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Archive for the ‘Cleaning Tips’ category

I don’t ever remember my mom doing a proper spring cleaning, so I haven’t ever done one either. However, the ideas here could be spaced out over several weeks (to keep it from being overwhelming), and I think I want to try some of the ideas here! –Lisa

A clean home gives you many benefits, the best one being a great stress reliever. After a long day at work, wouldn’t it be nice to go home to a clean and organized house where everything you need is at the right place?

Spring is the perfect time to clear your home of all the clutter and chaos. This doesn’t mean you have to throw out everything, though. Here are some green solutions you can try during your spring clean this year.

Be open to change

The best way to go about spring cleaning is to dispose items that you no longer use. These can be empty lotion and shampoo containers, clothes that no longer fit, or maybe the really old toys that you loved as a child. In order to do this, you must have the heart to let go of the stuff you’ve been keeping for a long time. Springtime is a season of growth and change, so allow yourself to move on and let go.

Organize and Segregate

Go through all your belongings and sort out the ones you want to donate, recycle, and discard. Bring out the items that you know you will be able to use often and keep the things that you only use once in a while in a box. Label each box accordingly. By doing so, you will be making your life a lot easier.

Decide which ones need to make their way to the garbage and which ones you can still use. Group the other items into things you can reuse or recycle and stuff you can donate to charity. Find clothes you haven’t used in months and give it to someone you know will benefit from it more. Remember that the lighter your home feels, the better your life will be.

Find another use for your old items

There will always be stuff that you’d be too embarrassed to donate, like tattered clothing and lone socks. Instead of throwing these out, use them as cleaning rags. Old shirts and towels make good cleaning cloths so don’t waste your money buying new rags when you already have good ones at home.

Your old toothbrush is also another item you can recycle. Use it to clean your faucet and bathroom sink as well as your shower and toilet. If you are going to use one brush for everything, make the toilet its last destination to avoid contamination.

Detoxify your home

Houses may be home to the most toxic products that could compromise human health in the long run. Now that you’re in the mood for cleaning, check areas that need extra attention such as medicine cabinets and the refrigerator. Collect all your medicines and throw out the expired ones. You can also bring them to your local pharmacy and they’ll take care of the disposal.

If you’ve accumulated lawn care products and pesticides that haven’t been used in years, it’s definitely time to get rid of them. These types of wastes are labelled as Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) and most states require that they’re properly discarded. Find facilities in your locality where you can drop off hazardous for proper disposal.

Clean your garden

Spring cleaning is not just about de-cluttering your home but also renewing your connection with nature. Freshen up your home by including the garden in your clean-up. If you don’t have a garden, now is the best time to start one! Being eco-friendly means being one with nature as well as taking care of it.

It can be a small plot in your backyard or a container garden for your kitchen. Use old ceramic pots or empty mason jars to plan herbs and spices. Meanwhile, you can use expired food items and vegetable or fruit peelings as fertilizer.

Gardening offers you lots of benefits like having your very own source of flowers, fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, you actually burn calories from 45 minutes of gardening as with a 30-minute aerobic workout. All that fresh air and nature’s scent will do wonders for your health and well-being.

With these eco-friendly ideas in mind, you’re well on your way to reaping the benefits of a healthy earth and home. Happy (green) spring cleaning!


Jessica Phan is a designer for a purveyor of high-end artificial Christmas Trees. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area is perfect for her because she has a wide range of interests, including Art & Design, Fashion, Photography, Painting and Thrift Store Shopping.



Well, the title really says it all. But I thought I would just make a brief post to remind any mothers reading this that the car seat really does need to be cleaned once in a while. Especially if you’re like me and just don’t think about it.

We just got a new van, and I thought it would be good to clean the car seats out–even though they’ve been in it already for a few days. So just a few minutes ago I got them out and took them apart, taking off covers, straps, buckles, and all, and throwing them in the washer. Then I dumped the crumbs into the trash and wiped the hard surfaces with a damp rag.

