Confession: My house is always a disaster. With two young boys who love to destroy things -- especially a clean room -- I tend to steer people away from my sweet abode. But then I realized that a clean appearance is not the same as an in-depth scrub down. In fact, giving your home a cleaner appearance doesn’t have to take more than 10 minutes. 1. Create private and public spaces in your home.
That is, set priorities and choose rooms near your home's entrance as public spaces. “In my case, that's the dining room, front porch, and living room. I keep those areas of free of clutter -- no clothes, no mail, no papers, no storage areas,” says Susan Froetschel, a writer who works at home. The rest of the house can be a mess, but cleaning the rooms that guests see (when moms drop off kids for a playdate, when a neighbor stops by) gives the whole house the appearance of being clean.
2. Do simple things, often.
Put dishes directly in the dishwasher instead of filling up the sink. Take the trash out every night, so there are no lingering smells. Throw dirty clothes immediately in the hamper, so there aren’t piles everywhere.
3. Clear out the “I might need this someday” items.
Chances are, you won’t, says Lauren Silverman, a professional organizer. Whether you’re keeping clothes you may wear one day, a board game that’s missing a piece that you might find, or a kitchen appliance when you hate cooking -- getting rid of the things you’re not using instantly makes your place seem less junk-filled.
4. Open mail -- and backpacks -- over the recycling bin.
Another confession: I throw out a ton of my kids’ school stuff. They come home daily with a stack of art projects, handwriting practice sheets, guitars made out of toilet paper rolls, plus reminders about upcoming events and so on. I open the backpack, keep only the cutest 1 percent of the stuff and chuck the rest. (I do this when my kids are sleeping and get rid of the evidence by morning.) For notes and follow-up reminders, I put them into my phone immediately and throw out the actual paper.
5. Set a timer and have the whole family clean up for 10 minutes.
Engage the kids and your spouse to help. You can even make a game out of it. This small investment of time leads to big payoffs, says Silverman. You’d be surprised at how much cleaner your house will look after just 10 minutes of family effort.
6. The floor should only have furniture on it.
Toys, stacks of newspapers and magazines -- anything on the floor should be put away or tossed out each day. “Having bare, unoccupied floor space gives every room a more open, airy, and less cluttered look,” says Lauri Ward, a home design expert and author of Downsizing Your Home with Style.
7. In the kitchen, keep out only the things you use daily.
Toaster or blender, if used daily, stays. Big appliances, like a slow cooker, if only used weekly or less frequently, should be put away, says Ward.
8. Avoid dirty floors by having two welcome mats -- one inside and one outside your front door.
That way, dirt and other debris don’t spread to your floor and throughout your house (having two increases the chances that everything gets caught). Since most guests see the room right off the front door first, mats give the appearance of an overall clean house.
9. Make the beds.
Yes, it would be great to have the whole bedroom clean, but simply making the beds gives the eye a place to settle. Everyone notices a made -- or unmade -- bed.10. Keep your bathroom vanity clear. Store makeup and other everyday toiletries in bags or bins under the sink -- this makes it easy to pull them out and put away and keeps clutter off the countertop, says Donna Smallin Kuper, a cleaning and organizing expert and author of Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness.