Cleaning remains one of the biggest time wasters many families have. Depressingly, research shows that women still do significantly more cleaning than men, averaging about 18 hours a week on cleaning tasks — even when they work outside the home. It's no wonder that cleaning consistently ranks among the topics over which couples fight the most.

The obvious solution is simply to give up cleaning, but that's unhealthy.  The chaos of clutter and stress of dirt can make it difficult to concentrate or enjoy your home. With these cleaning hacks, you get the best of both worlds: more time and a cleaner house.

1. The Basket and Bin System

If you have children, you probably spend a significant portion of each day putting things away. End your headaches with a bin-based organization system. Create one bin for each room of the house, and store the bins in the family room. Invest in an attractive shelf or cabinet to keep bin-related clutter from getting out of control. Then, return the items in the bins to their homes once a day, or when you make a trip to another room. The system makes it easier for children to pick up after themselves because will know exactly what items they need to put away and where.

2. A Place for Everything

If everything in your house does not have its own home, you will always be surrounded by clutter. That may seem obvious enough, but most families have a few junk drawers or closets where they stash random items. Commit to cleaning out a junk drawer or closet each week until you have a truly organized space. Then create a place for each and every item you own. You'll no longer be surrounded by clutter, and putting your stuff away will not only be easier, but possible.

3. Embrace Baking Soda

If you loathe the idea of covering your home in toxic products, you're not alone. Baking soda is a wonderful multipurpose household product. Use a baking soda paste to remove shower rings, or apply a light sprinkling of baking soda to a dirty sofa or carpet. Wait a few minutes, then vacuum up the mess and its accompanying smell.  An open box of baking soda can even keep your refrigerator smelling clean. Learn more tips for using baking soda in the home. 

4. The Nightly Sweep

Waking up to a dirty house can leave you feeling exhausted before the day even begins. Commit to a nightly 10-minute sweep. Put dishes in the dishwasher, toys in their proper homes, and cans in the recycling bin. You'll wake up to a clean house, and spend less time on morning cleaning tasks.

5. Competitive Cleaning

Get your kids involved in cleaning by turning it into a game. Try setting a 10-minute timer and awarding a sticker to the child who can put away the most items. At the end of the week, treat the child with the most stickers to a special reward — a small toy, an outing, or even a day off from cleaning.

6. Dryer Sheet Magic

Dryer sheets do much more than make your laundry smell fresh. Consider trying some of the following ideas:

  • Use a dryer sheet to scrub messes from dirty pots and pans.
  • Wipe dryer sheets over furnishings covered with pet hair for a smooth finish and fresh smell.
  • Buff out bath tub and toilet rings with a dryer sheet.
  • Remove water spots from chrome appliances with a dryer sheet.
  • Use dryer sheets to remove odors. Try hanging a few in your closet, putting them inside smelly shoes overnight, or using them as low-cost car air fresheners.
  • Polish away soap scum from shower doors with a dryer sheet.

7. Shaving Your Linens

Extend the life of your razor blades by running them up and down a pair of jeans 10-20 times. You can also use a razor to remove pet hair and lint from sheets and clothing. Soiled your favorite jeans with paint? A razor is the best option for removing dried paint.

8. Dishwasher Shortcuts

If you only use your dishwasher to wash dishes, you're not fully utilizing this appliance. You can place most plastic items in the dishwasher, including toys. Metal vent covers are also dishwasher-safe. If the item is non-porous and doesn't melt at high temperatures, do a quick Google double-check, then absolve yourself of the obligation to wash it by hand. Your dishwasher will probably do a better job anyway.

Cleaning doesn't have to take over your life. If you're willing to spend a little time to assess what's working and what's not, to explore more efficient options, and to demand help from every member of the household, you can soon be relaxing with a good book in a clean house.