So I thought my son’s seat would be the worst, because I think he threw up in it once (not a lot, but still…). However, most of that had been wiped off the surface. My daughter’s was really the worst, with tons of crumbs in the removable base.

Now I just need to remember how to put them back together again. My son’s seat is a backward/forward facing car seat that goes up to 40 lb. My daughter’s seat is a backward/forward facing car seat/booster seat that goes up to 80 lb and has a whole lot more gadgets than my son’s seat. But I did manage to get everything taken apart that can be taken apart. Too bad my manuals are in storage somewhere in Estacada… when I find them, I’m going to put them into the slots in the seats that say “put manual here”. But I think I can remember how to get them back together. It’s not the first time I’ve done it.

So, in summary, if you haven’t cleaned your car seats for at least six months, then pick a day when you are not going anywhere and take them apart and clean them up. And pay attention to how they came apart so that you can put them back together again. And don’t be afraid to wash the buckles and straps in the washer too.

Now if only I could take the seat belts out of our “new” van and wash them too….

Almost a week ago I discussed my early morning routine. Sorry it’s taken so long to get to this, but I have a good excuse. I’ve been sick. Again. This time it wasn’t quite so bad, just a major head cold, but it’s been some motivation to go to bed at a decent time, and I haven’t felt like writing much during the day.

But now I’m improving, the kids were in bed early, and I want to share with you about the after breakfast routine I have been establishing.

First of all, it is important to know that I am a S.H.E. all the way through. In case you aren’t familiar with that acronym, SHE stands for Sidetracked Home Executive, with an emphasis on the sidetracked part. And as a mother of young children, it is easy to get distracted! So I finish breakfast and just want to sit for a few minutes. Then I have to feed Manny (because his meal is different, and he often eats a little later than everyone else). Then I have to change a diaper. I also have to make sure Gislaine is getting her chores done (making her bed, collecting dirty laundry, etc). I have to referee any squabbles, answer the occasional phone call, and somewhere in there I need to brush my own teeth, make my bed, and get the kitchen cleaned up. It is so easy to get distracted!

In the past, I often would leave the dishes unwashed until almost time for lunch. Which, of course, would make me postpone lunch, because I didn’t want to do the dishes, and would wait until the last possible moment to start them. This made for more stress, of course. And I was always in a quandary about what to do first. Do I brush my teeth first? Do I make my bed first? Do I do the dishes first?

So finally I made a routine. I said, first thing after breakfast, I take my vitamins. Otherwise I will forget them, and they are supposed to be taken with food. My vitamins make such a difference in my energy and mood, but especially being pregnant now, I need my prenatals!

Then I put the food away and wash the dishes. Before I brush my teeth, make my bed, or do anything else. Granted, it doesn’t always work perfectly. My husband sometimes eats breakfast late, or Manny isn’t finished when I am, or there is some crisis that needs to be dealt with. But for the most part, if I do my best to stay focused, I can get the table cleared and the dishes done within 15-20 minutes. Of course, it helps that I emptied the dishwasher before starting breakfast, especially since the dishwasher is my dish drainer 6 days a week.

After breakfast, next thing I do is brush my teeth and make my bed. I list these two as one item, because the order varies, depending on whether the only bathroom in the house is occupied or not. Once we move and have a master bathroom, though, I think I will always brush my teeth first. I also remind Gislaine to brush hers and help Manny with his during this time, if he has finished breakfast. Sometimes my husband makes the bed before I get to it, and sometimes my daughter does it while I do dishes, but usually I have to do it. And remember, my excuse for not making the bed first thing upon rising is that I like to air it, and it is usually still occupied anyway.

The next thing on my list is laundry. That means sort laundry and start the first (and some days only) load. Now, Flylady starts the laundry as part of her before-breakfast routine, but I like my daughter to pick up the dirty laundry in the bedrooms and bring it out to the laundry room. That is her job. And before breakfast she doesn’t have time for that–if she’s even awake, she’s drinking her water or having her devotional time, and then she eats. So while I’m washing dishes, if she has finished eating, I have her pick up the laundry, make her bed, brush her teeth, etc. She is able to do those things on her own, and it keeps her out of trouble and out of my way so I can focus on getting through the routine.

