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How Clean Is Your House?

If the words 'clean house' are always on your to-do list, here's help.
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WebMD Feature

On How Clean Is Your House?, a television program imported from Britain, two irreverent women -- Kim and Aggie -- visit filthy homes and teach the owners how to clean, tsk-tsking them in the process of finding grease on the oven, goo on the counters, and layers of dirt everywhere.

It's good clean fun if you're a viewer -- until you happen to think: What would I do if they knocked on my door?

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If housecleaning isn't your thing, or the word alone give you hives, you're not alone. Help abounds -- there are dozens of how-to-clean-house books and web sites out there. But what you may really need is a new attitude, a personalized schedule for cleaning, and tips on how to make the whole job less painful. So why not start with a novel approach to housecleaning basics that goes beyond the standardized lists?

Clean House Attitudes: The Basics

Instead of focusing on a rigid housecleaning schedule dictated by someone else, consider the needs of you and your family, then decide how clean your house has to be, says Cynthia Townley Ewer of Richland, Wash., the editor of the web site Organized Home and author of Houseworks: Cut the Clutter, Speed the Cleaning and Calm the Chaos.

For example, if you have young children, elders, or someone who is immune-compromised, you may need a much more rigorous cleaning schedule, Townley Ewer says, than a household of healthy young adults.

When you do compose a housecleaning schedule based on your needs, don't think of it as simply a to-do list, Townley Ewer says, but as a launching pad to allow you to easily delegate some of the cleaning. After all, it should be a team effort, she says.

How to Clean House: Minimum Maintenance

First consider minimum maintenance: which tasks that must be done on a daily basis to keep the household afloat, says Townley Ewer.

Depending on family size, this might include washing a load of laundry, wiping the kitchen counters and sink after meals, and giving the bathroom a basic cleaning.

"Every family needs their own set of minimums," Townley Ewer tells WebMD. How it shakes out will depend on such factors as family size and individual comfort levels about cleanliness.

Discuss the list, and delegate, then figure out when the chores will get done. You might decide every night after dinner is when the kitchen sink gets scoured or that you'll pop in a load of laundry as soon as you get up every morning -- so you don't have a mountain of it when the weekend comes.

Instead of dividing up the house room by room, designating days to clean each, Townley Ewer has a novel idea: divide the house into "wet" rooms and "dry" rooms and figure out how often they need to be cleaned.

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