:

(1) Card files, described by Pam Young and Peggy Jones in "Sidetracked Home Executives." (They also have a website). Make a card file that lists all of the jobs you need to do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Rotate the cards so that it provides a continuing list of what you need to do to maintain your home. Examples of daily chores are making your bed, doing the dishes, etc. A weekly chore is something like vacuuming the bedroom. Cleaning the windows inside is an example of a monthly chore.

This did not work for me because: (1) The system seemed complicated to me, and even though I bought a 3x5 file and a bunch of colored cards, I never could bring myself to actually make the file; (2) I went to one of the authors' programs and BOUGHT the preprinted file for $25. Then I never got around to filing the cards. I would have gladly paid $50 if they had put the thing together first. (4) I'm a rebel. I know that one day I would just wake up and say to myself, "I don't want to do it and no stupid card can make me!" (4) I know myself. I would never think to re-file the cards after using and eventually would begin using the backs of them for scratch paper. Scratch that one!

(2) "The Flipper," described by Sandra Felton in "The Messies Manual" (also has a website) is a variation on the cardfile. The cards themselves seem simplified (or at least I simplified them!) and they are filed in a photograph album with clear plastic sleeves that you can just flip through (guess that's why she calls it "The Flipper"!). This solves the re-filing and using for scratch paper problem. I tried this, but didn't stay with it. I think it's a good idea, though, if cards appeal to you.

Here's what DOES work for me:

I bought a spiral-bound notebook that is about the size of a steno pad (I prefer the wire on the side). On the first piece of paper, I drew lines to make 4 boxes. One box is TO DO, one box is TO CALL, one box is TO GO, and the fourth box is for whatever you want. TO CALL and TO GO are pretty self-explanatory. I find that grouping these tasks helps me to combine errands and make the most of my phone time. I often write phone numbers and addresses in these spaces, too. TO DO is simply a list of the stuff I want to get accomplished today. I include Minimum Maintenance (MM) on this list, usually on the two bottom lines with each room abbreviated. For instance, my TO DO list for today includes the MM rooms, plus the following: Finish taxes, change 401(k) plan, wash the kitchen floor, dust the living room, find the hose to the shop vac, plant 4 trees in the windbreak and plant the bleeding hearts.

This list can be as "micro" as you wish. If you need to break down laundry steps to sort the wash, wash it, hang it, take it down, fold it and put it away--that's what you need to do. Crossing things off as you go is a great reminder, plus it lets us feel like we are accomplishing something!

When I make tomorrow's list, I am not going to throw away today's list. (For one thing, there are probably some jobs that didn't get done that I need to put on tomorrow's list). I am going to simply turn to the next page, draw my boxes and make the new list. I'm going to keep all of the old lists this way until I finish the notebook. The reason is, I'm going to use these pages so much that there will be notes and scribbles on them that I may want later.

I have found it really helps to keep just one calendar. Mine has big squares to write on and is posted on the refrigerator door, near the kitchen phone. When I make my daily list, I refer to the calendar for things I have to do that day. You might also find it helpful to make a list on the back page of the notebook by day of the week showing the things that have to be done on that specific day (for instance, put out the garbage). Then you can refer to this list when you make your daily list.

I mentioned that I leave one square blank. I usually use this to write the dinner menu and anything else I might need to remember. Sometimes I'll scribble a grocery list there, or separate my gardening tasks from the rest of the to-do list.

One of the advantages to this system is that it doesn't require any preparation. You don't have to buy a card file and you don't have to make a bunch of cards to get started. Just grab a notebook. I like this better than making daily to-do lists on whatever's handy, because I lose scraps of paper and the notebook keeps all of my notes in one place and "archives" the old lists.

Advanced concept (only when you are ready for it): Some tasks just naturally go together. If you are making a note to put out the garbage, try to remember to add "empty wastebaskets" to your TO DO list. I'm sure some of the spotless ladies are chortling over this one, but I have (many times) put out a half-filled trash can for pick up, and left the wastebaskets inside the house filled to overflowing.

Hope this helps. Glad MM is working for some of you already (I gotta go do mine now).

Friday's Tip: Where to Start (long)
Today's tip is about where to start cleaning. You can skip over this if you are an ace housecleaner, but several have written that their mothers never taught them to clean. Mine didn't either. She was a rotten housekeeper.

