Turkey Day Scramble: How to Clean Up Fast Before the Big Day

This is it: your last weekend to clean up before boatloads of relatives begin squeezing themselves into your kitchen, setting platters on every available inch of countertop and using enough toilet paper to cover a small army.

In essence, you’re going to need to clean house before the horde descends. After all, you have enough to worry about without Aunt Edna’s cracks about your housekeeping techniques. Here’s what you need to do to get your home in hosting shape—pronto.

Thanksgiving place setting

Speed Clean the Spare Bedroom

Is your spare bedroom more of a spare junk room? Then it’s going to need a cleanup, stat. Unfortunately, there’s no better way to do this than to put on your sweats and get down to it. But a little music will help you get into the groove—and of course, the looming pressure of Thanksgiving, which is drawing nearer every minute! To get yourself going, start with the stuff you know you’re going to toss and get rid of it. Be ruthless. It’s the only way you’ll make it through Thanksgiving with a few minutes to yourself.

Toss Anything You Don’t Need in the Fridge

It’s time for your refrigerator to go on a serious diet—otherwise, you’ll never be able to find a spot for all those leftovers! This is any everything-must-go situation, so seriously, unless it’s going in your belly next week, it needs to get gone pronto. Afterwards, give the shelves a quick wipe with a rag dunked in a mixture of vinegar and water. Make sure to swipe the bottoms of any condiment bottles and jars before replacing them as well.

Scrub the Guest Bathroom

We get that you’re on a tight schedule here—but if there’s anywhere you can afford to take your time, it’s in the restrooms. Besides the normal sweeping and scrubbing, try wiping counters and tiles with a microfiber cloth to pick up extra germs and dirt. For an extra-clean toilet, use damp pumice stone or scouring stick to remove scale and soap scum from the sides. And use cleaners to your advantage: spray them and let them sit for a few minutes before you start sponging off surfaces. It will save time scrubbing.

Wrangle the Coat Closet

Unless you’re a “lay coats on the bed” kind of household, you’re going to need some room in your shared closet space. This probably means tossing some junk you’ve been keeping in there for too long. But if you’re anything like we are, the process of deciding what stays and what goes can take a while—too long when you’re pressed for time. Instead, get rid of whatever you can now: outerwear the kids have outgrown, that broken vacuum cleaner. Cart everything else up to the attic or garage so you can deal with it later.

Quick Clean the Living Room

In short order, a lot of people are going to be hanging out in your living room, which means it’s got to be spic and span. Take all the clutter and throw it into a laundry basket for sorting at a later point (probably the next time you need to do the laundry). Use a microfiber cloth and dry broom to dust and sweep the floors with minimal effort, and then vacuum the couch and fluff the pillows. Make sure you have enough coasters to keep your furniture protected, too! Now, if only you could find a way to speed-roast a turkey!

6 Household Items You Should Never Throw Away

There’s nothing like cleaning your garage or that “junk” room in your house. Suddenly you have enough space to park your car again, and you can finally see the bed in the spare bedroom!

But as you clean out garages, junk drawers or utility rooms, you’re bound to come across some items that shouldn’t go right in the garbage bin. Some things, like used electronics, can be recycled and reclaimed; whereas other stuff—half-empty cans of paint, old gasoline and many others—are more properly disposed of in other locations. Here’s what to pitch, what to recycle—and how to do it, so you can get busy rolling around on that newly cleaned bed!

old paint cans

Batteries

Batteries are not all made equal when it comes to your trash. Some may be safe for curbside pickup, but many are not. Here’s what you need to know to make sure you’re putting yours in the right place.

  • Dry cell batteries

    Older dry cell batteries—your standard AAAs, AAs, and other lettered types—contained harmful chemicals, like mercury, lead, cadmium, and nickel, which should never be thrown in the trash. While the majority of manufacturers now make household batteries with safer alternative metals, many municipal areas do not allow batteries to be thrown out with the rest of your garbage. Either way, you can find local places to recycle batteries on Earth 911, which has a comprehensive search tool for household recycling.

