Thursday, October 28, 2010

Freshly Fallen Laundry

So running and jumping in piles of dirty clothes is just as good as the leaves thing, right?  Thank goodness my daughter seems to think so.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

You Are Beautiful, Just the Way You Are!

Today I came across the lovely site devoted to helping others find beauty in themselves.  I'm talking BEAUTY, not physical stuff.  I love this idea.  I actually keep post-its in my purse (along with a million other things I rarely need), so I think I will be posting my own little note soon.  If you get a chance, this is a powerful blog post about how one of these little notes can affect someone in a big way.  Finally, the short little video below, which I hope you can see, gives a great overview of what the Operation Beautiful project is all about.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Keeping Your Toilet Fresh between Scrubbings

Yes, this post is all about the glamorous world of toilet bowl cleaning.  If that doesn't get you excited, I don't know what will.  Seriously, as of late this has been a problem in my house.  Ever since my first daughter was sleeping in a bedroom adjacent to the main bathroom and her little ears would pick up on everything, every flush waking her and subsequently making her (and me) cry, we've been more of an "if it's yellow let it mellow" kind of a household (particularly at night).  I've heard all about how this saves water and is therefore good for the environment, but there is a serious drawback: our toilet gets FUNKY!  I'm mean really grody fast.  Ew!  Sorry if this is TMI, but I'm just keeping it real.  So all of this disgustingness had led to me needing to scrub said toilet about three times as often as I normally would.  Notice I'm not actually disclosing how often this is; I'm well aware it's still not as frequently as I should.  But the point is, I was definitely not enjoying the extra work.

That said, I'm happy to report I've found a solution!  It's actually something my husband picked up when I asked him to buy toilet bowl cleaner.  He brought home Comet (Don't ask me why he's convinced Comet is a toilet bowl cleaner.  It is not.  Don't try it!, it will forever turn your toilet bowl blue--I know this from experience, which he still denies.) and a little box of Clorox Automatic Toilet Bowl Cleaner, which does work!  Each box contains two tablets.  After scrubbing your toilet, you drop one in the back of your tank when the water level is low after flushing.  Clorox says it cleans and deodorizes the toilet for up to three months and it repels stains.  According to the product website, it's safe for plumbing and septic systems.  I do occasionally smell a subtle bleach smell from my toilet, but it's ten times better than what I was smelling before.  And now I'm back to cleaning my toilet at my normal leisurely rate (which will remain undisclosed).

I do need to mention that there are plenty of product reviews online that warn that this product harms valves in the toilet.  For now, I'm trusting Clorox and risking it.

If you're reluctant to try the Clorox solution, I've also read that you can use effervescent tablets (think Alka-Seltzer or denture cleaner) dropped in the actual toilet bowl.  You leave them set for 20 minutes and then brush and flush.  But that still requires brushing, so I'm not sure what the benefit would be.  You might as well clean your toilet if you're getting the brush out. 

The same article say a can of cola dumped in and left for an hour works, too.  I swear, our intestines must be indestructible. On a related note, I was this close to spelling it "bowel" instead of "bowl" throughout this entire post.  I'm an awesome speller ;o)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

We Won the Neighbor Lottery

I'm convinced we scored big when we moved to our little cul-de-sac almost six years ago.  I've always known we've had wonderful neighbors, but after an insanely generous gift of a wooden outdoor swing/playset this weekend from our neighbors whose two daughters have grown into teenagers, I've taken the time to really think about all the blessings we've received from eight special families on our block.

Here is a partial list:

1. An antique rocking chair when we were awaiting the birth of our first child
2. A teak outdoor dining table and chairs
3. An offer to watch our daughter if I went into labor with my second child in the middle of the night
4. Countless offers for help when my husband is out of town
5. Expertise and help when building new stairs on our deck
6. The use of some pretty swanky power tools
7. Offers for free babysitting
8. 2 fishing poles, a loaded tacklebox, and a pink tent for my daughters
9. Some very thoughtful (even homemade) baby gifts
10. Baked goods (yum!)
11. An occasional snowblowing of our driveway when my hubby's been out of town
11. A hand-carved wooden pen
12. Some lovely meals out and some delicious meals in
13. A movie night out
14. A condolence card when we lost a pet
15. Great conversations in the driveway

We do try to reciprocate.  We've hosted a dinner party for all the neighbors.  We've invited them over for tea and for beers around the fire pit.  We've lent out our tools and even our car.  We've bought new baby and graduation gifts.  We've baked goods.  We've invited them out to dinner and a Twins game.  I've taken their dogs out (and took one to the groomers!).  We've given them houseplants.  We've picked up mail.  We given thoughtful thank you gifts.  We've visited them in the hospital when they've had a sick child.  We bought Girl Scout Cookies and wrapping paper. We've given donations for schools.  We've given them extra veggies from our garden.

In the last couple of years we've paid the neighbor kids to help mow the lawn, weed the garden, babysit, gather mail and feed fish when we're on vacation, and and let our dogs out. 

I didn't grow up in this kind of neighborhood.  I grew up in a micro neighborhood in the country where houses were rather spread out, and people kind of kept to themselves.  But I'm sure glad my daughters will be growing up surrounded by all of this kindness and generosity.  I encourage you to get out and say "hi" to your neighbors today.  Get to know them before there's two feet of snow on the ground and everyone hides away inside for four months (even on our block!).  Be good to them; you never know how they might be there for you in the future.
What about you?  Have your neighbors done something special for you, or did we really just get lucky and win the neighbor lottery?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Book Deals

If you are the kind of person who thinks Wal-Mart is evil, you may want to stop reading now and go about your day. 

If you're more apt to think a deal is a deal, carry on.

I'm not much of a Wal-Mart shopper.  As I've made clear time and time again, Target is my supplier of choice.  Wal-Mart makes me anxious and depressed.  BUT, last night when I was searching the Internet for my next book club pick (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks) I remembered a little tidbit from some marketing?/econ?/business? book I worked on last year.  I don't remember the details exactly, just something about Amazon and Wal-Mart being in an book online pricing war.  I don't even remember who won.  But that doesn't matter.  My evening went something like this:

* Checked local used bookstore inventory online (no luck)
* Checked library availability including all interlibrary loan options (no luck.  wth?  popular book!)
* Checked and (bingo.  started the order process on Amazon--almost always the cheaper of the two) but then...
*Remembered to check (score! cheaper and only $1.97 for shipping.) I even had the option to have it delivered to the store for free, but I decided it was worth the extra couple bucks to avoid driving 20 minutes to the nearest store with two young kids in tow.

I did some more checking, and a number of the books I'm interested in are less expensive at (hardcovers, no less).

