I’ve been in tune with my surroundings my entire life. Whether at home or on vacation I observe the details as if I am going to be tested on it. I drill down on even the most obsolete thing from the carpet to the crown moldings and everything in between. Yet, there is always one thing that trumps everything else, and it’s more about what you don’t see rather than what you do see. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love and appreciate furniture, I look for the fabulous accessories, but what really makes my day is just how tidy and clean a place is.  My grandmother was a master of cleaning the house; my mother was a master of having help.  Me, I fall somewhere in between — the best of both generations as it were.  I’m proud to roll up my sleeves, but I also know when to call in the professionals. I’ve always been something of a domestic man, washing my clothes, ironing and cleaning, but my neat and clean gene was not fully expressed until I purchased my very own home. 

For many people today, balancing work and family makes it harder to set aside the time to tackle domestic chores. Finding shortcuts and innovative ways to clean our homes has become a real necessity. Try cleaning outside windowsills without getting the ladder. Simply open the window and wipe clean from the inside of the after a rainstorm has provided a head start on cleaning. I love things like that because they make for a fast clean-up with the help of mother nature. 

I don’t need to tell you how to clean your house — there are many other great tips out there and I encourage you to do more research on your own. But here are six things the guests are likely to notice at this time of year — and my six favorite, easy sMARt tips for finding your own domestic empowerment.

Clean Silver

We have all been there. Here come the holidays and we are ready to pull out the family silver only to find it tarnished.  There is no time to clean, so what happens?  We put it away and use something else, right?  No more — here’s my foolproof way to get the job done fast and easy!  Fill a pot big enough to hold with water and cover whatever you are cleaning, and bring to a boil. While waiting for the water to boil, take each tarnished silver piece and gently wrap in aluminum foil.  Once the water has come to a boil bring the stove to a low simmer and add one cup of baking soda. Now drop the silver into the boiling water. You will notice that the water will begin to smell as the sulfur begins to turn the aluminum black; this is a chemical reaction to the foil, cleaning every nook and cranny of the silver. That’s when you know it’s ready to be removed from the hot water. The better quality silver the better it works. Unwrap each piece — you can wait till it cools down — then simply take a soft cloth to polish when done.

Clean kitchen appliances

Everyone has stubborn greasy stains they scrub and scrub. Here’s the best shortcut: Take white vinegar and place in a water spray bottle; this is the best way to clean your kitchen as it removes any greasy residue from any kitchen appliances.  Spray on any greasy mess directly, then allow it to soak for a few minutes.  Wipe away with a damp hot dishtowel or nonabrasive scrubber. Works like magic.

Clean sisal carpet

Oh, how I love this tip! Being a pet owner I found myself in desperate need to discover a way to clean a sisal carpet. Rugs made of sisal fibers are environmentally friendly and offer a wonderful organic look to any home. I’m sure I’m not alone at being frustrated by the fact that once they get wet they discolor, and once they discolor they end up being relocated or tossed away. Good news. I have graduated and mastered the art of cleaning a sisal carpet! How? 

Never, ever use water or any other cleaning liquid. Many times this is our first reaction, to grab the club soda and a wet cloth. Doing this will always guarantee a stain. Instead, take up as much as you can with a dry dishtowel by gently wiping or patting to remove as much as you can without rubbing into the fibers. This may take several dry towels to absorb. Once everything is removed or absorbed, continue to pat down with a dry towel. Lay another dry towel on top of the area and step on it to absorb the last of the moisture, then allow to dry overnight. The next day, take a small wire pet brush and scrub the stained area. Follow the sisal grain and work your way from side to side over the area. You will notice that the sisal carpet is completely dry, and this brush will blend the color of your sisal back to its original color and tone. Works like a charm. 

Bonus carpet tip

Knowing you will have lots of guests this season, thus creating high traffic, how often do you worry that your area rugs become trip hazards? The most elegant and easy way to eliminate the problem?  Use a decorative upholstery nailhead to secure the corners.  Because these nail heads are relatively flat they work perfectly and can be chosen to match your carpet or d̩cor. These are available online or at your local fabric store. Make sure you buy large enough tacks to secure your area rugs. I’d rather make a little nail hole in my floor rather than to have someone trip on my carpet.

Clean crystal and decanters

If you’re like me, you enjoy fabulous wines throughout the year, so come the Holiday season you may begin to notice a residue at the bottom of your decanter or even some slight staining on glasses you haven’t used for a while — or were put away without being properly cleaned. Well, you can’t place this on your dining table or even display them looking like that! Here is an easy way to get that difficult base area clean. Fill the bottom of the base warm water and a splash of bleach, then leave overnight. In the morning you will notice that the bleach has broken-down the stain thus allowing you to wash it completely. (In fact, it may only take a few moments.) Wash thoroughly and store.

Clean hardwood floors

Every time I clean my hardwood floors I always think of Cinderella and my grandmother.  As a young boy, I remember how my grandmother was a master at making hardwood floors shine.  With no store-bought products, she just had that grandmother’s touch that we always admired and loved. Today, after years without a grandmother, I still follow her simple tip that comes by the way of the tea bag.  Did you know that the acid in teas bags can create a lush shine on hardwood floors? Using two tea bags, make a teapot-full of tea with boiling water, the pour it into your bucket. Wet your mop (or a soft cloth if you want to do it by hand) and wring it out so it is damp but not sopping; it will allow the floor to dry faster. Simply wipe your floors with a very thin layer and watch the shine and beauty of your floors come back to life. This is a MARvelousy simple trick that also offers a good cup of tea for you when you’re done. 

Clean windows:

Want to let the sun shine in? Of course, you do. Since the season can be a little gloomy, we want to welcome whatever light we can. Ironically, the strong winter light can seem to make window grime more noticeable. So consider stepping up your cleaning at this time by switching from paper towels to coffee filters. They are durable and leave no tell-tale lint behind. Shine on!

Now that I have shared some great housekeeping tips its time for you to share your home with others.  Try these tips and in no time you’ll find it’s, even more, fun to deck the halls right after you’ve cleaned them.

And there you have it.