Category Archives: Housekeeping

Apps That May Help You Keep It Together

January 14, 2014

I seriously considered taking a few photos of my house to show you why I need to write and utilize this post. But then I got worried that a government agency would rope off my dresser in order to do a study/excavation of the layers of clothes, papers and ice cream bowls that currently reside there–perhaps to determine if they are harboring any life. I also (half-heartedly) considered cleaning off said dresser instead of writing about it, but quickly dismissed that idea. Sam might need it for a science project in junior high. By then it should be teeming with life! I am such a great mother!

I drag my heels when it comes to technology. Until about 18 months ago I was using a phone that didn’t even have the Internet. (I think David almost gave up on me.) But it makes no sense for me to hesitate, because every time I hop on a digital bandwagon (the iPhone/Instagram/e-book readers) I am absolutely amazed. How have I lived without it! Why didn’t anyone tell me how great they were? Internet forever!

Apps are my new thing. I have several that have made an honest to goodness difference in my life and home–and for the better! (Leave my dresser out of this. There are rows of clean baby bottles in my cupboard and I am wearing a bra and clean clothes right now–that shows progress!)

INTUITION+

The other day I had a lot to get done and so I started to make a to-do list. Several interruptions and a few hours later I realized I hadn’t even gotten around to finishing writing said to-do list. Motherhood requires but does not lend itself to organization. Also, I think it burns up your short term memory in a fiery ball of crazy. This app helps. It basically allows you to make as many to-do lists as you want and then have them on hand when you need them. Every time I notice we’re out of something I quickly add it to my grocery list. If I hear of a book I want to read I add it to my “To Read” list. I also love that it is visually pleasing–you can color code everything and it is easy to cross items off and add them back on if you need them again. Price: FREE.

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Also, see that little cricket in the bottom right? If you click on him he will tell you encouraging things. He will be your new BFF.

MOTIVATED MOMS

Sadly, I am not a natural housekeeper. I love doing things related to my home, but tend to make giant messes cooking and rarely put away clean laundry. Once Sam was born things got worse. Every time I had a few spare minutes I would start running around like I was auditioning for a Scooby Doo montage. What do I do first? Shower? Work? Run the dishwasher? Nap? I’d often collapse in a heap having completed about 14% of each of those tasks and having created an even bigger mess and completely exhausting myself. This app is awesome because it tells you what to do.

Every day you are presented with a doable housekeeping list of rotating chores. They include the everyday (dishes, sweeping, laundry) as well as the yearly (flip mattresses, change AC filter). It even tells you what days you should clip your baby’s nails and and when you should have a little You Time. I also adore that “Read to children” is on the daily chore list. You can try a Lite Version for free (I think it lasts two weeks), or buy it for $8. They also sell ebooks that you can print off if you’re more of a paper and pencil type of person. You can customize your lists (no need to clip your teenager’s nails or feed your nonexistent pets). Here are screenshots of my lists for today.

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Price: $8 for the year.

Are there any apps that have helped you out? I’d love to hear about them!

Adventures in Vacuuming

October 13, 2011

Dear Whoever Sucked Up My Husband’s Computer Mouse Last Night,

I have an idea of what happened. You were probably trying to do a good deed–vacuuming our sorely neglected little apartment– when you got to the scariest room in the place: the office. You were probably in a hurry because America’s Next Top Model was on soon, so maybe you neglected to lift the spiderweb of computer cords out of your Eureka 300′s way. Then perhaps the cord to the mouse got sucked up and made a horrible sound and you panicked and had to pull the cord out of the mean little machine’s mouth. The wires were stripped and the whole thing was ruined.

It’s okay. I forgive you. And so does David. Particularly after the wonderful tomato soup and grilled sandwiches you made last night.

Sincerely,

The Person Who Will Not Admit to Doing Such a Thing

Twenty-Seven Random Uses for Baking Soda

August 31, 2011

Something important has come to my attention that I think you all should know about:

December 30th is National Bicarbonate of Soda Day.

Try to contain yourselves. While I know you are thrilled by the prospect of celebrating such an important day, please remember that you have a meager 120 days to prepare. We’ve got work to do.

