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9 Expert Housecleaning Hacks

Cleaning the house falls somewhere between listening to a stock market report and snipping your split ends, on the scale of fun. Yet chores are a must, if only so the gunk in your sink and the mold in your toilet don't grow together and combine into a super-fungus that eats your friends when they come to visit. (We saw that movie!) Plus, living in dirty digs has been scientifically shown to be depressing. But while we can't make housecleaning any more fun, we can make it easier, thanks to nine expert hacks that help you get your space spic 'n' span without breaking a sweat.

Make a Schedule
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Everybody eats, poops, and sleeps: It's preschool 101. As a result, we all end up cleaning the same things over and over again, with kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms taking top priority. To make sure you hit all your hot spots and still get all the regular stuff done, come up with a master schedule of when you'll clean. You can break it down by room (every Saturday the bathrooms get bleached) or by type of cleaning (all vacuuming happens Thursday nights or no Scandal watching!). Websites like the The Fly Lady offer pre-made lists, or you can come up with your own. Simply writing it down and posting it somewhere visible can be enough to get you moving.

The 20/10 Trick
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Anyone who's ever tried to start a quick load of laundry only to end up knee-deep in your closet surrounded by clothes you haven't worn since high school three hours later knows that chores have a way of growing. It's enough to make a girl not want to even bother starting in the first place! But instead of getting overwhelmed, try the 20/10 rule, courtesy of Unf*$% Your Habitat. Clean your brains out for 20 minutes, then take a ten minute break. The breaks are a must because otherwise you’re marathoning, and marathon cleaning is no one’s friend. And just like you'd do for any race, they advise, "Keep hydrated, don’t forget to eat, and check in with yourself frequently to make sure you’re physically doing OK." (See also 6 Ways to Clean Your Place Like a Germ Expert.)

Get Inspired (Or Scared)
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Cleaning inspiration seems to come from two main sources: Pinterest and Hoarders. Whether you're more motivated by the joy of seeing other people's gorgeous rooms online or by the fear of seeing what happens when you completely stop cleaning (both?) is a personal thing but everyone has something that will make them jump off the couch to find the broom! The folks at Apartment Therapy came clean (ha!) with what inspired their recent spring cleaning: "What really motivates us: stories of extreme hoarders. Not just the average clutterers, but the unbelievably sad and scary stories of people who didn't clean for years and years...and years."

The One In-One Out Rule
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The less stuff you have, the less you have to clean. It may sound like the most obvious tip in the world, but so many of us forget this truism—especially if you love to shop! Shoes multiply in the night, bags pile up by the door, and before you know it, you own seven gray sweaters. (That might be a personal confession.) But according to House Logic, all that clutter is choking off your life force. And the best way to stop clutter in its tracks is to follow the one in-one out rule. For every new thing you buy, donate or get rid of something else. This works especially well with clothing! (Find out How Many Calories Do You Burn Doing Chores.)

Be a Basket Case
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When was the last time you walked into a room, saw something that didn't belong there, and then left it because it felt like too much effort to pick it up, walk to the room where it goes, and then put it away? For most of us, this is a daily occurrence (even more often if you have kids or pets). To contain the homeless items, LifeHacker says to keep a basket in a corner of every room to toss any visiting items into. Once a day, pick the basket up and put the items away. You'll be done in ten minutes and it will save you from making endless trips to the laundry room.

The Five-Minute Clean Vaccine
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Vaccinate your house against clutter by practicing the five-minute rule from Real Simple: Any chore you can do in less than five minutes, do immediately. For example, instead of letting the dishes pile up in your sink, take 30 seconds after you finish eating and rinse off your plate, cup, and utensils and put them directly in the dishwasher. Taking care of mini-messes will prevent major clean-ups later. (Find out why Your Phone Is Teeming with Germs.)

The Nose Knows
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Perceiving a room as "clean" often has much more to do with scent than sight, and visitors often smell a problem before they see one. And because you live in your own filth, you've likely become accustomed to the smell. Start by cleaning up anything with a smell like old food, pet items, dishes, wet towels, and bathroom garbage. And if you're in a hurry, kill two birds with one stone and steal The Kitchn's tip: Wipe down surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom with something that smells clean, but not like a cleaning product. They recommend Mrs. Meyer's basil-scented soap.

Phone It In
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Admit it: your phone is always within arm's reach. Rather than feel guilty about your phone attachment (we're right there with you!), make it work to your advantage by installing a cleaning app like Motivated Moms. It will walk you through setting up a cleaning schedule (including long-term things like cleaning out your dryer vent), help you break everything down into manageable chunks, and send you reminders when it's time to get cleaning. And despite the name, you don't have to be a mom to be organized like one! (Are You Too Attached to Your Phone?)

Start Somewhere
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The Fly Lady recommends always starting with your dishes because a clean sink leads to a clean kitchen. Unf&#$ Your Habitat says to always make your bed first, as it can later serve as a refuge when you get overwhelmed by cleaning. And Martha Stewart advises starting at the top (as in, your attic) and working your way down. But while the experts may differ on where you should start, everyone agrees that you should have one main starting point and work out from there. Pick whatever bothers you most, like dirty toilets or piled up dishes, and do that chore first. The satisfaction and relieve of seeing that one thing clean will keep you motivated.

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