Home & Garden Cleaning  &  Organizing

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    Cleaning your engagement ring is probably the furthest thing from your mind when you first slip that gorgeous sucker onto your eagerly awaiting finger. You are too mesmerized by this symbol of love. How it sparkles, how it shines! No one can blame you for looking at it as though you're a magpie, or as if it's the One True Ring, and you are as deeply smitten with it as Gollum before you.

    Wearing that sparkly jewel every day takes it toll -- though not in a way that really hurts your stone! Diamonds are made to withstand almost anything. But even diamonds get dirty. Why do you think there are so many different types of cleaners on the market? Just go to Amazon and type in 'ring cleaner' and you'll see what I mean.

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    Everyone keeps talking about this "spring cleaning" I'm supposed to be doing. And you know what? Mama ain't got no time for that. But sometimes occasions arise in which we must make our homes look presentable to guests. Easter and Passover are coming, and while we don't have time to do a thorough top-to-bottom job, maybe we can carve out an hour to dig ourselves out of the worst of it. So how about this: 8 simple steps for a quick, good-enough spring cleaning.

    Those of you with high standards may want to look the other way. 

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    My apartment is about the size of a doll house, so I love space-saving anything. But in order to really work for me, a piece must do double-duty. I'm talking serious multifunctionality -- look good, do two different jobs, and maybe even fold the laundry. (Someone is going to invent that someday ... ) Here's 7 very chic double-duty ideas that will help keep the clutter at bay.

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    Got small closet woes? Well, don't despair. There are lots of cool tricks for making your closet bigger. Alright, alright, these tips won't magically make your closet physically bigger for reals. However, they WILL allow you to fit in a lot more clothes and accessories and shoes and stuff, and that's what counts, right?

    Over on The Prowl, we rounded up all kinds of smart tools and solutions for maximizing closet space. Check out this sneak peek of cool, space-saving ideas and finally get more out of that closet of yours, little as she may be.

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    So, you want to be a parent. And you want your home to look reasonably civilized. Are you nucking futz?!? I'm joking. Of course you can do both -- sort of. But you're going to have to corral what I call Toy Creep. That's when you start out saying the toys belong in your kids' rooms and/or playroom, period. But since you all spend time together in shared spaces like the family room, little by little, those toys find their way out. And they collect. Next thing you know, you're on a deep sea search through the blocks trying to find your TV remote.

    So let's talk about how you're going to give up and accept the fact that toys happen in the den -- and how you're going to corral those toys so you don't feel like the toys are totally taking over your life. Which they are. But your home doesn't have to look like it. 

    More from The Stir: 7 Amazing Designs for Kids' Spaces

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    For the most part I consider myself a clean and tidy person. I put things away. I wipe up spills. I clean the bathroom, er, well, almost every week. I change the sheets and do laundry regularly. There's a place for everything, and nearly everything is in its place. But still, there are some dark corners of my home that get neglected. Places I'm aware of but just never get around to cleaning. Or places so decrepit, I've lost the nerve to touch them at all.

    I know there are people out there who assiduously clean every last nook and cranny of their homes. I salute you! You must have really interesting lives to spend all the time cleaning ... But for those of us doing the bare minimum, I give you: My slideshow of shame.

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    When Mark and I moved into our home, I was obsessed with making it fabulous. I painted it myself in hip hues. I placed unread books on bookshelves and organized them by color simply for the aesthetic. I set up little vignettes on counters in groups of three to make my home seem chic, yet warm, you know, a cross between make yourself comfortable and maybe you shouldn't touch that?

    Yes, one day our home would be the perfect blend of comfy/zen/chic and people would gush upon entering and then complement it with gusto and envy. (At the very least it would be clean and organized.)

    HA ha ha ha ha ha haaaa.   

    I'm sorry, did I do that out loud? I was just remembering what I envisioned, you know before my kids and pets ... and husband ruined, stained, chipped, wrote on, or buried (under toys) everything I owned. Oh, and I had the time or energy to care.

    We all had idealistic visions (do these sound familiar):   

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    You know how on average women do most of the housework? More than their male partners, even when we do professional work full time, even when we make more than our male partners do. For whatever reason, we're still the ones spending the most quality time with the toilet brush. Why is this? And more importantly, WHEN WILL IT END? Well, one brilliant man has an revolutionary solution: This housekeeping gender imbalance will end when we women learn to love filth.

    In an Op Ed for the New York Times, housework-averse man Stephen Marche makes his case like it's the most obvious, simple solution ever. Just do less housework! Let you home go to shit, ladies. You care too much.

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    A living space can go from organized to cluttered in the blink of an eye. However, with some unique storage solutions and organizers for the home, you can make life a lot simpler.

    Think of those mini disasters that give you the most frustration as you try to leave the house each morning. Do you misplace your car keys? Or maybe you can never find that second earring. Over on The Prowl, we've collected some helpful and decorative ways to solve some of the most common clutter dilemmas.

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    Sigh. If you're anything like me, you always think having people over sounds like a great idea -- until those few hours before they show up when you're frantically trying to straighten up the house. It never fails -- somehow we always wind up cleaning right up until the very last minute.

    No matter how hard we try and carve out extra time to get everything in tip top shape before a get-together, it always seems like there just aren't enough hours in the day. So we have to get a little creative when it comes to "faking" a clean house before entertaining.

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