So why this post? I must confess that I’m a tiny bit obsessed with baking soda. But as weird as this obsession is, it is a little lighter on the pocket book than, say, shoes. Or expensive Pomeranians. So I guess we’re in the clear. I like baking soda because I do a LOT of baking, and because I use it as a very cheap way to clean just about everything. I even like the design on the box. The literalness of the arm and hammer make me feel safe.


On one of my many random internet searches the other day I found a whole cache of new uses for friendly little bicarbonate. I felt The Green Lemon could use a good scrub, so here they are:

BEAUTY

1. Get rid of product build-up in hair. Once a week add 1 tsp of baking soda to your shampoo. This will get rid of residue left from hair styling products.

2. Gentle, everyday face wash. Take 2-3 tsp. of baking soda and mix it with a little warm water in your palm to make a paste. Apply to your face with your fingers or a facial brush (Ever used one? They’re delightful), then rinse. This is an excellent, gentle everyday wash and also good if you’re on a pinch, say camping or on vacation and you forget your usual face wash.

3. Soothing bath. Add ½ cup of baking soda to your next bath. It neutralizes acids on your skin, gets rid of grime, and leaves your skin feeling soft and soothed. If you’re not up to a full-body commitment than try adding some to your foot soak (a few TBSP should do the trick). No need for soap!

4. Freshen breath. If you’ve got some serious bad breath put 1 tsp of baking soda in a glass of water, then swish and spit. This will neutralize the bad breath odors (not just cover them up with minty goodness).

5. Clean nails. Dip a wet nailbrush into baking soda then scrub your nails. This cleans nails and softens cuticles.

6. Clean your brushes and combs. This is important for manageable air. Get rid of product and oil build up by soaking brushes/combs in warm water and 1 tsp water. I like to just do this in the sink. Rinse and allow to air dry.

7. Dry Shampoo. Sometimes things get desperate. If you have greasy hair and about 4 minutes before your book club comes over, sprinkle a little on your hair brush and brush through hair to remove oil.

8. Whiten teeth. Sprinkle a little baking soda on your toothpaste loaded toothbrush and brush like normal. This will whiten teeth and really freshen breath.

HEALTH

9. Stop heartburn and indigestion. Completely dissolve ½ tsp of baking soda into 4 oz of water. Down the hatch. It neutralizes the acids in your body. (Check with your doctor on this one, particularly if you are on a sodium restricted diet or on prescription medications.)

10. Treat insect bites. Apply a paste made of baking soda and water to affected area.

DEODORIZING

This is what I really love about baking soda—it basically absorbs, eats and digests bad smells like some kind of greedy little monster. Here are some ideas for using it as a deodorizer:

11. Refrigerator. Put an open box in your refrigerator and change regularly. This also works in closets and cars.

12. Shoes. Sprinkle some in stinky shoes and let sit (shake out before wearing).

13. Garbage cans. Sprinkle baking soda into garbage cans between bag changes then scrub can out every so often with baking soda and water. (This one really works!)

14. Carpet. Sprinkle liberally onto stinky carpet, let sit overnight (or a few hours) and then vacuum up.

15. Pet bedding. Sprinkle on, let sit, then vacuum off.

16. Laundry. Deodorize really stinky wash (think gym clothes, or campfire clothes) by adding ½ cup of baking soda to rinse cycle.

17. Stuffed animals. Freshen up teddy by sprinkling baking soda on, allowing to sit, then brushing off.

CLEANING

18. Toilets. Sprinkle baking soda into bowl then add vinegar. Allow to fizz then scrub and flush. This works so well!

19. Bath tub. Sprinkle baking soda onto sponge, then scrub down surface area and rinse. I love this because then you won’t feel like you’re in a chemical bath during your next soak. (Also works well on shower curtains and the fridge!)

20. Mop bathroom floors. Add ½ cup baking soda to a bucket of warm water and mop up floor.

21. Greasy pots and pans. Add 2 TBSP baking soda along with your regular dish detergent to your soaking pans. Allow to soak then scrub like normal.

22. Oven cleaner. Clean oven by sprinkling it with baking soda, and then spraying with water. Let sit overnight, then scrub oven out in the morning.