Most home organization books suggest that you start with 4 boxes: PUT AWAY, GIVE AWAY, STOW AWAY and THROW AWAY. As you move through a room cleaning, items that you find that can't be put away in that room are put in one of the four boxes. PUT AWAY is for stuff that has accumulated and belongs in another place. GIVE AWAY is for items that are still good, but that you need to give away. STOW AWAY is for items that need to be put in storage in the basement, garage, or wherever. THROW AWAY, of course, is for the garbage. (This is a method I've never really gotten the hang of. I do something similar without all of the boxes. I'd explain it, but since I just wing it, "the method" is subject to constant change!).

OK, start in! Deal with every single item as you come to it. Anything that can't be put away in the room where you are working goes into one of the 4 boxes. Although some authors suggest that you clean every nook, corner, cranny and closet at once, I make a distinction. Realistically, it takes most of a day to clean a room this way. If you don't have time to do it all at once, clean the room and come back to the closets. You might feel more like tackling them if the room is already clean.

Except for the daily 5 minutes, I've found it is easier for me to clean a room and just keep at it until it's finished. If you don't have the time or energy for that, just work for an allotted period, such as 15 or 30 minutes. Stop cleaning early enough that you can put away or throw away the contents of your 4 boxes.

Also, remember that it's a lot easier to clean a clean room than a dirty one. This won't be a big problem if you have been giving the room 5 minutes a day--but I know you, you're only doing the rooms that everybody sees! (at least that's how I usually do it). In rooms like bedrooms, I've found that it helps to strip the sheets off the bed before you start working your way around the room.

Where to start? The experts recommend that you pick a starting place and start cleaning your way around the room. You can start anyplace, but right by the door is usually a good spot. (I tend to begin wherever the mess is so great that it is what I see first when I open the door). As you go from room to room, train yourself to work in the same direction (it's easier to see what you've done if you have to stop and come back to it). When you've finished the perimeter, hit the middle of the room.

When one room is finished, proceed to the next. Sandra Felton, founder of Messies Anonymous, calls this the "Mt. Vernon Method," after the way George Washington's home is maintained for the public. (Sandra also notes that cleaning Mt. Vernon is easy--George isn't there to mess it up!!).

Most pro housecleaners also clean from top to bottom--knock cobwebs off the ceiling, dust and then vacuum. The idea is that gravity eventually pulls everything to the floor, so that's the place to finish. If you prefer a different order, do what you like. This is not brain surgery. I don't think the order is all that important.

When you get to the windows, don't forget to dust the blinds (close them and dust the surface, then open and re-close so that the other side is exposed, and dust it). Vacuum the headers on drapes--the dust and cobwebs will amaze you. Wash the curtains if they need it and are washable. You can remove a lot of dust from curtains and drapes by taking them down and tumbling them in the dryer for awhile with NO HEAT.

If the pit you are cleaning is the kitchen, I've found that it helps to first unload the dishwasher, re-load it and start it running. Then, as you work your way around the room and find other dishes that didn't make it into the first load, stack them neatly by the sink. If you have a double sink, you can put the nastiest ones to soak in one of the sinks. (You're probably going to want to have soapy water in the other sink for wiping).

As you are cleaning, keep your eye out for problems and start figuring out how you will solve them. For instance, my best friend has lived in a house for 23 years that has ONE towel rack in each bathroom and NO medicine cabinets. Just fixing those two problems would make a huge improvement! Also, be sure to have wastebaskets in every bedroom, as well as the kitchen and bathrooms.

Now, if you are like me, you have a closetful of cleaning solutions. You just KNOW that when you find the right one, all of your housecleaning woes will be over. Not!!!!!!!! I also bought into the Don Aslett (another cleaning guru) idea that I needed janitorial supplies to clean a home. Except for concentrated spray cleaner that I dilute with water (because it's cheaper--I get this at Costco), I now stay pretty much away from janitorial supplies, for two reasons:

(1) Sometimes they aren't better--they are formulated for situations that we aren't dealing with at home. For instance, I just washed my kitchen floor with something that cost $18 a gallon about 8 years ago. It kills the HIV virus. (Pardon me????). It doesn't actually clean any better or faster than Spic'n'Span, and it doesn't smell nearly as good.