  • Rechargeable batteries

    Now if we’re talking rechargeable batteries, that’s another story. Rechargeable batteries are all made with nickel and cadmium, which can leach into nearby soil and water supplies. The back of the package should have instructions for mailback programs, or you can take them to a local Call2Recycle drop off center. Luckily, you should get about 1,000 uses out of those batteries before you’ll have to take them anywhere!

  • Lead acid batteries (aka used car batteries)

    Lead and acid are both incredibly dangerous when incinerated, so they shouldn’t go anywhere near your household trash. Again, use the locator on Earth 911 to find a nearby battery recycling center.

Electronics

It may seem like computer and cell phones work like magic—but they’re actually composed of lots of harmful compounds, like mercury, lead, cadmium, beryllium, chromium, and chemical flame retardants. When those chemicals and metals get into our soil and water, they result is not pretty. And used computers and other electronics often contain rare metals like gold, silver and copper—plus plastics and aluminum—that can be recovered and used for new products.

If your electronics are still working, wipe the hard drive or set the device back to factory settings, then donate them to a nearby Goodwill or other donation center. Many retailers like Sprint, Best Buy, Office Depot and Staples also participate in buyback programs and will give you money or store credit for used electronics.

If they’re not working, however, your options may be more limited. Take them to a local recycling center for materials recovery—again, you can find one on Earth 911.

Paints and Stains

Let’s face it, you’re never going to need that can of chartreuse paint again. But whatever you do, don’t dump it down the drain. Paint contains harmful chemicals that are toxic to the environment, so you should do your best to make sure as little of it goes down the sink as possible. PaintCare Inc. has a great list of local places to drop off used paints and stains. Lowe’s also says that you can dispose of latex paint safely by mixing it with equal parts clay kitty litter and allowing it to dry, then tossing it in the trash.

Expired Medicines

Finally cleaning out the bathroom medicine cabinet once and for all? Don’t chuck those old prescription meds in the trash! Mixing the medicines with used coffee grinds, sawdust or dirt ensures that they don’t get into the wrong hands (or paws, in the case of curious wildlife!). Place them in a baggy filled with one of these options—then and only then are they suitable for the trash.

Old Gasoline

Whether it’s contaminated or just sitting around in your garage too long, old gasoline is not the ideal thing to use to power your mower. Gasoline degrades after some time, which means it may not generate enough combustion to start your car or lawnmower. You can either dilute it with new gas for more power, or if it’s contaminated, take it right away to a hazardous waste disposal center in your area.

Light Bulbs

Proper disposal for light bulbs depends on the type of bulb you have. While many homeowners have moved away from CFLs and fluorescent lights, these bulbs do still exist. But because they contain mercury, they should never be thrown directly into the garbage. Look on Earth 911 for a drop off point near your location.

Look at you—running a clean home and looking out for the environment at the same time? You deserve a round of applause!

9 Germ-Conquering, Clutter-Defeating Ways to Deep Clean Your Kitchen

As much as we wish it weren’t true, sometimes the kitchen needs a good purge. Baked-on grease, dusty pantries and cluttered counters aren’t just unsightly—they’re unsanitary, too! And since no one has yet perfected the self-cleaning kitchen, it’s up to you—with the help of a little elbow grease—to get the job done. Here are some smart ways to tackle the worst jobs—without sacrificing your sanity in the process.

water flowing from kitchen sink

Tackle Your Oven the Smart Way

Next to the refrigerator, the oven has got to be the worst thing to clean in the kitchen. And unfortunately, there’s no great way to get it sparkling besides a good old-fashioned scrubbing. But you can make it easier on yourself. Loosen baked-on grit by heating it: set the oven for 225 degrees, and pop a pan of water in for 15 minutes. The rising steam from the water breaks up the caked-on stuff. Hit harder-to-clean spots with a paste made from baking soda and water. Then spritz with white vinegar for some all-natural foaming action. Last, pull out the racks and let them soak in a hot bath for up to an hour. Not a miracle cure by any means, but it beats scrubbing all day.

