come to cleaning with a set of reference, an opinion, if you will, nurtured by my upbringing. Pretty black and white: It is clean or it is not clean. Someone once said that dust is like taxes — no fun to deal with but inevitable.

With the holidays on us, you might consider sprucing things up before the new year; this is how I come to clean a room.

• Work top down. Start with the ceiling. The easiest way I know to do this is to simply use a dry Swiffer. The dusting cloth really attracts dust and cob webs and holds on to them so you can just throw them away. While you are cleaning the ceiling, dust any lights, sconces, chandeliers or other lighting fixtures. Glass and ceramics aren’t hard to clean. Doing all of this at the same time is good, sort of like putting new batteries into smoke/carbon monoxide detectors on New Year’s Day, a habit that works.

• Follow the seven-day rule. Give furniture and carpets a weekly dusting or vacuuming. If you have indoor pets, step this up to two or three times a week, especially if anyone in the house has allergies. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter so particles don’t escape back into the room. Use vacuum tools to get into tight spots, and dust window treatments once a month. 

To remove dust from upholstered furniture, try this trick: Put on a rubber glove and rub it over the surface of the furniture. The glove will create static and pull out dust, hair and fur. Follow with a thorough vacuuming with the upholstery tool. Leather furniture will benefit from a weekly wipe of a cloth; clean any spills with a damp cloth and a leather cleaner if necessary or use a solution of 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup brewed black tea and 1/4 cup white vinegar; shake well, then gently apply the mixture to leather couches or chairs with a soft cloth.

• Baby your books. While everyone is building their digital libraries, your books are forming a layer of lint. Three to four times a year, vacuum the top and spines with the soft-brush attachment of your vacuum, starting on the top shelf. Then slide books out three or four at a time and dust the back of the bookshelf.

• Power clean your plants — plant leaves accumulate dust at an astonishing rate, just like everything else in the house. Use a soft damp cloth to clean leaves, or take them outside and spray each leaf with a blast of compressed air (yes, that can you keep by your keyboard), then wipe them down with a damp cloth.

• Finish with the floor. Mop weekly, and while you are at it, tackle the baseboards with a used dryer sheet. The antistatic agent in dryer sheets is great for removing grime like pet hair from baseboards. It can also create a static barrier that prevents dust from building back up so quickly — so next time won’t be such hard work.

• Finish by cleaning your windows so that as much natural light as possible fills your rooms.

There is nothing as satisfying as a clean room or house. The self discipline of keeping your things and home in order can be soothing to an active lifestyle, too. You’ll sleep well.


Susan Woody has been a home and garden writer for more than 20 years and is a master gardener.