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How to Clean Your House in 15 Minutes or Less

06/30/2013 11:12 EDT | Updated 08/28/2013 05:12 EDT
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The phone rings or you get a text:

"Hi! I'm in the neighbourhood and I'm coming over. See you soon!"

You freeze.

After all, if your mother-in-law, long-lost friend from grade school or pastor is in the area, it's really hard to tell them "no," and that they can't come over. There are repercussions, you see, that will make things so much more difficult, if you choose to deny them.

Now, all of us who are parents know that it's virtually impossible to keep a consistently clean house at any given time. We all know that kids, by definition, means chaos, and with chaos comes mess.

It's the natural order of things. On any given day, my home looks like a cross between a war zone where fingerpaints, markers and crayons are the weapon of choice, ground zero of a brazen attack by angry toys and a twisted dystopia of food stuffs, where remnants of last night's dinner can (embarrassingly) be found in bedrooms, bathrooms and basements. Ugh.

For these reasons alone, the sheer embarrassment of this chaos being revealed to those fortunate souls who are child-free, or have grown children (or perhaps just a housecleaner) is not to be underestimated. No, as much as people say that they understand that the house is a complete disaster, they really don't and, don't kid yourselves, they will go away, shaking their heads and wonder incredulously how you, yes you could be such a slob. Oh, yes - you're a bad parent, to boot.

It's just plain humiliating and not worth the stress. Accordingly, I've come up with some ways to mitigate the madness and make the impromptu visit by unexpected guests occur without you having to crawl into a hole from embarrassment. Following are some simple tips on how to clean your house in 15 minutes or less:

1) Time Management - You have 15 minutes so make it good. You don't have a lot of time so here's what I suggest: three blocks of 5 minutes for each area and no more. It may seem impossible but you can do it. The finite time period will get you going in no time. Nothing like a tight deadline to light a fire under us, right?

2) Main Area - This is the first thing they're going to see when they walk in the door so make sure that your guest doesn't have such a horrifying first impression that they'll never forget and will, similarly, never stop talking about what a slob you are to anyone who will listen. Kids have toys, and many of these toys have millions of little pieces, much to our irritation. Ditto for Lego which, when stepped on, is a painful reminder of how many little pieces there are on the floor and otherwise. Be prepared and always have a few storage bins or boxes in your main area (living room, dining room, etc.) where you can throw errant toys in a frantic hurry. Chuck them in, and call it a day. If the bin is overflowing and can't be covered, that's okay. At least the mess is centralized instead of scattered all over the floor. Give yourself 1 minute to do a really quick sweep and if you're really on a roll, do a quick Swifter to make the floor look a bit better. Only if you have time, of course.

3) Kitchen - You have five minutes so do the basics: any dirty dishes need to be put in the sink. Make sure there are none on the counters or tables - it makes everything look a lot messier. If the dish count isn't too horrendous, take a couple of minutes and power-wash a few dishes. If you're fortunate enough to have a dishwasher, load it up and close the door. Out of sight and out of mind. The less items that there are piled in the sink the better.

4) Bathrooms - This is one of the most important areas to focus on and here's why: it's really gross to go into someone's bathroom and it's kind of unclean. Toothpaste globs in the sink and a toilet that hasn't been cleaned very recently is nasty, even in your own home. In someone else's, it's hard to forget. The plan of attack in the wake of your "15-minute warning" from your guest should be this: one minute to dump some bleach or cleaner in your toilet and to scrub like you mean it, one minute to add spray clean your sink, on the faucets and on any obvious areas of dirt that need to be scrubbed and one minute to do a really quick once-over with a sponge on all of the main counters and walls. Take one to two minutes to sweep and you're done.

5) Assign Jobs - Your kids are part of making the mess; why not make them part of the frantic clean-up? As soon as you know that you've got 15 minutes, give them a job or two to tackle. Kids who are aged 5 and up love to use a Dustbuster or similar Handy-Vac type vacuum. Get them to do a quick once-over of the stairs or rugs so that there are no dust-bunnies or balls of dust in the corner. Similarly, get them to do some quick dusting of the furniture and areas where dust collects so that your house guests are not horrified by the dust bowl in which you live.

So as you can see, you can get quite a bit done in a short period of time. The key is to get your motor running, get into the cleaning grove and to power clean like there's no tomorrow - just for 15 minutes or so.

This post also appears at www.multiplemayhemmamma.com

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