(2) Sometimes, stronger is not better. Some years ago, I asked a friend "in the business" to get me something to clean soap scum off the shower door. My husband, who believes that if a little is good, a lot is better, slopped it all over the shower and then proceeded to clean the bathroom sink with it. He took all the finish off the faucets in both the shower and the sink. Rookies have no business messing with stuff they don't know anything about!

You can probably clean just about anything in your home with the following:

(1) Mr. Clean or Spic'n'Span
(2) Powdered cleanser, like Comet. It's OK to buy a Soft Scrub or gel-type product, too, if you prefer it, but you'll probably need the powder for some jobs.
(3) Spray window cleaner. Do NOT use all-purpose spray cleaner like 409 on mirrors, because it will remove the silvering. Just another lesson from Max's School of Hard Knocks.
(4) Any other product that you find you use a lot and like. Or that you currently have around the house. I am in the process of using up all of those products, like the HIV cleaner, to free up the storage space for other things.
(5) Stuff you keep around the house for other purposes: baking soda, vinegar, chlorine bleach, etc.
(6) Rags. It's OK to use a sponge if you prefer one. But you'll still need rags for a lot of things. Old terry cloth towels are to be treasured. After you've cleaned the toilet, put the rag in the laundry and get a clean one.

When you finish with a room and are putting things away, don't feel that you have to find a perfect home for every item in your GIVEAWAY box. We are not giving away puppies, after all! I find it most helpful to get rid of this stuff immediately. Sometimes there are one or two items and you know someone who would just love them. Call her now! Give the rest to Goodwill! (The best person for a particular item is someone who wants it badly enough to pay for it). Do it now!!!! Do not let your GIVEAWAYS clutter up your home while you try to adopt them out. It's OK to save it for a garage sale if you know you're going to be having one in the next month.

If you are cleaning your whole house, start with the living room and entry (what people see first) and finish with the kitchen (the hardest room to do). Clean the other rooms in any order you prefer. Don't try to do more than one room a day, or you'll poop out before the finish.

There are still about a week's worth of topics left in me, including how to organize a closet and an easier way to clean a small bathroom.

One final tip: Those of you who have started doing the 5 minute thing are probably finding by now that some rooms don't take the whole 5 minutes after the first or second day. (Bedrooms are a good example). Use the rest of your 5 minutes to clean out ONE drawer. In a week, you can easily clean your whole dresser.

Two for One
I decided it was time for a shorter tip, rather than a big strategy, but I couldn't decide between two ideas, so you get them both today. The first one I mentioned some weeks ago, but it bears repeating for the newbies:

(1) Bonnie McCullough has what she calls the "Ten O'Clock Rule." If you are going to be gone from home during the day tomorrow, you must decide by 10 p.m. TONIGHT what you are going to have for dinner. If you are at home all day, you decide by 10 a.m. TODAY what you are having for dinner tonight. You don't have to start cooking--just decide. Make a note of it on your list, along with any items that you might need to pick up at the store. Remove items from the freezer to thaw. This eliminates the problem of "what to serve"--which I think results in more trips to McDonalds than any other thing!

(2) Random housekeepers spend a lot of time looking for things (remember the purse tip). Designate a place for an extra set of keys (I have a cup hook in my broom closet). If you don't have an extra key for every single thing in your house, put this on your to-do list. Now carry it a step farther: make an additional key for each of your cars and either put it in one of those magnetic things, or take a short piece of wire and wire it to the bottom of your car's frame. This is for those times when it is 11 p.m. and you are away from home and discover that you have locked your keys in the car. If you hide a house key outside, make sure it is in its hiding place. If it isn't, make an extra key and put it back. I have been busy making extra keys lately, but I am not gonna admit what event(s) inspired me to do this.......

I have really been enjoying the the threads that follow my daily tips--which are, after all, THE BLIND LEADING THE BLIND. Many of us have variations on the same idea that will be helpful to others. Keep 'em coming!

