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13 Cleaning Tasks That Take Less Than 1 Minute

House cleaning is one of our least favorite tasks.  The number one reason people give for why they can’t (or don’t) clean their homes is that they don’t have enough time.  Understandably so, since we live in a world where more is expected of us than ever before.  We’re required to balance home, family, work and personal tasks every day. 

Luckily, cleaning your home doesn’t have to take a lot of time.  Check out these quick cleaning activities that deliver big return for the minimal time investment of one minute or less!

13 House Cleaning Tasks That Take Less Than 1 Minute

1.  Put dirty clothes in the hamper.  Dirty clothes strewn across the floor create the appearance of chaos.  In under one minute, dirty clothes can be thrown into a hamper, decluttering the floor.

2.  Put away clean clothes.  Stacks and piles of clothes may be clean, but if they aren’t in their proper homes they contribute to messy bedrooms.  Do other family members know which piles are clean, or do clean clothes sometimes end up in the dirty laundry?  Save the confusion and the mess!  Hang up clothes that belong in the closet and put others in dresser drawers as appropriate.

3.  Dust the TV screen.  If your TV has the finger-written words “wash me” on the screen, it’s time for a dusting!  Using a used dryer sheet as a dusting cloth, wipe down the screen, sides, and top of your television to eliminate dust and keep it from resettling as often.  Watch how quickly a tv can be dusted.

4.  Dust the computer monitor.  Watch how to clean a computer monitor.

5.  Empty food stoppers in the sink.  Old food sitting in the drain can make the sink one of the nastiest places in the house.  It takes mere seconds to pick up the stopper / strainer, drop the food into the trash, and replace.

6.  Make the bed.  Pull up the blankets, smooth them out, and put the pillows in place.  Making beds is a fast and easy way to create a cleaner looking room in under a minute.

7.  Empty the trash.  An overflowing trash can doesn’t lend to the visual of a clean space.  Take out full trash bags and replace with empty bags for a quick cleaning task that takes less time than a commercial break.

8.  Put on clean pillow cases.  Quickly and easily toss the dead skin and oil trapped on your pillow case in favor of a fresh case.

9.  Clean the mirrors.  A quick spritz of glass or window cleaner and a cleaning cloth will get rid of the spots and provide a clean reflection.

10.  Replace burned out light bulbs.  Brighten up a dark room by replacing burned out light bulbs.  Use compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) wherever possible to save energy and cut down your utility bill.  With a lifespan of 10 times longer than a standard incandescent bulb, changing a burned out bulb to a CFL ensures that you won’t be changing the same light bulb for a long time!

11.  Wash counter tops.  A few quick sprays of antibacterial cleaner or vinegar and a sponge can restore a spotless, germ-free surface in under a minute.

12.  Wash the stove top.  Just like in number 11, a quick cleaning job on your stove top is possible and will eliminate food and germs in no time.  Plus, such an easy cleaning task will make your whole kitchen look cleaner in a snap!

13.  Wash off the dining room table.  Antibacterial cleaner or vinegar and a sponge will get your dining room table ready for meal time with minimal effort.

The good news is that any of these tasks that take less than a minute to do will provide enormous return in keeping your home clean and maintained.  Keep up on these little tasks when you only have a few minutes to spare, and you’ll be saving big time in the housekeeping department that you can spend doing the things you love instead!

Originally published August 7, 2008.  Photo courtesy of stock.xchng.

Decluttering All the Paper – Week 2

Melissa Smallwood is a professional organizer, mother of three boys, mommy blogger, and the owner of the informational website, Organized Life by Design .  You can catch up with her on Twitter @multitaskingme.


Decluttering All the Paper – Week 2



Dealing with paper, in general:

Newspapers- If you use the internet, all major newspapers, including many local papers, are available (in their entirety) on line. If you are not computer savvy or prefer to hold the newspaper than be sure to recycle or toss newspapers at least weekly. Piles of old newspapers are untidy and create a fire hazard as well!

Important personal papers- These include your will, birth certificate, social security card, passport, etc. Keeping these in a fireproof box is safest or use a safe deposit box at the bank.

Other files you may have include:

  • 401k statements
  • Bank statements
  • Mortgage statements
  • Stock/bond/IRA statements
  • Warranties/instruction manuals
  • Car information, including car insurance and title

Keep your files organized and accessible according to how often you access them. If you only access certain papers once a year at tax time, then file them in a banker’s box in the attic. Keep files you need on hand in the file cabinet.

If you find yourself with various piles of paper scattered throughout the house, consider a portable file box. When you need to do filing, the place to file the papers will be right there. Easy access makes it more likely that you consistently file what needs to be filed.

