Some days I despair at ever being able to make a dent in my to-do list—and here I'm not talking about routine chores like cleaning the house.

That stuff sometimes waits a long, LONG time before I can get to it…or at least it used to, until recently.

Here are six creative strategies I'm using this year to ensure I get something done before I find myself up to my eyeballs in dust bunnies! These fixes will help you keep your house cleaner, reduce stress, free up wasted time, and create a cleaner, happier space for the whole family!

1. Plan it out

Most of us don't have time to set everything aside so we can "clean the house." This type of traditional thinking has largely fallen prey to the digital age, where a ringing land line is the least of our daily distractions. Instead, we must learn to think in 5 or 10 minute increments, think vertically as well as horizontally (i.e. make friends with multi-tasking) and plan time in advance to fit in everything we want to accomplish.

One planning example:

  • Sit down and write out everything you want to do for "basic housecleaning" (here, think "clean counters,” not "dust-free baseboards").
  • Print out a free calendar template for the next month, and draw a line between weeks two and three (your plan will be a "rolling plan" and will cover two weeks).
  • Star mandatory cleaning items, like the days the garbage/recycling needs to be put out for pickup.
  • Write down small daily chores—washing dishes, laundry, make your bed, etc.—at the top of your calendar.
  • Now, designate one day (or more—whatever you need) for dusting, vacuuming, sweeping/mopping, laundry and room-by-room cleaning (bathrooms, living areas, kitchen, bedrooms).
  • This plan can help you break down housecleaning into small, manageable daily tasks.

2. Create incentives for the whole family to pitch in.

If you find yourself holding the bag for the bulk of the housecleaning duties, it may be time for a family paradigm shift. Whether you prefer a program based on incentives for pitching in, penalties for slacking, or a combination of both—it’s time to get everyone involved. Below are a few ideas (you can reverse them for a penalty-based system).

Ideas:

  • Earn credits towards game or TV time for simple chores like putting dirty clothes in the hamper, sorting colors and whites, and running one wash/dry cycle.
  • Make it fun by designating a "deep clean day" where everyone cleans their respective space, after which the whole family can enjoy a festive meal and a flick or outing together (tailor this to whatever your family enjoys).
  • Tie in allowance money, social media or cell phone time as a reason to complete their chores.

3. Put a cleaning kit in every space.

Having to walk back and forth to the kitchen for supplies will definitely take more time and reduce your efficiency when you do have time to clean.

  • What to do: Take a few minutes and make up a cleaning kit for each space in the house (putting the kits in bathrooms is probably easiest). Include all-purpose spray, sink/tub cleaner, toilet cleaner, appropriate rags/brushes and paper towels.

4. Multi-task whenever possible.

One way I fit in light mindless housecleaning tasks is by cleaning while I'm on the phone with a friend, or on hold with customer service. This is a great time to sweep, mop, start the dishwasher, clean counters and other light tasks.

  • What to do: If you have any regularly scheduled calls, plan in advance to fit in some light cleaning during the calls. And definitely seize the opportunity when you find yourself on hold or on the listening end of a friend's monologue!

5. Take a look at your "home flow."

If you find yourself always picking up textbooks left strewn on the kitchen table or socks discarded in the family room, it may be time to take a look at how your family uses your home space (i.e. socks belong in the bedroom laundry hamper and textbooks belong in the study room or on a desk).

  • What to do: If your kids don't have room hampers, now is a good time to get a couple! If you can find the space, try designating one area as the “kids’ homework area" where they can take their textbooks and backpacks.

6. Rethink your home organization.

Very little is more frustrating than deciding to use your free 10 minutes to make up the beds with fresh sheets, only to spend all of that time hunting for stray pillowcases or wondering where all the fitted sheets went! Take a look at common time-wasters like this, and develop strategies to sidestep them in the future.

Ideas:

  • As part of folding laundry, take some spare twine or ribbon and tie all matching sheets and pillowcases up together so they’re right there when you need to make the bed.
  • Teach your kids how to use your stockpile to replenish their own toilet paper, tissues and other necessaries in their bathrooms/bedrooms.
  • Institute "before bedtime" rules regarding picking out outfits, locating shoes, making lunches and preparing backpacks—these rules can encourage tidiness as well as save everyone time and stress!