Cozy nights by the fire, holiday entertaining, snow and rock salt all over the house -- winter brings its own set of specific housecleaning challenges. This season is actually more about organization and preparedness than cleaning. Maintain your regular cleaning schedule but keep the following in mind.
Inside, you should change your furnace filters a bit more regularly in the winter. The furnace runs more often, so -- especially if you have a fireplace -- there's more debris in the air.
Winter is also a good time to clean your computer, since you have more downtime. Power the computer down and unplug it. Take off the back panel -- it's easy and usually just a couple of small screws. You don't need to touch anything. Just use some canned compressed air to blow out dust and pet hair from the components. Turn your keyboard upside down into a trash bin -- you'll be surprised at how many crumbs and things lodge underneath the keys. Wipe down the keys and board with a damp cloth. You can also use compressed air to get between the keys.
If you enjoy decorating for the holidays, make sure the house is clean when you start. And at the end of the holiday season, take the extra time to dust and wipe down all your ornaments and decor as you put them away. That way, next winter, you'll start with a clean slate. Do you have an artificial Christmas tree that's getting a bit dingy? Put it in the tub and spray it gently with the shower! Let it completely dry and it will be just like new. Of course, please refrain from doing this if you have a pre-lit tree.
If you live in an area where you often get snowed in, you might want to put together a little "survival kit." Include a few days' worth of energy bars, flashlights and batteries, blankets, non-perishable food that doesn't require cooking or refrigeration, and powdered milk. Don't forget a can opener, utensils and a gallon of water per person, per day. Don't forget food for your pets.
Pull your cold-weather gear out of storage -- sleds, skis, snow shovels and scrapers. Make sure everything is in working order and ready to go. Make your coats, hats, mittens and scarves handy.
Outside, there's less cleaning to do; instead prepare for the weather. Put your snow shovels in an easy-to-reach spot. Buy salt or other de-icers so you're not caught unprepared. Look for non-toxic compounds for the safety of your and your neighbors' pets. Make sure all your vehicles have ice scrapers and brushes to remove snow. Check your wiper fluid and antifreeze levels, and always keep your gas tank close to full to avoid freezing.
Put down waterproof floor mats near every door leading outside to catch melting snow and salt. Pick up some large baking sheets -- the kind with a raised edge -- and use them for boot and shoe storage. It will keep dirt and snow from spreading and melting in the house. Try to find the baking sheets at garage sales or flea markets for real savings.