Stand Up to Your Stovetop

Of course you can’t really call the oven clean until you’ve given the stovetop some much-needed attention. Stoves are tricky, though; depending on the type you have, you may have a little more work in front of you. Generally speaking, for a flat cooktop, it’s up to our old friends vinegar and baking soda. Make another paste and spread it on the surface. Let it sit for a few hours, then wipe it away, loosening any lingering remnants with a nylon scraper. For a stove with electric coils, follow the same steps, but remove the burners first to wipe out any food scraps that may have collected below. For a gas stove, gently lift the burners and then follow the steps outlined here to get both the stovetop and burners spiffy clean.

Get Your Pantry in Order

You could write a whole book on pantry organization (and indeed, someone has—it’s called DIY Pantry Cleaning Hacks, and you can buy it on Amazon). But the main things to do are a) pitch out expired foods and b) wipe up the crumbs and sticky stuff. Only then should you contemplate a serious reorganization. Generally, homeowners follow a system resembling this one: frequently-used items, like cereal and snacks, go on the eye-level shelves. Place lighter items up top—your spices, baking ingredients and extra paper towels, for instance. Then put heavy items on the lowest shelves, things like large jars of oil and vinegar. This is where extras can go too, for instance, any “just-in-case” items, like canned food and emergency supplies.

Take on the Refrigerator

When it comes to loathsome kitchen cleaning tasks, this one ranks right up there. You probably already know the basics of fridge cleaning (if not, Apartment Therapy has some great insights), but there are a couple of things you can do to make the process a bit smoother. First place the trash can next to you to hold anything you’re not going to keep. Next, wipe down anything you plan to put back—it will save time cleaning next time. Soak the trays and shelves in a large tub to lift grimy food residue fast. And don’t forget to vacuum the refrigerator coils! It will save you money on your electricity bills and improve the efficiency of your fridge.

Confront Microwave Grease

A greasy, nasty microwave is no place for your popcorn. But it’s not exactly fun to clean out either. Fortunately, Good Housekeeping has a tip that should take some of the pain out of microwave cleanup. Essentially, you fill a microwave-safe bowl with a cup of water and a few tablespoons of vinegar and set it on cook for a few minutes. The boiling, steaming solution will loosen baked-on grit—but be sure to let it cool a little first before you try removing it! Then attack the walls and door with vinegar, water and a sponge for super clean snacking.

Attack the Coffeemaker

Want a really tasty cup of morning joe? You’re going to have to clean that coffee maker then! Luckily, this one is pretty cut-and-dry. Fill the water reservoir with water and vinegar, then set the pot to brew (or use the clean cycle, if your brewer has one). Run through a few more cycles using water, which will eliminate that vinegar taste. Once that’s done, scrub outside and underneath the coffee maker to get rid of any crumbs, beans or grinds. If you have a reusable filter, pull it out and let it soak overnight in vinegar and water to wash away buildup and improve the taste of your coffee.

Sort Out Counter Clutter

To listen to decluttering acolytes and Marie Kondo devotees, you’d think a cluttered kitchen represented some sort of spiritual decline. While we’re not sure we’d go that far, a counter full of junk does make your kitchen seem a lot messier than it is. To combat clutter, hang mounted baskets under the cabinets and store excess stuff there. And maybe consider installing a small appliance garage too—it’s a great place to stuff infrequently-used products, like the blender and crock pot.

Put Cabinet Junk in Its Place

Of course, if your counter is cluttered, chances are pretty high that your cabinets are, too. If you’re currently suffering from cabinet overflow, use stacked shelves and drawer pulls to make a place for everything. And don’t overlook your doors—throw a few command hooks on the back and you can use them to hold everything from pots to spoons to measuring cups. Meanwhile, don’t neglect the top of the upper cabinets either—if they’re anything like most peoples’, they could probably use a good dusting!

Once you do all that, you’ll totally deserve a lazy Sunday binge session, so here are a few ideas what to watch. Trust us—binging feels amazing after you’ve just cleaned house!