23. Dishwasher. Freshen dishwasher by putting 1 cup into dishwasher then running on rinse cycle.

RANDOM

24. Fruit and vegetable scrub. Sometimes those things just look dirty. Sprinkle a little baking soda on a clean, damp sponge and scrub, then rinse. This way you won’t end up with any harmful residues on your food.

25. Put out fires. Baking soda can be very helpful in small kitchen fires. Turn off gas/electricity if possible then throws handfuls on the base of flame.

26. Camping Cure-All. Use to wash hands and dishes, as sun burn and mosquito relief, as deodorant and toothpaste. The list goes on.

27. Cleaning your dog. Give your dog a version of a dry-shampoo wash. Between baths sprinkle baking soda on him, rub it on, then brush him to get it out of his coat. (I need to do this for my rather stinky dog who refuses to be anywhere but on my lap at the moment.)

And because you know I’m not that creative (or clean), here are some fabulous websites I found great tips at:

How to Create a Fool-Proof Master Grocery List

February 25, 2011

David and I had some serious growing pains surrounding grocery shopping.

When I lived alone I shopped at Trader Joe’s several times a week so I could get plenty of fresh, delicious hippy foods. While he lived alone he ate a few boxes of pasta a day, supplemented with weekly trips to a sushi bar. Our eating habits were not a match made in heaven, and we soon had a consistent issue—having spent tons of money grocery shopping for the week, but neither of us being happy with what food was in the house.

I remember once spending about $70 on food, I was in a raw food phase (I go through a lot of phases) and bought a bunch of ridiculous things like coconut oil, bushels of romaine lettuce, and raw goat milk cheese. $70 was a lot of money, and David kept going through the fridge asking “where all the food was.”

So then David had a turn. He went to Costco and came back with 6 restaurant sized jugs of César salad dressing (that we both hated as soon as we tasted it) and a package of steaks. Clearly we needed some sort of plan.

While it took us almost 3 years we do in fact have a plan, which saves us money, allows for “throw together” meals, and rarely has us slamming cupboard doors complaining about having no food in the house.

After being inspired by the Fly Lady (I will definitely need to post about Fly Lady one day) I came up with a master grocery list of things we should always have in our kitchen.

So how do you make a master grocery list? Basically you come up with list of things you always want in your house (your staples), plan for you meals, and allow some extra space for once-in-awhile items. This is how I made and use my list (and you can see my list using the link at the bottom of this post):

1. Came up with grocery shopping categories.

Mine corresponds with how the grocery store is laid out, for easy shopping. They are:
• Produce
• Deli & Meat
• Bread
• Canned Goods
• Cupboard Items
• Freezer
• Dairy
• Snacks
• Drinks
• Condiments and Spices
• Baking Supplies
• Cleaning Supplies
• Toiletries
• Kitchen Paper Products
• Other

2. Decided what constitutes as staples.

This might take a while. These are the items that you always want in your house and mine include everything from vegetables and fruit to snack on, to aluminum foil and ground pepper. These might be things you buy once a week or things you’ll buy once a year. Go through your cupboards, your cookbooks, and think about what you use often, and things you don’t want to be stuck without if you recipe calls for it.

3. Have a weekly grocery shopping team meeting.

Just kidding. What I really do is sit down for 15 minutes every week to go over my list and plan for my upcoming shopping trip. Here’s what I do:

(A.) Decide what meals you’re making for the week.
I generally focus on dinner, but if you make breakfast or fancy lunches on a regular basis then include this in the meal planning portion. Write down the meals you want to make (and stick with a doable number, I only plan for 3 dinners a week) as well as the ingredients you will need. Then check off the items you already have.
(B. ) Check up on your staples.
Look through your cupboards and refrigerator, noting which items you’re getting low on. I like to get new items before the old ones run out so I don’t have to run to the store in the middle of making something.
(C.) Mark which items you need.
I print out a fresh list every week. Items I’m getting low on I keep on the list, things I have plenty of I cross off.
(D.) Write down anything else you need in the “Other” category
For me this week that included nails, light bulbs, and a step stool.

