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Here's some great news for women: Researchers now believe we may actually need more dirt and germs in our lives, since being exposed to them during childhood may help us develop immunity to asthma and allergies. As if that weren't enough, I read that famous decorator Mario Buatta called dust "a protective coating for fine furniture."
On the other hand, most people don't want an adult domicile to look like a dorm room. The key—as always—is moderation. The way to cut down on housework is to clean less stuff more often. Here's what I mean:
The less you own, the less you have to clean. Get rid of everything you don't love or need. Can't decide whether to ditch it or not? Put doubtful items into a box, tape it closed, and mark it "Deliver to [name of favorite charity] on [date six months in the future]." (Seasonal items should be earmarked for disposal in a year's time.) If you haven't had any reason to look inside the box when the "deliver by" date arrives, dispose of it. Do not under any circumstances take a last peek inside.
Put cleaning supplies where they're needed. This is one of the greatest housekeeping tips ever. A wipe here and a spray there keeps dirt under control and makes cleaning almost painless. So put cleanser, all-purpose spray and a sponge in every bathroom. Keep mirror cleaner, furniture polish and paper towels in the bedroom closet. Have an upright or canister vacuum on each floor. Mount an extra battery-operated vacuum wherever it might be needed: near bedrooms, in the family room, wherever. Take a moment or two to deal with smudges, spills and dirt as you notice them.
- Deal with little jobs before they turn into big ones. Example: Vacuum up crumbs and blot up spills before the dirt gets ground in or sets, after which it will be much harder to remove.
- Divide big jobs into manageable tasks. Example: Instead of waiting until the holidays to clean the good china, run some of the dishes through the dishwasher periodically. Don't try to tackle all the silver polishing at once. Polish the silver forks one week, knives the next, etc.
- Do as little as possible whenever possible. Example: You can wipe off the handprints; you don't need to clean the whole wall. You can deal with the spots without shampooing the entire rug. Besides, too much cleaning wears away the paint and isn't good for the rug. And you don't need to clean places that no one will see.
The best cleaning aid you can invest in is a cordless phone with a headset. Collect your cleaning tools, then dial your friend. Having virtual company while you do such unpleasant tasks as mopping the floor, cleaning out the refrigerator and scrubbing the toilet will make all those jobs go a lot faster.