Cleaning With the Season

Your Biggest Cleaning Problems: Solved!

Unless you can afford a housekeeper or you're as obsessed with cleaning as Monica Geller, there's a good chance your home is not as clean as you'd like it to be. Mine sure isn't. I do make an extra effort to pick up when I'm expecting company, but more often than I'd like to admit, there are piles everywhere: Clothes in the bedroom, junk by the door and dishes in the sink.

With the holidays just around the corner, there's sure to be a constant stream of people in and out of my apartment, sometimes with no warning. So, for your sake and mine, I consulted a few experts and my own common sense (even if I don't always practice what I preach) for tackling some of the biggest everyday cleaning problems.
Check out the slideshow above for the solutions to your biggest cleaning problems!

Problem #1: Filthy Stove Top
While you're at it (dishes, that is), go ahead and wipe down your stove top. If you do it every time you do dishes, it will never get so disgusting that you're afraid to use your dish sponge on it (and if you are, keep a separate sponge and spray nearby).

If it's really bad douse the stove top with water and then sprinkle it with baking soda, suggests Linda Hendrickson of Maid Brigade, a green cleaning service in Redwood City, California. But only if you have an entire day or can let it sit overnight, she says. "The baking soda will eat into the grime and in about 12 hours everything will wipe away with a paper towel. It works on the oven, too."

Problem #2: Fridge Full of Leftovers
There was a time, not too long ago, when I'd clean out the refrigerator only when bad odors began to waft through the rest of my apartment when I opened the fridge's door. For me and my roommate, parting with unidentifiable former foods became a monthly gag and giggle fest. Now that I'm older, and slightly more responsible, cleaning out the fridge is part of a regular Sunday-night routine. Before the trash goes out for morning pick-up, we fill it with whatever we didn't manage to freeze or eat that week.

And don't let your good conscience get in the way of a clean fridge. If you didn't eat leftovers in a week, you're never going to eat them. Plus, says Hendrickson, "The odors from moldy food actually do get into your good food."

Problem #3: Dusty Bookshelves
For dusting, Hendrickson suggests wetting a microfiber cloth, then squeezing it as dry as possible. That way it will grab the dirt without leaving the water behind. To clean the cloth, simply rinse it in a bucket of clean water and repeat. "The microfiber will let go of all of the dirt and you can use it again and again without having to wash it," she says.

Problem #4: Food Lost in Couch Cushions
Have you ever had a guest lose a cell phone in the cushions of your couch, only to recover it along with a handful of hair (dog, human, etc.), crumbs, dust and other nasty particles? If so, the most reasonable solution is to just vacuum under the cushions. Since I regularly vacuum the dog hair off of the couch, it wouldn't be a stretch to lift up the cushions and vacuum underneath. If your couch is one piece, or your cushions are somehow permanently fixed to the structure, Hendrickson suggests getting an edger attachment to get down in there every once in a while -- which is really all it takes.

If you can, store a hand-held vacuum under the couch or in a side table. Then, next time someone sticks a hand down there (hopefully you, when you're home alone) you'll be reminded to take care of it, and everything you need will already be right there.

Problem #5: Clothes on the Floor
"Wherever clothes accumulate, stick a hamper there. At least they'll be off the floor and in the hamper," says Nancy Heller, a professional organizer and owner of Goodbye Clutter in Manhattan, New York. She also emphasizes that it's much easier to keep up than catch up. Rather than letting clothes pile up for days or weeks, try and start a new habit of picking up the clothes every day.

If, like me, you have too many clothes to even think about making room in your closet every time you do laundry, make this resolution: Every other week, sell five pieces that don't flatter you, and buy one you really love. Not only will you have more room in your closet or dresser, you'll be more likely to take care of your new, beloved piece and hang it up immediately.

When it comes to piles of dirty laundry, "You've gotta just do it," says Hendrickson. If separating your laundry is causing you to overload on wash anxiety, she suggests throwing everything together in the machine on the "warm" setting and adding some OxiClean to protect the colors and the whites.

Problem #6: Unmade Bed
"It takes less than half as long to make a bed with two people than it does with one," says Hendrickson. So, if you share your bed, and you both get up around the same time, devote a minute every morning to sharing bed-making duties. If it's just you, smoothing the blankets takes even less time and makes your bedroom look ten times more put together.

Problem #7: Sink Full of Dishes
I don't mind doing dishes, but I'm especially unmotivated to do them when the rack is full. So, I have my boyfriend put away the dishes when they're dry. It's a small thing, but it eliminates a step for me and makes the dishes so much less daunting.

Still, nobody wants to wash a bunch of crusty dishes. So if you don't clean your dishes immediately after each use, tackle the really dirty ones in steps. When it comes to pots, pans and other heavily-soiled plates and bowls, load a scrubber with dish soap and a little hot water. Then (without the water running) scrub the food off of all of the dishes and give them all a very quick rinse in hot water. Once you have an empty dish rack and a sink full of dirty (but not-very-dirty) dishes, the rest is a breeze.

Problem #8: Piles of Junk by the Door
The best way to keep your entryway organized is to have a system for things going out the door and another for things coming in, says Heller. She suggests keeping only outgoing items -- like dry cleaning, keys and mail -- on a table or credenza. Then create a more intricate system for things you bring in.

"If you set up pegs for coats and purses, some sort of a rack or stand for umbrellas and trays for boots, that's half the battle," she says. "Whatever it is, it's got to be clear, it's got to be simple and it's got to be easy." It can also be pretty. Check out these beautiful wall hooks from Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie.

The most important thing to remember, according to Heller, is that order attracts order and chaos attracts chaos. So if you make it clear where things go, they're more likely to end up there.

Problem #9: Cluttered Bathroom Sink or Vanity
My bathroom counter looks like Walgreens threw up all over it. After rushing to get ready, I often leave the area around the sink littered with make-up, moisturizers, cotton balls, bobby pins and more. To begin tackling this problem, Heller says to throw out anything that has expired. Do the same for old toothbrushes, near-empty tubes of toothpaste and travel-sized items, which she suggests keeping in a bag in your suitcase. "Travel items are an issue for a lot of people" she says. "They just get in the way of the things you use everyday."

Once you've done a clean sweep, organize your products by type (lip products, eye products, first aid, etc.). You can either store them in Ziplock bags, or if you have the room, some sort of drawers or stacking bins, like these from Blumz. "When you have some place to put things, they can easily go back where they belong," Heller says.

Problem #10: Grimy Bath and Shower
Giving your bath a good bath of its own every couple of weeks is the key to keeping it clean. Hendrickson suggests using an earth-friendly cleaner like Bon Ami with a non-abrasive scrubber. You can also try a no-wipe shower cleaner like Tilex's Fresh Shower Daily Shower Cleaner or Method's Daily Shower Spray, which claim to keep scum from building up in your shower if you spray them everyday. But if you can't commit to spraying down down your shower after every shower, just scrub it every few weeks and reward yourself with a nice, relaxing bath.
Photo Credit: Corbis

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