Of course they don't have quite the selection as the other two big book retailers, but I'm definitely adding to my book-buying search list.  I have a book addiction, and I need a cheap fix.

P.S. I am very sad our local bookstore closed last year.  R.I.P. River City Books!  I would have loved to have given you my business.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Namaste: 10 Reasons I Love Yoga

Last Thursday a friend of mine invited me to join her for a beginning yoga class.  It was a first for both of us.  Is it too soon to say I'm head over heels in love with yoga?  I went back tonight, and I'm already looking forward to next week.  I mean, really, is there anything better designed for a young, frazzled mother?  Let's consider:
  1. I get to be away from my dirty house, needy kids, and annoying dogs for an hour and a half.
  2. My biggest focus for that period of time is my breathing.  When was the last time I stopped to breath even for a few minutes?
  3. I get to be in a warm, dimly lit, beautiful room that I'm not responsible for cleaning.
  4. My husband thinks yoga is going to make me all sorts of fit, strong, and flexible, so he's supportive.  I'm just letting him think that, even though my beginning yoga class really is about 80% breathing.
  5. I get to relax and stretch.
  6. I don't have to rush.  In fact doing things slowly is sort of the point.  Again, this is the opposite of everything else in my day.
  7. No one there needs me.  No one there even knows who I am.  I dig.
  8. I'm feeling some tiny semblance of being an individual (that thing I was before I was a wife and a mom), and that's probably a good thing.
  9. When I tell someone I'm doing yoga they often react in a way that makes me think they're impressed.  Seriously!  People will be impressed that you spend time alone breathing, relaxing, and stretching, so there's no guilt!  I love not feeling guilty.
  10. Finally, there are probably some really great health benefits, but really, that's just a bonus at this point.
So I implore you, if you are feeling stress, on edge, grumpy, pulled in a million directions, check out a yoga class.  Beginning classes are easy.  Breath in, breath out, repeat.

P.S. My husband actually said he'd watch the girls so I could do yoga two nights a week.  Just to illustrate how much I love yoga, I'm as equally tempted to take a second class as I am to pretend I'm taking a second class and take my book to the coffee shop.  It really is a toss-up. 

P.P.S. Shhhhh.  That's coffee shop info is between you and me.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Yesterday my two-year-old daughter came over and said something that distinctly sounded like "Momma, I want a tattoo.” Now she's never asked about tattoos before, she's never pointed them out or commented on them, and she's never even had a fake tattoo, so I really didn't think that's what she actually had said. I clarified:

"You want a tattoo?"
"When I oooolder."
"Where did you hear about a tattoo?"
"Thank you! That's a great idea!"

And she walked away.

What just happened here? I have a feeling this is just a tiny glimpse into her impending adolescence. Clearly she's already mastered the art of talking in circles around me. I cringe at the thought of what is to come. Someday when she's 18 (hopefully she waits until she's 18), she'll be proudly showing of that new ink and wondering why I look dumbfounded. And she'll say, "Mom! We talked about this. Remember?” And she will remember.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Good Morning, Angels!

I'm a person who desperately needs structure, accountability, a little artificial stress to get things done.  I marvel at how much more I'm able to accomplish in a day when I have a million things to dohow much faster I can clean when I get a phone call that someone is stopping over is a few hours.  Give me a day with nothing planned, no deadlines, and it seems like I can't get anything accomplished.  Shhhhh.  Please don't let my husband in on this little secret.  He's called me out on in before, but I deny, deny, deny.  Suddenly I'm having flashbacks to my college days, staying up late, waking up early and typing away.  I'm pretty sure I never finished a paper before 5a.m. on it's due date.  And I was an English major; there were a lot of papers.

That is why today I am excited for the launch of the fall Good Morning Girls challenge.  Finding daily quiet time with God has been a challenge for me for the last several years, and I'm looking for a little peer pressure to help turn that around.  Good Morning Girls is essentially a group of women (you ask your family, friends, co-workers, whoever) who agree to e-mail, Facebook, tweet, text (whatever works) each other after their daily quiet time.  You say "good morning" and just let the group know what spoke to you that morning (or more likely for me kids' nap time or evening) during your quiet time.  It's a great way to encourage one another and let peer pressure work it's magic.  I've assembled a group of 5 amazing ladies, and I'm looking forward to seeing the many ways God will bless us over the next few months.  If you want to join our group, let me know.  Or if you want to find a somewhat anonymous group, check out the Good Morning Girls message board.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Birds and the Bees. Or in Our House: The Dogs and the Dogs.

I have a two-year-old unneutered male hunting dog named Mac.  He's got a lot of puppy left in him.  I also have an ancient neutered male house dog named Caesar.  He's six months beyond the average life expectancy for his breed.  I L-O-V-E love Caesar.  I tolerate Mac.  The other day Mac was clearly taking his sexual frustrations out on Caesar in plain view of my two-year-old daughter.  Unfortunately this is not an unusual sight in our house.  In fact, I've hear my daughter say "Mac, quit humping Caesar" more times than I care to admit.  The other day, however, she got a little more descriptive and thoughtfully said, "Momma, Mac is itching his privates on Caesar.  He REALLY itchy!"  Well I certainly couldn't disagree with that.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Pretty for under $5

So you know when you have to make a run to Target to get toilet paper, diapers, dog food, and deodorant and as you're walking down those beautiful clean aisles full of all of that new stuff—not your ratty old stuff—and you really want to buy pretty much everything you walk by (those dishes are adorable! Such a cute top! Maybe I should try that laundry detergent! Surely this is the shampoo that will finally make my hair shiny and beautiful and straight and thicker on the top and thinner in the back and six inches longer!), and you've been stuck inside the house with your two little ones for three days straight, and darn it you should buy something because you deserve it. After all, you've bribed your toddler with finger paints if she stays in the cart and makes it through the store without crying, shouldn't you get yourself a little something, too? You could get a book—that's a relatively guilt-free purchase in my opinion—but you've already got eight books at home waiting to be read and two more books shipping out from Barnes and Noble online tomorrow. Then you remember fondly watching old episodes of Veronica Mars over the weekend (LOVE that show) and admiring her shiny berry-colored lips and decide to drop a few dollars on a new lip gloss. You haven't opened a fashion magazine since before the elastic-waist pants of your first pregnancy and, frankly, you just don't have time and energy to pay attention to beauty ads, so you blindly pick a lip gloss based on color alone. Color and price. $7.99 is not okay, but $4.44 is certainly reasonable. You grab Maybelline's Shine Sensational in Cranberry Crave and you are not disappointed. It's shiny, it's sheerish with just enough color, it's not sticky, it smells nice and tastes nice, it lasts a long time, and you just made yourself feel a little pretty.  For $4.44 I would say that's a steal.

