Spring cleaning - that annual rite of deep house cleaning embraced by neatniks and good housekeepers everywhere - still has a place in today's time-crunched household.
No matter how busy you are - or perhaps because your home seems to have a revolving door - the annual purging of a year's worth of mildew, grime, dust, and dirt still needs to be done.
That way, you can get by with simple surface cleanings the rest of the year.
But the season doesn't necessarily have to be spring. If friends and family visit your home during other times, such as the winter holidays, this top-to-bottom buffing can just as easily take place then.
But one thing this house cleaning routine - whatever the season - should include: age appropriate chores for kids. After all, you didn't mess up the house yourself. So why should you be the only one cleaning it up?
The key to getting it all done in less time is to break the housekeeping chores down into manageable loads, then tackle those smaller jobs over several weeks or even months.
Unless of course you're the type who likes to schedule a weekend sequestered indoors with mops, brooms and kids.
This less-traditional approach will reward you with the same old-fashioned feeling that keeps the spring cleaning ritual alive: pride in your healthful, well-maintained, clean house.
Start by focusing the cleaning crew on the big pieces and on the places that make the most difference to the family: furniture, appliances, and carpets.
Also take stock of which housecleaning tasks you can forgo. The following essential housekeeping tasks will have your home spring clean in no time.
Shake them, wash them, swat them with a broom. Give them the toughest cleaning they can take. They're your front line against tracked in dirt - so keep them clean enough to function at peak efficiency. Another way to prevent tracked in dirt is to consider having everyone - guests and family - take off shoes inside your home.
Spring cleaning means tackling the deep cleaning checklist you've waited to tackle until now.
If you're doing it yourself, practice first in an unobtrusive area to make sure the cleaners won't discolor fabrics or cause dyes to run. This is the time for rug cleaning, too.
Save time by moving furniture just slightly - not out of the room or against the wall, as the old rules dictated - and place the legs of each piece back on top of small waxed paper square after shampooing the carpet.
The waxed paper will protect your carpet and keep the furniture legs from getting wet as the carpet dries. Open the windows to speed the drying process, which can take a day or more.
If you're not the furniture-shifting and machine-renting type, make it easy on yourself. Call in the professional carpet cleaners or upholstery cleaning service and take the morning off.
To protect kitchen floors from another year of wear and tear, wax or apply a floor sealer following label directions.
The simplest method: Use a combination wash and wax floor cleaner. Don't feel guilty about saving time!
No wax floors don't need a polishing treatment, but an occasional makeover will keep them looking fresher and add a protective buffer that will help them last longer. Use a floor cleaner that cleans, shines, or both. It's best to follow label directions for proper use of each product.
The walls may not look like they need a spring cleaning - after all, dust and soot fall to the floor, right? Most of it does, but just enough clings to vertical surfaces to warrant a seasonal or pre-holiday bath.
Use a sponge and hand dishwashing detergent, washing the surface in sections. A sponge mop makes it easier to reach higher spots. Use two buckets: one for the dishwashing detergent solution and another for wringing out your sponge. Dry the walls and wood work with a clean cloth.
The kids can help with this seasonal chore by place a sock on one hand and using it as a sponge, running their hand along baseboards and walls with soapy solution, then dipping in the clear water and rinsing the area.
Remove dust and dust from light fixtures and air conditioner vents with a cloth and a vacuum with a soft nozzle attachment.
A few minutes with a stepladder, an all-purpose cleaner, a sponge, and a polishing cloth will give new light to your life.If your home has skylights or tall ceilings, consider getting a stepladder and extended reach dust and dirt removal tool.
You should clean the refrigerator's condenser coil, usually found behind the toe grille, with a long-handled bottle brush and a vacuum clean with an attachment hose to remove dust and lint. Built up dust can shut down the unit by causing it to overheat.
To remove dust from coils attached to the hard-to-reach back side of the fridge, carefully pull the refrigerator out several feet and vacuum thoroughly.
Finish by sweeping or vacuuming the floor you've revealed. Expect to rediscover coins, bottle caps, and twist ties that you and the kids and the cat knocked there over the past year.
Once you've covered these major hot spots in your home, you have spring cleaning or holiday cleaning all wrapped up.