God bless editors, especially when they make a mistake. It keeps everyone humble and a little more careful, which is never a bad thing. The below article quotes information from “the Fly Lady” and from “Suze Orman,” but they are not the same person, even if an editor thinks that flows easier. Here is this article as it almost appeared in the March issue of Long Beach Magazine.

What’s worse than cleaning? Prep work! The organizing, de-cluttering, picking up, straightening, etc. Call it what you want, it is akin to weeding before you can really garden. It can take hours to sift through the piles of bulk mail, the kids’ handouts and schoolwork, and a myriad of other paper and magazines that seem to materialize on every empty surface of the house.

If you are not plagued—or blessed–with obsessive compulsive disorder, then cleaning a cabinet or a pile of mail is like having dental work done without anesthetic. The result is great; the process, excruciating!

There is a web site dedicated to less than cleaning-obsessed people—and for others who are worse off, i.e. they haven’t seen their sink’s surface for months. It’s called the FlyLady.com. FLY is an acronym for Finally Loving Yourself. Even if self-loathing has not permeated your monthly magazine pile, she has some great tips for keeping the prep work to a minimum so your weekly cleaning—vacuuming, dusting, scouring, and polishing—is easy to do and will not take a whole day.

The Fly Lady suggests setting a timer to complete de-cluttering in small chunks. You can get through one stack, one shelf, or one drawer in 15 minutes. Chances are, you will re-set the timer and do another stint. Put everything in one of three categories: keep, toss, donate. She strongly advises that if you don’t love it, it’s not worth keeping. Too good to toss? Donate it. Don’t get caught storing boxes in the garage for a later sale. If it’s not happening soon, get it out of the house. Spend another 15 minutes each night before bed putting things away. Work clockwise through each room.

FINANCIAL GURU, Suze Orman swears (on her public television infomercial) that wealth is attracted to cleanliness. She’s not suggesting to invest in laundromats and drycleaners, she explains that when you take care of your expensive things, you have space to acquire more of what you want. It’s what we tell our kids before Christmas and birthdays—they have to purge some toys to make room for the new stuff.

Kids help and hinder the clutter battle. They help make a mess and they hinder you from wanting to clean it up! To kick off good habits for toddlers, every new parent learns the song, “Clean up, clean up, everybody, every where. Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share.”

It works up until all their toys no longer fit in a laundry basket and more importantly, when they realize that they have a choice. Once their power to refuse is manifest, it’s harder, but not impossible. Children need to be micromanaged. Instituting a rule to put one thing away before they get out another works, but you cannot trust that the first thing went back to where it belongs. Many search and rescue efforts have uncovered secret hiding places of toys and other artifacts that “got put away” in the mad dash to get out the next item.

The Fly Lady’s timer trick works great with kids. Give them 15-20 minutes to clear the whole play area and PUT EVERYTHING IN ITS PLACE, and they can do it.

Her are some other easy-to-implement, effective ideas:
1) Tell the kids to whom you are giving the toys, clothes or books (any younger child they know), then they are happy to send them off with their blessings.
2) Give each child a paper grocery sack and 15 minutes to fill it with things they don’t need anymore.
3) Buy the toys back from them. Just $2 or $5 per toy or per pound (works great for Halloween candy too). It doesn’t have to be cash that you give them either. You can give them a gift card to Borders or credit toward a trip to an amusement park.
Now that the prep work is done, go clean!

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