I won't always be available to answer texts on how to get stains out of tea cups (baking soda or salt with a touch of dishsoap + elbow grease) or what to change in a recipe. So, this series of posts is dedicated to passing on practical knowledge about the business of running a life. And this particular post is about the art of keeping your home a (semi)clean sanctuary.
Keeping a house is about taking care of you and the people you love (and you are one of the people you love). Done well, it also makes your money stretch!
That said, I'm busy and always looking at ways to streamline household care - outside of hiring help. (That's always on the table and there are times when it makes sense to do that.) So these are my very best tips and tricks.
Keep it clean - Everyday TipsTip 1 - Do it when you think of it, if it is something that will take less than 5 minutes. (Easier to hang up the one jacket now than pick up a pile of close off the floor later. Easier to put the dishes in the dishwasher than get confronted with a pile of dishes to deal with.)
Tip 2 - When you move, you need to clean the bathroom and kitchen in the new space before you move. (BTW - clean the cabinets and doors the first week you are there.)
Tip 3 - Use an apron when you cook. You splatter much more than you think and food stains.
Laundry - Making your clothes dollars stretchKeep a small container each of Dawn (specific brand) dishsoap, rubbing alcohol and peroxide in the laundry room.
- Dawn is for food grease/oil stains. Treat the stain before washing. (Cover the stain in Dawn. Let sit for 5 minutes and wash as usual.) You can wash and treat multiple times to good effect - as long as you don't dry the item. (The heat of the dryer sets the grease/oil stain.)
- Peroxide is good for lifting blood off light-colored items. Same rules apply. (Heat will set it. Multiple treatments may be needed.) In this case, as long as there is protein (blood) to remove, the peroxide will bubble when applied. Wash immediately after treatment.
- Rubbing alcohol is for ink. Treat cotton or mixed cotton fabric with rubbing alcohol. Let sit 3 minutes before washing.
If you are confronted with caked-on mud, let it dry! Beat it out of the clothes out as much as possible. (I mean - hang it over a railing and whale on it. You are literally breaking the mud off the clothes.) Consider soaking to loosen mud before washing. Otherwise wash twice before drying. Use heavy duty soap.
Sort your laundry correctly and use the appropriate soap. (One soap - sorry Tide - is not good for all. You should have a heavy duty cleaner and a delicate wash at the very least. You should also have a peroxide-based whitener. Remember - you wear your clothese against your skin, your largest organ and it absorbes scent aka chemicals. The fragrance in some detergents are filled with hormone disrupters. Use natural cleaners wherever possible to help reduce the amount of toxins you+your family are exposed to. Also, I believe Tide is horrible. My skin has always hated it.) Taking care of your clothese will make them last much longer - some of you girls know that as you "inherited" a few of the clothes from my youth! Sort clothes by this order:
- Weight. Ex: Nylon jogging shorts dry much faster than a cotton sweatshirt (and might melt) as well as requiring a more delicate wash cycle to not tear. Towels, wash clothes and handtowels are a complete load. Sheets are a complete load. Do not mix - they have different dry times and your sheets will end up fuzzy.
- Color. Group like with like. Do not put blue (will make grey) or yellow (will yellow) with white. White is a stand-alone color. Beyond that work the color sort as your clothes allow = blue + green, purple + pink + red, purple + blue, green + yellow, yellow + orange, browns + blacks, greys + blacks, etc.
You may need to do smaller loads of wash; you can dry bigger groups (like towels and sweatshirts). This will also help your washer last longer by not over-burdening the drum - some of you shove waaaaayyyy too much in the machine.
Wash dark clothes inside out. It will help them retain color longer. (Doubt me? Take 2 dark socks - same pair. Wash one always inside out [red thread on the top to help you know it] and the other one how ever. In 15 washes you will see a difference - and BTW, 15 washes is less than a season of wear.)
To really make your clothes last - dry less. Hang dry and/or underdry. Never over-dry or throw in with heat to "knock the wrinkles out". (That's what steamers are for.) Do not dry your bras (kills the elastic), hosiery or silk or chiffon.
And learn to sew on a button!
In the kitchen
Let's start with food prep. Cutting boards. You should have 2:
- Plastic. Only cut only meat on this. Put it in the dishwasher after every use. (Plastic dulls knives so be careful.)
- Wood. This is for veggies. Rinse with a vinegar wash after each use. Run it through a hand wash occasionally but do not let it sit in water or put it in the dishwasher - it will separate.
Two cutting boards is not negotiable. You can easily make yourself and others quite ill with preparation contamination and the cutting board is a most frequent culprit. Specifically using a wood one - absorbs blood - for meat and veggies.
Never use a sponge. Totally disgusting germ-filled things. And they just spread germs everywhere you wipe. They now make lovely natural scrubbers (allow to dry between uses), and you should have dishclothes (washable).
Wipe your counters BEFORE you start to cook. Many of you have animals. And paws may have tracked who knows what on the counter. (Pretty sure none of you every noticed me doing that - but I do it every time.)
Wipe your stovetop clean at least every other evening. It attracts bugs, plus grease on the stove grids actually makes your pans less efficient.
Baking soda and vinegar are MIRACLE cleansers. (Clean clogged drains with the combo; lift baked on food with a baking soda scrub; vinegar sterilizes, etc.) Use them in the kitchen or in the bathroom. Works both places as well as pre-made, commercial cleansers. Keep your cleansers as non-toxic as possible. Your home is the one place you can cutdown your exposure.
Cleaning the house
I hate dusting. You all know this. But dust is 90% human skin. So, exfoliate more and dust less. If you have kids, Grandma Short aka Southern Gram says they make the best dusting helpers. (Fact: She also hates dusting.)
You will never notice the window frames and door frames are dusty. Just plan on dusting those once per season.
Window blinds and high places require special tools to clean. (Or paid help) Get them.
Hardwood floors harbor less dust/allergens than rugs or carpet. Get a broom and sweep regularly. (Manual labor is good for you and requires no fossil fuels.) Better to swiffer (dry or wet) than not to sweep or mop. This is the epitome of find a way to modify or make an easier version.
Try to buy washable rugs if you can. If that's not feasible - at least once a month, shake them out well. I wash our bathroom rugs about every other month and shake them out weekly.
Wash your walls every few years - especially if textured - or before you paint (do you want to paint the dust in permanently?). Dust the walls 1 time per year at minimum. Put an old T-shirt on a broom head - use rubber bands to hold in place by moving them up the broom handle - use that to dust the walls. (The old T-shirt can then be washed with the rags.)
Wash your curtains quarterly. One time per month, wipe down your blinds.
Vacuum furniture 1x a week. Slip covers (like duvet covers on beds) are your friends. Especially if you have pets! Launder 1x per month.
On that note, duvet covers always over comforters. Washing a whole comforter is hard on your machine and takes a while. A duvet cover is easy to wash - and changeable by season. Just remember to take the duvets in to the cleaners in summer. (Or get washable ones - they make those now.)
Remember to wash your sheets every week at least. (Nice to have a couple of sets so you can switch) And your towels every 2-3 uses. Wash any bathroom rugs every 6 weeks or so - they can be shaken out in between - barring any mud + pet disasters.
Please note - anything I said "shake out" - that means outside. Do not shake things out in your own house. That doesn't move any dirt or dust out of your house - it just spreads it.
Consider setting up a cleaning calendar or digital reminders of infrequent tasks.
Please remember 3 things, my darlings: I believe in you. I love you. And, I am proud of you. Always. (Even on days your home isn't perfectly clean - because a loving home is priceless.)