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I'm not sure why it happens. It's not like cleaning the house is my favourite activity, yet whenever I start cleaning I end up spending twice as much time as originally planned, while only accomplishing half of what I thought I would.
Enter Rick McSheffrey, owner of Ottawa's RM Cleaning. This self-confessed neat freak and professional cleaner of 23 years says that not only can I do a better job in less time, I can also learn to enjoy my cleaning time. He should know; with 40 homes to clean each month, in addition to 10 commercial properties, McSheffrey can't afford to let inefficiencies slow him down.
Here are McSheffrey's strategies for making the biggest impression in the least time.
Have a cleaning plan
Before he enters any house, McSheffrey knows where he's going to start and where he's going to finish. His system involves starting at the farthest point from the front door and, in effect, cleaning his way out of the house. Having a plan focuses your efforts and prevents you from getting off-task, meaning you don't waste time and you do a better job.
Make the most of your time
In my life it's rare to have time to clean the entire house from top to bottom. So, what to do with a set amount of time and a dirty house? First, McSheffrey says, figure out if you're cleaning for yourself or for company.
• If you're cleaning for company: Think of where you'll spend most of your time. "If they start snooping upstairs, it's time to give the in-laws the boot!" McSheffrey jokes. He calls the family room, kitchen and main floor powder room "panic spots" along with the "runway" -- the central strip through your house linking front door, hallway, stairwell and kitchen. Focus on removing fingerprints from walls and spots from floors and vacuum thoroughly.
Page 1 of 2 -- Discover small details that can easily make your house looking and feeling cleaner on page 2
How to make your home look and feel clean
Whether your cleaning job is quick or complete, McSheffrey says certain details always make a house look and feel cleaner:
• Folds. Put a triangle fold in your toilet paper just like hotels do and hang your towels with military precision.
• Cuts. Leave vacuum "cuts" in the carpet – especially on the stairwell since it's often one of the first things you see when you enter the house. While you may not go as far as McSheffrey -- he uses his vacuum brushes to leave diamond-shaped patterns on his clients' stairs for special occasions -- nice, even stripes make an impact.
• Scent. Find a clean-smelling product, dab some on your cloth, and wave it around the house. As a final touch, wipe some on the top of your front door so it's the first thing you smell when you walk in. Looking for fresh-smelling family- and enviro-friendly products? Check out the Method line available at Shoppers Drug Mart.
4 dos and don'ts for a clean home
McSheffrey offers this tried-and-true list of dos and don'ts.
1. Do dilute your cleaning products. Replace one-quarter of the bottle with water to thin out the product and make it less sticky and less likely to streak.
2. Don't swirl. Wipe mirrors and doors using first vertical, then horizontal strokes. Swirling patterns show up when the sun hits.
3. Don't use paper towels. Long fingernails or rings pierce them easily and can scratch the surface underneath. Instead buy a set of washable cloths or make your own out of old T-shirts or cloth diapers.
4. Don't apply products directly to furniture or floors. Instead, spray or dampen your cloth before dusting or washing. The saying "a little goes a long way" holds true for cleaning products, too.
Page 2 of 3 -- Check out seven more dos and don'ts for home cleaning on page 3
1. Do use some elbow grease. Especially on hardwood floors. "Unfortunately you're going to have to get down on your knees," McSheffrey says. He says the oils left behind by bare feet don't come up easily with a mop. A prevention tip: Wear socks or slippers at home.
2. Do use an electro-static spray or mop to reach under furniture. This lets you get the dust bunnies with no heavy lifting.
3. Do follow the wall when dusting. "It's not rocket science," McSheffrey says. "When you start jumping across the floor you're going to miss something."
4. Do clean as you go. Add a few preventive measures to your routine and your house will stay cleaner longer. "In our house you'd swear our shower has never been used because we wipe it every time we use it," McSheffrey says.
5. Don't worry if you don't have a big chunk of time to clean. It's amazing what you can accomplish in 10 minutes a day. "Just concentrate on one or two rooms at a time." McSheffrey says.
6. Do use duvets on your beds. Even McSheffrey -- whose service doesn't include making beds -- says duvets are so easy he doesn't mind throwing one over a messy bed to tidy a room.
7. Don't make cleaning a chore. The hours McSheffrey spends cleaning are some of his most creative. "I have nobody to talk to so I write music," he says. "I've just about completed my second CD. All the songs I write are in the same key as a vacuum, which is the key of A. Everything's in the key of A."
Not a musician? Borrow or download an audio book from the library and listen while you clean. Or invest in a hands-free phone headset and catch up with all those people you never have time to call.
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