With these tips, you’ll clean up faster

MICHELLE SINATRA, Employment manager at a center for handicapped adults in Norwalk, Connecticut; married with three kids

Her obsession: laundry

Why she loves it: “Housekeeping is a source of therapy for me. When times are stressful, some people go to the gym, some garden, some shop; I clean the house … a lot. I try to save laundry for evenings, after the kids are in bed. That way, I can fold while watching TV and having a glass of wine with my husband. If I’m feeling overwhelmed by my hectic schedule, this is a practical way to get relief.”

Cleaning confession: “I admit it, one of the reasons we bought our home was that it has a laundry chute! While we were house hunting, I saw that chute, and I just turned to my husband and said, ‘Sold!’ I could hardly wait to move in.”

Top tips

  • Group baby clothes. “My younger kids are a toddler son and a year-old daughter. When I’m putting their clothes away, I always organize them as outfit ‘bundles.’ That way, when I’m getting one of my kids dressed–or rushing to grab some clothes for day care–I can just reach for a ‘bundle,’ and it’ll have a matching shirt, pants, socks, etc.”
  • Remember the key to perfect jeans. “To avoid weird creases, shake the pants out vigorously before you toss them in the dryer. They’ll come out beautifully every time Fold all clothes while they’re still hot from the dryer.”
  • Don’t roll your socks. “Fold them instead. Rolling tends to stretch out the elastic.”
  • Teach kids to dress themselves. “I make clothing piles for my almost-ten-year-old stepson, Nick–one pile for school, one for play, and one for church or dress-up. Now he usually doesn’t have to ask us ‘What should I wear?’ and we don’t have to lay out his clothes anymore.”

ANN SOLLI, Special education teacher in Lutherville, Maryland; married with two kids

Her obsession: ironing

Why she loves it: “It reminds me of my morn. And I find it relaxing. I was ten years old when my mother taught me to iron pillowcases and place mats. She would lower the ironing board to my height, and I loved helping her. We were very, very close, and I guess I inherited her craziness for ironing. When my girls were little, I thought there was nothing better than putting them in freshly pressed sundresses-that was just heaven! Now I’m so busy, I often have to iron while I do something else, like talk to friends on the phone. It must be contagious, because some of my friends will be ironing away on the other end of the line while we catch up.”

Cleaning confession: “My family teases me about it, but when I’m getting ready for a vacation, I iron everything before I pack it in the suitcase even though it may get wrinkly all over again.”

Top tips

  • Be selective. “I always send my husband’s shirts to the dry cleaner. They take the longest to do yourself and are the hardest to get just right.”
  • Mist it first. “I love a heavy steam iron–mine is a Black & Decker. But you get better results if you fill a spray bottle with water and lightly moisten clothes before pressing them.”
  • Rediscover your clothesline. “If you know that a certain shirt always gets creased in the dryer, hang it up to dry. It’ll wrinkle less that way and make ironing easier.”

LAUREN BRIGHT, 37 Attorney in Washington, D.C.; married with one child

Her obsession: organizing the kitchen

Why she loves it: “I like to open the cabinets and see everything labeled and neat–it makes cooking dinner so much easier. As soon as I get home from the supermarket, I take things out of their packaging and put them in containers, like Tupperware or Click-Top Storers. Everything has a home. There’s a baking section, lined with containers labeled flour, sugar, brown sugar, chocolate chips, nuts. There’s a snack area, with containers designated chips, pretzels, tortilla chips, and my mom’s special label that says Grandma’s baby snacks, for my son, Aaron. Even the meat in the freezer is organized! My sister says I’m a nut, but she didn’t turn me down when my morn and I offered to give her kitchen an overhaul.”

Cleaning confession: “Periodically, I do a total reorganization–after which I give my husband, Bill, a tour of the ‘new’ kitchen. He’s learned to put up with my madness because he knows that my system keeps me sane.”

Top tips

  • Organize by food type. “I group my staples: soups, veggies, breakfast supplies, etc. Store things where you use them; for example, keep spices and oils near the stove. My baking goods go above the counter where I roll out pie crusts.”
  • Label early and often. “I can’t live without my Brother Label Maker … even though my husband jokes that I’m dangerous with that thing.”
  • Use a soda can dispenser to hold canned foods.
  • Create a coffee bar. “My husband’s a coffee fiend, so we turned a shelf at one end of the kitchen into a storage spot for everything he needs: mugs, filters, sugar, creamer. While I’m getting breakfast, he’s happily brewing coffee just the way he likes it.”

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