Monday, November 21, 2005

Time is tight, cookies need baking, kids demand attention and your home screams for a thorough cleaning. Where do you start? Make a list and check it twice. Write down your holiday activities including what needs to be baked, cleaned, rearranged, disguarded or ignored. Remember that commitment you silently made to spend more time with your family this holiday season? A good hard look at your list quickly reveals what you can eliminate to free your time this holiday season.

A list also helps prevent those last minute "I forgot to wash the tablecloth" catastrophes. Check off each chore as you complete it. A computer spreadsheet program allows you to quickly rearrange that schedule so priorities or do ahead projects make the top ten. Keep the master copy to use again next year and work from a second copy.

Starting mid November make double meals twice a week. It only takes a few extra minutes to throw together 2 meatloaves or double a casserole or favorite chili recipe. Freeze the second meal for a homemade "fast food" meal. It's faster and healthier than heading to the local drive through.

Now comes the tough but essential part to give you added time during the holidays. Make a commitment to run errands nor more than twice a week. It takes at least 30 to 40 minutes just driving to and from a store. Keep spare rolls of tape, paper, glue, screwdrivers and pliers within easy reach.

This is the time to multitask: if you go to the garage take a load of laundry. When you head out to the store, take out the garbage. Get three days worth of dinner out of the freezer in the garage. Pay attention to the trips you make and do double duty. You'll save a couple hours a week simply by combing trips around your home.

It is impossible to speed clean a cluttered home. Put on some calypso music and start decluttering. Fast moving music takes the burden out of this job. Besides you'll find yourself dancing to the beat and the exercise is wonderful! Small children love to dance so let their imagine run free. Get the entire family involved in decluttering. If the kids want holiday cookies they need to pick up after themselves then let them help.

If you serve finger food rather than a sit down dinner, purchase good sturdy, oversized plates so your guests have plenty of room to place napkins, silverware and their glass on the plate while they walk to a chair. A sturdier plate balances better in a lap as well. Think twice about serving things like chips, popcorn or things that crumble like crackers or cookies. Not only do they leave grease stains in fabric, but they are often dropped and crushed into the carpeting or hard flooring and they find their way into the crevices in furniture, all of which can take hours to clean.

Place extra coasters along window sills etc where people linger to talk and often put down a glass. Keep a look out for glasses left behind and pick them up quickly to prevent spills. Use burning candles sparingly perhaps on the buffet or main dinner table only. Extinguish them right after dinner. Fires often start because a candle is moved during the evening and placed close to a flammable item.

After guests leave, straighten up before retiring for the night. You will spot any stain that might have been missed. Our Ion-A-Clean can be sprayed on a stain and left until the next day. Ion-A-Clean is ionized water and will not cause damage to any surface. The negatively charged ions "peel" away the stain from the fabric making removal easy.

You are welcome to download my free stain removal guide. It does come in handy all year long and especially during the holiday season.

Buy a large size carpet sample to place at your front door. Carpet does a great job cleaning the bottom of shoes. Then put a non rubber backed throw rug just inside the door to catch what the carpet sample missed. Rubber backed throw rugs leave yellow stains on surfaces especially when they get wet. Make sure the throw rug is light in color. Otherwise the dye will seep into your carpet. Hold the throw rug in place with non skid padding you find in most department stores. It should not yellow like the rubbed backing on rugs.

Speed clean your home like a pro: That cup of coffee can wait. You don't have to answer the phone unless you are expecting a call and it won't hurt a thing if the mail gets left in the box for another hour. Stay focused when you clean. You pick up speed while cleaning. Stop to do laundry and you just lost 15 minutes regaining your speed, if you can even do that at all.

Next take a serious walk around your home. If a room isn't to be used during the holidays, thoroughly clean it early in the season then shut the door. It will keep clean for a month until the hustle and bustle pass. Each evening after dinner clean one kitchen counter top, a shelf in the refrigerator, the microwave etc. Go through your refrigerator before the holidays and get rid of anything that has sprouted legs and is doing the two step by the light of a 20 watt bulb.

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