On every floor of your home, keep a caddy stocked with an all-purpose cleaner, sponges, soft cloths, rubber gloves, paper towels, and any other supplies you might need. Hang a broom or store a vacuum in a closet on each floor, too.
Clean A Little Every Day
Staying neat and organized is an ongoing process. Spend a few minutes every day tidying up the "hot spots" in your home where messes happen often. Wipe up spots around the kitchen sink. Pick up clothes off the bedroom floor and toss them into the hampers or back in the closet. Put away mail, backpacks, and shoes that collect in the front hallway. Separate stacks of papers into smaller "to-do" and "to file away" piles.
Make a schedule for bigger tasks. They're easier to tackle if you do them regularly. Vacuum rugs and under sofa cushions and the kitchen table. Rinse off items that get covered in sticky fingerprints, like booster seats and toys. And throw out any old foods before they turn your fridge into a giant science project.
Find Little Helpers
Get your children in the habit of being Mom's -- and Dad's -- little helpers early on. At age 3 or 4, they can start matching socks on laundry day or putting toys away. By age 6, kids should be ready for bigger chores -- like setting the table or folding laundry.
Staying neat and organized should be easy for kids, too. Put storage bins for their books or toys on low shelves or the floor. Install hooks for little hands to hang jackets and backpacks. And let them make some decisions themselves, such as choosing the next day's clothes the night before.
Chores That Pay Off
Put all your kids' tasks in writing. Create a chart of chores with each child's name on it and let her choose a chore of the day. Tasks can include setting the table, making her bed, or washing dishes. Kids who get their chores done on time can win a prize -- like a trip to the movies or to get ice cream.
Once every six months, plan a day to declutter your house. Get rid of outgrown clothes and shoes, and books, toys, and household items you haven't used in more than a year. Give your kids a reason to pitch in by organizing a yard sale and letting them keep the profits, or by taking them with you to donate items to charity.
Don't forget these germ and dust magnets:
Refrigerator walls, shelves, and ice/water dispenser
Light fixtures and tops of ceiling fan blades
You can make your own line of green products at home. Combine equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle, or mix up a paste of baking soda and water to scrub stains off surfaces like countertops. Give windows a streak-free shine with 1 cup rubbing alcohol mixed with 1 tablespoon vinegar. Always test your cleaners to make sure they don't scratch or damage surfaces.
Use Unwanted Items for Cleaning
Old items can get a second life as cleaning supplies.
Worn socks make handy mitts that wipe away dirt in tight corners.
A pencil eraser can erase scuff marks off floors.
Wrap an old T-shirt around a ruler, spray with cleaner, and use it to clean the inside of blinds.
Wipe a used dryer sheet over your TV screen to remove dust.
(1) Peter Dazeley / Photographer's Choice
(2) Asia Images
(3) Tom Stewart / Lithium
(4) Tim Pannell / Lithium
(5) Heidi Velten / mauritius images
(6) David Buffington / Blend Images
(7) Tetra Images
(8) Eric Audras
(9) Peter Anderson / Dorling Kindersley
(10) Steve Pomberg / WebMD
Debbie Lillard, professional organizer and author of Absolutely Organize Your Family.
National Association of Professional Organizers: "The Children's Place."
Nelsen, Jane. Positive Discipline A-Z: 1001 Solutions to Everyday Parenting Problems, Random House Digital, 2007.
Rogers State University: "Spring Cleaning Tips & Tricks."
University of Nebraska-Lincoln: "Home Maintenance," "Tips to Help Keep Your House Clean All Winter."
University of Washington, Seattle: "Green Cleaning Tips."
Walsh, Peter. How to Organize (Just About) Everything, Simon and Schuster, 2004.
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.