The cleaning craft has changed considerably in the past century.
While better products and tools exist today, old standbys are heralded as "new" cleaning alternatives.
A little ingenuity and old-fashioned elbow grease still seem to work best, especially as last-minute cleaning demands creep in with other holiday have-tos.
"At this time of year, I think there's two schools of thought about cleaning," said Joanne Albers, of Valparaiso, who was hostess to a large family Thanksgiving gathering and now is focusing on Christmas cleaning.
"Some people like to do just a light cleaning before they put out all of their Christmas decorations and then do major deep cleaning after the holiday once all of the seasonal decorations are packed away. Other people like to do just the opposite and clean everything before and just touch up after the holidays."
One thing Albers believes is much different from the way she used to clean and the way her mother always performed housekeeping duty musts is a greater emphasis on cleaning more quickly and effectively and in less time.
"It used to be with cleaning, people had winter kitchen curtains and summer living room drapes and times of the year when they would rearrange furniture," she said.
"Now, all of that has changed. Most people are busier and cleaning has to be done quickly and effectively, especially during the holidays when there's a real time crunch, since everyone seems to work. There's even a lot more people who have outside cleaning people come in to do heavy cleaning needs and windows."
Bryan Lazorik, 26, of Schererville, believes the answer to the cleaning duties and drudgeries of today is to combine the best of yesterday's know-how with smarter and better ways to make even the toughest jobs easier to tackle.
Lazorik, who owns 2-year-old Bryco Services Inc., specializes in commercial cleaning with an emphasis on using basic know-how and efficient time use to make big jobs manageable.
"We don't do residential, but there are a lot of ways to use the same effective tips and processes for minimizing the hassles associated with holiday cleaning," Lazorik said.
"One of the first things to keep in mind is you have to set a time frame for cleaning and be reasonable with what you want to get done. Prioritizing is important. Many people get overwhelmed, and don't know where to start. If you wanted, you could spend an eight-hour day cleaning just one room and still not finish. If you want to, there's always something to clean."
Lazorik, whose company cleans everything from restaurants, offices and apartment rentals to banquet halls and new construction areas, said even when cleaning at home, each person should treat his or her task with the concept "time is money."
Even though Lazorik said each person has his or her own idea defining "how clean is clean," there's still a universal right way and wrong way to begin any cleaning regimen.
"Sometimes, people aren't aware of some of the simplest rules like any room should be cleaned starting top to bottom, glass and window first, then dusting and floors last."
The undisputed queen of cleaning is Heloise, the popular internationally syndicated newspaper columnist, featured in The Times six days a week and a contributing editor for Good Housekeeping magazine.
Heloise, 51, (who legally changed her name from Ponce Kiah Marchelle Heloise Cruse Evans... Phew!) is heralded as "America's No. 1 lifestyle manager" and a "hintologist extraordinaire." She says one of her busiest seasons for time-saving cleaning advice comes during the holidays.
This year marks the 25th anniversary since Heloise took over her mother's column after she died from cancer at age 57 in 1977. The original Heloise founded the column, which was first called "The Reader's Exchange" and then "Household Hints with Eloise," the latter including her mother's real name before she legally changed it.
Today, Heloise is not only included in more than 500 newspapers, she also just completed her 10th book, "Heloise Conquers Stinks and Stains" (Berkley Publishing, 2002, $10.95.). Next month, she will be at the annual Indiana Homemakers Show in Indianapolis on Jan. 31 giving guest lectures and signing copies of her new book.
"Stains are a big part of the holidays, since so many people entertain in their homes and want to show off their best from clothes to tablecloths," Heloise said.
"If you're talking about holiday cleaning, the topics of 'stinks' and 'stains' rank right up there."
Heloise said her books and columns now include a feature she calls "Heloise's Update," which informs readers about new and better ways to tackle old problems.
"Many people still have many of my mother's old books and columns, which have some wonderful ideas and tips, but some need some updating since fabrics and cleaning supplies change over the years," she said.
For example, Heloise said many of the at-home cleaning solutions have different water to bleach and cleaner ratios because many of today's soaps and bleaches are a more concentrated formula.
"I worked closely with the Chlorine Institute not too long ago and discovered that bleaches, detergents and soaps marketed as 'ultra' are about 3 percent stronger than what we're used to decades ago," she said.
"That means the water-to-solution amounts are going to change."
Heloise also has her own Web site, www.heloise.com, dedicated to cleaning ideas and tips to make daily household musts easier, such as her "Heloise's 5 Points for Clutter Control."
"I think routine and schedule are important," she said.
"My father was in the military, so we moved around a lot. But during every part of my life, from high school, college to when I married in 1981, I've learned how important it is to plan your time wisely. And the holidays give us a real lesson in that. If you do it right, you'll have plenty of time left over to enjoy the season."
* Philip Potempa will interview Heloise at 8 this morning on WLJE-FM (105.5). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) 837-3232, ext. 4327.