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Wonder Tools: Unique Household Products

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While commercials and advertisements may try to convince you otherwise, cleaning and tidying your home doesn’t mean you have to rely on the standard chemical sprays and cleaning wipes. You may not know it, but many of your typical household items can be used for unique fixes. Instead of investing in expensive and harsh chemicals, try these everyday household products to make your life simpler and more creative.

Socks

Socks are not just for keeping your feet warm. Instead of tossing out those mismatched feet warmers, use them to dust and clean your furniture. “Slip the sock over your hand, dampen with polish or window cleaner and wipe away fingerprints while dusting,” says Caroline Curry, a representative from The Maids Home Services. Let the kids join in the fun, too, by giving them a fun sock puppet to dust their rooms.

Paint Brushes

Tired of the specs of dirt that creep into small crevices and computer keyboards? Break out your art kit and use paint brushes to remove the dust. “From ornate designs in furniture to the smallest details in ceramics, a paintbrush can reach places a cleaning cloth cannot,” says Curry. “You can also use them on electronics, such as radios, computers and televisions to clean around knobs and buttons and inside speaker vents.”

Fabric Sheets

Although fabric sheets help soften and rid your laundry of odors, the dryer is not the only useful place for these wonder tools. “Do not throw fabric sheets away after one use in the dryer,” says Curry. “Used fabric softener sheets are excellent for dusting furniture and non-plasma television and computer screens.” Touch up your cell phone or tablet screen, too, with your favorite scented fabric sheet.

Used Toothbrush

Rethink tossing that old toothbrush in the trash, and instead reuse it to clean the bathroom fixtures. “Save your old one from the trash as toothbrushes are tools the professionals use to tackle soap scum around faucets and drains,” says Curry. Simply spray on a mixture of vinegar and water and start scrubbing those hard to reach spots.

Pumice Stones

Pumice stones work great at removing calluses and rough skin on your feet, but did you know that they’re also perfect for removing rush and hard-water buildup from the inside of white toilet bowls? After giving yourself a pedicure, take that used stone and use it to spruce up the commode with some light scrubbing. “Be sure the stone stays wet and do not apply heavy pressure or you may scratch the surface,” warns Curry.

Hair Dryer

After styling your hair in the morning, use this power appliance to rid your home of unwanted dust. According to Curry, hair dryers do not just dry hair, they also work wonders when placed on low speed to quickly eliminate dust from silk flower and plant arrangements, ridding your home of any potential allergens.

Coffee Filters

Coffee filters do more than filtering grounds to make great coffee. According to Curry, they also leave a lint-free shine when used instead of a cloth to wipe down mirrors and windows. Save on the cost of paper towels and absorb the streaks from your glass surfaces easily with this unique use for a common household product.

Their household uses don’t end there, either, according to Seana Turner, professional organizer and creator of The Seana Method of ordering life. “Keep them in a drawer near your microwave to use as covers when reheating food to avoid splatters,” she says. “Or, put them in the bottom of pots before adding soil when planting to keep dirt from falling out the drainage hole.”

Newspapers

Another streak-free option for cleaning windows and mirrors is your daily newspaper. After catching up on the community news, spray a mixture of vinegar and water on the surface and wipe down with the morning newspaper, suggests Bonnie Joy Dewkett, certified professional organizer with The Joyful Organizer.

Cardboard Boxes

Before tossing your tissue boxes, toilet paper cardboards or baby wipe boxes in the trash, consider reusing them to organize your home. According to Turner, baby wipe boxes are great for holding small items, such as candles, napkin rings or cookie cutters.

“Any cardboard box can be trimmed and used as drawer organizers, such as a pasta box,” says Turner. “Just trim to the right height and put in the drawer to hold paper clips or tape.”

In addition, your empty tissue box can be used to store plastic grocery bags so they can also be reused.

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Cleaning in a Flash: Time-Saving Tips to Keep Your Home Sparkling

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When you have one child on your hip and another holding on to your leg, it’s quite a challenge to find time to mop the floors and keep the counters sparkling. Your time is valuable, and as a parent or nanny most of it is spent caring for the needs of your children.

It is possible, though, to keep your home in tip-top shape with time-saving tips that allow you to involve the kids in your daily cleaning routine.

Go Natural When Cleaning

Instead of spending all your time spraying down counters and tubs with harsh chemicals, opt for natural solutions that will save time and money. The experts at Vine.com, an online shopping destination for natural, organic and sustainably-made goods, recommend the following:

  • Use grapefruit and salt as a tub or stovetop scrub: This do-it-yourself trick removes thick grime and dirt rings off your shower area and does amazing work on cast iron tubs. It’s a quick and easy alternative to labor intensive and time consuming scrubbing.
  • Clean drains with baking soda and vinegar: Ditch the lye-based drain cleaners and opt for a natural do-it-yourself trick instead. Simply pour one cup of baking soda down a dry, empty sink followed by two cups of boiling water down the drain. After a few minutes, pour one additional cup of baking soda down the drain and add one cup of white vinegar. Plug up the drain immediately. You will soon see bubbles foaming. When the bubbles have died down, add the remaining boiling water down the drain.
  • Remove Hard Water Stains With a Lemon: You don’t need harsh chemicals to tackle hard water stains in the shower. A fresh lemon will do the trick with a quick swipe and rinse.

Pace Yourself

Instead of planning out an entire day of cleaning that interferes with your time with the kids, Lauren McCann, brand manager for the Rug Doctor, recommends spending a few minutes cleaning each day. “It might not seem like a lot, but taking a little time out of the day to do this will eliminate long, daunting tasks toward the end of the week,” she says.

It helps to tackle one room at a time, too. Designate the kitchen for Mondays, the living room for Tuesdays, etc., to ease your mind and your to-do list each week. “Who says you have to do everything at once?” says McCann. “Having a sole focus every day or week will leave you not feeling rushed to get through it all.”

Let the kids join in the daily cleaning tasks as well. Ask each child to make a list of cleaning preferences. If your 13-year old prefers to sweep and your 10-year old loves to dust, delegate these tasks to give them a sense of responsibility and free up your time throughout the week. “Remember, the more people on hand will mean less work for you – getting you a clean, refreshing home in no time,” says McCann.

Make Cleaning Fun

Most people dread the task of scrubbing floors or vacuuming carpets. Make the tasks fun and get the entire family involved with creative cleaning strategies. Turn on some music and launch a dance/cleaning party as you and the kids make your way through the house. Launch a competition to see who can finish cleaning his or her room in the least amount of time or set a timer and see how much all of you can accomplish in 30 minutes each day.

When the kids know that cleaning will not take up too much time, they will be more willing to join in. You can also offer rewards for a speedy result. If each child participates in 30 minutes of cleaning each day, plan a special trip to the park, a walk through the neighborhood or a play date so they have something to work toward.

Creating accessories for your daily cleaning can also pump up the family, says Cleaning Coach Leslie Reichert, author of The Joy of Green Cleaning. Create a work apron for all of your helpers. “Just like a carpenter, you need all your tools with you while you are working so you save time and don’t retrace your steps,” she says. Stock each apron with cleaning cloths, spray bottles and dusters so they are prepared and armed with the necessary tools.

Even though cleaning will take up some of your time each day, it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming experience. Save some time and aggravation by recruiting the kids and pacing yourself. With some extra helpers and positive attitudes, cleaning won’t be so much of a chore and everyone will have more time for quality play.