How Long To Keep Types of Paper Files

We are often asked by clients how long they should keep various types of paper. These are general guidelines that we use when working with people. But remember, it is always important to check with your accountant or tax advisor about your individual situation before shredding any documents.

  • Auto records- Keep these as long as you own the vehicle.
  • Appointment books- some people like to keep these as a type of journal, I keep them for a few years as back-up for mileage purposes. Keep them up to 10 years for this type of reason.
  • ATM slips- Keep them 6 years for tax related purchases. Store them with your bank statements.
  • Credit card statements- 6 years for tax related purchases (such as owning your own business) Otherwise keep until you receive the interest statement issued with by the company annually. Then you can shred them.
  • Dividend Payment Records- Until you receive your annual statement.
  • Health records- Permanently
  • Home improvements- As long as you own the home. Store these with your tax records.
  • Household inventory and appraisal- As long as they are current. Update them annually (we will talk more about this next week when we talk about organizing for a transition).
  • Insurance policies- Auto, homeowner’s, liability: through the statute of limitations. Disability, medical, life, personal property, umbrella: keep for the life of the policy.
  • Investment purchase records- As long as you own the investments.
  • Investment sales records- 6 years for tax purposes.
  • Mortgage or loan discharge- As long as you own the home or 6 years after the discharge.
  • Pay stubs- Until they are verified by your W-2 statement.
  • Property bill of purchase- As long as you own the property.
  • Receipts- As long as they are current, or as determined by your accountant.
  • Safe deposit box key and inventory- As long as they are current.
  • Tax records- Current year plus 6 years prior (can be filed away in a bankers box).
  • Utility bills, etc.- Until they are paid (your cancelled check is proof you paid and the company keeps records as well).
  • Vital Records and documents- Birth, marriage, divorce, death certificates: permanently.
  • Wills, trusts, estate plans- Permanently

Catch Organizing with Melissa next Wednesday for “Decluttering All the Paper – Part 3”.  Visit Works for Me Wednesday for more life organizing tips.

Decluttering All The Paper – Week 1

Melissa Smallwood is a professional organizer, mother of three boys, mommy blogger, and the owner of the informational website, Organized Life by Design.  You can catch up with her on Twitter @multitaskingme.


What Do I Do With All the Paper?

I get asked this question all the time by readers and clients. Even with all the technological advances in the world I don’t think our society will ever truly be paperless.

In fact, the recent technological advances seem to have created more paper to deal with in many cases. We have receipts, bills, insurance policies, certificates, investment statements, health records, and more. Then added to that is the daily influx of junk mail- magazines, catalogs, sweepstakes entry forms, etc.

Over the next three weeks we will learn how to overcome paper clutter and learn what to do with paper that is necessary.

Decluttering Mail

Your mail needs to have a designated spot. When you pick it up from the mailbox each day, bring it into the house and put it in the same spot. This can be a basket, a designated space on the kitchen counter, or on your desk in your home office.

Your goal should be to handle mail as soon as it enters your home. But at the very least try to have a set time each day that you go through the mail and deal with it, so you don’t end up with piles of mail and magazines spread throughout the house.

  • Magazines- Only keep the current month’s issue. If there are articles that you want to keep for future reference or for a recipe, etc., then invest in a 3 ring binder with plastic page protectors. Tear out the article that you like and throw away the rest of the magazine.
  • Catalogs- When a catalog arrives at your home and it is not one that your regularly order from call the 800 customer service number on the back and request to be taken off the mailing list.
  • Junk Mail- This should be immediately thrown away. If you like the coupons from the ValuPak, etc., then clip the ones you like and throw the rest away. This will cut down on the amount of paper clutter lying around the house. To stop junk mail from coming in the first place, do a Google search for a way to get your name off company mailing lists. When you receive a catalog in the mail there is usually a number on the back to contact if you don’t want to receive any more.
  • Bills- Have a place for all the bills that need paid to be filed until it is time to pay them. This can be a plastic shelf divider, a basket, a file folder, an accordion file, etc. Whatever works for you is the best system to have.
  • Invitations, fliers, etc.- We all get the invitations to weddings, special events at the senior center and family goings on. Have a place that you put all these and weekly go through and sort out what has already happened and throw it away. As soon as you receive any type of invitation or reminder with a date in the mail you should check your calendar and if you plan to attend go ahead and write it on the calendar so that you don’t forget in the future.

Catch Organizing with Melissa next Wednesday for “Decluttering All the Paper – Part 2”.  Visit Works for Me Wednesday for more life organizing tips.