After the laundry comes what I like to call my Fly Mission. This is actually a Flylady Zone mission. When I finish this series on routines, I will tell about how I have adapted the Zone idea for my new home–which, by the way, is on location but not put together yet. Anyhow, there are 5 zones, one for each week. This week is Zone 4, the Master Bedroom. An example of a mission would be to grab something like a long-handled duster or a broom and go after cobwebs, or to declutter under the bed for 15 minutes. Some zone missions I cannot do, because either the room isn’t cluttered, or we don’t have a dresser in the bedroom (the closet has shelves, so our clothes go on those), or some other good reason. But if the mission applies to my situation, I do it after starting the laundry.

Next on my list is decluttering. Now, I have almost no decluttering to do in this house. I have refused to collect unnecessary things, and most of what I did manage to collect has already been pitched. However, I can use this time to pack something for 15 minutes or less. We are moving in less than a month, after all. I have used this time to pack the kids’ clothes that they grew out of (the most recent ones were piled on a box), to organize my closet, to pack our warmest winter coats (probably a bad idea–it’s gotten cold again), to pack the few books we have here–one medium-small box full, and so on. Sometimes I skip this item, especially if we are running late, because lately we have been going to bed too late (we as in my husband and I), so we get a late start on the morning. I am working on reversing that at least for myself, but even the most organized mother can have delays sometimes.

Next on the list is school. That is, my daughter’s preschool. We don’t do it every day, but I am for 4 days a week. We go through workbooks I picked up at the dollar store, tracing letters and numbers and doing other preschool activities. And coloring. During this time, I keep Manny occupied with several things. First, he gets to color with a dry-erase marker on a special spiral-bound board thing that has letters, numbers, and a space to doodle. He tires of that in about 5-10 minutes, then he wants to play with the wooden tools that his uncle bought for him. I keep these tools out of reach so the pieces of bolts and nuts and such don’t get lost, and he only gets them during “school” time, which keeps them special. After 5-10 minutes he is done with those, and then I give him books to look at until his sister is finished with her school. This way, I know where he is (and that he isn’t making a mess or destroying something somewhere in the house).

After this is free time that I can use to do whatever I want or need to do until time to start my pre-lunch routine. How much time I actually have depends on how long this routine took to get finished. Sometimes I only have a few minutes. Often I will tackle things on my to-do list that I don’t do every day, like ironing, or one-time things like making a call to set appointments. I often check the laundry during this time, especially if I have to do more than one load that day.

Eventually I want to put a quick sweep of the kitchen and dining room into my morning routine, but I need to streamline this one more first.

To recap, here is my after-breakfast routine:

  • Take vitamins
  • Clear table, wash dishes
  • Brush teeth, make bed
  • Sort and start laundry
  • Zone mission
  • Declutter/pack
  • School

This routine still has a lot of bumps in it, but I’m fairly happy with the order of it. Now I just need to become more efficient at it!

Next time I will share about my pre-lunch routine.

What routines have you established to make your life flow more smoothly?

Have you heard of Flylady? No, the name has nothing whatsoever to do with flies. It’s a lady who enjoys fly fishing. What she is about is getting organized. And unless you are a BO (born organized), like my mom, that is probably not as easy as you wish it could be.

I inherited my dad’s and and his mother’s lack of organization–along with an “I don’t really care” attitude. At least, sometimes I don’t care. Other times I do, but then I’m overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, so I just don’t start.

That’s where Flylady comes in. She has a few rules to follow that make life much simpler and organization kind of fall into place. The first rule is to shine the kitchen sink and keep it that way. As simplistic as that sounds, it really helps keep the kitchen cleaner. Because who wants to just have a shiny sink with dishes piled around and filthy counters? So each time the sink is used, it should be wiped down–which takes all of one minute–and left clean for the next use.