4. Keep an eye out for staple items on sale.
One of the best parts of this method is saving money. If I don’t need to buy TP this week but I see it on sale I buy it. That way I’m prepared for next week, and I saved a little moola.

*Click here for: THE GREEN LEMON MASTER GROCERY LIST

Decluttering & 30 Things I Got Rid of This Week

January 14, 2011

I once watched a PBS Special called Affluenza: The Epidemic of Overconsumption. I was about 17 and making bare minimum at Jamba Juice, so I wasn’t much in danger of falling into this category, but this was a very eye-opening show for me. It basically talks about America’s obsession with stuff—how hard we work to keep up with the Jones’es, how we keep filling up our cars, garages and storage sheds with more and more stuff, and what the price of all that stuff is—beyond the price tag. Ever thought about how much time you spend at work to make money to pay for the storage and upkeep of more and more stuff?   And what is all that actually worth to you? The program showed typical Americans in a life-sucking cycle of stuff, credit card debt, and endless work, masquerading under the title of the “American dream.”

Ever walked into a cluttered house? How does that make you feel? And I’m not talking about TLC’s Hoarders, or anything like that, just a general house packed full of the regulars—sneakers, junk mail, books, magazines, etc. on every free surface.  I usually feel the urge to pull at my neckline (although I’m generally in a scoop or V-neck) to get a little more air. And the other day something terrifying happened—I walked into a house, had that feeling, and realized I was on Racquet Club Drive. Home.

So I began my research. And came up with a few tips and thoughts for clearing out some junk from your homes. One of my favorite food for thought moments comes from Julie Morgenstern’s book When Organizing Isn’t Enough: “(Decluttering)….is a transformative process for letting go of things that reprenstent the past so you can grow and move forward.

 

Ideas For Keeping Your Home Free From Junk

1.       Look at clutter for what it really is. Too much stuff is bad for your body, mind and spirit as well as your home and bank account. Letting go of things lets you move forward and gives you more time to live!

2.       Start with the easy stuff. If it is garbage, no longer relevant, or you don’t like it, get rid of it. I like to get a big garbage bag and then pick a number and get rid of that many items as quickly as possible.

3.       Use a criteria list. This is mine:  Have I used this item within the last 12 months? Is this item worth the space it is taking up in my home and life?  If I get rid of this item will I seek a replacement for it?

4.       Hide “maybe’s” in a box. When there is an item I am torn on I put it in a box in a closet. If I don’t go looking for it within the next few weeks I know I’ve officially moved on from the item and can get rid of it.

5.       Get rid of clothes that you don’t wear. It may be the cutest thing in the world, but if you’re not using it then it is just a waste of space. And don’t waste time worrying about why you don’t wear it, some things just aren’t meant to be.

And get rid of things that don’t fit you! Who wants a too-tight pair of jeans making them feel crummy, or a “fall-back” pair of sweats in case you gain weight? Embrace where you are right at this moment and give the rest away.

6.       Remember that things come in and out of your life. Life is transitive and progressive. Let your stuff be that way. When something is no longer useful to you donate it somewhere that it can be of use to someone else.

7.       Just because something is “still good” or “was expensive” doesn’t mean it is of value to you. If it is not blessing you or your home in some way, get rid of it. Someone else will find it very valuable.

8.       You don’t have to keep all sentimental items. When I was little I would cry hysterically every time my mom threw away my old school papers or made me give away old toys I hadn’t played with in years. I distinctly remembering using a line I’d read in an American Girl Doll book, saying something along the lines of: “But Mom! Things remind me of people!” I don’t think that line got me very far then, and it doesn’t now. Keep a few things that really matter to you, special notes, pictures, etc. but remind your emotional self that getting rid of things from a person or a time period does not wipe them from your memory or life. They’re still there. And keeping or getting rid of stuff won’t change that.

9.       Declutter first, then organize. There are a million books out there about organization—you can cleverly turn the space under your bed into an old clothes storage, or buy cool baskets to store magazines or old towels, but do you really want to spend a bunch of time and space organizing things you don’t actually want? Be honest with yourself.