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100 Kid-Friendly Easy Recipes to Try

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Cooking with kids provides great opportunities to not only reinforce math and science skills, but also to encourage them to take a vested interest in the foods that they eat. When kids are part of the food preparation process, they are more likely to eat the foods they prepare. Whether you’re looking to expand your child’s palate or teach him how food gets to their plate, cooking together provides a natural opportunity to bond over something you both likely love, good eats.

Bountiful Breakfasts

Weekday mornings are notoriously busy, and getting breakfast on the table can seem almost laughable at times. Instead of relying on sugary cereals or frozen entrees, come up with a list of foods your kids can easily prepare. Not sure where to start? Use these 20 ideas as inspiration.

  • Yogurt Parfait. By keeping a bowl of cut up fruit and yogurt handy your kids can layer this parfait all by themselves, says School Family Education.
  • Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins. Simple recipes, like the ones on School Family, that can be mixed together and baked will encourage your child to become a budding cook.
  • Very Berry Smoothie. Kids can throw some fruit and yogurt into a blender and mix it up for a fresh smoothie anytime, according to Parentables.
  • Egg-In-A-Hole Lemon Ricotta Toasts. Turntable Kitchen has created a twist on the classic egg-in-a-hole dish by amping it up with ricotta and baking it in the oven.
  • Ham and Cheese Breakfast Casserole. Kids Cooking explains how simple it is to layer the ingredients into a baking dish and create this impressive dish.
  • Hot Cinnamon Toast. She Knows suggests letting your kids try this recipe, though they probably will need a little supervision for the oven part.
  • 5-Minute Egg Breakfast Sandwiches. Kiddy Cook explains how your child can microwave an egg and toast an English muffin for a quick breakfast option.
  • Baked Apple Gingerbread Pancake. Simple Bites encourages you to get your kids in the kitchen to make this baked pancake.
  • Slow Cooker Bread Pudding. Nourishing Joy points out that this slow cooker recipe is simple to prepare the night before so you can wake up to a hot breakfast in the morning.
  • Cinnamon Roll Baked Oatmeal. Lynn’s Kitchen details this simple, tasty recipe kids are sure to love.
  • Crock Pot Granola. Stacy Makes Cents explains a method of cooking granola that makes it less likely to burn. Mix a few ingredients together and stir in the crock pot every half an hour.
  • Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits. Cooking Light offers several healthy breakfast recipes for kids to try, like these biscuits.
  • Sunrise Tacos. Let the kids build these funny sun tacos using breakfast ingredients found on Betty Crocker.
  • Healthy Pancakes. Whip up some whole wheat pancakes with the kids using the recipe and directions found on Delish.
  • Breakfast Cookies. Martha Stewart explains that these cookies are full of healthy ingredients and work perfectly for a breakfast on-the-go.
  • Bagel Gone Bananas. Eating Well suggests a simple bagel spread with peanut butter and sliced bananas that kids can make for themselves.
  • Breakfast Skewers. If you blunt the sharp points, even younger children can thread cheese, turkey, fruit and egg onto a skewer, according to Spoonful.
  • Peanut Butter and Banana French Toast. This recipe from Allrecipes is so simple that kids can help make it.
  • Breakfast on a Stick. Get the young kids in on making breakfast by letting them thread French toast squares and blackberries onto chopsticks, recommends Super Healthy Kids.
  • Breakfast Pizza. Kids may need some help with the egg portion if they are young; Food Network shows how they can pile ingredients onto an English muffin to be baked.

Lovely Lunches

Instead of waiting until the morning to throw together a lunch, why not get in the kitchen the night before to assemble some tasty options that go outside the typical PB&J? Wrangle up the kids and check out these 20 lunchtime ideas that are anything but boring.

  • Peanut Noodles with Chicken. Real Simple shares a recipe that uses hot tap water to cook rice noodles and a potato peeler to create ribbons of veggies.
  • Turkey Sushi Wrap. Babble explains how your child can whip up this simple faux sushi by using a tortilla.
  • Quesadilla. Parenting points out how simple and healthy quesadillas can be a great way to build fiber and protein into a meal.
  • Mini Pizza Bagels. Kraft suggests this simple lunch idea that kids can make themselves.
  • Bento Boxes. Mom Me explains how to put together a bento box with a variety of healthy foods.
  • Turkey, Cheese and Crackers. Recreate those expensive lunchables at home by prepping some meat and cheese for your child to make up their own, suggests Chef Mom.
  • Super Heroes. Martha Stewart gives several options on how a kid can build his own hero sandwich.
  • Meatball Shish Kabobs. Wellness Mama keeps meatballs on hand to make it easy for the kids to help skewer them with veggies and bake them.
  • Strawberry Brazil Nut Salad. Parade explains how simple it is for kids to whip this salad up for lunch or to go with dinner.
  • Turkey Roll-Ups. Read this story from Chicago Tribune on how three kids helped each other put together healthy lunches.
  • Fajitas. BBC Good Food explains how kids can help make tasty fajitas with a little help from an adult.
  • Cheese and Zucchini Scones. Kidspot demonstrates how simple these scones are to make.
  • PB&J Bites. Pillsbury describes how to make these little bites and writes that they can be eaten at any meal, or even as a dessert.
  • Ham and Cheese Quiche. Kids Cooking Activities shares the directions for this versatile recipe that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
  • Pizzadillas with Red Sauce. Kids can put these pizzadillas together with some help, according to Kids Health.
  • Lunch Box Pizzas. Kids can make these bite-sized pizzas using mini muffin tins, explains Taste of Home. Adults may need to help with the oven part.
  • Baby Bam Burgers. Emerils offers a detailed recipe so kids can make these slider-sized burgers with just a little supervision.
  • Spanakofootballs. Education makes a play on words when creating this variation on spanakopita.
  • Lunch Combos. Sobeys offers a list of lunches that kids can put together for themselves.
  • Homemade Chicken Fingers. Baker’s Dozen put together clear instructions for how kids can make these tasty chicken fingers at home.

Sensational Snacks

Don’t let snack time turn into junk food time – this is the perfect opportunity for you to get your kids to eat some fruits or veggies. There are so many snack ideas in these 20 blogs that you may even find yourself making some of them!

