The keep-it-clean plan for open houses (© Mikkel Vang/Real Simple)

These room-by-room to-do lists will help you get the work done quickly so that your house is always in tip-top shape to welcome prospective buyers.

Kitchen, 4 1/2 minutes daily
Always start with the sink. "Keep it empty and shining," says Marla Cilley, author of Sink Reflections (Bantam, $15) and creator of, a housekeeping Web site. A sparkling sink becomes your kitchen's benchmark for hygiene and tidiness, inspiring you to load the dishwasher immediately and keep countertops, refrigerator doors and the stove top spick-and-span, too.

Wipe down the sink after doing the dishes or loading the dishwasher (30 seconds).

Wipe down the stove top (1 minute).

Wipe down the counters (1 minute).

Sweep, Swiffer or vacuum the floor (2 minutes).

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Bathroom, 2 minutes daily
Make cleaning the basin as routine as washing your hands. But don't stop there. Get the most out of your pre-moistened wipe by using it to clean around the edges of the tub and then the toilet before tossing it.

  • Wipe out the sink (30 seconds). Wipe the toilet seat and rim (15 seconds).
  • Swoosh the toilet bowl with a brush (15 seconds).
  • Wipe the mirror and faucet (15 seconds).
  • Squeegee the shower door (30 seconds).
  • Spray the entire shower and the curtain liner with shower mist after every use (15 seconds).

Bedroom, 6 1/2 minutes daily
Make your bed right before or after your morning shower. A neat bed will inspire you to deal with other messes immediately. Although smoothing sheets and plumping pillows might not seem like a high priority as you're rushing to work, the payoff comes at the end of the day, when you slip back under the unruffled covers.

  • Make the bed (2 minutes).
  • Fold or hang clothing and put away jewelry (4 minutes).
  • Straighten out the night-table surface (30 seconds).
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Family room, living room, foyer, 6 minutes daily
Start with the sofa because as long as it's in disarray, your living room will never look tidy. Once you've fluffed the pillows and folded the throws, you're halfway home. If you pop in a CD while you dust, you should be able cover the whole room by the end of the third track.

  • Pick up crumbs and dust bunnies with a handheld vacuum (1 minute).
  • Fluff the cushions and fold throws after use (2 minutes).
  • Wipe tabletops and spot-clean cabinets when you see fingerprints (1 minute).
  • Straighten coffee-table books and magazines. Throw out newspapers. Put away CDs and videos (2 minutes).

By Real Simple