While it won't be time to prep for spring for another six months, fall brings new beginning of its own: the school year begins, cool weather takes over, and a new quarter launches at work. And whether you're a stay-at-home parent or a powerhouse in you're field, chances are, at some point, you've looked around your house and thought, Wow, this place needs a top-to-bottom cleaning -- like, badly.

But when everything seems to need doing yesterday, it can be difficult to decide where to begin. This checklist will guide you through where to begin, where to end, and everything in between, and it'll be the last to-do list you'll ever need.

  • 1

    Prioritize

    When it comes to pulling off a major top-to-bottom housecleaning, there are two ways to go about it: room-by-room, or task-by-task. Write down the days of the week -- or two, or three, or a month; whichever fits your schedule best -- and assign a room or a task to each day. This keeps you from getting overwhelmed, because it turns one seemingly huge project into several smaller, much more manageable ones. It also allows you to focus on one endeavor at a time, producing a more quality result. An orderly home is a more comfortable home, and it shouldn't come at the totally counterproductive price of a frazzled mind.

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  • 2

    Minimize

    Start by de-cluttering, simplifying and paying it forward. By just reducing the sheer amount of stuff you have to clean, sort and organize, you'll be taking a huge step in the right direction toward a more livable, presentable home. Go through everything -- everything: in closets, cabinets and drawers; under beds and sinks; on shelves; from books to dishes to clothes -- and weed out anything you no longer want or need. That sweater you haven't worn for the last two winters... the dog bed that Brutus grew out of a year ago... that one piece of cookware you never use because it's a nightmare to wash, and every cassette tape you've ever owned. Say goodbye to all of that.

    But don't just throw good, re-usable stuff out! Donate it to a thrift store, hand it down to your sister who just graduated college, or sell it to a secondhand retailer, like Plato's Closet or Once Upon a Child. (Pro tip: start by offering it to a secondhand retailer, then take whatever they can't buy to a thrift store, which will either sell it or ship it to a region in need.) It's a win-win: you get it out of your own way, while making it available to someone who needs it more than you do.

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  • 3

    Room-by-Room

    If you choose to tackle your home room-by-room, your to-do list will look much the same from one space to another -- things like vacuuming, dusting & cleaning glass, that need doing throughout the house. Here's a downloadable, printable template for you; simply check off what projects don't apply, and jot down any extras you want to accomplish:

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  • 4

    Task-by-Task

    Taking on your home task-by-task is another way to simplify and break-down this rather major endeavor. Instead of doing one room at a time, you'll focus on one smaller project at a time, such as cleaning the floors all over the house, dusting each room, or scrubbing all the bathrooms. If you're worried you might overlook something, we have a template for that too:

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