  • Yummy Yogurt Biscuits. Disney Family suggests getting kids involved in the kitchen in a number of ways, and shares this recipe for biscuits as one option.
  • Ants on a Log. This classic recipe is simple for young children to make, explains Cozi, because there’s no cooking involved.
  • Chocolate Dipped Fruit. iVillage has several suggestions, but this snack is something even very small children could do on their own.
  • Simple Blender Recipe. Canadian Living shows a bunch of snack recipes that kids can make on their own, including three smoothie recipes.
  • Fun Kid Snack. Snack Picks has tons of cute ideas for snacks, but none cuter than meat and crackers shaped like a monkey.
  • Trail Mix. Motherhood Modern Mom recommends letting the kids make trail mix because there’s no cooking involved and each kid can choose the food he likes.
  • Strawberry Fruit Leather. Make and Takes explain how you can use simple ingredients and the sun to make fruit leather.
  • Turkey Roll-ups. Kids can spread cream cheese on a tortilla, add turkey and tomato and then roll them up explains Skinny Ms.
  • Cabbage and Peanut Butter Hors d’Oeurves. Encourage the kids to eat their veggies with these tasty snacks by Hubpages.
  • Curiously Crunchy Cold Bananas. Healthy Snacks for Kids suggests rolling a banana in yogurt and puffed rice cereal before freezing it for a healthy snack.
  • Cheese Quesadillas. Let the kids put cheese between two tortillas and microwave until the cheese is melted for an easy snack, says Blog with Mom.
  • Nachos. Spark People has several snack suggestions like these simple nachos.
  • Eat the Bowl Dip. Parent Society has the ingenious idea of filling a bell pepper shell with dip so the kids can eat the dip with tortilla chips and then eat the “bowl” too.
  • Traditional Hummus. The kids can help you whip up this nutritious dip by 100 Days of Real Food by using canned chick peas.
  • Fruit and Cheese Kabobs. You can use chopsticks for younger children and let them thread fruit and cheese onto a stick to enjoy this healthy snack from Organizing Made Fun.
  • Apples Dipped in Peanut Butter. Kids can dip apples into peanut butter and then into raisins or nuts, suggests Skinny Mom.
  • Pita Pizza. Kids love pizza and can use a whole wheat pita, pizza sauce, pepperoni and cheese to create this pizza snack from The Stir.
  • Apple Nachos. Bunch Family explains this unique take on nachos by using sliced apples, peanut butter and nuts.
  • Flavored Popcorn. Let the kids pop the popcorn in the microwave and then mix up one of the topping choices suggested by Stonyfield.
  • Homemade Apple Sauce. Keeper of the Home explains how to get the kids involved with canning some homemade apple sauce for a tasty snack all winter long.

Divine Dinners

It sounds too good to be true, and almost a little scary – having the kids prepare dinner for you. However, it’s possible for the kids to get a delicious dinner on the table with the help of these 20 recipe ideas.

  • Crock Pot Lasagna. All Boy Homeschool explains this simple, safe crockpot recipe that the kids can prepare.
  • Green Spaghetti. Moms Who Think came up with this clever recipe using pesto to make the spaghetti an entertaining green color.
  • Tortellini Casserole. Parents says this recipe is better than mac and cheese, but with the same appeal for kids.
  • Sesame Fish Sticks. William-Sonoma provides kid-friendly instructions to make these kid favorites at home.
  • Rotini Taco Bake. Make Dinner Easy offers this recipe that combines tacos and pasta into a simple casserole.
  • Tuna Fish Cakes. Food 24 has come up with a variation on the crab cake that uses inexpensive canned tuna that the kids can mix together and form into patties.
  • Kid (and Mom) Friendly Macaroni Casserole. This recipe from Cooks uses a box of mac and cheese as a starter to make it simple.
  • Cheese Volcano Meatballs. Kraft Canada has created this kid appropriate recipe complete with simple directions and step-by-step pictures.
  • Cheese and Spinach Tart with Glazed Carrots. Healthy Eating believes it’s important to get the kids in the kitchen, so they’ve come up with tons of recipes like this one for the kids.
  • French Bread Pizza. To simplify, Grandparents suggests starting with a loaf of French bread split for the pizzas that the kids can top and bake.
  • Rainbow Vegetable Flan. GNOWFGLINS makes this dish with her daughter during her cooking class to teach her basic cooking techniques.
  • Dutch Oven Spinach Rice Casserole. This scout recipe can be made over a campfire or on the stove at home and is full of healthy ingredients, says Scouter Mom.
  • Crock Pot Chicken for “Greek Gods”. Healthy Recipes for Kids came up with this exciting name to entice the kids to make the dish.
  • Mama’s Chicken and Rice. Kids A Cookin’ explains this recipe that cooks in one pan and was created with kids in mind.
  • Mexican Mac and Cheese. Making Learning Fun has a creative way to dress up a box of mac and cheese that the kids can help make.
  • Butternut Squash Carbonara Pasta Recipe. Momtastic has used seasonal vegetables to dress up this pasta dish with the kids.
  • Sloppy Joes. Campbell’s Kitchen has a bunch of simple weeknight meals that the kids can help with, like this kid favorite.
  • Tacos. Recipes suggests this kid favorite to let your teen make by himself. He could even add a simple salad to make it a complete meal.
  • Chicken Flautas. Country Living describes this as a simple, kid-friendly recipe.
  • Chicken Stir-fry. Good to Know explains how kids ages 12 and up can pretty much make this dish unsupervised once they know how.

Decadent Desserts

Looking for a sweet treat to end the day? Your kids probably are, too. Instead of pulling out a container of ice cream, send them to the kitchen to create one of these 20 dessert ideas.

  • Rice Crispy Treats. My Taste shares this classic recipe that kids can make and share with the family.
  • Two Ingredient Pumpkin Spice Cookie. Start with a cake mix and let the kids whip up these simple cookies from Jasey Crazy Daisy.
  • Soft and Chewy Chocolate Candy. Yummy Smells shares tips on how to make homemade tootsie rolls with the kids.
  • Candy Corn White Chocolate Pretzels. These yummy treats by Alida’s Kitchen are simple to let the kids assemble and make.
  • White Chocolate Candy Cane Fudge. Rants from My Crazy Kitchen explains the steps for this simple candy that the kids can whip up for the holidays.
  • No Bake Pumpkin Pie in Ice Cream Cones. This kid-friendly recipe from La Jolla Mom skips the difficult pie crust and uses something kids love: ice cream cones!
  • Simple Shortbread. Student Recipes explains this cookie recipe in a way that kids can understand.
  • No Bake Peanut Butter Pie. One Ordinary Day explains how to make this decadent pie that doesn’t require baking.
  • Muddy Buddies. This dessert from Six Sister’s Stuff is also called Puppy Chow and consists of cereal, chocolate, powdered sugar and a few other ingredients.
  • Baked Apples. Not only is this dessert quick and tasty, but it’s fairly healthy too, says Oprah.
  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Fudge. Sally’s Baking Addiction explains how simple this fudge is to make, but you may need to supervise the stovetop portion.
  • Banana Boat. This camping staple from Love the Outdoors can be made on a home grill or in the microwave without the foil.
  • Yummy Chocolate Truffles. Canadian Family shares a recipe for chocolate truffles and explains how simple they are to make.
  • Chocolate Chip Cookie in a Cup. Number 2 Pencil has a bunch of mug recipes that are quick to make, don’t use a ton of ingredients and are perfect for kids.
  • Cereal and Milk Popsicles. The Little Foodie had a break through thought when she decided to make breakfast into a Popsicle.
  • Icebox Cake. Yum Sugar points out that there’s no cake in this dessert; it’s all a matter of assembly and leaving it in the fridge.
  • Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Popsicles. All Day I Dream About Food raves about these delicious, easy-to-make treats.
  • Easy Marbled Chocolate Pots. All About You explains how to make this three ingredient recipe.
  • Award Winning Chocolate Chunk Brownies. This brownie won ‘best of show’ on Queen of the Red Double Wide.
  • Strawberry Trifle. Mr. Food uses a store bought pound cake and layers it in a pretty trifle dish with instant vanilla pudding and whipped topping. Simple enough for the kids to make, but fancy enough that everyone will be impressed.
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Housekeeping Hacks for Busy Moms

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As a busy mom, you know that balancing work, family life, children and household tasks can make you feel like you are running in circles. You scrub the floor and minutes later, trails of Cheerios or leaves tracked in from outside seem to consume it.

No need to fret, though. Even with your busy lifestyle, it is possible to keep a clutter-free and sparkling clean home with a few housekeeping hacks.

