Tips from the Cleaning Queen
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CBN.com Emilie Barnes, who admits to being a born organizer, has been married to husband, Bob, for some 50 years, and together, they are the founders of More Hours in My Day time-management seminars.
Emilie has been sharing her extensive knowledge of practical housekeeping secrets for years, and now with her 70th book, 500 Time-Saving Hints for Every Woman (Harvest House, 2006), the prolific author once again shares a host of practical pointers.
This summer, I spent a brief moment with Emilie and learned several awesome cleaning and organizing tips. The following is a smattering of what she revealed to me. I hope that these helpful hints will act as a guide for you as you seek to bring order to your busy life.
Basic Organizing Principles
Emilie has several important principles that anyone should keep in mind when trying to tackle everyday chores. The first principle is what she calls the 80/20 rule. Use this rule when determining top priorities. Naturally, not all the tasks on your to-do list are going to get completed each day. However, there is no reason to worry about that. You should be most concerned with accomplishing the top 20 percent. For instance, if you have a list of 10 items, instead of trying to get all 10 done in one day, concentrate on the first two, the top 20. Basically, the top 20 percent of the list will yield 80 percent of the value.
A second important principle that she encourages you to consider making a daily mantra is her motto “Don’t put it down. Put it away.” This means that when you first come home from work or school, instead of throwing items anywhere, you put them away in their designated storage area – coats go in the closet, book bags in your room, keys go on the key hook or some desk organizer, etc.
Third, always remember the other related motto: “Don’t pile it. File it.” Some of us, like me, are natural pilers. But what happens with those of us who like to stack items on open spaces around our house or office is that eventually the tower of papers, mail, clothes, and so on, tumbles or you simply can’t find what you need fast enough. The way to avoid this is to file the item as quickly as possible, before your procrastination reflex sets in.
Organizing Items in Your Garage
A garage was really meant to store your car, but so many people have so much stuff, there is no room for the car. In fact, there’s no room for anything else. More and more people are resorting to storage units to handle their clutter, but Emilie believes that storage units are a waste of money. Instead, she recommends getting the family involved in a clean-up effort.
Once you have set aside time to clean out your garage, first you need to designate three separate areas. These can be separate bags or boxes or even areas of the garage. Designate one area or bag “Give Away.” These items are useable but aren’t items you need. Label the second bag or box “Throw Away.” Items in this pile are broken or unusable. Eventually, that pile will go straight to the trash. The last bag or box should be labeled “Keep,” or something like that.
With those items you want to keep, get some big plastic bins and number each box. On a 3 X 5 card, indicate the exact contents of each bin and the location in the garage. Keep the 3 X 5 cards together in a recipe box to refer to later. You will be more able to retrieve exactly what you need in a short amount of time. Emilie told me a personal story of how her husband, Bob, was due to go to a high school reunion and wanted to look over his high school albums. Emilie simply flipped through her recipe box of cards and discovered that the albums were in box 8. That was an incredible time-saver.
Emilie likes to number income tax boxes as 15, for the 15th of April. If she fills that first bin or box up with income tax returns, she starts a second box. Her series of boxes might be labeled 15-A, 15-B, 15-C, and so on.
For Christmas items, you can probably guess Emilie would pick the number 25, for December 25. You might have several boxes in that series or even bags for wreaths that might not fit in a standard-size tub. Not to worry. You would simply look in the garage for bag or box 25-A, 25-B, 25-C, etc.
Getting Teens to Wash Dishes
Emilie had a rule in her household when her children were still living at home: never go to the kitchen empty-handed. So, after dinner, whoever went into the kitchen had to have something in hand. But teens might be harder to coax into doing things like washing dishes, so what Emilie used to do is throw loose change or her car keys into the sudsy kitchen sink on various occasions. Her kids, being eager to find the cash or keys to a set of wheels for the night, would be more apt to clean up. How's that for being creative?
Power-Cleaning, 15 minutes at a Time
If you are the all-or-nothing type, you are prone to having a few marathon cleaning days mixed in with a majority of non-cleaning days where the house is falling apart around you. Here’s a better idea. Instead of thinking you have to get the whole job done at once, just do a little bit at a time. Set your kitchen timer for 15 minutes and start scrubbing. A lot can get done in only a quarter of an hour. You might tackle a pile of papers, reorganize under the bathroom sink, clean out the silverware drawer, or clean out your refrigerator. You will be proud of what you can accomplish in a short amount of time, and you will be retraining your mind to get into the habit of cleaning more often and less arduously.
Want more tips? Order Emilie’s latest book, 500 Time-Saving Hints for Every Woman. Be sure to also check out the companion book, 500 Handy Hints for Every Husband, by Bob Barnes (Harvest House, 2006). For more handy information, please visit the More Hours in My Day Web site.
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