Then there is the 15-minute rule. That is, “You can do anything for 15 minutes.” Whether it’s washing dishes, mopping the floor, cleaning the bathroom, or tackling an overwhelming filing project, if it seems like too much, just set a timer for 15 minutes, work like mad, and quit when the timer goes off.

The other thing she teaches is to establish routines. That is what I want to talk about over the next few posts. Even though I had routines established as a child, such as brushing my teeth after breakfast and making my bed before school started, I think Mom was the motivating factor behind them, and not any inward motivation, so I got out of them when I left home. I’ll admit that there are times when I would not make the bed all day, leave the breakfast dishes dirty until almost lunch time, and only brush my teeth when the feel of a dirty mouth became too disgusting (which was probably half way through the morning). Before I had kids, it wasn’t so bad, because I could just get things done whenever; but now with two kids and another on the way, I realized that I needed to help them establish routines too, especially since my daughter has a way of getting very distracted and forgetting what she is supposed to be doing.

So I am working on establishing basic routines for the daily tasks that need to be done. I find it easier than a schedule at this point. Because a schedule says that I need to have the dishes done by, say, 8:30. But if my husband and I were up late working on something and didn’t get up until 7:30, there is no way the breakfast dishes can be done by 8:30. That messes up my schedule, and then I feel overwhelmed. Instead, I have routines. When I finish breakfast, I start my after-breakfast routine, even if that happens to be at 10:00 in the morning.

The next post will detail my early morning routine, the one I do before devotions and breakfast. Then over the next few days I will go through the various routines I have established or am working on, just to share how I have modified Flylady’s methods to fit my home and lifestyle.

Do you have any routines that you have established? Please share them in the comments!

If you are familiar with the Flylady, you are probably familiar with the phrase, “You can do anything for 15 minutes.” Obviously, there are limits to that. I mean, unless you’re single, you probably can’t–and wouldn’t want to–limit your shopping to 15 minutes per store. But the idea is that if you don’t think you can do something, or simply don’t want to, you can make yourself do it for 15 minutes.

That’s how it was with me this evening. I had an orthodontist appointment in the late morning, but it’s an hour’s drive away and my husband needed to go somewhere else, so he dropped me off half an hour early. So we ate breakfast, packed a lunch for my son, and didn’t clean anything before we left. I ate lunch after the appointment (before the soreness set in) and took the train & bus back home–about a two-hour trip. It was 3:00 pm when we got home. And I was tired.

So instead of tackling the dishes and the laundry and such things, I sat down in a recliner and tried to nap. When my son decided to join me (but wouldn’t sit still), I put in a nice video for him to watch, turned the volume way down, and went to bed.

I got out of bed a little before 5:00, and was feeling rather groggy. Morning sickness had been mostly nil all day, and I still didn’t notice any, but I was tired and sluggish. Then my husband got home about 10 minutes later, and brought a whole bunch of fruit that he had gotten either free or cheap on the way home. I ate one of the oranges, feeling that I needed to eat something, and almost instantly my tummy began to complain. I moved away and sat down, hoping the feeling would go away like it sometimes did, but it just got worse. So I browsed facebook and tried to ignore my stomach for an hour or so, until I just couldn’t ignore it anymore.

I’ll spare you what happened next, but once I did what I needed to do and was feeling better, I ate a granola bar and decided that happy tummy or no (I was still not feeling 100%), I needed to do some shopping or we wouldn’t be able to eat cooked cereal in the morning (I’m hoping it will be gentle on my sore teeth–the orthodontist really tightened things up this time). So off I went to the store around 7:30.

When I got home at 8:30, I was feeling better, but I was also tired and didn’t want to face the kitchen. My husband had been very busy with things related to our house, so he wasn’t able to clean up–at least he had fed Manny while I was feeling so sick, so I didn’t feel it right to complain. But I didn’t want to clean up either. It looked like about a half hour of work to get the kitchen in order.