Organized Versus Clean

Melissa Smallwood is a professional organizer, mother of three boys, mommy blogger, and the owner of the informational website, Organized Life by Design.  You can catch up with her on Twitter @multitaskingme.

Organizing with Melissa

Organized Versus Clean

Many times I will hear people say they want to “get organized” when what they really need to do is clean their environment. There is a difference between cleaning and being organized. I figured this difference would be a good place to start with the new Organizing with Melissa column for Home Ever After.

To be organized is to “pull together into an orderly, functional, structured whole” while to clean is to “free from dirt, stain or impurity” (according to the American Heritage Dictionary). Becoming more organized can certainly assist you in maintaining a cleaner household but having a clean household has little to do with whether or not you are organized. Make sense?

Cleaning house is important, don’t get me wrong. Organizing is the process that makes cleaning the house occur on a regular basis, allows for time to keep the house clean and accounts for ways and tricks to make cleaning the house more efficient.

I love being a professional organizer. This career enables me to help people develop systems that make their lives run smoothly, help them use their time wisely and keep their environments (and mind) clutter free.

What Can Becoming More Organized Do for You?

  • Increase efficiency
  • Decrease frustration and pace of life
  • Help you feel more control of circumstances
  • Assist you in dealing with the unexpected
  • Develop routines and shortcuts that make life easier

Sounds great, right? I look forward to helping you and your family cut through the clutter of life.

Editor’s Note: Speaking of organizing, we’ve got a few decluttering articles you might want to start on now: Declutter Your Closet: Why is it So Hard to Let Go of Clothes? , Simple Decluttering Criteria for Clothes (Pt 1), Simple Decluttering Criteria for Clothes (Pt 2), Clutter Busting: The One in, One Out Rule, and Declutter by Returning Borrowed Items.  I know, it’s a lot of reading all at once! Just bookmark this page or print out the articles to read for later.  

Visit Works for Me Wednesday for more life organizing tips.

Feng Shui Tips for Your Home

Feng shui is an ancient Chinese philosophy of changing or adjusting different elements in your environment to attract the positive energy and show the door to the negative energies. You can start using feng shui tips for your home today by just considering a few simple adjustments.

While using feng shui for your home, you will need to make changes associated to the five elements: earth, fire, water, metal and wood.

Since home is the place you like to come back to relieve yourself from the stress, it should be comfortable and relaxing, while allowing positive energy to flow freely.  Try these easy feng shui tips and see if you notice improvements in your home’s appearance.

Feng Shui Tips for Your Home

Front Door.  Better feng shui for your home starts with your front door, which is the first contact that you and others have with your home. The color of the door should be welcoming and have a calm presence. Keeping plants at the entrance attracts positive energy. Avoid having slippers and shoes lying around the door.

Living Room.  Your living room is where you and your family spend most of your time together. To allow positive energy to flow into this room, try these feng shui tips.  You will first need to declutter the room. Keep only required furniture and remove unnecessary books, papers and other items. Try to arrange the furniture in a circular or cozy and comfortable layout, rather than pushing all the furniture to the walls. Avoid using very heavy furniture, such as a marble coffee table.

Kitchen.  The next room is your kitchen, which should be bright and well lit.  White lights are preferable. Ensure that your appliances are in good working condition, throw away appliances which cannot be repaired and have been lying around from a long time.  Also keep it clean and tidy, with no items that belong in other rooms (books, unopened mail, kids’ backpacks, etc.)

Bedroom.  Your bedroom needs special attention since it’s your personal space. The colors used should be pastel, and should look inviting to you. Keep minimum furniture in the bedroom and move the television set to a different room. If you have cupboards or dressers with mirrors, ensure that they are not placed on the opposite or sides of your bed. Your bed should be placed against a wall, which will give a good nights sleep.

Open the windows of your bedroom everyday for a while and get the fresh air circulate in the room.  Read our other tips for decorating a peaceful bedroom.

Bathroom.  The bathroom (whether it’s attached to your bedroom or a common one) should have earthy colors on the walls. It should be kept clean and fragrant, with the help of aroma candles and white towels.  Editor’s Note: Energy that comes from toilet water is thought to be bad energy in feng shui. With that in mind, it is recommended to keep the toilet lid closed whenever not being used.

Kids’ Bedrooms.  Your childrens’ rooms should be tidy and painted with soft colors. Avoid using bunk beds or allowing children to sleep on mattresses on the floor as it restricts the circulation of energy. If you have a kids’ desk in the room, ensure that the child has his back to the wall while studying.

It just takes a few simple adjustments to use these feng shui tips for your home. You can instantly experience an enhanced quality of living and create a more inviting feel to your home.

Living room interior design photo by jinkazamah.