Man vs. mess

Guys, we have a few words for you: Man up and grab yourself a feather duster.

It's spring, and that fine veneer of Coors, pepperoni grease and dog fur on the coffee table isn't going to unpeel itself.

Admit it, fellas: You want a house that looks like one of those upscale home magazines — full of gleaming, uncluttered surfaces and gently ­blowing curtains and artfully ­arranged fresh fruit.

Tom McNulty knows how to help you get there. McNulty, the Minnesota-based author of Clean Like a Man: Housekeeping for Men (And the Women Who Love Them) ($12.95, Three Rivers Press), knows that men generally have little patience for the domestic arts.

Still, he says, it's in men's best interest to locate the Lysol and realize that the vacuum is not really just an extra place to hang clothes. And by the way, the Soap and Detergent Association's 2008 Spring Cleaning Survey confirms it: 77 percent of Americans now claim to regularly engage in spring cleaning, up from 65 percent in 2007. The favorite task is cleaning behind the furniture, which 84 percent claim to do.

McNulty says that men who know a women's ”c-spots“ — the clean areas of the house that especially impress her, such as the bathroom and kitchen — is likely to fare better at acquiring, and keeping, a significant other. Besides, he notes, having a mate who takes out the garbage and empties the dishwasher sets a good example for the children.

What women want is a guy who understands that, yes, you are judged by the Lysol-disinfected bathrooms and Pledge-scented bedrooms you keep, and you are given bonus points for the knowledge that whitewall tire cleaner is a ­perfectly acceptable cleaning supplement.

They want a guy who has at least heard of a Swiffer, a real man who can identify at least two varieties of Febreze and more than three uses for Windex.

(This is not to say that some women are not born slobs, but in our experience, it's more likely that they harbor big bucketloads of guilt over it, and that somebody has drilled into them that sheets do have to be washed more often than seasonally.)

And cleaning is not pure torture, McNulty says. Really.

A few minutes a day, an hour or two on the weekend, and you're home free and clean.

McNulty is not your housework drudge:

■ He thinks that housecleaning should be pretty easy. He thinks your house should be perpetually 10 minutes away from clean.

■ He thinks that making your bed really does set the tone for your bedroom, and it can take a minute or less.

■ He thinks your kitchen counters should be spotless, even if the top of your refrigerator is not exactly the stuff of surgical suites. After all, he reasons, unless you routinely entertain Shaquille O'Neal, it's unlikely that anybody is spending much time staring up there.

■ He thinks that if you don't see it, don't clean it. Generally speaking, of course: Even McNulty acknowledges that drawers have to sometimes get arranged, and your refrigerator coils occasionally need a good dust-blasting, but those are not everyday, party-prep chores.

But you have to make some effort. Buy yourself some cleaning supplies. Organize your house so that you have a routine for dealing with bills, dishes and laundry. And if you're not planning to live with a can of Endust in your hand, get rid of the knickknacks.

McNulty is a fan of what he calls ”Blitzcleaning“ and the 10-minute emergency cleanup. His credo is, ”Do as little as you can.“

”It's the little quick things you can do that have a quick effect,“ McNulty says. Make the bed — it makes your bedroom look organized all day. ”It creates the illusion that your entire bedroom is tidier.“

He's not a cleaning geek, he insists. He's divorced, and he shares a townhouse with his dog. And although he has done a lot of cleaning research, it's not his life's entire mission.

”I do know how to clean everything … but I'm certainly not Felix Unger,“ McNulty says, referring to the neat freak in the play The Odd Couple. ”My house is not as clean as an operating room.“

Nonetheless, he realizes that sometimes women are from Martha Stewart-clean, and men are from John Belushi-clean.

That's why he's planning a second book: Clean Like a Man II: The Relationship Edition.