The best way to keep it clean: Set aside a few minutes a day

Happy 2009! I know one of your New Year's resolutions is to keep your home cleaner — or maybe it should be.

You can do it by carving out a few minutes each day and having a few essential tools on hand. Here are some items that make life easier and will help you tidy up without too much effort and money.

  • Baking soda. You have the standard box in the fridge to quell odors, but did you know that by adding a small amount of water, you can form a paste that can instantly shine up silverware? Or add it to a wet cloth and clean out that stainless-steel sink without scratching it. Sprinkle a little in the trash can or the litter box to help control odors.
  • Dishcloths. Reach for a dishcloth instead of paper towels to wipe up spills and clean other kitchen surfaces. You'll save money and avoid the germs that may lurk in your sponge. Of course, you can use dishcloths for their original purpose — washing the dishes. Keep several on hand and rotate them in and out of the weekly laundry.
  • Disinfecting wipes. There will be times when you need to disinfect, and nothing could be easier than grabbing a disinfecting wipe. I keep canisters under all the sinks in my house. My favorite is Clorox because of its low-streak factor. Word in the cleaning world (OK, the Clorox Web site) is that soon the company will sell decorative canisters you can keep on the sink.
  • Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Use these mildly abrasive cleaning pads to do everything from removing scuffmarks on floors to restoring and keeping baseboards clean. You can even use them to wipe away soap scum in the shower. Target also makes its own slightly cheaper version.
  • Swiffer dusters. If loving this little cleaning tool is wrong, I don't want to be right. I keep one on each floor of my home and pull it out a few times a week to dust the bookshelves, nightstand, television, etc. I also own the long-handled version, which lets me dust hard-to-reach places like the top of the refrigerator.

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