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!