Get organized

A self-admitted clutter bug, Jane Carroo of Palatine knows what it takes to get the house organized and presentable for guests.

“My belief is that people get very stressed out around the holidays. They want everything to be their perception of perfect and it’s a whole lot easier to plan ahead and take care of things in advance than trying to cram everything in at the last minute,” says Carroo, a certified professional organizer and owner of the Clutter Coach Company.

Here are a few of her holiday tips:

• Start now. Get your home ready so you won’t have to worry about having things in order at such a busy time. Take stock of what needs to be handled and write it down. Consider putting it in your calendar to do. Even 15 minutes a day can make a real difference.

• Create a holiday plan. Make a list of what needs to be done and do as much as possible in advance. Make a guest list, menu, shopping list and a gift list. Collect your ideas of what you want your home and table to look like. See if you need to borrow or buy anything to make those ideas reality.

• Let the children help with holiday projects. Create ideas for crafts that can be used or added to holiday décor.

• Don’t forget to review the foyer closet. Make sure you have plenty of extra hangers for your guests. Consider baskets or bins for hats and gloves. That way it can stay in the closet and look neat.

For more tips, check out Carroo’s Web site at

Put your food to work

THE MAIDS Home Services (a residential cleaning service in the U.S. and Canada founded in 1979, got into the holiday spirit and developed these cleaning tips using some traditional Thanksgiving fare.

Potatoes. With all of the washing, chopping and preparing for your feast, you will more than likely end up with a stain or two on your hands. Rub a raw potato on your hands and watch as the stains vanish.

Stuffing. Never cause yourself the embarrassment of giving a rusty knife to a guest again. Just use a leftover onion from preparing grandma’s stuffing recipe and stick your knives through it, let sit 30 minutes, rinse and goodbye rust.

Olives. Olive oil can remove stains and restore shine to wood furniture. Mix one part olive oil and an equal part vinegar and gently rub over your wood furniture.

Pumpkin pie. Before your guests arrive, rid your home of any unpleasant smells with the pumpkin pie ingredient, vanilla extract, which can double as an air freshener. Place a cotton ball soaked in vanilla in a small saucer and let it sit out.


Things to help prepare for T-day dinner

The Shark Steam Mop

Has this ever happened to you? You finish scrubbing the kitchen floor in time for guests when the dog/kids/husband burst in with muddy feet and mess it up again.

Muddy feet and spills are part of my family’s daily routine. So we tested the Shark Steam Mop, available at for about $80 plus shipping, on muddy footprints, Popsicle drips, ground-in crayon pieces, gravy and spilled milk. In less time than it takes to plug in the purple mop, its steam was ready to tackle the messes within 30 seconds.

The mop works better on quick cleanups rather than scrubbing ultra-dirty floors. Some of the ground-in dirt took several passes of the lightweight mop before it came up completely.

For parents concerned about cleaning chemicals around the kids, the Shark cleans with regular tap water. No chemicals. There’s lots of steam, but the floors dry quickly after washing.

Tamara L. O’Shaughnessy

Sonic Scrubber

The Sonic Scrubber, ($12.99 for the scrubber and $9.99 for a pack of four brush heads, claims to be the ultimate power cleaning tool for your kitchen, bathroom and other areas.

“The easiest way to describe this product is like a battery-operated toothbrush; it does the same thing as a regular brush, only it moves for you. To be fair, I tried cleaning a section of my stove top with the Sonic Scrubber and another section with a regular long-handled hard bristle brush. The results were very similar. The only thing I liked about the Sonic Scrubber is the interchangeable heads so that you only need to have one tool if you are cleaning different areas of your home.

“I would recommend this product only to those parents who really want to get down and dirty and clean everything inside out.”

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