Utility closets & misc. storage ideas
In an earlier post, I mentioned that I caught the vision of how an organized home could look when I saw a drawing of a utility closet in Sandra Felton's first book, The Messies Manual. The picture shows a small closet with shelves, with boxes and containers of various uniform sizes stacked on them. A hairdryer hangs from a hook on the wall. On the other side, the iron is in a hanger on the wall, just above the mop and broom, also hanging. A flashlight hangs nearby. Organizers on the back of the door contain cleaning products. Ooooooooooooooh!

Fifteen years later, I'm still not organized, but I'm doing a lot better. And although I have really good storage in this house (and in the last one--I basically designed them both), I've never had a utility closet per se. My storage is spread out between shelves in the utility room (in the basement in this house), a shelf in the linen closet, and an actual broom closet that magically appeared in my kitchen when the house was built. I know that most houses have far less storage, but that it's spread around like mine. So here's what I do, and maybe some of it will work for you:

My broom closet was probably intended as a coat closet. I took out the rod and use the shelf above to store cleaning products and Little Green Clean Machine. I have put hooks on the 1x4s that support the shelf in order to hang the following items: mops & brooms, dustpan, extra bags and belt for vacuum, tools for vac in plastic bag, flyswatter, yardstick, dog leash. The upright vacuum and a shop vac are on the floor (in 5 houses, this is the first time I have ever had a place for the vacuum cleaner, let alone two!). Because there isn't room on the shelf, I have a small basket on the floor for rags.

All of the home management gurus advocate hanging up everything that you can, and it has helped me a lot. In other houses, I have had the broom and mops on the wall in the garage, just outside the door to the kitchen. In one apartment we lived in, the management installed hooks on the siding outside the kitchen door--it didn't look bad because it backed up to a tall fence, and stayed dry because it was under the eaves. A friend's utility room is a pass-through between the family room and garage. When we dejunked her house, we bought a Rubbermaid thing with several hooks and space for the dustpan, and hung it on the wall in a narrow space next to the dryer.

Because of the location of my utility room, I only use it for laundry-related and sewing items (my sewing machine is there). In my last house, the utility room was on the main floor, and I used the shelves for most of the things I have now in my broom closet (no place for the vacuum cleaner, though--that went in the hall closet). My linen closet isn't huge, but I've cleared off a shelf for shoe polish, extra lightbulbs, etc. We kept this stuff in the utility room of our other house. I also have my giftwrap in here. No room for extra TP, though, which we store in one of the bathrooms (no room in the other).

Here are some miscellaneous storage ideas:

CONTAINERS--It does help to use containers that are uniform in size. You can get more on the shelf and it looks neater. When I started organizing 15 years ago, I bought baskets, but have gradually discarded them because they don't stack. I like plastic shoeboxes, because you can stack them 2 or 3 deep and they're only $1 on sale. (I prefer Tucker or Sterilite--Rubbermaid lids are hard to remove). I'm too cheap to buy big plastic storage boxes. I like apple/pear OR orange/lemon/grapefruit boxes (one or the other--they are different sizes) with the lids cut down to about 2 inches deep. (Tomato boxes come this way, but they are smaller; copy paper boxes have the same sort of lids, but they are harder to come by and less sturdy). I use a felt marker to label the general contents of each box. I use boxes for miscellaneous storage in the garage, for extra blankets and bedding in the linen closet, and many other things.

GIFTWRAP--I used to use a liquor box with compartments to store giftwrap upright in the slots. I no longer have floor space to do this. I finally bit the bullet and bought a Rubbermaid gift wrap & craft box, which I would slide under the bed except that I have room in the linen closet for it. I keep ribbons, tape, etc., in a hospital wash basin on top.

BATTERIES--Before you ever start dejunking your house, stop by Radio Shack and buy a battery tester (mine cost $3, although it was a few years ago). You are going to find batteries everywhere! (more than you ever dreamed!!!). You will be surprised how many of them are still good, since sometimes only one battery will burn out but we usually replace them all. Test your batteries as you find them, throw away the duds, and store the batteries and the tester in a plastic shoebox. After I first de-junked my house, I didn't have to buy batteries for YEARS.

IRONING BOARD--Gotta find a place for this, we've just been keeping it up in my son's bedroom, but he has moved back home. I suppose we will try to hang it on the back of a door. In my other house, I had a built-in ironing center, which I really recommend--especially if you DON'T iron much. What a pleasure to just close the door on it. Don't ask me why I didn't design one in here--must have been $$$$! It's nice if you can keep the iron and supplies in the same place.

