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Tackle the Obvious Problem Areas
In the kitchen, give the countertop a once-over with a multipurpose cleaner. A mild abrasive liquid, sparingly applied, blasts stubborn crusty stains on the stovetop. For the sink, Debra Johnson, training manager at Merry Maids in Memphis, recommends dishwashing liquid and hot water. Run a wipe across the table. Put the garbage and recycling into bags and move them outside. Get dirty dishes out of sight by loading them into the dishwasher. Sort the pile of mail. Recycle any magazines and catalogs that are more than a month old. Clear clutter off nightstands in the master bedroom and on the coffee table.
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Video: How to Declutter the Kitchen Counter
How To Declutter The Kitchen
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Shine Your Surfaces
Spritz the bathroom sinks and faucets with an all-purpose spray and wipe with a microfiber cloth. Polish mirrors and anything glass—tabletops, pictures—with window cleaner and a microfiber cloth. The best tool for kitchen fixtures, the refrigerator door and the trash bin is a damp microfiber cloth, says Johnson. Buff coffee and side tables with a dry microfiber cloth.
Neaten Up by Putting Stuff Out of Sight
Round up scattered toiletries and makeup, and store in a bathroom drawer or in a basket on the vanity. Move seldom-used appliances off the kitchen counter and into cupboards. Return DVDs, video games and stray books to where they belong. Toss out-of-place items like shoes and backpacks into a laundry basket and stash in the closet—for your kids to sort through later.
Opt for a Quick Light Cleaning
Run a stick vacuum over carpets and rugs, then use a dry cloth sweeper on wood, tile and linoleum. Vacuum under beds and couches, and run a long-handled duster beneath large, low-to-the-ground furniture, such as sideboards and dressers. A dry microfiber cloth captures dust on furniture tops, shelves and flatscreens. In the bathrooms, squirt bowl cleanser into toilets and swipe the rim, seat and lid with a biodegradable cloth.
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Video: How to Add Storage to the Bathroom
How to Add Bathroom Storage
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Address the Small Stuff: The Key to a Spotless Room
A dry microfiber cloth and, if needed, a can of compressed air zap dust from lampshades, picture frames and delicate fixtures. Wipe down dirty ceiling-fan blades with a long-armed duster and a wet cloth. A damp eraser pad lifts scuffs and fingerprints from walls.
Launch an All-Out Attack on Corners and Hidden Spots
Give windowsills, doorframes and baseboards a once-over with a small handheld vac or the crevice attachment on a regular vacuum, then follow up with a dry microfiber cloth. "Complete the job with a damp microfiber if necessary," advises Johnson. A cloth spritzed with multipurpose product removes grime from kitchen cabinet pulls and fridge and oven handles. Suck up cobwebs from around the ceiling with a long-handled nozzle. Vacuum over and under sofa cushions with the upholstery and crevice attachments, respectively.
Additional tricks for every room: Fake a clean house with a few tidy tactics. Make the beds. Straighten and fluff sofa cushions and pillows. Drape a folded throw over a chair. Pull the shower curtain or tub door closed. Hang fresh bath and kitchen towels. Clean off and refill bottles of hand soap. De-clutter the refrigerator door by taking down magnets and any papers. Check lamps and replace any burned-out bulbs.
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Video: How to Organize Your Kid's Room
How To Organize Your Kid's Room
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Video: How to Organize the Hall Closet
How To Organize the Hall Closet
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Smart Tool: Duster
The pivoting head and extendable handle access hard-to-reach areas.
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Smart Cleaner: Wipes
Great for removing soap scum on counters, fixtures and more.
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Smart Cleaner: Wipes
The biodegradable shortcut for erasing fingerprints and smudges.
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Smart Cleaner: Surfaces
A concentrated no-fume formula for streak-free windows.
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Smart Tool: Sponge
The wedge shape attacks buildup in crevices.
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Smart Cleaner: Polish
This mild abrasive polishes surfaces without scratching.
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Smart Cleaner: Dishes
Soap bark extract cuts grease.
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Smart Tool: Duster
A magnet for grime and dust.
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Smart Tool: Scrubber
Tile scrubber and carpet sanitizer in one hard-working tool.
Originally published in the April 2014 issue of Family Circle magazine.