Multi-Task

When it comes to maintaining your home, the long list of to-dos can be overwhelming. Break larger tasks into smaller tasks so you feel more accomplished and get more done, suggests Leslie Reichert, cleaning coach and author of The Joy of Green Cleaning.

“Make a list of some of the major areas of your home that need attention and break those areas down into smaller tasks,” she says. “If you can even do one 5 minute task a day, you’ll get the area cleaned in shorter time than waiting for a time when you have enough time to clean it.”

Use your appliances, too. Instead of spending your entire day dusting every vase in the house, enlist your appliances to do the simple jobs. “Instead of dusting, put items in the dishwasher,” says Reichert. “Don’t wash, dry and iron curtains and bedspreads. Just pop them in the dryer and it will remove most of the dust and buildup.”

Busy moms know the value of multi-tasking. Find ways to clean while doing something else. “If you are watching your kids in the tub, try cleaning the top of the vanity,” says Reichert. “Cooking dinner? Try vacuuming the kitchen floor. Use those extra minutes to clean something.”

Minimize

If your living room is overflowing with toys or the dining room table is consumed with school papers, it’s time to minimize so you can reduce the clutter. Minimize what you don’t need with a 10-minute tidy, suggests Reichert.

“Everyone in the house gets a room and a basket. You set the timer for 10 minutes and everything that doesn’t belong in the room goes in the basket,” says Reichert. “Once the timer goes off, everyone works together to sort out their own stuff. The rest gets tossed or put where it belongs.”

You can also minimize by designating an area of the home as the “donation center.” Choose a specific time to shuffle through closets with your children and select slightly-used clothing and toys that can be donated to local shelters. Use this opportunity to teach your children how to give to others while eliminating items in the home that are unused.

A Group Effort

According to Reichert, the 10-minute tidy works for more than just de-cluttering your home. “I also use this same system for cleaning,” she says. “Everyone gets a room and we set the timer for 10 minutes. They clean as much as they can in 10 minutes and since we have five people in my family, I get 50 minutes of cleaning.”

Recruit your kids to help clean. With microfiber, it’s a very safe proposition, says Reichert. “Just give your kids a wet microfiber cloth and let them go,” she says. “If nothing else, your home will be clean from the waist down where your kids can reach.”

Involving the family won’t be as much of a chore when you assign tasks based on preferences. If your little one likes to dust, give her a squirt bottle and towel and send her on her way. If your teenager prefers to vacuum over scrubbing floors, let him do the chore he prefers instead of forcing him to do something he doesn’t want to do. When children have a choice, they will be more eager to help out during family cleaning day.

Make sure, too, that you teach your kids how to clean with specific language to avoid confusion and frustration. “Show your kids what clean really means. As moms, we have a tendency to think our kids can read our minds,” says Reichert. “Instead, work with your child to show them what ‘clean your room’ means to you and then take a picture of how the room should look. Then your child can identify with your definition of clean.”

It’s important, as a busy mom, to learn to let it go. “Let it go means to give up perfection,” says Reichert. “You want your house clean and tidy but it doesn’t have to look like the lobby at the Ritz Carlton. Let your kids enjoy making a mess and then teach them how to clean it up.”

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Developing a Housekeeping Schedule

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If housework seems like an unending chore, it may be time to set a schedule. Although life gets in the way when transporting kids from one activity to the next, it is possible to get the house organized and relieve the stress of feeling like you are constantly in maid mode.

By setting expectations, building a chart and attaching rewards to household tasks, you may soon find yourself looking forward to an hour or two of cleaning.

Set Expectations

If it feels as if mom, dad or the nanny is the only one cleaning up after the family, it’s time to set some expectations and make some changes in your household. “Everyone needs to agree on the outcome and realize that everyone wants a clean house,” says Leslie Reichert, cleaning coach and author of The Joy of Green Cleaning.

“If everyone doesn’t agree it’s nice to have the house picked up every night, then no schedule will work,” says Reichert.

Begin by scheduling a family meeting to discuss the importance of a clean living environment. Ask your children to point out dangers that could exist if the counters are cluttered or the floors are dirty. From germs that gather to obstacles that could result in someone tripping or falling, your family needs to be aware of how unsanitary areas could cause harm.

Consider Time and Capabilities

Once expectations are set, consider what each family member is capable of cleaning on a regular basis. Age-appropriate chores are crucial. “I tell my family that things are never equal but they are always fair,” says Reichert. “Older children need to be more responsible for larger tasks than their younger siblings.”

Ask each child what she is capable of doing around the house and make a list of preferred chores. Giving your child a choice may help reduce whines, cries and attitudes that often accompany daily chores.

As you discuss capabilities, keep in mind that parents and nannies need to be good examples for children and a primary part of the housekeeping schedule. “Children shouldn’t be the worker bees,” says Reichert. “Everyone should have a task and a time to do it.”

When it comes to timing, evaluate each family member’s responsibilities outside of the home before compiling a schedule. Does your teenager work evenings or have after-school activities? Do your little ones take naps at a certain time during the day? Figure out activity schedules so that everyone will have enough time to do their fair share.

“My daughters always played school soccer, which practiced every day after school,” says Reichert. “I could never give them the chore of emptying the dishwasher because there wasn’t time in their day to do it, but they were responsible on the weekends.”

Stay Positive

Even though not many people enjoy completing household tasks, if you present a housekeeping schedule in a negative manner, it will only encourage gripes and moans. Don’t think of chores as obstacles, recommends Reichert. “They are just opportunities to work together to figure out what works for your family,” she says. “Make the schedule a positive with fun rewards for doing their share of the chores.”

Families can establish a chore chart with a point system tied to privileges and rewards or a schedule that must be completed with deadlines met before the family takes an outing or dives into a family movie night. The key is to find rewards that will motivate everyone.

“Sometimes, it’s just about working out a system that works for everyone,” says Reichert. “For example, I can’t stand having dishes in the sink, so every morning I empty the dishwasher and run the dishwasher every night so there are no excuses. It’s now a habit and everyone knows the dishwasher is always ready for dirty dishes.”

Once all family members have determined their daily or weekly tasks and specific times when the chores must be completed, do your best to make it fun. Young children may prefer to dance and sing with music on in the background while older children may enjoy a race to the finish to see who can complete the most tasks in a certain amount of time.

Primarily, make your housekeeping schedule a routine so cleaning feels less like a chore and more like a natural thing to do to better the home.

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Age Appropriate Household Chores for Children

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Even at an early age, it’s common for children to want to be “helpers.” Although it may seem as if your children are creating more of a mess than they are “helping,” it’s important to build their confidence and allow them to establish independence as a contributor to the household.

Household chores are a beneficial way to allow your child to “help” while also teaching him the importance of responsibility. Let your little ones and big ones join in on cleaning day to ensure your home is spick and span by implementing these creative tactics for completing age-appropriate household chores.

Motivate and Participate

One of the challenges of cleaning day is getting the cooperation of children of all ages. Although your toddler may be eager to help at first, his interest may wane after he realizes that cleaning is work. Older children and teens have already had this realization, so they may be less-than-eager to join in and help.

Providing choices is the key to cooperation, says Yaelle Shaphir, mother of three and health, wellness and parenting expert in Los Angeles. “It is not a question of are you going to help out or not, but rather: ‘Do you want to dust the furniture or sort the clutter under your beds?’” says Shaphir.

Incentives may also motivate your children to whip the house into shape. Provide monetary rewards or other privileges for any chores completed for the week. Display a chore chart with stickers so they are reminded of the potential rewards. You can even ask your child to make a list of privileges or rewards he would like to receive to customize the chore chart. With a treasured prize in reach, he may be more willing to jump in and help when its time to complete household chores.

Involve All Ages

As your family sits down to discuss the division of household chores beyond their preferred choices, it’s also important to determine age-appropriate chores. Everyone needs to be on board – even toddlers can lend a hand around the home.

According to Shaphir, her two-year-old is in charge of dusting. “Give him a spray bottle with water and a rag and he will clean,” she says. “Be prepared to go over the areas again later; however, remember you are laying the groundwork for a helpful, happy co-worker.”

Toddlers can also help in the kitchen when it’s meal time. Ask your little one to fill a small cup of water to put in the mixing bowl or allow him to run items to the garbage can when needed.

As children get a little older, they can take on a bit more responsibility. Shaphir’s six year old gets overwhelmed when sorting or decluttering needs to happen. “However, she loves to do dishes, set the table and dust and clean the windows and mirrors,” she says.

Once a child reaches the 10 to 12 age range, you can begin to trust him or her with bigger tasks, such as dishes, taking out the trash, folding laundry and vacuuming. Anything goes with teenagers since they have the ability to mop floors, mow the lawn and help re-arrange furniture when needed.

Any chore can be customized to fit the age, says Shaphir. “Everyone can help with carrying groceries,” she says.

Make it Fun

The idea of mopping, taking out the trash or even cleaning toilets may not be how your child envisioned spending a Saturday afternoon. Counteract the dreaded looks and somber attitudes by making chore time fun.

Turn up the tunes, have your children race the clock when working or ask the family to work together to complete a task so it is less intensive for one individual. Work right alongside your children, too, so they can see that you are invested in making the home healthier and happier.

Completing all household chores in one day may also be too overwhelming for your children. If it works better with your schedules, consider assigning specific days for certain chores. Designate Saturday as laundry day, Monday for dusting and vacuuming and Tuesday for scrubbing. The key is to provide consistency when involving the entire family in household chores.

“What is most important is the attitude in which the parent introduces the concept of a shared household,” says Shaphir. “Make it fun and it will get done.”

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Is the Common Cold Preventable? Tips for Keeping the Sniffles Away

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As the weather changes, the last thing you want is for you and the kids to be tucked on the couch, rifling through tissues and sniffling away. As temperatures decrease, there are some things you can do to reduce your family’s risk of exposure to bacteria and viruses that lead to the common cold. Prevention is key and with some preparation, those germs will be a thing of the past.

Slow Down

The hustle and bustle of life can leave you and the little ones feeling worn out and exhausted. Packing your schedule without leaving time to relax can increase your risk of catching the common cold, says Denise Baron, integrative wellness coach with Ayurveda for Modern Living. “We must slow down to keep our immune system strong, so this means find time to just chill,” says Baron. “Put down the Blackberry or iPhone and just chill and take a good Epsom salt bath or get a massage.

Ensuring you get enough rest is also crucial to avoid the common cold, says Baron. “Make sure you are getting to bed early and that your children get to sleep at the same time each night.”

According to Dr. Kevin Campbell, North Carolina-based physician, sleep promotes the release of cortisol, which stimulates cells that boost the immune system. “Sleep enhances your body’s ability to fight off infections such as the common cold,” he says. “Getting at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep has been shown in clinical trials to convey a lower risk of cold and flu.”

Minimize Germ Exposure

Germs are everywhere and you can’t avoid them, but you can minimize exposure, says Dr. Samantha Brody, naturopathic physician in Portland, Oregon.

Brody suggests washing hands frequently and keeping your hands away from your nose and face. To ensure the little ones are not overly exposed to germs, it may mean turning down plans with others, too. “Politely turn down play dates when someone else’s kid is drowning in phlegm, coughing or is clearly sick,” says Brody.

Hygiene is especially important when germ season is rampant. Ilyse Schapiro, registered dietitian in Connecticut, recommends leaving the windows open when the weather permits. “Germs love unventilated rooms, so by circulating with fresh air, you help to make the environment less likely for viruses and germs to breed,” she says.

Even though the cooler temperatures may leave you or the kids longing for a hot shower, ending each shower with a burst of cold water may help prevent those sniffles. “The cold will not only remind your body to warm up, but it also helps with immunity, circulation, energy and overall health and well-being,” says Schapiro.

Stock Up On Vitamins and Healthy Foods

One of the best defenses to the common cold is through daily prevention. Schapiro recommends taking a multi vitamin every day. “In the winter, we tend to move less and eat more and the best insurance policy to make sure our bodies are getting what they need is by taking a multivitamin,” she says. “It’s also important to supplement with vitamin D in the winter, as we all tend to spend more time indoors, since it is so important for immunity as well as its function in calcium absorption.

Vitamin E is another important antioxidant that helps to boost your immune system, says Schapiro. “Many popular food sources are rich in Vitamin E such as nuts, seeds, vegetable oils and whole grains, which are available all year round, but recommended intakes are 100 to 400 mg per day,” she says.

Wintertime means cold and flu season, so it is even more important than ever to keep your immune system functioning at its best. “Vitamin C helps to boost the immune system as well as reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by raising good cholesterol, as well as lowering blood pressure,” says Schapiro.

Supplement your diet with healthy foods to stay healthy during high-germ seasons, too. “Oranges and clementines are in season, so why not reach for one instead of the bowl of chips while watching the game?” suggests Schapiro. “These are jam packed with nutrients and fiber and they are also packed with vitamin C.”

Don’t forget your carotenoids when preparing meals. “Beta-carotene, the most well known carotenoid is a major anti-oxidant and it is rich in infection-fighting cells which help to prevent you from getting sick,” says Schapiro. Stock up on carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, spinach, romaine lettuce and broccoli to supplement your diet with healthy foods and to prevent the common cold.

“Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables and take advantage of what is in season during the winter,” suggests Schapiro. “They are all full of vitamins to keep you healthy all winter long.”

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100 Housekeeping Chores by the Minute

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Just the thought of cleaning the house top to bottom is enough to stress out even the cleanest of people, and can bring on a feeling of defeat before you even lift a mop. However, cleaning the house in its entirety doesn’t have to be overwhelming – all you need are these 100 housecleaning chores that are broken down by the minute to help you power through the task! Some of these take less than five minutes to accomplish, others will be a little more involved, and, when combined, all will leave you with a house that’s sparkling clean.

25 Tasks You Can Do in Under 5 Minutes

You’ve probably heard the old saying that a watched pot never boils, and you may have even tested it by staring interminably at water that refuses to bubble. These 25 tasks will all take you less than five minutes, making them perfect for tackling when you’re waiting for things like water to boil. One trick to keeping a clean house is to clean as you go instead of waiting for it all to pile up and then trying to tackle it. So the next time you have five minutes, take on one of these tasks.