TOWEL RODS--This isn't a closet issue, but make sure you have enough. (One for each person who uses the bathroom--you may have to be creative in where you put them). It keeps your bathroom much neater and sure cuts down on laundry. I also have rods screwed to the inside of the cabinet doors under the sink in the kitchen (for dishtowels) and in my bathroom (for cleaning rags, etc.).

RUBBERMAID TURNTABLES--I have generally found these to be space-wasters because they are round. The exception was in the corner kitchen cabinet of my house in Oregon. The door only opened on one side and it was practically unusable until I bought one of the really big turntables. Then I put roasting pans and other things I didn't often use on it.

SPICES--The pros recommend that you alphabetize them, and this really does help you find what you want. Unfortunately, I have all different brands in all different containers, and have never found a spice rack to accommodate them. (I'm too cheap to start over). I keep mine in a drawer. They are out of the way, but hard to find. If you are just starting out, buy all of your spices in the same size container and alphabetize them on a spice rack away from the heat of the stove.

ADDITIONAL STORAGE AREA--Mine is in the garage. A couple of months ago I mentioned how I got it: after several years of waiting for my husband to build shelves, I bought 1x16 shelving and cinderblocks and put up my own boards-and-brick shelves. They work great!! They were in my basement in our other house, and I moved them to our garage here. I also hang up everything I can in the garage. Unfortunately, our garage is usually a mess anyway--but IT COULD BE WORSE! I'm going to try to get my son to help me tackle it today.

CLOSET and CUPBOARD DOORS--Close 'em! I've noticed that those of us who have a problem with housekeeping seem to have a really hard time doing this--and yet we have the most to hide! When did you visit the home of a really good housekeeper and see cupboard doors left ajar? This is an area I'm really working on.

A lot of this stuff may seem really basic to you, but most of it was a revelation to me! I hope it helps you de-junk and maintain. Happy homemaking!

Aren't we supposed to do laundry?
I'd planned to write about bathrooms, but the old nursery rhyme about Monday being wash day keeps going through my mind......

I'm not going to tell you how to load the washing machine except to remind you that the soap is supposed to go in first. (It dissolves better, and therefore cleans better). Use cold, warm or hot water, and whatever products you like--after all, it's your laundry!

About the only thing I enjoy about laundry is hanging it out to dry, which is the main reason I do it (frugality notwithstanding). I have had to analyze the whole laundry process from start to finish, and I would encourage you to do the same. There are many different ways to do any job, and when you pinpoint the parts that are bugging you, you can begin to figure out improvements. I'm going to take you through my thought processes to get you started. Your solutions may be different than mine.

Storing the dirty laundry always was a problem. The hamper was in the bathroom, but we always undressed in our bedrooms and very few of the dirty clothes ever made it to the hamper. I solved this by putting a hamper or clothes basket in each bedroom. The bottom of the closet is a good place for this if you have the room.

Getting the clothes from the hamper to the laundry room was the next problem. This part is really essential to keep the process moving! Our bedrooms are upstairs, and the washing machine is in the basement. Just in the last two weeks I've found a solution! When I start doing my daily 5 minutes, I put an empty clothes basket in the hall by the bedrooms. As I give each room a quick once-over, I take a second to empty the hampers into the basket. If I replace towels in the bathrooms, I put the soiled ones in the basket. When I'm through, I just take the one basket downstairs and empty it. Then I use it later in the day to return clean laundry upstairs. (I don't do this every day--every 2 or 3 days seems to work fine).

I have found it helps me to sort the clothes when I first bring them downstairs. If the sorting is done, I really don't mind starting a load of wash. This also ensures that you wash full loads. Even if one of your kids does a load (always their stuff, have you noticed?) this encourages them to fill it out with other soiled items. I am currently using a 3-bag laundry sorter, because I have room for it next to my washing machine. In my other house, I had shelf space for 3 clothes baskets. The darks go in one, mediums in another, whites in another. Basically, I wash light and dark loads, and use the third basket to fill them out. Having the laundry pre-sorted encourages other family members to help.

I choose to hang my laundry in nice weather. Because my husband doesn't like his clothes or towels "boardy," I usually throw the clothes in the dryer for 5 minutes first. For some reason, this softens them up. If you are using the dryer and use fabric softener sheets, 1/4 or 1/3 sheet works fine (you don't need a any for a 5 minute fluff job).

When I take my clothes down or out of the dryer, I have made a rule that I have to fold and put them away RIGHT THEN. If I don't, bad things happen. Wrinkles come first, of course. But for me, a couple of baskets of clean, unfolded clothes is so demoralizing that I simply quit washing clothes. (For a long time!!!). I have found that to keep up with the laundry, I have to do it all at once. If you have a stumbling block in ANY chore, I really encourage you to make rules for yourself. If you can't think of a way around it, at least you can force yourself to work through it!!! (Note: you may be able to enlist help with folding if you fold it after dinner when the TV is on. The one thing (OK, one of many things) I have not done well is to train people to fold things the way I want it done. If you delegate any chore, you either have to teach your method or live with what you get).

Like most of you, I usually run a load of laundry every day. If I'm fairly caught up and skip a day or two, I can get caught up again by doing an extra load for a couple of days. However, one of the bad things about this method is that laundry is a never-ending job. If that's your main complaint, you might do what organizer Bonnie McCullough does:

Monday is wash day at her house. She does all of her laundry on Monday, no exceptions. If it's not in the laundry, it doesn't get washed until next week. She, too, has made a rule to fold as she goes, and makes her kids put away their own clothes when they get home from school. (They find her on the sofa eating a bag of M&Ms. No M&Ms for them until the clean clothes are put away).

If you are facing 8 or 10 loads of dirty laundry, you can do one of three

(1) See Bonnie McCullough's method. Put everything else on hold and do laundry all day today. (Yecch!!) You can get more done if you dry some in the dryer and hang some to dry.

(2) Go to a laundromat and do it all at once. I sometimes do this after a vacation. Even if you're not way behind on your laundry, if you are using a laundromat to wash sleeping bags or a big bedspread, take everything you've got with you and get caught up.

(3) Do an extra load a day until you get caught up. This is what I usually do, but I'm not sure it is the best or easiest way, since you are having to live with a lot of dirty laundry for a long time. If you are WAY behind, it is hard to get caught up a little at a time.

Grease-removal tip from my sister the clean freak: Use Gunk waterless hand cleaner on greasy laundry stains, then wash as usual. On a tablecloth, you can smear it on the stain while the cloth is still on the table and you can see them. It's cheap, too!

Put it on the calendar
Today's organizing tip is a simple one. Don't just use your calendars for birthdays, appointments and social events. If there are things you need to schedule on a regular basis, put it on your calendar, either literally or figuratively.

For example, I need to change the furnace filter regularly. In our previous home, it was about every 3 months. After I made a mental note to change it on the first day of the quarter, I never had a problem remembering. When we moved here, I discovered (the hard way) that the filter needs to be changed monthly (new houses have a lot of dust from carpet fiber, sheetrocking, etc.). For some reason, I haven't been able to remember consistently. Now my calendar lists CHANGE FURNACE FILTER on the first day of every month. There are many home maintenance jobs you can schedule this way.

This also works for doctors, dentists and other things. For example, I always have a mammogram between Christmas and New Year's (your birthday is also a good time and easy to remember). I also need to have a minor medical procedure twice a year. I used to wait for symptoms, but now I do it by the calendar--May and November. By tying these things to specific times of the year, I don't forget. Also, since it takes at least 3-4 weeks to get an appointment, in January I mark it on my calendar to CALL DR. FOR APPT. on April 1 and Oct. 1.

I've also found it helps to pay bills on a specific day of the month and to schedule your other activities around it. I used to pay them on the 1st, but here my gas bill arrives around the 5th. Now I use that as a "trigger" to remind me to pay up, since some of the bills that come in earlier start coming due around the 10th. My bank statement comes around the 3rd, so I've made it a rule that I can't pay bills until I've balanced my checkbook.

The reason I schedule things and make rules for myself is that this stuff doesn't come naturally. I have to work at it. And it works!!!

This message has been edited by MaxineS on Nov 15, 2006 2:11 PM

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