Yes, I get the irony in buying myself a reward for not spending loads of money on a bunch of other unnecessary stuff. And yes, I'm perfectly okay with that. What about you? What do you like to reward yourself with on your Target/Wal-Mart/grocery store trips?

This is not a paid advertisement, and unfortunately no one gave me any free stuff.  I just got lucky and found something I liked and wanted to tell you about it.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Habaneros and Ice Cream: Not a Recipe

I've taken a little break from blogging and I think I'm ready to start up again.  A sure sign is that I've written two or three blog posts in my head while drifting off to sleep each night.  I'm feeling the urge to blog about non-cleaning/clutter related topics.  That said, as a work-at-home/stay-at-home mom my life is pretty much my kids 24/7.  So you'll probably be hearing a lot about them in the coming posts.  I hope you don't mind. 

Image Source: Jose Ibarra

Just some words of advice for you today.  If your husband insists on doing something with the bushels (that may be a slight exaggeration) of habanero peppers from the garden, and he preps them and chops them, and lays them out on a cookie sheet in the freezer overnight, do not forget about this when you ask you not yet 2-1/2-year-old daughter to put something away in the freezer for you.  She will be immediately drawn to the beautiful orange candy-like bits and promptly put one in her mouth.  And it will take you a minute to realize exactly what has happened. As she has surely swallowed said HABANERO pepper there will be no proof of exactly what happened.  She will start coughing and looking confused, like she knows something's not right.  And she will grab at her mouth and look very sad.  And she inevitably will rub her eye before you've remembered to wash her hands.  And she will tell you her eye hurts and her mouth hurts.  And you will call poison control.  And they will be lovely and reassuring.  And then your daughter will voluntarily go take a nap on the couch for an hour-and-a-half (which she NEVER does).  And you will worry and worry and worry.  And because the habanero pepper eating takes place just as dinner is ready to be served, you will wake her up from her nap at 7:30p.m. and take her to Culver's for ice cream.  Just to make sure she's really okay.  If she refuses the ice cream or it doesn't boost her mood, you will then take her to the emergency room.  But she does eat it, and it does make her feel better.  And it helps ease your guilt just a little.  And in the end, it is a good excuse to go get ice cream.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Clean Enough for Madonna?

For those of you readers who don't know me personally (all two of you), I have a very vivid and bizarre dream life.  For example, last night I had a dream that Madonna (the material girl, not the virgin) was my house guest.  I hadn't been expecting her, so my house was in pretty pathetic shape.  For some reason, I wasn't worried about this.  I think I was in shock that Madonna showed up in the first place.  It started to sink in at breakfast the next morning how ill-prepared I was.  I offered her bacon (as if!), and she politely declined. I offered her eggs, she politely declined.  I offered her pancakes, she politely declined.  Then I started wracking my brain about what the heck her crazy macrobiotic diet was all about.  Fail.  Then I followed her back to the guestroom, where I started to notice how utterly dirty and cluttered the place was.  Madonna hadn't said anything the first night, so I told myself it wasn't as bad as it looked.  Then she started telling me in a very positive life-affirming way that cleaning things up would make me feel better.  So while she took a shower, I picked up.  And it looked better.  And I felt better.  The end.

When Madonna is entering my dreams to lecture me on keeping a clean house, perhaps it's time to step up my game.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

I Love Goop!

Solution to my grease stains?  Drumroll please...


No, I'm not talking Gwyneth.  I'm talking the little tub of wonder, Multi-Purpose Goop Hand Cleaner.  It's been in the back of my mind for a long time; I've seen Goop used for years on grease stains, watching my mom slather it all over my dad's work clothes.  I can still remember the smell.  Yet it never occurred to me to try it for my own tiny spots.  I don't know why.  I finally asked my mom for the details, and remembered to buy some on our last trip to Menards.  It didn't take long for me to find my first test pieces--two shirts, worn layered, that my daughters little greasy fingers pawed.  I was wearing one of the shirts for the very first time. 

Surprise, surprise it worked! 

There's nothing fancy about Goop.  The marketing copy on the side of the container says, "Try it for difficult and stubborn stains on shirt collars, blouses, skirts, slacks, vinyl, canvas, woodwork, rugs."  Apparently there is no limit to which specific item of clothing (or material) it can clean.  Essentially you rub it on the stain, let it sit for 20 minutes, and wash your clothes as you normally would.  The instructions emphasize that both your hands and the material should be dry when the Goop is applied.  It does stink, so I washed my stained shirts in a separate load.  I've since washed some Gooped clothes in a full load and didn't really notice any smell on the other clothes.

It's also non-toxic and biodegradable.  That sounds good, right?

The directions suggest testing for colorfastness, but really once you've got a big grease spot on your shirt this is pretty much your last resort.  Next stop, garbage.

Give it a try.  It's 4 for 4 at my house.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Embracing the Magic

I'm convinced the Magic Eraser was invented just to removed dog slobber from white painted woodwork.  And thank goodness for that.

Also, I found a solution for grease stains that works!  More to come.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Together is Better

I could probably count on one hand the number of times my husband and I have done dishes together.  We did it tonight.  I'm not even talking washing and drying, just loading up the dishwasher.  Finishing up my work for the evening and looking at the kitchen full of dirty dishes, I sighed, and then my husband offered to do them for me (shock, joy, love!).  Sold.  Then for some reason I decided to take a few minutes before bed and unload the clean dishes from the dishwasher.  Just a little help to get the process started.  As I was finishing up, hubby walked in, got to work, and said "If we do this together, we can get it done fast."  True.  And knowing in my heart of hearts my husband isn't the most efficient dishwasher loader (lots of wide open space), I agreed.  And it was fast.  In probably just over 5 minutes of working together rinsing, loading, and wiping we got a very messy kitchen transformed into pretty good shape. 

So often married couples work on separate tasks (cleaning vs. yard work) or work together on huge remodeling projects that can span days, weeks, or even months, with plenty of time for disagreements, grudges, and gripes to surface.  There was something sweetly satisfying about getting in there, working together for a few minutes, and getting a job done.  I can't quite put it into words, but it felt right.  Or, maybe it's my subconscious trying to glorify the experience so I don't have to be stuck with the dirty dishes for the rest of my life.  Or maybe it was just my husband's sneaky way of getting some extra help.  Damn!  He's good.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Making Progress

Sorry for the long absence. I don't have any great excuses, just life! I'm not quite as diligent in keeping the counters clean (as Traci can attest), but overall my house is probably staying at least 50% cleaner than it did 2 months ago. I call that progress! When I slide it's usually only for a day or two and then I feel a push to get back on track. The thrill of a cleaner house has worn off a little, which I attribute to my new higher standards. Darn you, higher standards!

I've been working my way through Jillian Michaels' 30-Day Shred. I realize based on when I originally started, I'm about 30 days in. I hit a road block early on with a stretch of travel, however, so I'm more like about halfway. I'll be the first to admit I'm not doing it every day, but I am doing it at least 4 or more times a week. Considering I didn't work out at all 30 days ago, this is great progress. I find the 20 minutes pretty manageable, even in my busy schedule. I haven't changed up my eating too much yet--just fewer sweets and better carbs, although I did chow down on taco pizza tonight. I've lost 3 lbs so far and have majorly toned up. My arms, which I usually try to keep covered as much as possible, are looking respectable (to me). I usually do a few extra minutes of abs at the end of the video (got that post-baby tummy to tighten up). My muffin top is already much less noticeable. In fact, while cleaning out my younger daughter's closet last night, where I keep my out-of-season clothing and stuff that's too small, I found 3 pairs of jeans and 2 pairs of shorts that now fit! Keep in mind this is my fourth summer in a row either pregnant or post-baby, so the little things excite me.

Better and more frequent posting to come! There. I just put it out into the blogger universe. I guess now I will have to follow through.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bathroom Drawer Revisited

In a previous post, I added a before photo of the last holdout in my bathroom purge: a bathroom drawer.

And here it is now.

I have no idea why we have such an abundance of oral hygiene products, but we do.  We also have a disturbing number of lighters (11) considering neither my husband nor I smoke.  Actually, a couple times a year he picks up the bad habit for a few weeks.  Apparently he's not good at keeping track of lighters. Anyone have any good ideas for getting rid of them?  Do I just toss most of them in the garbage?  Is that even safe?

Since the bathroom is pretty well in shape now, I'm going to be moving on to my daughter's bedroom.  The biggest obstacles there are a drawer of sentimental stuff (ALL of the cards from my first daughter's birth and a bunch of manuals for baby gear) and her closet (a catchall for all kinds of random family stuff).  Now I'm very practical when it comes to the sentimental stuff.  I have no problem throwing out those cards.  My husband, on the other hand, thinks it's imperative that we keep it all.  I know from experience (thanks, Mom!) that someday we will need to get rid of this stuff; we'll be downsizing to a smaller place or just needing to use our space more efficiently.  And we'll have to pass along this stuff to our daughters.  And then they'll have to find a place to store it.  I've got the proof, handed down by both sets of parents, in our basement storage room (the last room in the project, for good reason).

So, any suggestions on how to handle the sentimental overload and convince my husband it's a good idea to pare down?  Or will I regret it someday?

Monday, May 24, 2010

My Name Is Joanna, and I Have a Problem

I can't put my finger on it.  Something has changed.  Once again, I'm losing steam.  I've learned that, much as in my experience with my children, just as you get into a really good groove, something changes--a new found ability to crawl, climb, or walk, the ability to suddenly reach higher drawers, an incoming tooth, a bad cold, potty training--and things get thrown out of whack.  My maintaining is out of whack.  I'm not sure why.  A busy week?  My husband out of town for a few days?  The sweltering heat and humidity?  New planting and gardening projects? A renewed commitment to exercise?  An increasingly alert (and therefore demanding) baby?  I know that those really aren't good excuses.  I had free time this week.  I read an entire magazine in one sitting, people!  So am I just tiring of the tedium that is housekeeping?  After all, it's one of the things that really is never ending.  I guess the key to to just take it one day at a time.  Is it bad that I'm comparing housekeeping to overcoming addiction?  Huh.  Is there a 12-step program for laziness?

How do you all stay motivated to keep it up day after day?  Ideally a clean house (or at the very least, clean countertops) would be reward enough, and initially it was.  But I'm slipping.

On the positive side, I did get my final bathroom drawer cleaned out this week.  After photo to come.  Granted, this blog is the ONLY reason I cleaned that drawer.  Whatever works, right?

Oh, and I prettified the blog.  Just more proof of my procrastination.  Uff.

UPDATE:  After posting this entry, I looked around at my messy place and immedately started shopping online for a new swimsuit.  What do you do when you want to procrastinate?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I Am Not Alone

So just when I think I must be the messiest, most cluttered person I know, my sister steps up and lets me know I'm actually not.  Case in point, she sent me these pics after my recent bathroom decluttering post:

By the way, this doesn't include her makeup drawer.  I'm still waiting for that photo.  So sister, my loyal blog readers (all 10!) will be looking forward to some "after" photos.  Get to work! 

And in the spirit of total disclosure, I still have one more bathroom drawer to get through.  Take a look:

I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I Waited 15 Years for This?

A couple days ago, as part of my ongoing bathroom purge project, I got rid of a TON of makeup (most of it never worn out of the house).  It was a sad reminder of all of the dollars I've wasted over the years trying to find the perfect (or at least acceptable) lipstick/eyeshadow/eyeliner.  I wish I had a before photo or even one of all of the crap I threw out, but I don't.  You'll have to take my word for it.  I've talked about this over the last week or so with my best friend, my mom, and my sister.  Apparently I'm not alone here.  We've all got a stash of unused cosmetics.  Why are we keeping them?  We don't use them.  And not only does this extra makeup mean more clutter, my friend reminded me that, for health reasons, we are supposed to get rid of makeup regularly.  I guarantee I won't miss anything I threw out.

I'm pretty sure I've had my old makeup bag since I started wearing enough makeup to warrant a makeup bag (about 15 years).  The problem is that there is nothing wrong with the old one.  Granted, it isn't very cute, but it worked just fine.Tonight, as a reward for clearing out all that old unused makeup, I bought myself a new makeup bag.  I'm not sure it's worthy of having waited 15 years (that's half my life!), but it's cute enough and much better than the old one.   



The "makeup" drawer I cleaned out looks great.  Other than my "everyday" makeup, I kept only a handful of additional products. They're stashed in a small bag way in back.

P.S. I swear the big banana clip is only for hold back my hair while I straighten it!
P.P.S. Now if I would only get rid of some of the 9 lipsticks stashed in my purse.  One thing at a time.  One thing at a time.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Stocking the Pantry

Every few months we make a trip to Aldi to stock our pantry.  When I say "stock" I mean "STOCK."  Those who know my husband will understand.  He has emergency preparedness anxiety.  We can't be too prepared.  He would love to have enough food stocked to last us a year.  We had two overflowing carts at Aldi today, and his exact words were "We didn't really get that much." 

Here's some pictures of what we brought home.  There was actually more than this.  Excuse the few other things in these pictures, but we got home right at lunch time, so I cooked us a quick meal before I put things away.

Here's the pantry before.  Not bad.

Here's the pantry after.  .

Here's the overflow that will be stored in our basement until we're ready to use it.  And we do use it.

You're probably thinking 1) we're crazy or 2) we're awesome.  After the first couple of trips to Aldi I thought we were crazy.  But after doing this a few times, I've grown to appreciate the fact that I can make fewer trips to the store.  I HATE grocery shopping.  And if I can make fewer trips or even shorter trips, I'm game.  We have the space, so why not?  By the way, people, Aldi is cheap.  Way cheap.  And great for pantry items.  You can't get everything there, but it is worth a special trip if you've got the room to stock up.  Just remember to bring a quarter for you cart. 

Think I'm exaggerating my husband's preparedness anxiety?  Check out the first-aid corner of our bathroom cabinet.

Told you.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Good Advice from My Bathroom Drawer

I started to uncommittedly (is that a word?) clean out my bathroom drawers yesterday.  They pretty much look like my kitchen junk drawer but with a decidedly hygienic and cosmetic slant.  That said, I did find a few surprises.  Apparently at some point in the past I cleaned out my purse, and having no good place to put the junk in my purse, I put it in a bathroom drawer.  Makes sense, right?  Hence, the college i.d. and random notes I found today.  One of these random notes includes a quote from 100 Ways to Motivate Yourself: Change Your Life Forever, by Steve Chandler.  Apparently I was feeling a little unmotivated even then; also, at my old job I had free online access to business self-help books.  This is something I carefully copied down on a post-it and taped to my computer monitor.  It's good advice, especially for me.  I may have to find a new place to put it.  Preferably not in a bathroom drawer.
Look Bad.  Take a Risk.  Lose Face.  Be Yourself.  Share Yourself with Someone.  Open Up.  Be Vulnerable.  Be Human.  Leave Your Comfort Zone.  Be Honest.  Experience the Fear.  Do It Anyway.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Taking It to the Box

I'm just about to start working on our upstairs bathroom.  I've been dreading it.  I'm just not ready to face the many, many unused eye shadows, lipsticks, and "free" Clinique makeup bags, but I'll save that for another post. 

One thing in the bathroom that will be quick and relatively easy to take care of is our medicine cabinet.  I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one guilty of buying medicine and then forgetting about it for 5 years or until the next move (whichever is longer).  I remember a bottle of iodine (I don't even know what people use iodine for, but we had it) in our medicine cabinet growing up, it was there for as long as I can remember—at least 15 years or more.  And it was still there when I was graduating college and my parents were moving.  In fact, I'm going to make a point of checking my parents' medicine cabinet for the iodine the next time I'm at their house.  If it's there, I'm going to toss it.  I bet you they'll never notice.

One thing I think I've finally learned is that just because medicine is sold in economy sizes, which may ultimately make the per-pill or per-ounce price cheaper, doesn't mean I actually need the economy size (unless we're talking Tums and I'm pregnant).  After all, medicine does expire.  And not only does it clutter up your bathroom, it's a hazard for kids, and unused medicine can be dangerous to the environment if not disposed of properly.  But it's not just over-the-counter medicine that's the problem.  I've got leftover prescription drugs from the birth of my first child—she's now fully potty-trained—and I've added a whole new batch of the exact same meds from the birth of my second child. 

What's a safe way to get rid of all this excess?  The federal government suggests the following:
  1. Check for a local collection program.
  2. Check with your pharmacy.
  3. Follow the federal guidelines for prescription drug disposal.
Luckily for me, our community has a collection program for prescription and over-the-counter medicine.  So tomorrow (or sometime in the near future), I'll be packing up the reminders of our previous pain and suffering and taking it down to the drop box at our local police station.  And they will dispose of it for me.  I like that!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Losing Momentum

I'm afraid I'm losing momentum.  I was away from home last week for four days, and despite doing a decent job of picking things up before we left (isn't it nice to come home to a cleanish house?), now that we're home I'm just not feeling it.  I did take time today to clean off the counters three times--the first time cleaning off the stuff we piled on there when we got home from our long car trip and then again after supper, and again after a trip to Target.  So at least that's still on track.  The bedroom is another story.  I'm giving myself a pass today due to unpacking, tons of laundry, and a rather busy day, much of which was spent away from home.  My goal for tomorrow is to finish up laundry and get the bedroom clean. 

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Best Gift

From one mom to another, the best gift to give and receive?  A clean house.  Happy Mother's Day, Mom.  I hope you came home from work, ate something yummy, put your feet up, and read your book. Enjoy your clean house.  I was happy to do it for you.  And thanks for always cleaning up my house when you come to visit.

Seriously, why is it always easier to clean someone else's house?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Progress Report: Week 3

It is the end of week three, so I thought I'd share a little of how this little cleaning project has affected the state of my home.  In other words, is my house clean?  Here's how I'm doing so far:
  • Clean kitchen countertops
  • Clean closet and drawers
  • Bedroom floor clear of clothes
  • Laundry done more frequently
  • Bed made
  • Clean linen closet
What does it not include?
  • Anything not listed above.
Stopping by unexpected, one would get the impression that my house is very messy.  And one would be correct.  I'm taking it one step at a time.  No need to hurry through this.  The point isn't just a clean house, it's to develop the habits needed to keep it that way.  And we all know it takes time to develop good habits. (Why can we develop bad habits so quickly!?!)

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Solution to My Grease Problem?

As I was roaming around on the Internet in a few minutes of free time yesterday, I found Tide's Stain Brain site.  It's a handy little resource for finding the solutions to all sorts of stains.  Not surprisingly, they recommend Tide for everything.  But they do offer some instructions for exactly how to pre-treat specific types of stains.  They also offer tips for treating stains while on the go (and presumably away from your Tide).  More importantly, they display user-submitted advice, so you can get suggestions that don't necessarily feature Tide. A free Stain Brain iPhone app is available with the same information, useful for when you're away from home. (I hear some people do actually leave their homes once in a while.  Maybe I'll try it sometime.)

It does, indeed, have a solution to my grease stains, but I haven't had a chance yet to put it to the test.  Apparently I've been very careful lately (pats self on back).  I'll let you know how it works when the time comes.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Babysitter-Cleaning-Time-Saved-vs.-Time-Spent Ratio

I work from home while taking care of my two little girls.  Usually it means I'm working early mornings, late nights, and anywhere I can squeeze in a hour or so between diaper changes, feedings, burping, potty trips, kissed owies, reading, get the idea.  It gets particularly challenging when I have a deadline.  For some reason my two-year-old just doesn't understand deadlines.  Go figure.  When I start stressing out over an impending deadline, my husband loves to suggest I hire a babysitter. Brilliant idea! We have three available right on our cul-de-sac. The babysitter will come, I will work, and my deadline woes be damned.  Then I open my eyes, take a look around, sniff the stale air of my dirty house, and quickly equate the babysitter-cleaning-time-saved-vs.-time-spent-ratio.  It goes something like this:

Time saved  = Hours babysitter comes − Time spent consoling sad toddler who doesn't want mommy to go − Time spent frantically cleaning to make the house presentable − Time spent nursing baby (babysitter can't do that one)

Let's fill this in with the figures from a typical day:

Time saved = 3 hours − 15 minutes − 1 hour 15 minutes − 30 minutes

Time saved = 1 hour

Now it gets tricky.  You see, I've now paid the babysitter for 3 hours.  Is this three hours of pay less than my pay for the 1 hour of productive work time?  Yes, but not by much.  Call me lazy, call me crazy, but sometimes it's just not worth it.  Now I've tried explaining this to my husband, but he still loves to throw out the babysitter as the answer to all of my problems.  One day it will be.  I'm hoping once school is out (when my babysitters are readily available) I'll be far enough along in my project to knock that 1 hour of frantic cleaning down to a solid 15 minutes.  And that will make for some pretty sweet math.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Housekeeping on the Laptop

Every couple of days I go through my e-mail, sort by the From field, and delete all those daily and weekly corporate e-mails that, at some point in the distant past, I've signed up to receive.  You know, those e-mails that mysteriously start showing up after you create an account in order to buy something wonderful, join a giveaway, or cast your vote in a critically important online poll (the blue dress, definitely the blue one!).  Or the e-mails you once enjoyed reading but haven't sparked your interest lately.  They show up as often as every day, and I delete them.  And I delete them.  And I delete them.  And I delete them.  So tonight I'm going to take 10 minutes (tops) and unsubscribe.

So goodbye Target, Menards, Hawaii Visitor's Bureau (I was wishful thinking), Fossil, and about 5 others.  I'll still visit you once in a while, but from now on it will be on my terms.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

There's an App for This

About a month ago, before I started this whole housekeeping project, I discovered the HomeRoutines Task Management iPhone app.  (I have a bad habit of browsing the Apple App Store when I have nothing better to do.)  I immediately downloaded it.  HomeRoutines has all sorts of fabulous features for those who like to check tasks off a list as they progress through their day, with a strong emphasis on housekeeping.  I've always been a cleaning list-maker.  Usually listed by room and then marked for priority, my cleaning tasks just seem to multiply when I write them down on paper.  And I like that--the more detailed, the better.  Yes, I could just write down "clean bathroom," but I feel so much more productive when I:
  • pick up bathroom
  • wipe counter
  • clean sink
  • clean mirror
  • dust
  • clean toilet
  • sweep floor
  • mop floor
  • empty trash
  • clean shower
And who wouldn't?  That's what's so great about HomeRoutines--it's completely customizable.  You can make your cleaning routine as simple or as extensive as you like.  And you still get the satisfaction of adding that check mark (actually, it's a star) to each item as you go.  It's got lots of other helpful features, including zones of focus, a timer (quick, sweep that floor!), and the ability to sets daily and weekly tasks, as well as a general To Do list.

Now it's confession time.  I haven't actually been using the app...YET.  I will.  But trust me, I'm starting way behind, here.  As I've said before, my goal is to work through the house room by room, purging, organizing, cleaning, and maintaining.  Once I've tamed this beast of a house, I think HomeRoutines will be a good daily motivating tool for keeping the mess under control.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Pulling back the Covers

I've decided it's time I act like a grown-up and start making my bed every morning.  I didn't say this housekeeping challenge was rocket science, people. This is a habit many people pick up when they are just wee ones. I was not one of those kids. I've never been a morning bed maker.  My excuse used to be that I often left for the day before my husband was out of bed.  When I started working from home, I decided that the dogs would just mess it up anyway, so what's the point? (That is, indeed, my dog in the photo, demonstrating my argument rather nicely.) And now with a toddler, I could use the same excuse.  But now that the dogs aren't nearly as playful as they once were and my little girl usually just slips under the covers for a mellow game of pretend sleep, I'm running out of excuses. I honestly think it just doesn't occur to me to make the bed in the morning.  Seriously, I'm lucky just to get myself dressed for the day. 

You may have noticed I said I'm not a "morning bed maker."  What other kind of bed making is there?  I make my bed at night, right before I get under the covers.  I like it to be nice and neat and put together properly.  I guess I will just move that step up about 17 hours, and I'll be golden.  So, from this day forward, I will make a conscious effort to make my bed every morning and keep my countertops clean.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Everything but the Skeletons (Revisited)

Mission accomplished!  I spent the good part of yesterday afternoon taming our linen closet.  I have to say, it looks great.  I didn't go out and buy any special organizing stuff for this one.  I just worked with a few random boxes and containers I had on hand. 

I learned that people do not need an endless supply of cleaning rags (grease-spotted shirts make great rags!).  This is all the more true for those who rarely clean.  I promptly threw out an entire garbage bag worth of rags.

Originally I thought this closet would take me days to get through.  But once the contents were spread out across my bed (I should have thought that through), I realized this was a one-day deal.  In and out.  And here it is before and after.


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Everything but the Skeletons

Lest you think I am naturally an organized person, I bring you this.

This morning my daughter discovered the linen closet.  Don't get me wrong, she's known it's there.  But this morning it occurred to her that she could find all kinds of interesting things in there.  Her bathroom stool has given her the new-found ability to reach new heights...and she's taking full advantage.  I put a kibosh on that, but I'm afraid it will be a matter of only hours before she digs in.  Since it's a sliding door, and I don't know of any way to childproof a sliding door, something must be done.  The project in the bedroom is almost complete, so the linen closet will be my next area of focus.  Technically it's the linen/light bulb/gift-wrapping/art supplies/stationery/rag/iron/game/shoe closet.  And it's out of control.  Don't believe it's as bad as I say?  Take a look.

Yep, that's bad.  At least if it's cleaned out and organized I can attempt to keep the toddler damage to a minimum.  I'm going in.  And if you don't hear from me in the next couple of days, you know where to find me.

On a completely unrelated note, I started Jillian Michaels' 30-Day Shred yesterday.  I'll give you an update in about 29 days.

Friday, April 30, 2010

It's in the Mail

Image Source: D Sharon Pruitt

It's been almost two weeks since I've started this little project, and our countertops are still clean!  It's such a simple thing, but it makes a HUGE difference.  I no longer have a lingering sense of dread every time I am in my kitchen.  That's a major feat; I literally spend 80% of my day with my kitchen in sight.  And the few minutes here and there I spend keeping things neat don't even feel like work. 

One of the greatest sources of kitchen clutter in our house has been mail.  I do a great job of opening it right away and throwing out any junk, but some things just need to be kept around for a week or two.  And then there's the filing.  I know we probably hold onto more than we need, but every month we get mortgage statements, pay stubs, insurance documents, etc. that need to be filed.  Our filing cabinet is in our downstairs office, and I don't make a habit of going down there to file 10 times a month.  Instead, I keep a little stack and deal with it once it's developed a "critical mass," as they say.  The file pile used to sit on the corner of our counter.  I've always wanted something to hold this little collection of mail, but I knew I didn't want something that would sit on our counter looking cluttered and taking up space.  So where is our mail and filing now that our counters are clean?  After giving my husband an idea of what I was looking for, he came home from Target (yes, Target again!) with a great solution called a Post-it Pocket.  It is now stuck on the side of our refrigerator and holding our Netflix envelopes, a couple of bills, and our filing for the week. Problem solved!

While we're on the topic of making the side of the refrigerator useful, last summer I picked up some super-strong magnetic hooks similar to these at Digs, my favorite store in town. There are probably some more attractive options out there, but I like the strength and functionality of ours.  I love that they hang (I'm beginning to see a trend here) and that I didn't need to drill any holes in our walls.  I've got one holding up our calendar.  They've also been great for keeping our car keys handy.  We even remember to use least 50% of the time!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sibling Rivalry

Apparently my little project has inspired my sister. She's kept her countertops clean for amost a week now. That's impressive in her house, trust me. Here's proof:

So feel free to stop by her house anytime to check her counters. Just don't look at the rest of the house. Oh, Snap!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Saving Money and the Environment One Load at a Time

It seems like everywhere these days I'm hearing that Americans are using too much soap.  Seriously, I think I've read at least three articles in as many months.  Alina Tugend's New York Times article is full of tips for prolonging the life of your appliances.  The number one rule?  Use less detergent.  Apparently most of us assume using more soap will make our dishes and clothes cleaner, but excess soap actually prevents our clothes from rinsing clean and can cause build-up that damages our appliances. In fact Tide is now marketing a product that is designed to be used monthly to clean your washing machine and remove the residue often cause by using too much detergent.  I am aware of the irony.  Tide is making money off of a product designed to fix a problem caused by people using too much of their product--I'm trying it tonight.

Incidentally, we can take it easy on the dryer sheets too.  My plan (thanks to a rash my daughter has developed since she's been out of diapers) is to forgo the dryer sheets altogether.  I've learned that vinegar is a great inexpensive and natural alternative to fabric softener when added to you washing machine's rinse cycle.  And no, your clothes will not smell like pickles.

Of course for the truly budget-conscious, you can always make your own laundry detergent or skip detergent altogether.  Those options aren't for me.  I'm not ambitious enough to make mix my own, and I'm a little too skeptical to leave it out altogether.  I have, however, recently started using half the recommended amount.  It's a small change that requires zero additional effort, and I've noticed no difference in the cleanliness of the clothes.  I'm pretty happy to be saving money and producing less waste.  And some day my washer and dryer will thank me!

What about you?  Any great laundry tips?  I'm still waiting for that answer to grease stains!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

You Know What I'm Talking About

There is no better encouragement for keeping a toilet clean (inside and out) than having a toddler.  I'll just leave it at that.

In other news, I've adjusted my comments settings, so you no longer need a special account to leave a comment.  Have a great day, everyone!

Monday, April 26, 2010

I'm Going to Read Them, Eventually

Image Source: / CC BY 2.0

There is a towering stack of books currently sitting on our dresser.  It grows every time my mother visits or my husband steps into a bookstore.  His stack is composed mostly of big, thick, hardcover history books like The House of Morgan, The King of Vodka, and Supreme Power *yawn*. My stack is made up of literary fiction and memoirs *yes!*.  What my books lack in girth, they make up for in quantity.  I currently have 8 books in my to-read pile.  Throw in a couple Bibles and we've got ourselves some impressively tall stacks. Eight books will sound like a lot to some of you.  But I know plenty of people who could get through my pile in just a few weeks (Mom, Grandma, Traci, I'm talking to you).  That's part of my problem.  My main supplier (my mother) has a lot more reading time on her hands.  I can't keep up. (If you're curious what sort of books are in my pile, click on over to my Goodreads profile.)

So why must they sit on our dresser?  Good question.  I like my stack.  I like seeing it every day.  It give me something to look forward to, something to plan.  What am I going to read next?  I don't necessarily want these books out of easy reach.  I've decided a new nightstand will be my next purchase in the name of decluttering.

Our current "nightstand" is pathetic. It's one of those $10 three-legged plywood round tables a college kid might pick up for a dorm room.  That's our nightstand.  We don't even bother to throw a cheesy round tablecloth on it (hence the water spots).  Nope, it's just a very unstable, ugly plywood table, steady enough only to hold a lamp (don't get me started on the lamp) and our cell phones.  When our dogs are particularly playful they have a tendency to knock this table and the lamp and the phones onto the floor.  Often the legs come apart at that point.  It happens every couple of months.  Eventually I'd love to get a new bedroom set.  But our bedroom is small--large enough only for our bed, one nightstand, and a dresser.  So a new bedroom set will wait until we move, some day far in the future. Our current dresser, by the way, is from the bedroom set my parents got when they married in 1969.  It's showing it's age, but it's got modern clean lines and I like it. 
Other than our two bathrooms, our bedroom is the only room in the house that has not gone through some serious decorating since we moved in 5 1/2 years ago.  It will happen.  Maybe once the project is complete and we've been living in a clean house for a while we'll finally see the potential in this room and get the job done.  Until then, a new nightstand will have to suffice. 

PS I will be looking for a new lamp as well.  Isn't this one just lovely?
PSS If anyone knows a high school senior, I've got a fantastic dorm room table available!  And a lamp!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Airing Our Dirty Laundry

I've been searching for a hamper for our bedroom. We don't have one. We never have. We keep three laundry baskets on our bedroom floor. Occasionally clothes end up in them, but it's really just hit or miss. I realize there are some really snazzy hamper systems out there with three separate side-by-side compartments, but they aren't for us. They take up too much floor space.  We have a tiny bedroom, made even smaller by our king-size bed (necessary for the 130+lb and 50+lb dogs that sleep there). Also, I don't like the idea of having to transfer clothes from a hamper to a laundry basket when it's laundry time. It's an extra step, and who needs that? And then you still need to find a place to store the laundry baskets. You can tell I've been thinking about this way too much.

I've checked out the options at Target.  I even brought one home the other night, hoping that it was larger than it appeared on the box.  I bought a Michael Graves vertical laundry sorter.  It's now back at Target.  It was too small, poorly constructed despite the design award prominently featured on the box (it was impossible to disassemble and even broke while trying to do so), and a hassle.  The fabric baskets velcroed (sp?) into position and required two hands to attach and detach.  I think it's also a bad sign that this product does not seem to exist in the virtual world.  I've spent 5 minutes trying to find it so I could link to it, but no luck.  How is that possible?  I bought it at Target!  It has won some stupid award!  Oh well, take my word for it and don't buy it.

I have since found a near-perfect solution to our hamper problem. It's the Rubbermaid Stack'n Sort laundry basket. I sent my husband to The Container Store to pick up three, and they are now stacked vertically taking up very little room on our bedroom floor. It's not a pretty solution, but notice there is no transferring of clothes at laundry time, and it takes up the same amount of floor space as a single laundry basket.  It was hubby's first experience at The Container Store, and he has since said something to the effect of "when we need more storage stuff, we should go back there." Another success!  The only complaint I have is that it takes a little maneuvering to get them into place, and of course you have to disassemble your stack to get to the bottom baskets. That said, this is the best solution I've found.  If I were designing my own vertical laundry basket hamper system (why not?), I'd have a frame with the baskets hanging in place and the ability to slide them in and out individually...and I'd make it look cute. Think laundry basket file cabinet. Feel free to make that happen for me.  Again, I've thought about this way too much.

So that's it.  No excuse for clothes on the floor anymore.  I've had the baskets for 24 hours now and I see my husband hasn't actually used them yet.  We'll see if a gentle reminder will help.  By the way, he said to me the other day, "You know, with this blog thing you're going to have to stick with it you know--keeping the house clean."  And he's right...I'm counting on it!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Clothes. Clothes. Clothes.

Image Source: / CC BY 2.0

It's the beginning of week 2 and the project is well under way in the bedroom.  We've gone through our closet and thrown out heaps of clothes (a garbage bag full) and have 2 more bags to give away.  It was a freeing experience, but I'm beginning to think I have a regretfully close relationship with greasy food.  I think I threw out at least 8! shirts with grease stains.  They were some of my favorite shirts.  Ones I've been wearing around the house (because really, who cares?) or with a strategically placed cardigan.  But I decided I'm done with all of that.  Besides, how will my husband ever believe me when I tell him I have nothing to wear if I have a closet full of grease-stained clothes?  What's worse is they were some of my favorite shirts.  So now the clothes that are left in my closet are not so cute and definitely not so flattering.  Luckily, my birthday is coming up, and I'm hoping to replenish my wardrobe--I've been hinting to my hubby for weeks.

I've gone through the same process in my dresser.  I've thrown out lots of holey, unattractive underwear and pjs.  Again, I think this project could have a positive effect on our marriage.  And I even went through the old sock drawer.  A few months ago I threw out all my white socks and replaced them with two new large packs.  My old socks really were old--probably at least 6 years.  And since socks are cheap, I chucked them all. My husband has yet to do this.  His sock drawer is so full it literally cannot be closed.  Who needs that many socks!?!

On a completely unrelated note, I've had the joy of allergic pink eye for the last 2 days.  It's the kind of pink eye you get from raging allergies.  This is my first year with raging allergies.  I don't recommend it. 

To the very few of you who have kept reading to this point, stick with me.  It will get more interesting than underwear, socks, and pink eye--I promise!

And if anyone knows how to get grease stains out of clothes, please TELL ME NOW!

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Beginning: Or How I Saved My Countertops and Marriage (Week 1)


OK, so I've finally made the leap into blog world. It was only a matter of time. Recently I've been a little obsessed with with my blogger dashboard. And perhaps guilt has crept in a little. I mean, other people are entertaining me on a daily basis. Isn't it selfish to read multiple blogs every day and not actually blog myself? Yes, I have guilt issues. I've been thinking about blogging for a while now. I've mentally composed countless blog posts. Revised and edited them into my Facebook status. But something has finally pushed me over the edge. I've started a project. And as everyone (OK, maybe not everyone) knows, a project = a blog.

What is this project, you ask! Drumroll, please....It's housekeeping. Whoop hoodoo! No, seriously. That's it. What is blog-worthy about housekeeping? Not much. But in my house, it's a miracle. And miracles are blog-worthy. Get it? This all started 6 days ago. I cleaned my kitchen. Well, technically I cleaned off the countertops in my kitchen. I even got rid of all those piles of paper and random electronic devices.  Why would anyone need three memory cards, a cellphone battery, and some sort of microchip device on my kitchen counter at all times?  After said cleaning, I mentioned to my husband that (I'll use exact wording here, in case you want to try it on your significant other) "I'm really going to try to focus on keeping the counters clean. I mean every time I get something out, I'm going to put it away; anytime I spill something, it will get wiped up; anytime I dirty a dish, it will go in the dishwasher." And he said "OK." But something happened that I hadn't expected. I'd wished for it and prayed for it for YEARS. Somehow, for some reason, my husband heard all of this this as "We're really going to try to focus on keeping the counters clean. Every time we get something out, we're going to put it away, anytime we spill something, we're going to wipe it up. Anytime we dirty a dish, we'll put it in the dishwasher. Six days later, our counters are still spotless.  And I've spent less time and energy cleaning them than I've ever spent in my life.

So we now have a new standard in this house...for the kitchen countertops. And it didn't take nagging, whining, a 5-minute nightly cleanup (which inevitably turns into 40 minutes), or anything. It just took a conscious effort and about 10 seconds here and there. I love my clean countertops. They're beautiful! I realize most of you out there are saying, "Duh!" This is common sense. And you're right. But it's been lacking in this household for 8 years.

My goal is to implement this strategy throughout the rest of the house. Slowly. Next up is our bedroom. The plan works like this:

1. purge

2. sort

3. assess

4. organize

5. clean

6. don't screw it up!

In my mind this is so incredibly brilliant. I envision a continually clean house with seemingly little effort. A general lack of extra junk.  And energy I've previously spent picking up, putting away, etc. will be spent on deeper cleaning (like vacuuming and dusting)--chores that were mostly saved for company before. I'm planning on getting a room done every week or two until the entire house is finished. It won't be easy. I can only hope my husband doesn't give up along the way. And with a two-year-old, a three-month-old, and two big dogs, I've got my hands full. But I have very high hopes!