  • Use a nut to take scratches out of a wooden table. Good Housekeeping says you can hide scratches by rubbing the meat of a walnut over them.
  • Use Alka Seltzer to clean a toilet. According to Life Hacker, you can clean a toilet bowl by dropping two Alka Seltzer tablets into it, waiting a few minutes and then brushing the bowl clean.
  • Disinfect the garbage disposal using a lemon. Woman’s Day recommends cutting up a lemon, some salt and a few ice cubes and running them down the disposal to freshen and disinfect.
  • Clean and sanitize your cutting boards. Follow the directions on Clorox to sanitize your plastic and wooden cutting boards.
  • Watch this video to learn how to spot clean your bathroom in 5-minutes. Clean My Space recommends using disinfectant wipes to tidy up.
  • Implement the 5-minute pick-up in your home. Grab a laundry basket and walk around your home, adding in anything that doesn’t belong in that room. Once you’re done, put everything back in its rightful place, suggests Spring Cleaning 365.
  • Spend 5 minutes every day cleaning the hot spot. Super Heroes and Tea Cups recommends spending just 5 minutes each day on the one spot in your house that is the catch all spot to keep it tidy.
  • Empty the dishwasher. Surprisingly enough, taking just 5 minutes to do this task will help you keep the kitchen cleaner throughout the day because you can then put dirty dishes into the dishwasher instead of leaving them by the sink, suggests Keeper of the Home.
  • Make your bed. It typically takes around 2 minutes to make your bed, indicates The Art of Simple, and this simple task can change the entire look and feel of your room.
  • Make your sinks, mirrors, and counters shine in your bathroom. Google Books explains how to make your bathroom sparkle in just 5 minutes.
  • Wipe down light switch covers and door knobs. This task is especially important during cold and flu season and, according to The Spicy Sugar Shack, should only take a few minutes.
  • Sweep the floor daily. Live Renewed suggests spending 5 minutes sweeping or Swiffering the floors every day to stay on top of pet hair and spilled food.
  • Play the 100 item pick-up game. If you are like Imperfect Homemaking, you hate to clean. By picking up 100 items as you switch tasks during the day, however, your house will stay tidy without you feeling like you spent the day cleaning.
  • Pick up dirty laundry and start a load. How to Clean Stuff recommends spending just 5 minutes picking up dirty clothes and doing one load per day.
  • Dust your knickknacks during commercials. My Simpler Life suggests working in cleaning tasks throughout the day so that it doesn’t feel overwhelming, like dusting in your living room during commercials.
  • Clean out the silverware drawer. Living on a Dime recommends using just 5 minutes to tackle small tasks around your house, such as cleaning out a drawer.
  • Wash your interior windows. Chasing Super Mom says she can do all of her downstairs windows in under 5 minutes – and you can, too!
  • Scrub down the shower. According to Curbly, you should be able to spray and wipe down the shower in just 5 minutes. Cleaning the shower while you are in it makes the task even simpler.
  • Organize a book shelf. The Organised Housewife has a list of ways to clean the entire kitchen, but recommends that you take on one organizational task, like organizing the book shelf, each day.
  • Clean the microwave. Put a handful of wet paper towels or a sponge into the microwave, turn it on for a couple minutes, then wipe out the microwave with the wet paper towels and you’re done, says Reader’s Digest.
  • Do laundry 5 minutes at a time. Stephanie O’Dea explains how each laundry-related task takes less than 5 minutes, making them easy to fit in throughout the day.
  • Empty all of the trash cans in your house. Parent Hacks suggests using small pockets of time, like the 5 minutes it takes you to reheat food in your microwave, to do one housecleaning task.
  • Wash your dishes after each meal. According to Houzz, you can wash your dishes after each meal in less than 5 minutes, so you don’t have to face a mountain of dishes later in the day.
  • Empty trash and sweep the floor in your bathroom. Only Hangers suggests adding tasks that take 5 minutes or less to your daily routine.
  • Let the products do the work. All Things Frugal recommends spraying the surfaces you want to clean and letting them sit so that it’s not a lot of work when you wipe things off.

25 Tasks You Can Do in Under 15 Minutes

Did you ever think that you could dust your crown molding in under 15 minutes? Unless you have really tall ceilings, you don’t even need a ladder! All you need is a broom, a microfiber cloth and a rubber band and you’re set. If you’re in a rush but need to get a room into a presentable condition, check out some of the tips below. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish in just 15 minutes by following the tips in these 25 posts. Skeptical? Set a timer and give it a try!

  • Dust crown molding and ceiling vents with ease using a broom. Real Simple explains how to cover the bristles of a broom with a microfiber cloth and wrap it with a rubber band to clean hard to reach surfaces in your home.
  • Set a timer to avoid getting bogged down. The Inspired Room encourages you to set a timer for 15 minutes when you start a task to help you stay focused on finishing it.
  • Have a plan for a quick bedroom clean-up. Housekeeping details a list of steps for cleaning up your bedroom in just 15 minutes.
  • Give yourself 15 minutes to put things back where they belong. Tipsaholic explains how to get a maximum amount of things cleaned in just a short amount of time.
  • Clean out the junk drawer. BlogHer says this job should take closer to 10 minutes, and by using an organizer going forward you can keep everything organized and manageable.
  • Gather up and put away everything that is out of place in your living room. Money Saving Mom suggests breaking tasks down and setting a timer to make it into a game to beat the clock.
  • Use 15 minute micro-bursts of cleaning to get deep cleaning done. The Unclutterer shows you how to assess each room and determine how many 15 minute sessions it will take to deep clean it.
  • Clean the mattress. You can take the linens off, vacuum the mattress and remake the bed with fresh linens in only 15 minutes, says Voices.
  • Keep your home clean in 15 minutes a day. All My Sons has a list of chores to do each day that should only take you 15 minutes and will help keep your house clean.
  • Clean up under beds and straighten closets and dressers. Simply Clean Living breaks down tasks like cleaning under beds and straightening closets into 15 minute segments.
  • You can do anything for 15 minutes. FlyLady breaks down how to clean in a hurry if you have guests coming in a few days.
  • Clean sweep in 15 minutes. Apartment Therapy explains that cleaning doesn’t take as long as you think it, so stop procrastinating and get started!
  • After dinner clean up. Teresa’s Family Cleaning suggests that you get the dishes into the dishwasher and wipe down the table and the counters after dinner. After 15 minutes, go sit down and relax.
  • Remove pet hair from the furniture. Bright Nest explains how to remove pet hair using a damp rubber glove.
  • Clean the venetian blinds. Manila Bulletin suggests putting an old sock on your hand to wipe down the blinds.
  • Declutter and sort through paperwork. Suite 101 recommends taking 15 minutes to sort and handle junk mail, magazines, bills and other papers.
  • Clean out your car. How Does She goes over a list of what you can accomplish in 15 minutes, such as cleaning out your car. If you are organized, you can do this task while you kill time waiting for your child to finish soccer practice.
  • Clean out your freezer. Homemaking Organized suggests you take just 15 minutes to clean out your freezer and discard anything that you won’t eat.
  • Tidy up your home. Household Management 101 encourages you to go through and pick up every room and put things back where they belong.
  • Break down your tasks into manageable chunks. Clean Organized Family Home suggests cleaning the microwave on one day, then cleaning the toilets the next, instead of trying to do it all at once.
  • Do a quick pick up and wipe down in 15 minutes. Home Ec 101 lists big tasks and little tasks for each day. The little tasks, like picking up clutter and wiping off smudges, take only 15 minutes.
  • Daily cleaning blasts of 15 minutes. Her View from Home recommends that everyone take 15 minutes each day to tidy up the entire house and put things in their place.
  • Spring cleaning task in 15 minutes. Instead of spending hours on the weekend deep cleaning your home in the spring or fall, take a tip from Staten Island Live and spend just 15 minutes a day on those deep cleaning tasks.
  • Clean the surfaces in 15 minutes. Wishmaids gives an idea for a 30 minute emergency clean-up, with 15 minutes of that clean-up being assigned to wiping and cleaning all of the surfaces in your home.
  • Avoid clogged drains by doing this 10 to 15 minute task. Great White Clean suggests pouring baking soda and salt down the drain, adding hot vinegar, letting it all sit for 15 minutes and then rinsing it down for a fresh and clear drain.