10.   Don’t give away anything that isn’t yours. So, David had a pair of jeans that he loved. However, they had a hole in the butt which I kept pointing out to him and he kept ignoring. One day I decided to simply remove a few of his old pairs of clothing and do the box trick to see if he’d even notice they were gone. One day, satisfied after a few weeks that he hadn’t even missed his old things, I told him what I’d done. His reaction was priceless. He said something along the lines of “That’s where my jeans went?? I’ve been racking my brain for weeks trying to remember where I left them.” Oops. And this is now one of his favorite stories to tell. Hang out with us and you will probably hear it.

11.   Don’t feel obligated to keep every gift you get. Remember the saying “It’s the thought that counts”? Well it really is the thought that counts. Don’t force yourself to keep mountains of things you don’t like because you don’t want to offend someone. Remember, you are reclaiming your home and your space—not theirs. And it is very unlikely it will ever come up with that person.

12.   Watch what you bring into the house. When you’re purchasing an item ask yourself where it will go in your house, whether it will be replacing something, and if it is worth the space it will take.

 

Thirty Things I Got Rid of This Week

And so you know I’m walking the walk, rather than just talking the walk, here is a list of things I got rid of this week, complete with a brief explanation:

1.       White pants—purchased from Thrift Town for Orbit Gum Girl Halloween costume

2.       Cookie Monster Socks—blue, fuzzy, may or may not have gum stuck to the bottom of the right one

3.       Too Low Jeans (am constantly hitching them up. Not attractive.)

4.       Cute teal sweater (that I have never worn)

5.       Mom’s track suit

6.       Blue V-Neck Shirt

7.       Black Wedgie Sweat pants

8.       Gray Useless Sports Bra (zero support)

9.       White Useless Sports Bra (ditto)

10.   Blue fuzzy sweater (that is not supposed to be fuzzy)

11.   Pig Calendar (pictures of pigs in wigs getting their hair and nails done—if anyone is dying to get their hands on this, let me know)

12.   Dangly Silver Earrings I never wear

13.   Glasses (had Lasik!)

14.   Post Lasik Sunglasses

15.   Offensive Sticker Set (“Ritalin! So much easier than parenting!” and “Ran into my ex… put it in reverse and hit him again”

16.   Marilyn Monroe shoes (purchased when I was 16. Haven’t worn since I was 19)

17.   Nine packs of Christmas cards that David purchased from Cabella’s at $0.99 a box. Very beautiful images of majestic bucks gazing out over snowy landscapes, but not quite my style.

18.   Old Vaseline.

19.   Ancient hairspray. Still a liquid?

20.   Ancient Sunscreen. No comment.

21.   The glue and applicator for a set of false eyelashes. No eyelashes to be found.

22.   Three copies of Dad’s book “Grace”… in German.

23.   Sexy Cop Costume complete with badge and hat that doesn’t fit me (giant head)

24.   Sexy Gangster Costume

25.   Sexy Pirate Costume. (Yes, I have a lot of sexy Halloween costumes. And I hate them all.)

26.   Bad Nail polish

27.   Swearing Makeup Remover (called this because few things have made me swear  like this horrible stinging liquid)

28.   3 Eye shadows

29.   A Terrible Cookbook

30.   Assorted combs I bought for less than a dollar.

Great Books on the Subject

It’s All Too Much, by Peter Walsh

When Organizing Isn’t Enough, by Julie Morgenstern

Sink Reflections, by Marla Cilley

 

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How to Make Homemade Cleaning Supplies

January 6, 2011

There are several things I hate buying, including paper towels (I managed to not buy a single roll for the first 1.2 years of marriage until Husband rebelled), white bras (new ones are great, but I hate spending so much on something no one sees unless you accidentally wear it under a see-through black shirt), and cleaning supplies. Let’s tackle the third.

A fantastic friend and blogger Kate Ryan (see her hilarious and useful blog, Memoirs of a Cheapskate) gave me an idea a few years ago that I’ve been putting to use. Lately I’ve wanted to get better at this, so I’ve been doing my Google magic to figure out how to come up with basic cleaning products around the house.

There are about a thousand articles online about the benefits of making your own products so I won’t get into that except to say that homemade products are cheaper, less toxic, and more effective. And it sort of makes you sound like a domestic goddess when you casually mention the homemade lemon, tee-tree multipurpose cleaner you’ve been using around the house.

