By Gail Belsky
The sun is shining, the birds are chirping -- and you’re sweeping up a trail of caked mud leading from the back door to the family room. Along with blue jays and daffodils, spring ushers in a houseful of dirt as kids and pets track everything from mud to grass cuttings throughout the house. But with some strategic planning, you can keep the mess at bay. Organization is key, according to Donna Smallin, author of A to Z Storage Solutions and The One-Minute Cleaner.
Smallin shares her tips on keeping the house free from mess.
1. Roll out the rugs.
Pick up some cheap rugs or carpet remnants and place them in front of all the high-traffic doors in your home -- both inside and out. The more dirt you catch at the door, the less you’ll be chasing after it with a vacuum. For extra protection, lay a clear plastic office chair mat right inside the door and cover it with a rug.
2. Start a no-shoes rule.
Put a large basket (solid, not woven) near the door where all shoes can be tossed as soon as kids walk in. That way, stray dirt from the shoes will fall to the bottom of the basket rather than mess up the floor, says Smallin. (Keep a dustpan and a roll of paper towels nearby, though, just in case.)
3. Set up a laundry station.
If you’ve got the room, put a hamper or laundry basket right near the door for stripping off wet or sweaty clothes. Keep a pile of clean towels on a chair or bench nearby. If you have pets, keep a few rags or paper towels handy for wiping off wet paws. Then just toss them in with the wet clothes.
4. Keep the vacuum where the dirt is.
Rather than running up and down the stairs every day, keep your supplies where you’ll need them the most: mop in the kitchen, vacuum cleaner in the living room or hallway, etc. During the spring and summer, plan on vacuuming more often to keep any dirt from settling.
5. Clean up the mess.
If you do end up with mud on your carpets, let it dry before you vacuum. “One thing I don’t recommend is using stain removal sprays on carpet,” says Smallin. “This is the advice of every carpet-cleaning professional I’ve ever met. It [the stain removal spray] may remove the stain, but it leaves a residue that attracts dirt to it.”The best trick for removing stains from carpet, according to Smallin, is to pour hydrogen peroxide on the stain, cover it with a wet white towel, and then press a hot steam iron on it for 15 to 20 seconds. The stain will transfer from the carpet to the towel. Repeat the process as needed. For best results, cover the spot with a dry towel and a heavy weighted object, and allow it to dry.
6. Call for help.
Once your house is equipped and organized, Smallin suggests instituting one last rule: “You make a mess; you clean it up.” As she says, “Why should Mom have to clean up after everyone?”
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