25 Tasks You Can Do in Under 30 Minutes

You can do a lot of cleaning in just half an hour, whether you do six 5 minute tasks, two 15 minute tasks or one 30 minute task. Housekeeping expert the Flylady says that if you do nothing else, make your sink sparkle. The next time you have 30 minutes to kill, tackle one of these 30 minute tasks. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.

  • Clean front door, switch plates and fingerprints on the walls. The Homemaking Arts suggests tackling one deep cleaning task per day for 30 minutes. At the end of 30 days your house will be deep cleaned.
  • Wipe appliances and mop the floor. Black and Married with Kids suggests spending 30 minutes a day cleaning your home.
  • Take down, wash or dry clean curtains in living room. The Country Chic Cottage suggests doing various tasks to deep clean your home 30 minutes at a time.
  • Create a list of birthdays. Take advantage of technology when you can by using something like Slipstick to remind you of upcoming dates.
  • Clean out your expired food. This is purely a personal choice, because according to the FDA expiration dates refer to quality and taste, not safety, notes Healthy Discoveries.
  • Create a filing system for your financial documents. Follow the instructions listed on Dummies to figure out a way to organize your bills.
  • Update your annual calendar. Take a new calendar and transfer important dates onto it, suggests Practical Organizing.
  • Clean out your medicine cabinet. According to Advil, you need to take the time to check the expiration dates on your prescription drugs and toss the ones that have expired.
  • Organize your scrapbook papers. Find several ideas on Studio Pebbles on how to organize your paper packs and stacks.
  • Clean your dishwasher. One Good Thing by Jillee recommends several different ways to clean and deodorize your dishwasher, even if it’s not very old.
  • Wash out your trash bins. Overstock has a step-by-step method for cleaning the trash bins in your home to keep them fresh.
  • Wash your dishes. P & G Everyday gives tips on how you can cut your dishwashing chore time in half by using a few tricks.
  • Clean your sink. Follow the directions given on Savvy Sugar to disinfect your sinks.
  • Polish kitchen cabinets. After you’ve cleaned your kitchen cabinets you should polish them to keep them looking their best, suggests Guardsmen.
  • Clean your tub. According to Finely Ground, you can use Borax and a wet scrub brush to get old stains out of your tub.
  • Wax your bathtub. By waxing your bathtub with car wax you can maintain it better throughout the year, says Change Your Bathroom.
  • Prevent future fridge troubles in less than 30 minutes. Family Handyman suggests spending 30 minutes or less cleaning in and around your refrigerator to avoid costly repairs.
  • Clean your drip pans. From daily cleaning to deep cleaning, Home Guides has some helpful cleaning solutions for making this task a breeze.
  • Clean your toaster. Sounds simple, but did you know that it’s not a good idea to turn your toaster upside down? Read the tips on All About Home Repair to learn the proper way of cleaning out your toaster to prevent a possible fire.
  • Seal your grout. After cleaning your grout it’s important to seal it to prevent future stains. This task is simple, but may take a while if you have a lot of grout, according to Lowes.
  • Clean the silver. Before any big holiday gatherings you may want to give your silver a good polish. It won’t take as long as you think if you use this method by Chemistry.
  • Clean your lamp shades. You can dust your lamp shades in minutes using a simple paint brush, but to actually clean a lamp shade you may need water, explains Michigan State Extension.
  • Remove lint and wash your lint trap. You can save money by cleaning and washing your lint screen and making sure the hose is clear of debris, claims The Christian Science Monitor.
  • Clean your ceiling fans. Try the pillow case trick offered on Quick and Dirty Tips that allows you to dust your ceiling fan without covering the floor with dust bunnies.
  • Wash your baseboards. DIY Life suggests spraying your baseboards and letting them soak for 10 minutes before wiping them down in each room.

25 Tasks You Can Do in Under an Hour

By giving up just one soap opera or nighttime drama or getting up an hour earlier each morning you can find an extra hour in your day. This one hour can allow you to get or keep your house impeccably clean. It won’t happen overnight if you haven’t been keeping house very well, but it could happen at the end of 30 days if you stick with it. These hour long tasks go above and beyond daily cleaning. By keeping your home clutter-free and organized you will find that you need to spend less time cleaning. This will allow you to have more time for fun with your family and friends. So what are you waiting for?  Check out these 25 blogs to get started!

  • Try this one hour quick clean plan to get your whole house company ready. Better Homes and Gardens breaks cleaning the whole house down into manageable steps.
  • Tidy up the whole house using speed cleaning tips and 45 minutes. Living Well Spending Less explains how to accomplish this task step-by-step.
  • Tackle a room a day. My 3 Monsters lists everything you need to clean each room and recommends doing a room a day.
  • Plan a birthday party. Check out the tips on Martha Stewart for planning a child’s birthday party.
  • Organize your spice cabinet. Use this four step process from Simplify 101 to sort, purge, label and store your spices.
  • Organize your recipes. The Kitchn has several ways to organize recipes, like this one that uses binders.
  • Work on creating a simple command center in your home. From simple to elaborate, you can get ideas from Southern Living for making a command center for your home.
  • Switch out your seasonal clothing. Take time and evaluate each item as you go through your clothes to determine if you want to keep it or donate it, recommends HGTV.
  • Organize your photos. Determine which photos you want to preserve or frame and which photos you can get rid of by using tips from Money US News.
  • Clean and organize your clothes closet. Using tips from My Home Ideas you can organize your clothes in a more usable way.
  • Clean your oven to get rid of old spills. WikiHow explains several methods for cleaning your oven based on the type of oven you own.
  • Freshen up your mattresses. Make it Do suggests removing bed linens, vacuuming the mattress, sprinkling it with baking soda and an essential oil and allowing it to sit for a while before vacuuming it up.
  • Wipe down kitchen cabinets. Clean Like the Pros will take you step-by-step through the process of giving your cabinet fronts a thorough cleaning.
  • Clean your window screens. Follow the simple steps by the DIY Network to give your screens a good washing.
  • Scrub the grout on your floor. According to a story on the Washington Post, the best way to clean grout is by soaking and scrubbing it with oxygen bleach.
  • Wax your table top. Applying a protective coating of wax will last a lot longer than a quick spray of furniture polish, explains The Master’s Touch.
  • Rake the leaves. Depending on how many leaves you have, you may opt to mulch the leaves by mowing over them, but if you have a lot of leaves and decide to rake, here are 10 tips from Realtor to get it done right.
  • Organize your book shelves. Whether you go alphabetically or by genre, organizing your bookshelves can be a worthwhile task; check out the tips on Quirk Books.
  • Clean range hood filter. Depending on how dirty the underside of your range hood is, this task may take way less than an hour. Use the tips on House Cleaning London to speed up the task.
  • Spot remove and clean your leather furniture. Learn how to make your own inexpensive leather cleaner from The Krazy Coupon Lady.
  • Steam clean the carpets. Follow the steps on Housewife How To’s for directions on steam cleaning your carpets to get that deep down clean.
  • Clean the front porch. Tidy Mom explains step-by-step how you can get your porch clean and ready for guests or an event.
  • Clean light fixtures. At least once a year you may want to get out the ladder and clean the light fixtures, suggests University of Hawaii.
  • Clean your shower doors. The Pin Junkie shows before and after pictures of how well this simple solution of vinegar and dishwashing liquid works for this job.
  • Organize your pantry. Simply Fabulous Living gives tons of suggestions on how to create your dream pantry.
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Dirtiest Places in the House

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Caring for young children means you are a responsible for keeping them safe, happy and healthy – both inside the house and out. A session in the local ball pit might send you scrambling for the hand sanitizer, and the thought of public toilets might kick your anxiety into overdrive and make you wish for the safety and cleanliness of home. However, studies show public toilets are nothing to worry about in comparison to a few surprising germ hideouts on the home front.