Here are a few basic recipes:

BASIC INGREDIENTS

Baking Soda – Deodorizes and provides great scrubbing powder.

White Vinegar—Disinfects, cleans and shines! And the vinegar smell goes away once it dries.

Spray Bottles—Helpful for storing and using your concoctions. I like to buy the 32 oz ones.

It is very likely you have all these items in your kitchen already. From now on buy them in bulk! I buy large boxes of baking soda and gallons of white vinegar from Wal-Mart and my cleaning bill has gone waaay down.

TOILET BOWL CLEANER

Ingredients: Baking Soda, White Vinegar, Toilet Brush

Directions: Sprinkle a little baking soda into the toilet bowl then pour a small amount of vinegar around it. The mixture will fizz. Scrub with toilet brush then let sit for a few minutes to deodorize. Flush.

(Thanks Kate, I’ve been using this one since you first posted it.) When my kitchen’s baking soda starts to get questionable (lumpy) I move it upstairs to the bathroom where I use it for cleaning.

GLASS CLEANER

Ingredients: white vinegar, rubbing alcohol, water

Directions: Mix together the following in a spray bottle:

1/3 cup white vinegar

¼ cup rubbing alcohol (prevents streaking)

3 ½ cups water

I found one blog that even suggested adding blue food coloring to your mirror cleaner to make it feel like you are using a store bought product, say Windex. I have no idea why you’d want to do this, other than a severe issue with change, so I’m on team No-Blue.

BATHTUB CLEANER

Ingredients: baking soda, liquid detergent, water, sponge

Directions: Pour ½ cup baking soda into a bowl then add enough of the detergent to make it look like some sort of sadistic frosting. Scoop onto wet sponge and scrub down your tub.

I’m thinking this also would work well for sinks.

*Note from a hypocrite: I can’t believe I am including a bath tub recipe here. I am officially the world’s worst bath tub cleaner. I quake with fear when I think of people looking at mine. I would include a picture but I may lose followers. SO, If things get really desperate I’d suggest Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser, which really is magic. But again, so expensive, and extremely noxious (my hands and fingernails get dry and irritated every time I use one), so if you can avoid procrastinating the great and fearful day of your cleaning, use the above recipe.

MULTIPURPOSE CLEANER

This is great for kitchen or bathroom.  This is safe on most surfaces but avoid using vinegar on marble surfaces!

Ingredients: White Vinegar, Water

Directions: Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle and shake.

AUTOMATIC DISHWASHER DETERGENT

I found this recipe in several places but I’ll credit Reader’s Digest book Homemade: 702 ways to save money and the earth.

Ingredients: 2 cups Borax, 2 Cups Washing Soda

Directions: Combine the dry ingredients and store in a tightly sealed plastic container. Use 2 TBSP of the mixture for each load of dishes.

BONUS TIP: Instead of using a commercial rinsing agent, pour distilled white vinegar into the rinse compartment of your dishwasher (do not overfill).

MICROWAVE OVEN

Two good ideas for this one, both utilizing our best friend The Microwave to do the hard work for us. Your microwave thinks it’s so smart, why don’t you let it do the hard cleaning work for you?

Option A:

Ingredients: Lemon, Paper towel

Directions: Cut a lemon in half and put the 2 pieces on a paper towel, cut side up. Zap them for 2 minutes then (very) carefully remove the hot lemons. Wipe down the lemon juice from the microwave. This smells fantastic and is a great way to put an old, sad-looking lemon to use.

Option B:

Ingredients: 1 ½ cups water, 3 TBSP lemon juice, 3 TBSP baking soda

Directions: Combine ingredients in a microwave safe bowl, then nuke 3-5 minutes. Remove bowl (carefully!) and wipe down interior. (Thanks Readers Digest. You’re an all star.)

WOODEN CUTTING BOARDS

We have a gorgeous wood cutting board that manages to hang on to the smell of every piece of food it touches. The only thing that works for me and that I feel safe with is lemon juice. I just pour some on, spread it around with my hands, and let it sit for a few minutes. Then I wipe it down with a warm, wet cloth. Voila. Spotless and smells good.