Then I remembered the Flylady and her favorite saying: “You can do anything for 15 minutes.” Yes, I told myself, I can clean the kitchen for 15 minutes. I’ll set a timer, and whatever is left when it goes off can wait until morning. After all, if we’re just having cooked cereal with nuts and fruit, there won’t be a lot of dishes after breakfast, so adding in a few from the day before won’t be a problem. And having some clean counters and a cleared-off stove will make breakfast so much less stressful.

So I put a cup of water in the microwave, set a timer for 15 minutes, and got busy. When the water was hot, I added a tea bag and left it to steep while I worked (I like to steep my tea a long time).

In 10 minutes, I was well over half way done. I stopped washing and rinsing  to clear and wipe the counters and stove, then washed a few more. When the timer went off, I took and extra 15 seconds to rinse the soapy silverware, and then took a look around. All that was left was my pressure cooker and a frying pan, neither of which I will need first thing in the morning. Everything else was done and the counters cleared and wiped.

And my reward? A nice cup of raspberry zinger tea. Mmmm!

Some people like to use a sponge for washing dishes. For years I avoided them, because they always became smelly. But even the green scouring pad became smelly, and I never liked it. I knew the smell was caused by bacteria, which was nasty.

For several years, I used the non-cellulose sponges, because they were more airy and dried out before the smell-inducing bacteria could grow. But I didn’t like them very much.

Then back in April we moved into a rental house, where we wait for our home the tree fell on to be fixed. There I started using small, cheap cellulose sponges, planning on washing them whenever they got smelly (since I could buy 6 for a dollar at the dollar store). But I noticed something: they didn’t get smelly. They would get stained and torn and eventually wear out, but they never got smelly. Even when I switched to bigger, two-sided cellulose/green scrubber sponges, the lack of smell continued, even when the sponges didn’t have time to dry out between uses.

Well, this week I finally figured it out. It’s the dish soap I’m using! Back in March, I started using Melaleuca’s Lemon Brite handwashing dish detergent, and I haven’t had a problem with smelly sponges ever!

I believe it works because of the Melaleuca oil in it. Melaleuca oil is antiseptic, so it kills off all the bad bacteria before they have a chance to make the sponges smelly.

Melaleuca oil is a high-quality form of what is more commonly known as tea tree oil. I’m very happy with Melaleuca’s detergent, so I probably won’t ever try this, but I suppose someone could get some tea tree oil at the pharmacy and add it to whatever dish detergent they are currently using–but that just seems like a lot of work to me. That might give similar results, though tea tree oil is much lower quality than pure Melaleuca oil.

I especially like how this detergent doesn’t dry my hands out like some do, and it’s not made with harsh chemicals, so it’s safe for the environment too. Not that I’m all into saving the earth, but I figure doing my part is good stewardship, and if I can do something without a lot of effort, it makes me feel good.

What do you think? What do you use to wash dishes? A dish cloth? A sponge? Something else? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Also, what dish detergent do you like and why? Please share.

Several years ago I was taking a Sabbath afternoon walk with some friends, and accidentally splattered mud on the back of my white knee socks. I had been doing my own laundry long enough to learn that bleach doesn’t get out mud, and I was very unhappy. Out loud, I mused, “I wonder what can get mud out of white,” not really expecting an answer. But I got one. “Ivory soap.” I tried it, and it worked!

Since then, I try never to be without a bar of ivory soap in the house. Of course, the fact that my husband uses it to bathe helps, but even then, it is just so handy. I use it to clean shirt collars and cuffs that have gotten stained, to take the dirt out of white socks, and even for pretreating some food stains. It’s cheap and effective, and I highly recommend it.

Here’s a recipe I found somewhere that I really like for homemade window cleaner.

1 cup water
1 cup rubbing alcohol
1 tbsp. vinegar (I estimate this)

Pour into a spray bottle, label, and use. It is cheap, and it works. Okay, not quite as well as Windex, but it smells better, and it does work. You can use a newspaper to buff at the end if you want. Seems to help. But I usually just use a clean, dry cloth and it works pretty well. Doesn’t streak if I make sure it’s dry before I move on.