Here’s a room-by-room guide on where to find those germs and how to kill them:

Kitchen

One might guess the kitchen trash is the culprit in this room, but in actuality it is unexpected small items that harbor massive germ counts. Kitchen sinks are 100,000 times more contaminated than bathroom sinks, so a swish of daily soap and water is a must, followed by a weekly chaser of a germ bashing detergent.  The faucet itself will shock you with the level of built up grime hiding inside. Unscrew the aerator tip and soak in vinegar, then take a toothbrush to any remaining buildup. Sponges need to be replaced every week or two, but a two minute spin in the microwave will kill most of the germs, viruses and parasites in between switch outs.

While handles of appliances could use a wipe down during daily cleaning, the real culprit usually gets overlooked. Stove dials and oven temp gauges are frequently touched while cooking, especially when hands might be contaminated with germs from uncooked meat and foods. Many can be popped off and soaked in vinegar; clean those that cannot with Q-Tips or a toothbrush soaked in antiseptic cleaner.

Bathroom

A natural assumption is that the throne in the room would be the royal pain to keep germ-free. However, this room also features secret germ hangouts. Replacing a toothbrush on a regular basis or after colds might have become second nature; however, it becomes a moot point when you place these brand new tools into a holder that on average holds several million bacteria cells. The taste factor makes soaking a toothbrush holder in bleach or vinegar a less than ideal solution, so instead opt for a dishwasher safe or cup-style toothbrush holder and add it to the wash on a regular basis.

Boys of all ages might be aim-challenged when it comes to using the restroom, but youngsters having just graduated to the full-sized toilet will end up having an even more difficult time with the art. Floors might get frequently spot cleaned as a result, though the surrounding walls might be forgotten in the effort. Spray the walls and let the cleaning solution sit for a few minutes so the enzymes in the cleaners can do their work before wiping them down.

Bath time is often on a list of duties, but with a quarter of all tubs and showers offering a home to staphylococci bacteria, you might be risking the health of your little ones if you don’t take the necessary precautions. Create a lifetime health habit by letting them help wipe the tub dry and opting for a natural product that contains 3% hydrogen peroxide to let your (appropriately aged) little helper spray down the tub after use.

Living Room

The living room might seem pretty harmless when it comes to germs. After all, you vacuum and wipe down the coffee table, so all is well, right? Not so fast. The power level of the average vacuum cleaner doesn’t reach the bottommost part of the carpet, where an enormous amount of bacteria cells seek refuge. When a crawler spends most of his time with his hands in close contact to this bacteria-filled carpet (and then places those hands immediately into his teething mouth), this can be a big concern. A steam clean every 12-18 months can remove the majority of these cells.

Even if the TV isn’t part of your daily routine with young kids or babies, older kids tend to have more freedom in that regard and toddlers love to play with remote controls – which are often handled by everyone in the house and rarely cleaned. Germs abound, so opt for a disinfectant wipe and rub an alcohol-laden Q-tip between the buttons.

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Easy Meal Preps Your Children Will Love

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Cries of “ewwww” and “yuck” from the dinner table can frustrate even the most masterful chef. If your children are less-than-enthusiastic about your meal preps, then it’s time to cook up something creative and better yet, easy, to pacify the pickiest eaters in your household.

From lunchtime to dinnertime, nannies and parents can offer meals that are both tasty and healthy and will leave your children exclaiming “yum” and “wow.”

Beyond Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Children are creatures of habit. Even though your child may willingly eat mac ‘n’ cheese and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for every meal, it doesn’t mean you should serve these high-fat feasts. Instead, opt for easy to prepare healthy choices that appeal to their sense of taste.

Begin by asking each child to compile a list of their favorite foods, suggests Rania Batayneh, a San Francisco-based nutritionist and author of “The 1:1:1 Diet.” Making the food fun is key for younger children. “Add veggies to their pasta,” she says. “Mac and Cheese could become ‘Mac and Trees’ with the addition of steamed broccoli.

If your child favors chicken, focus on recipes that will please the little rooster, such as veggie, cheese and chicken enchiladas or baked chicken with low-fat mac ‘n’ cheese. Mixing in their favorites with new foods will expose them to healthier options and help them keep an open mind to try new meals.

Beyond chicken, consider lasagna-style dishes with hidden veggies, reduced fat cheeses and whole grain noodles or turkey or lean beef chili made with less meat and more beans.

Tackling Time

To save time and effort, Batayneh recommends sifting through the freezer for fast meal preps. Pick and pair meatballs with frozen veggies or compile a homemade pizza with frozen tomatoes, mushrooms and your child’s favorite meat topping, she says.

You can also decrease meal time prep by taking stock of what you have on hand. Mix and match ingredients from the pantry, freezer and fridge for a variety meal. Jackie Keller, founding director and executive chef of Los Angeles’ food company NutriFit, recommends making large sandwiches with a variety of meats and chopping them into sections to serve different days of the week. This will help you save time on days when you are running from dance lessons to soccer practices.

According to Bridget Swinney, registered dietician and author of Healthy Food for Healthy Kids and Eating Expectantly, it also speeds up meal preps when you have your most-used ingredients on hand. Swinney suggests keeping the following around for when you get in a pinch to whip up a magnificent meal:

  • Pasta (dry and frozen cheese ravioli)
  • Marinara sauce, pizza crust, pita bread or French bread
  • Leftover or canned chicken
  • Evaporated milk
  • Mozzarella, Parmesan, cream cheese and cottage cheese
  • Bread crumbs
  • Lemon juice
  • Olive oil
  • Vegetarian refried beans
  • Corn
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Black or kidney beans
  • Pineapple tidbits
  • Fresh potatoes
  • Frozen vegetables

Save time, too, by using the same base protein different ways, says Keller. You can mix up tacos, meat sauce and chili with one batch of ground turkey and freeze the meat for preps later in the week. Buying pre-cut or frozen vegetables can also help parents and nannies save precious time when preparing meals.

Crockpots also come in handy when meal prep is keeping you away from tending to the children. After preparing a light breakfast for the family, toss in chicken breasts, noodles and cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup to simmer for four to six hours. By lunchtime, the aroma of this simple meal will beckon the family to the table.

Planning Pays Off

Organizing your weekly meals can save you time and money. At the beginning of the week, ask for meal suggestions from the entire family and prepare your grocery list accordingly. When shopping, only purchase the items on your list to prepare a week’s worth of meals.

In some cases, you can prepare the meat ahead of time and freeze it for when you are ready to reheat and mix together a delicious meal. Long-term planning can free up your time and set expectations for meals. There will be no more “ewwww” or “yuck” from your children when they have had a say in the meal selections.

Put the kids to work, too, when preparing meals early in the week. Little ones can help you measure and older children can assist with chopping and stirring. If you make meal time prep a family affair, it’s likely those moans and groans will diminish over time.

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